No, Wait, I Do Have Another Thought Re: Used eBooks

Which is this:

In the event that Amazon (or anyone else) gets into the business of selling used eBooks without compensating me (the author) for them, and you decide that you don’t want to buy the book new (i.e., I’m not going to get paid anyway), you know what? I would rather you pirate the eBook than buy it used. Because if you’re not going to pay me, the guy who wrote the book (or also the folks who edited it, did the cover art, marketed it and put it out there in the first place), why the hell should Jeff Bezos get paid? He doesn’t need the money; he’s a billionaire. Amazon doesn’t need the money either.

To be clear, what I would like for you to do is pay for the eBook new, at the very least if it’s your first time buying it. We don’t charge an arm and a leg for the things, and when you buy the book, I get to eat and keep a roof over my head and pay for my daughter’s (hopefully) eventual and no doubt ridiculously expensive college education. There’s a direct correlation between me getting paid to write novels, and me writing them. Just so that’s out there. But if you’ve determined you won’t, please don’t give Amazon (or whomever) money you won’t give me. That’s just mean.

Update: good point in the comments: The other option is to borrow the eBook version from the library! Yes, I totally support that.

Update 2: I just brought up a point in the comments that’s worth noting here: Amazon is among other things one of my publishers (they own Audible, which publishes most of my recent audiobooks), and in that role I’ve been very happy with them — heck, they pay for the shiny ads with my book in them on billboards and such — and they make me lots of money. The key here being that when it gets paid, I get paid. But if Amazon is getting paid for my work and I’m not, then I’m not happy about that. The real world! With its entangled business practices! It’s complicated!

299 thoughts on “No, Wait, I Do Have Another Thought Re: Used eBooks

  1. Before anyone asks, the difference between Amazon selling a used eBook and some little used bookshop down the way selling a used physical book is that, usually, the used bookshop down the way is not an aggressive multinational corporation aggressively pursuing a monopsony position in the market, with billions in yearly gross revenues. And also, it’s really hard to sell a physical book and keep it at the same time. These are subtle things, but they do make a difference.

  2. So then, for the record, what’s your opinion on us purchasing used print books of your work? (I’m not really commenting on the Amazon plan for eBooks but if I buy a used print book you don’t get paid for that either.)

  3. Could I suggest slipping an item into the queue above piracy? See if you can get the ebook from your local library system. You read it for free, and it helps them make the case for their continued existence.

  4. But, if I resell a dead-tree book to amazon and they sell it to a new user you don’t get any change. Why should it be different for bits?

  5. Scorpius:

    I’d rather you sold your used book to a local bookstore than on Amazon, to be honest.

    Michael Sauers:

    My updated comment at the top should answer your question.

  6. I don’t know that I can agree with you there. Not an author so of course don’t have the emotional attachment to, well, money from books… but used books in the physical form create a demand for new books. A lot of the reading I did while younger was used books, because I could afford them (and the used book store had a better selection than my library). Now I buy your books at full price…

    If publishers aren’t going to modify pricing on older eBooks to fit better into the supply/demand curve (and I have high hopes they someday will), I don’t know that used eBooks aren’t a fair way to deal with this – and you could have some really positive things come out of it. Curated used eBook marketplaces, for example; imagine the Mad Hatter [the book reviewer] or someone like that starting a shop where you can browse a curated selection of titles that the store owner makes available (ie, allows people to sell to him/her and then sells). I realize you don’t make any money off of them, but the marketplace does do you some benefit and thus deserves some compensation [creating new customers for your new works].

    That said, Amazon probably would have a significant conflict of interest here, and I don’t know that they specifically ought to be permitted to do something like this…

  7. Yay! John and I agree re: screwing Amazon (I wrote a comment about this on the other post).

    Though something tells me there won’t be many people here who are pro “Amazon screwing authors and publishers.”

  8. Local bookstores are dying, John, and no amount of me or others trying to keep them open through patronizing them will change that. Their business model is obsolete.

  9. I’m a little conflicted about this whole mess. On the one hand, I’m normally pro-used markets. I think used bookstores in general help the book industry by hooking readers (I’ve become a fan of several authors because of buying a $2 paperback I might not otherwise have taken a chance on), providing an incentive for early adopters (I might be more willing to drop $25 on a hardcover if I know Joe’s Used Books will give me $10 for it when I’m done) and just generally encouraging reading. I hold similar views about used games, used DVDs, etc.

    That said, there’s something really skeevy about charging for ‘used’ copies of digital files, and I can’t help feeling that straight up piracy does all the things I listed above without giving the retailer money for doing absolutely nothing. I don’t usually book tickets on the Amazon Hate Train, but this move seems extraordinarily boneheaded, and it seems very unlikely that they’re going to be able to get away with pissing off authors (both trade and self-published!) and publishers to this degree.

  10. Scorpius, object persistance and object individuality. If you sell a dead tree book, you no longer have that book. You can no longer access that data, it’s nontransferring data storage and display system has left your posession.

    Physical analogies for the electronic realm are:

    1) Dangerous
    And
    2) Stupid.

    We really don’t have the whole notion of “ownership of nonphysical stuff” sorted out, and there’s an artificial dichotomy being forced into existance between Big Content Creators, whereby you don’t own that copy of your OS, or Photoshop, or Maya or whatever – Microsoft or Adobe or Autodesk do. By the same token, they’re trying to make it so you don’t own that song or book you downloaded – Amazon do.

