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OPLIN 4Cast #215: E-book ownership

Posted in 4cast

Last week there were several interesting postings on the Internet about the notion of “owning” e-books. We’ve mentioned e-book DRM issues in this blog before, but last week’s discussion went beyond the day-to-day headaches of dealing with e-book DRM to investigating deeper meanings of the current e-book “ownership” explosion. Is there any need or merit to owning an e-book in the same manner that we can own a paper-based book? Can the concept of loaning books apply to something non-physical like an e-book? Which, of course, is food for thought for libraries…

  • The value of ownership and ebooks (Dear Author/Jane Little/1-23-2011)  “Currently digital books are considered leases rather than true sales. If a sale occurred, a reader would be entitled to the rights under the first sale doctrine: resale, trade, loan. Additionally, the question of whether a reader would be able to bequeath her digital library if she passes on to her descendants (like a daughter or granddaughter) hasn’t been addressed as the term of the lease hasn’t been challenged in court.”
  • The downward spiral of ownership and value (Thingology/Tim Spalding/1-24-2011)  “If the Kindle had debuted with an access-based ‘faucet’ model, it would have failed. Consumers would not have traded true ownership for a tethered, metered and monitored product. But we’ll get there soon enough, as each step away from ownership makes the next step more acceptable. Once you realize your Kindle book is not fully yours, you’ll accept it being mostly not yours.”
  • Does the ebook mean the end of ownership? (The Telegraph/Shane Richmond/1-25-2011)  “An awful lot of book buyers don’t care about ownership in the first place. They’re the ones who are happy picking up any old title in the airport bookshop and then leaving it behind on the way home because it won’t fit in their luggage. Those people will take to ebooks with nary a peep and simply making them feel like they ‘own’ their books will make little difference.”
  • What if a book is just a URL? (O’Reilly Radar/Jenn Webb/1-26-2011)  “All you need to use is a web browser — you sign in and read your books. There’s no software or files to download, just complete no-muss no-fuss access to your books. You don’t own your books in the traditional sense — you own the rights to access them.”

Comments fact:
So far, these four postings have gathered over 130 (often lengthy) comments.