    This means that Small Content Creators – John, in this case, and Content Consumers – you and I – take it hard up the arse while fat cats get fatter.

    I think John’s resounding “Fuck you!” is entirely justified under these circumstances – I shall be sending him his weekly buck-per-chapter over Google with a little curse for Amazon next Tuesday.

    As a small content creator myself, I view the landscape with increasing horror – John, at some point I’d love to hear your take on the VFX industry, where Life of Pi takes over a half-billion in box-office sales, and Rhythm and Hues, the studio which is winning other people fortunes and awards, is on the brink of bankruptcy.

  11. As a long-time devotee of the used book store, it has always bothered me a little that my authors get paid for virtually NONE of my reading. I’m a cheap bastard, so I’m unlikely to change my habits in this regard, but it seems strange for this to ever come up until now. Is it only because used books cannot be policed but e-books conceivably could be?

  12. There’s a healthy used physical book market on Amazon, too. I fail to see the difference.

    That said, your point is why I don’t buy anything used that I can get new. I want to support the people who create awesome stuff to season my brainmeats for the lucky zombies to come. This means buying new – or buying direct – whenever possible.

  13. High five. Awesomely said.

    I have felt for a while that copyright is being twisted to serve the interests of middlemen at the expense of creators, but this says that with frosting. ;)

  14. Your initial comment brings up something interesting, I think. Amazon has applied for a patent for doing this. That implies they’d be the only one permitted to sell used eBooks… which is pretty silly, considering it’s exactly the same concept as regular used books.

    Really, the main issue here to me is the patent – I think used eBooks will exist someday, and there will be some fair method for ensuring they don’t break the marketplace and bankrupt John to the benefit of Amazon. The patent though is extremely overbroad, and I doubt would stand up to scrutiny. (Fix the USPTO, please, Congress?) Here is the patent, by the way:
    http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PALL&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsrchnum.htm&r=1&f=G&l=50&s1=8,364,595.PN.&OS=PN/8,364,595&RS=PN/8,364,595

    I still think that the end result will be some used eBooks, but Amazon not selling them directly (as that would be a conflict of interest). Instead, they’ll sell them through Half.com, and others will get in on the deal, and the end result will be a lowering of backlist prices and slightly higher frontlist prices.

  15. Laurie K:

    The difference is elucidated in the very first comment in the thread.

    But yes, I do support buying new when you can. If you can’t you can’t — when I was younger and had less money, I bought used stuff, and I don’t begrudge anyone the same privilege. But when I made enough to pay for things, I did. I still buy copies of books my friends write and of writers I don’t know but admire (even if I get them sent to me for free) because I like to support them.

  16. As a book consumer, Amazon is extremely useful because they’ll stock titles that have gone out of print and usually have an author’s complete back list on sale. Physical book stores, even the nice ones, don’t always have this.That said, ‘used ebook’ is a stretch for me. My friend and I were just talking about how the local library is lending ebooks now. If you want to read it, but don’t want to buy it, use the library. Don’t effing pay Amazon for something you can get *legally* for free.

  17. Mark,

    When you buy a digital copy of a book what you’re really buying is the right to view that book. So for, the most part, the issues have been sorted out. I’m not selling amazon a used digital copy really, I’m selling them my used viewing right number.

  18. Missed the point about authors getting remuneration from a resale. That would be nice and I fully support that. However, the books I buy at the trade-out-used-book shops don’t give the author a slice as far as I know. And, yes, they are local shops not out to monopolize the industry. Why should I buy new? I used to be a bookaholic. I’ve reformed. I only buy new books I plan to keep and reuse forever. Even that is a sizable quantity, many of which are in boxes in my sons attic right now.

  19. Used physical books are awesome. When I have no other option, I revel in being able to choose from multiple sources of buying a used copy. I try to buy a new copy of a book whenever I can. Both to pay the author and to get a copy which isn’t all yucky. And I can afford the new book.

    Use ebook just sounds like a scam.
    Can I DL pirate copies of ebooks and “sell” them to amazon as used e-books?
    What if I buy someones kindle? Can I sell the books on it?

  20. Tangentially related question; when Amazon has those Kindle daily deals, or offers deep discounts on your books are authors still compensated? I’ve bought several of those, (including the deal that offered the first four chapters of Redshirts) and I’m hoping you at least get SOMETHING out of that! Or is it another instance where they make money and authors get squat like with ‘used’ eBooks?

  21. Amazon is incredibly fair to authors, more than any publisher in the world. I have no doubt if they sell “used” ebooks, they will cut the author in on the sale. Since you don’t know any different, this post is nothing more than adding to the misguided, anti-Amazon hysteria out there. You’re making up an issue that doesn’t exist (as far as you know), when you should be railing against the Big NY publishers who will and do rip off authors every chance they get.

  22. And, anyhow, isn’t John Scalzi rich enough? I echo the president when I say: at some point hasn’t John made enough money? ;)

  23. Scorpius:

    Speak only for myself, I can say: NOT YET!

    Vince:

    “I have no doubt if they sell ‘used’ ebooks, they will cut the author in on the sale.”

    Yes! Just like they cut me in for the used physical books they sell!

    Vince, you’ve just won the award for the stupidest assumption of the day! There’s no prize. But I will shake my head sadly at you.

    (shakes head, sadly)

  24. Man, my real concern about this is that it will make publishers and/or artists re-think their stance regarding DRM-free releases (which I really like for both practical and philosophical reasons). The only way to implement anything close to a “used eBook” service is to have the digital objects locked down so that they can exist for only one licensee.

  25. One difference between used print books and “used” ebooks is the perceived value. If I buy a used book from someone, even if they’ve taken excellent care of it and I’d never know it wasn’t used by looking, I still expect to pay a bit less for it. An ebook will show no wear and tear and will be exactly the same as the new one I buy, except the author may not get as much.

    I would like to see something resolved about licensing and transfers, though, if only because I have no way to leave my library to my family when I die. That’s an awful lot of books, bought and paid for, that will abruptly vanish in the aether.

  26. Seems to me that the only way this wouldn’t screw authors is if people were willing to pay more for “new” ebooks, knowing that they could sell them after they finished. I can imagine dedicated readers paying a higher price to get books as soon as they come out, while more casual readers wait for them to become available “used”.

    Still wouldn’t solve the piracy issue, though.

    BTW, is there anything publishers can do to stop Amazon from doing this?

  27. Well, from reading the article, it sounds like this thing will be entirely cloud based. The music/book/game you purchased will never leave Amazon’s cloud app. Now, is this something that can be gotten around? Oh, probably, but I could torrent it far easier and probably in better quality. I think most people won’t bother. Ultimately, I think it will be for all practical purposes the same as the used physical market on Amazon. One person has it in their cloud app at any given time.

    Not that this does you any good, of course, but I don’t see how it does really any more harm than the used physical market, either.

  28. scorpius, it makes no difference if you’re selling digital files or ‘licenses’ to digital files. Both are nonscarce, infinitely reproducible goods, and thus, treating either of them like physical files makes no sense. There is no such thing as a ‘used’ file. It’s just absurd.

  29. My local, used, bookstore is alive and well, and I regularly purchase two types of books from them: 1) Books I’ve purchased new in the past but donated or sold and now want to read again.
    2) Books by authors I’ve never read.

    I also use the library for both of these purposes. Whether I use the library or the used book store depends on which is more conveniently located to my location when I remember that I wanted to get a book. I will also choose to use the library for a book if I think the used bookstore is charging too much for their copy.

    While I realize my anecdotal experience with used bookstores is not necessarily typical, I suspect that as long as dead-tree versions of new books continue to be produced (I would guess at least another fifty years), there will be a market for dead-tree versions of used books.

  30. Scorpius, that winky smile doesn’t really neutralise the flamebait in your post.

    Let me put it to you another way: As Amazon has all they need to ensure John and authors like him make a little money – even at micropayments level – from used eBook sales, how is it morally defensible for them not to do so? They have absolutely no justification for it. They’re profiting multiply from something, when the person *who created the item for sale in the first place* is not.

    Wrong no matter which way you slice it.

  31. I thought the word “monopsony” was a typo until I looked it up. Now I know better. Yay, learning!

    Anyway, apropos of Scorpious’ assertion that local bookstores are obsolete, I think it’s entirely possibly “mom and pop” bookstores could enjoy a small renaissance as physical books become more of a specialty item. Stores like Borders and Barnes & Noble are (or were) much too large to support what will essentially be a niche item. A smaller, leaner, local establishment in the right community could still thrive.

  32. @scorpius, I think you may be wrong about local bookstores being doomed. I see the possibility of independents having a resurgence if B&N continues to shutter it’s stores. It will have to be a new type of independent, one that has both new and used books. (oddly enough, given the current topic)

    I think it’s highly likely that Half-Price Books or smaller regional entities will step in to fill the void left by the mega chains going out of business. There may be some really cool independent bookstores that have food, booze, coffee and other stuff on the horizon. I certainly hope so, anyway.

  33. Once you cut the author in on the sale, the publisher would want their cut also – it’s not like the publisher isn’t spending money to make the original book, and needs a livelihood and employees to pay and whatnot. Where do you draw that line? At that point the publisher wants $6.99 and the author $3.00 and your book is back up to $9.99 again…

  34. Oh dear gh0d. It’s just occoured to me. The only way this could be made to work is if every eBook you sell back to Amazon is DRM encoded – otherwise, there would be no user license to sell back.

    Am I in tinfoil beanie mode, or is this a move to sweeten the horrible pill of DRM for We, The Consumer?

  35. It’s not like Amazon is selling something that is physically degraded in any way with ‘used ebooks’. It is more like they made a perfect copy of the physical book somehow and sold that without compensating the authors, publishers, etc. I think it sucks. Are eBooks going to go ‘out of print’ so I have to go to the used market? The whole model is ridiculous.

  36. Oops.

    I meant to add that I see no reason to purchase a “used” digital version of anything. If I can’t put my dirty paws on the physical media, then I have no reason to trust that I have the only copy of that “used” file. It’s important to me because while I live during the between of the physical and digital media worlds, I consume as though I were still in the physical media world.

  37. Regarding library e-books: the local library buys e-books on a limited number of lend-outs basis, comparable to the number of times a dead tree book could be lent out before falling apart (it’s a surprisingly low number).

    When the count reaches zero, they have to buy the book again. This means the author gets paid again. That is fundamentally different from an e-book reseller’s model, in which everyone in America could theoretically read the same copy of the book given enough time.

    That said, I’m not sure you should be able to re-sell digital works without physical media at all, if only for the practical reasons that have already been brought up. That’s one of the nice things about the licensing model – if authors start demanding that retailers sell e-books as single, non-transferable licenses rather than as works in the traditional sense, they could maintain more control over how their product is sold and re-sold (or not re-sold as the case may be).

  38. Mr. Scalzi, given your view of Amazon:

    “…an aggressive multinational corporation aggressively pursuing a monopsony position in the market, with billions in yearly gross revenues.”

    How can you in good conscious allow them to sell your books?

  39. Bill:

    In fact eBooks can go “out of print” — I have contractual points which specify that if fewer than a certain number of eBook units sell in a certain time, then the book is considered “out of print” and the rights revert back to me (it’s more complicated than that, but that’s the basic idea).

    However, that usually just means that the author then creates a new ebook version (or sells the rights, etc) and it goes back up. So: possible, but unlikely to be more than temporary.

    Tim:

    It’s worse than that: Amazon is one of my publishers — and, I am happy to note, a really excellent one, too (they own Audible, which publishes my audiobooks). I can simultaneously be very pleased with Amazon and displeased with them. It’s a complicated world we live in.

  40. The videogame industry has been battling this problem for the last few years. Customers are encouraged to buy slightly cheaper used (sorry, preowned) copies of a game instead of the new ones that are sitting on the shelf. The big chains make more money from used games than new ones and the developers get nothing.

    Unlike books though, digital downloads of games are the solution to the problem because they’re associated to specific user accounts and there’s no real way to sell them on. But I’m sure that will change in the future.

  41. Since i had to deal with those small bookshops for the longer part of my life: I really prefer that aggressive multinational corporation aggressively pursuing a monopsony ;-).

    Did you never get talked down in your local bookstore by an elderly seller for buying that “trash” (SF&F)? And did you enjoy that other one, which charged you your firstborn to get a book from the (gasp!) U.S.A. (which took months)? The one who sold you books from Terry Pratchett only in German with soup advertisement “seamlessly” integrated into the novel… No kidding here.

    I know Jeff Bezos hasn’t my welfare close to his heart. But (as a consumer) i thank him daily from the bottom of my heart.

    And John, please think of why someone would want to sell a “used” book from you. I guess the main reason will be: to buy a new one. So you’ll probably get some share.

    I think that manufacturers which work very hard that there ain’t any used game market for the new consoles coming up, will have a rude wakeup coming….

  42. @Mark Hennessy-Barrett

    I’ve got no beef with DRM as long as:
    a) It’s as easy for me to get and play/read/watch a DRM’d work as a non-DRM’d work
    b) I can use it across all of my devices and not have to re-buy it if my e-reader dies

    That’s why I love Barnes and Noble. I have the same books on my Nook, phone, tablet, computer, and any new device I feel like putting the app on. I never have to worry about losing the license or authorization to read a book, and I can make a purchase from any device I have handy if the mood strikes me.

    DRM isn’t the only workable model for making a living as an artist, but it’s the only one that allows traditional media to go digital without completely screwing existing content creators.

  43. I have been buying ebooks from Uncle Hugo’s/Uncle Edgar’s (hereafter, “the Uncles”) in Minneapolist since – dear God, the 80’s? -yes, then. I still do. If they have the book used, they will sell me a copy at the going used rate – otherwise I get new. Sometimes I end up with more than one copy, so I usually give it away. My point? I would hate to see independent, brick and mortar bookstores replaced by Amazon and other e-stores. Check out the Uncles if you aren’t familiar with them. They have been working on my want list for a number of years – periodically I update it, and equally periodically, they send me one of the books I was looking for that they have found. Yes, I could probably do this more quickly via Amazon. But I’d rather support a real bookstore. You know, one where the owner/operators actually love books for themselves, not as a commodity.

  44. I have been buying books from Uncle Hugo’s/Uncle Edgar’s (hereafter, “the Uncles”) in Minneapolist since – dear God, the 80’s? -yes, then. I still do. If they have the book used, they will sell me a copy at the going used rate – otherwise I get new. Sometimes I end up with more than one copy, so I usually give it away. My point? I would hate to see independent, brick and mortar bookstores replaced by Amazon and other e-stores. Check out the Uncles if you aren’t familiar with them. They have been working on my want list for a number of years – periodically I update it, and equally periodically, they send me one of the books I was looking for that they have found. Yes, I could probably do this more quickly via Amazon. But I’d rather support a real bookstore. You know, one where the owner/operators actually love books for themselves, not as a commodity.

  45. Oh no – I double posted. Sorry about that! I meant to correct a mistype – books for ebooks. Mr. Scalzi would you mind taking down my first post and leaving the second one up? I apologize for the trouble.

  46. The stupidest comment on the stupidest post. There should be an award for both of us.

    You have no idea what Amazon is planning, yet you whine about a possible future that doesn’t exist and add to the baseless anti-amazon storm. My assumption that they’ll cut authors in on the sale comes from how they’ve treated authors with ebooks. To cry, “They don’t cut me in on used print books” is ridiculous. They allow store owners to sell used books as a vendor, just like they allow people who print t-shirts to do the same. If they follow that same business model, which there’s no proof they will, then you have something to whine about. But since they go out of their way for authors and customers every chance they get, it’s presumptive of you to assume they’re all of a sudden going to start screwing authors out of royalties.

    Insult me all you want, but you’re wrong on this one.

  47. Mathew, new licenses are theoretically reproducible (if the author hasn’t put a limit on the number produced in their contract) but used licenses are a scarce resource. The upper limit is hard set by the number of new licenses bought ( assuming, of course, amazon will filter put pirated or faked licenses which wouldn’t be difficult to do).

  48. I read an argument (I think in an eBook called “Information Wants to Be Shared” by Joshua Gans) that what we really should be doing with a lot of eBooks is renting them (or borrowing them from a library, I suppose)- since mostly you just want to read them, glean information/enjoyment from them, and then move on. It was an interesting idea, if the economics could be made to work out.

    Personally, I buy new, because I can afford to pay authors and I want to do so, and usually eBook, because my house is too full already. But I could see renting, at least for some books, especially if I could keep my highlights and notes after I returned the book.

  49. I’ll borrow it from the library when all publishers start offering it! But…. on topic: ultimately there needs to be a legal way to transfer licenses of digital goods. The first-sale doctrine needs to begin to apply so I can resell digital goods (funds for which I would use to buy more _new_ goods) and when I die, I can pass my digital book collection to my heirs. The future is digital versus physical (yes, yes, I know: dead tree books will outlive us all but the point remains the same) and consumers can not be locked into losing the first-sale rights just because no one wants to invest in technology to allow these transfers to take place. Otherwise, the market place will become very producer sided. I don’t care if its Amazon or some other place, but there needs to be a some repository that the seller of the good can be verified as owning the license. No, there probably never will be the ability to check the seller didn’t make a copy of the digital good, but then, there is no way to verify the seller of a used CD/DVD didn’t burn the thing first either or even digitize the dead tree book (which is getting easier and easier these years). A “used” store retailer could therefore re-sell the licenses they have bought, and the original owner wouldn’t be able to resell it because he didn’t have the license anymore.

  50. @Dave Fried said: “Regarding library e-books: the local library buys e-books on a limited number of lend-outs basis, comparable to the number of times a dead tree book could be lent out before falling apart (it’s a surprisingly low number).”

    Dave,
    That’s accurate only to a certain extent. Via OverDirve (the single largest supplier of eBooks to libraries) a typical “purchase” is for one loan at a time per copy “purchased”. (This is similar to the print model we’re all familiar with.) Only books as this point “purchased” from HarperCollins expire after 26 check-outs and need to be “purchased” again. (At least one other publisher is considering a similar model but will be increasing the check-outs to 52 or one year, whichever comes first.)

    Other publishers, such as Random House “sell” their books to libraries at inflated prices as much as 350% above list. While other publishers (TOR, and Scribner for example) don’t make their eBooks available to libraries at all, at any price, under any terms. (I can double-check, but I believe that therefore none of Mr. Scalzi’s book are available to libraries in eBook format.)

    As for why I kept putting quotes around “purchase” and “sell”; well that’s because really, through these systems we pay to license those books and if we don’t keep paying OverDrive a yearly fee, we loose access to those books that we “purchased”.

    So, when it comes to eBooks in libraries, it’s not even vaguely close to how libraries have operated for years and years when it comes to print books.

  51. Isn’t this something your agent/publisher/people you have actual contracts with might involve themselves in as they have a vested interest, too? As preposterous as the notion of a “used” ebook is, if that is what they are going to do, then there needs to be a model around it to make sure people get paid.

    Why not do what music and movie people do and license it? If I buy dead trees, I own the material. If I buy bits, I own a limited license to read those bits and nothing else. If Cosmodemonic Telegraph Company wants to distribute for you, they get the same license with the right to re-sell it with the appropriate kickbacks to the author and his support team.

  52. Vince:

    “You have no idea what Amazon is planning”

    Ah, but you do. I see.

    Oh, wait, you don’t? You mean, you’re talking out of your ass just as much as I am?

    Well, then, Vince. Here’s the thing. My ass is attached to someone who’s livelihood has been in publishing for years and years. So my ass is not wholly ignorant of the field, or of Amazon.

    Unless your ass has a similar knowledge base, then what you pull out of yours doesn’t have very much value to me.

    Although now you’ve made two exceptionally stupid comments in a row! Would you like to go for three? I’m guessing yes.

  53. @Cloud: I’m avid rereader, so I want to keep what I buy. Maybe there needs to be a silding scale? One price for one read, one price for keep for 7 days, one price for ‘permanent’ license? I dunno, seems like there might be a market for all three.

  54. On this side of the pond Amazon refuses to allow Kindle owners to borrow e-books from the public library; I think you would have to be optimistic to the point of lunacy to imagine that Amazon has any interest beyond making as much money for Amazon as it possibly can…

  55. Michael Sauers beat me to it. There are MAJOR problems with e-books for libraries, and particularly with popular fiction (any genre). The Big 6 publishers are not remotely library-friendly as regards e-books.

  56. One other thing about reselling digital products is that there’s never really an end to it.

    With something like a used car or a used book, there’s wear and tear, and the product gradually depreciates as it’s used, to the point that after it goes through X number of people, there’s probably not a usable product anymore. This doesn’t happen with movies, e-books, video games, and other stuff that’s stored digitally.

    The video game industry is actually struggling with this same issue– some companies have added single-use codes that unlock extra content, so that a brand new game is actually superior to a used one. (In practice, this has various issues, but it’s still an interesting concept that tries to emulate how tangible products lose value when used.)

    The problem is that it’s really hard to do anything to add value to the first sale with an e-book, which is why I don’t think digital resales are a reasonable option.

    That being said, if you’re going to restrict digital resale, then you should probably also leave the price of buying a new product fairly low because you don’t have to worry about losing money to the used market. Some publishers do this, and some don’t. They don’t have to be dirt cheap, but it should probably be a bit lower than just the book price minus the cost of printing a physical copy.

  57. @Stevie: That’s not necessarily a true statement. Its more that they don’t support the DRM that is on most library books. I’m sure they’re just unwilling to pay the license fee.

  58. Scalzi replies:

    “It’s a complicated world we live in.”

    With all respect, it isn’t. Self interest usually trumps integrity, nothing to be ashamed of.

  59. “We don’t charge an arm and a leg for the things”

    Well, sometimes you don’t, but sometimes you do. For instance, this is what I get from a quick search for the price of the Redshirts ebook on Amazon.com (I live on Spain, so your mileage may vary): yfrog.com/h4d2trpp

    In case you can’t read it in the image, there are two ebook editions priced $11.02 and $15.29. The HC is priced $14.36 and the paperback is $10.19. Yes, the ebook is more expensive than the paperback. And even one of the ebook editions is more expensive than the HC edition.

    And this is not an isolated case. Check these out, for instance: http://sentidodelamaravilla.blogspot.com.es/2012/09/three-ebooks-that-id-much-like-to-buy.html

    I don’t know what you think of this kind of thing, but I find it ridiculous. With these prices I’d totally go for the second-hand ebook. Don’t get me wrong. I buy LOTS of ebooks. Lots. More than I can read. But not if they are more expensive than the print edition.

  60. Used book store manager’s .02:

    1) Amazon’s plan is feckin’ ludicrous. It seems meant to collapse other markets rather than create a new one. I need to know more about how it would work to comment in more detail, but from this article this looks like another move to cut down on what Amazon must pay to others to make some money while undermining other markets.

    2) Regarding what scorpius said about bookstores, I have to laugh, first at the circular argument about patronage, the second about the unsubstantiated quip regarding business models. Bookstores new AND used have to watch the bottom line as people buy on-line, but this is not a business model problem so much as the Amazon Effect in full bloom. If Amazon weren’t pursuing a risky, destructive business model designed to sail by on the thinnest of margins, the market would be a very different place. In our case, we’re not rich but we make a profit and are in no danger of closing down. You just have to be discerning and savvy to be in the business; poor business sense or lack of commitment mean you don’t last long in the book business anymore.

    3) Most of our books come from people who bought them new’ some are second-hand but were also purchased previously as new. This may or may not be the model that Amazon uses, but it raises a lot of questions for me, such as can people sell titles they got for free or pirated?

  61. I think there are two core questions:

    # Will Amazon’s move have a significant positive impact on new book sales?

    Probably not

    # Will Amazon’s move have a significant negative impact on new book sales?

    Probably not

    At which point the discussion topic has become a good cause for a bar room brawl as any ;-).

  62. Bear with me a moment…

    Case A:
    Redshirts by John Scalzi
    Hardcover edition: $14 (all prices from Amazon as of today), trade $10, Kindle $8.
    Read it originally in hardcover borrowed from the library. Loved it and bought the Kindle edition so I can re-read any time. Net outlay to me: $10, with a piece going to John.

    Case B:
    Whispers Under Ground by Ben Aaronovitch
    HC $14, Kindle & mass-market paperback $8
    Liked the first two in the series, want to read this one. Probably never re-read it. No copy at the library. If I buy it will be the mass-market edition so I can re-sell to our used bookstore. Net outlay to me: $5.50 with a piece going to Mr. Aaronovitch. Probably will wait, though, and buy it used and sell it back. Net outlay: $2.50, with nothing to the author.

    1) Most of what I read is Case B. if Kindle books could be re-sold, I’d buy more of them. Fraud aside, this should produce more royalties for the authors.
    2) What is really needed is a “one read” price point. From the above numbers, I’d buy lots of e-books at $2.50 each, with the right to read for 2-4 weeks from date of purchase. Again, more royalties for the authors.
    3) In fact, at $2.50 I’d experiment with new authors, genres, etc. Give me an “upgrade” right and some Case B’s would become Case A’s. Again, seems better for the authors.

  63. Beautifully put, JS, and very much in accord with the mutterings of us technopeasantry. I’ve always figured that “free” piracy is part of what keeps “mercenary” pirates the hell out of my cashbox.

  64. Like John, when I was young and poor, I bought used books, used music, etc. Now I buy new, because I’m a pretty solidly middle-class person and I can afford to, among other reasons.

    I buy most of my books on my Kindle now. I will only buy physical used books when the book is out of print and impossible to get new. So no, I will never buy used ebooks.

    I have to say, the idea of “used eBooks” is the first time I’ve ever felt like I’m getting too old for technology. It’s just weird.

  65. For someone with so much experience with everything publishing and Amazon, you sure didn’t put a lot of thought into this post. Maybe that’s because the publishing world you’re so familiar with is less relevant every day, and the changes happening right now make us all newbies, like it or not. And you calling my thoughts on the subject stupid just because they don’t run parallel with your half-baked hysteria still doesn’t make you right. The patent Amazon received to sell used books was a preemptive move in case the ReDigi lawsuit fails, which it won’t. They got the patent because a large part of their business comes from used sales through vendors, and like it or not, used digital sales are coming. The question is how will this change affect authors.

    You’re right in that neither of us knows what Amazon will do, but your post seems to fall squarely on the ‘Amazon is evil and will destroy publishing’ side of the argument, which is foolish. Just because Amazon is entering the industry and making things more than a little tough on publishers like Tor, that doesn’t make them evil. It makes them smart and innovative. Their self publishing platform, and their traditional publishing imprints offer higher royalties to their authors, and they provide a higher visibility than the big publishers. They go out of their way for authors and customers, and they’ve shown no sign that they’re going to change that approach in the future. All I’m saying is that assuming the worst is foolish because there’s not only no basis for it, but there’s no history of that behavior on their part.

    I fully admit that I can’t see the future any more than you can, so neither of us knows what’s going to happen. All I do know is that Bezos loves books and literary culture, and he’s structured his venture into publishing with the welfare of authors and readers up front. Amazon is the best thing that’s happened for writers and readers in decades, and it makes no sense for him to all of a sudden yank the rug out from under all of us like you suggest.

    But who knows. Maybe you’re right, maybe I’m right.

    We’ll see soon enough.

  66. Illmunkees

    Actually, it is true. I have used the same public library for 30 years and they really are truthful people, as well as good librarians who like to see as many people as possible reading as many books as possible.

    I have read Jack Reacher 1-15, all of them on ebook loan from that public library, on my iPad. If I’d bought a kindle instead I would be unable to borrow those books since Amazon will not allow it…

  67. I would rather you pirate the eBook than buy it used. Because if you’re not going to pay me, the guy who wrote the book (or also the folks who edited it, did the cover art, marketed it and put it out there in the first place), why the hell should Jeff Bezos get paid?

    Careful, Boss! You’re starting to sound like Eric Flint.

    Of course, Flint observes that enough readers appreciate being treated with respect that many, having read a “borrowed” book, go on to buy a legit copy. Also (per Mercedes Lackey), every time one of her books went up on the Free Library, her royalties increased.

    I’m in no position to evaluate those statements on the merits. I do know that I spend a pretty fair bit of money on e-books, but only with publishers who treat me with respect (I endevor to reciprocate.) This list does not include Jeff Bezos.

  68. Well, Beej, actually I’m pro Amazon screwing traditional large commercial publishers, because the publishers have earned it richly and I think the world of reading and writing will be better off without them. But I strongly object to Amazon’s screwing authors, because what I have in mind is not actually a change of exploiters. I don’t really care if the new mugger on the block mugs the old mugger who’s been mugging me and my friends for years; in fact I can rather enjoy the spectacle. I had considerable hope for a long time that the new mugger would choose to use us writers to co-mug the old mugger, and still have some hopes in that line. But speaking as the muggee, I don’t favor living next to a newer, stronger, more effective mugger.

  69. Seems very reasonable to me.
    “Ain’t nobody got so much money they don’t want all the money that’s coming to them.” — Dolly Parton

  70. Scalzi: We don’t charge an arm and a leg for the things

    Honestly, you kind of do. I occasionally consider getting an ebook of something from Big Six publishers, and invariably the price is at best 2-3 dollars less than the print version, usually the same, and sometimes even more. Which is of course you and your publisher’s perfect right… but I’m not paying that much for something I can’t sell (and I’ve made thousands selling old books over my life), can’t loan easily (or often at all), and effectively don’t own and could lose the ability to read at any time. And that costs a great deal less to produce (not just physical production, but shipping and storage and most importantly the risk premium of returns.) So I either buy a print version or I go check out something interesting and self-published for a much more reasonable price.

    I’m sympathetic to the potential losses when the market for resale goes non-lossy and super-efficient… but I don’t think, if it comes to pass, that saying “Go pay $15.99 for an identical file!” is going to be very effective at dissuading people from buying a $5.99 used version.

  71. @Billy Quiets, re bookstores & asses: That’s two comments where I’ve 100% agreed with you. Something is very wrong with the world. Quick Scalzi, put up a political post!

  72. Vince

    From the perspective of someone who actually reads a lot of books your arguments seem less than convincing; you seem to be fighting imaginary battles in imaginary wars.

    It’s pretty straightforward; buy a Kindle and Amazon prevents you from borrowing e-books to read from your public library. Buy an iPad and you can read ebooks from your public library.

    No doubt this seems like a good idea to Amazon but it certainly doesn’t look good to someone who likes reading books…

  73. *reposting on both blog posts*

    Mr Scalzi,

    I normally agree with you; however, I strong disagree with you on this point. Information wants to be shared. The economics of book ownership is that books want to be shared.

    How is the idea of a used eBook different from that of a used physical book? You sell a used (physical) book because you are done reading it and the value of storing it on your shelf, presumably for future reading, is less than the cost of storing it. While the storage costs are lower for eBooks, the principal is the same. You have read the book and have little value for it anymore. This secondary market gives you additional monetary resources to buy books. Therefore, your overall consumption of books increases. (In purely economic terms, you experience an increase in income, shifting your demand curve outward, which allows you to consume more of everything. Presumably, some of this goes to more books.)

    As another example, let’s say you purchase a book you don’t really like. Most likely, you would then sell it used, allowing you to spend your time and money on a more enjoyable book. Current eBook markets do not allow this–at least to my knowledge.

    Additionally, increased book consumption, and lower costs to books you no longer want, allows you to do a better job of assortative matching. Therefore A) you as a reader find more pleasure in reading; and, B) you as an author have more access to more readers and your readership, on average, likes your books more.

    Information and knowledge want to be shared. Why should eBook markets be different?

    I will point you to this post on the “book ownership” for additional consideration.
    http://www.digitopoly.org/2013/01/02/subscription-models-for-ebooks/

  74. @billy quiets …given some of the recent images that I can’t un-see that I’ve seen here, if anything involving asses and authors winds up on my can’t un-see list I’m holding you responsible :)

  75. @John H. Stevens A person in the business of marketing a variety of used goods (not just books) $0.02:

    Local bookstores have a niche market, that of selling highly valuable editions of books/signed editions, that will sustain them for a while until they have to accept reality and not just sell books. They’ll eventually be no different than a high-quality pawn shop, collector’s shop, vintage shop in that they offer used highly-valuable books… along with vintage clothes, musical instruments, art etc.

    There will always be a market for store which cater to people with means who want a highly-specific and expensive item that they want to examine in person. But your local Mom & Pop bookstore where you can find a few copies of “redshirts” for the MSRP? Endangered species.

    And why shouldn’t it be? The good thing about a free market is that it eliminates (for the most part) obsolete and inefficient modes of production/dispersal for the betterment of mankind. I mean, you don’t go to the local blacksmith/silversmith and pay through the nose to have your flatware/silverware made, do you? No, you go to Target!

  76. Ebooks are not physical books. That sounds trivial, but it’s important. They are files. Like a jpeg.
    But you bought it…? Or a licence for it…
    You can resell a secondhand licence (depending on jurisdiction)…

    But the problem with books is that they don’t feel like software. Amazon selling a used Ebook? How is that different from them selling a new Ebook? The file is no different, indistinguishable. The only difference seems to be who they pay. I could see an argument being made that private Ebook sales should be permitted, but if Amazon makes a business out of it, I have a feeling they should be paying a royalty to the author for each sale they broker. In effect, Amazon is setting itself up as a secondhand publisher, if you like…

  77. Anyhow, got to go to class so this will be my last comment for a while.

    I want my future son or daughter to grow up in a world without the burden of having to go to a bookstore to get a good book.

    I want them to grow up in a world with no physical bookstores!

  78. Information doesn’t “want” anything. I’m sure there is some idea behind this common phrase and it might even make sense, but I wish people would say what they actually mean rather than ascribing volition to information.

  79. Alex

    Information does not want to be shared. Knowledge does not want to be shared.

    Neither information nor knowledge is capable of forming an opinion, which means that neither of them are going to wake up tomorrow morning and blame all that sharing on the booze…

  80. What about the little neighborhood bookstore selling used books and used ebooks on Amazon? I haven’t specifically looked at the used ebook system, but I would be somewhat surprised/annoyed if it wasn’t setup as Amazon the marketplace facilitating transactions rather than Amazon the merchant/publisher making both ends of the transaction.

  81. Well, I only buy used music or paper books if I can’t get them new. That won’t change with e-books. I feel very strongly about artists getting paid for their work.

    That being said, Amazon’s action sort-of pisses me off. I understand making a profit, but there are limits to how you can do so morally, IMHO. We all know legal is not necessarily the same as moral/right. I want to see people like John be able to make a decent living from their art.

  82. I wonder why you do not seem to have the same negative feeling about used hardcopy books as used ebooks? I honestly do not see any difference, assuming, of course, that someone doesn’t manage to make a copy of the ebook to sell while keeping their original.

  83. You can borrow public library books on the Kindle in the U.S. — just wanted to clarify, since several commenters seemed to think otherwise. You do have to manage them through your Amazon account, so if you do like the book you have an easy option for purchase that keeps your highlights and bookmarks and they can keep you in their clutches, even while using the library.

  84. It’s not nitpicky to expect people to say what they mean. That’s what language is for. If you meant people, say people. I didn’t read the rest of your post because the beginning was so silly.

  85. @Alex:

    “One the one hand, information wants to be expensive, because it’s so valuable. On the other hand, information wants to be free, because it’s so easy to copy.”

    I’m paraphrasing a bit, but the person who originated that line (Can’t remember who), used it to describe a paradox regarding digital information pricing. Most people ignore the first part, ‘information wants to be expensive’, while quoting the second part as though it were a law of nature.

  86. @alex I’m pretty sure that ‘people want information to be shared’ does not extend to John wanting you to get a free copies of all his books outside of a library.

  87. There is no such thing as a used eBook. An eBook is data, and when you buy one you are paying for a license to use the data to create characters on your reading device which tell a story. The distinction between new and used eBooks makes about as much sense as asking if you are buying new or used electricity from your power company.

    So if Amazon did this (and I think they may just be trying to accumulate patents), it would look like this:

    Person A buys a license for the book data for $10. Ordinarily Amazon will sell as many licenses as customers want for $10, each purchase being an independent transaction resulting in the publisher/author getting a cut. This makes everyone happy.

    But with “used ebooks,” now person A buys the $10 license, but Amazon decides that if person A cancels that license it will sell another license to somebody else for less. This is a weird way to have a sale on eBook licenses, but what the hell do I know about eCommerce?
    Here’s the important point: that wierd way of discounting eBook licenses is perfectly legit IF AND ONLY IF the publishers/authors agree to it in their contracts (presumably because they’re getting a cut of the discounted license fee). If they don’t agree, then Amazon is licensing their work for profit without permission. That gets one sued very quickly.

    So will publishers and authors be willing to write “used eBooks” into their contracts? I dunno. What say you, Mr. SFWA President?

  88. And when I say “my ebook rights” I mean my ownership rights bestowed upon me from a purchase, none other. (if such exists). I’m not an author, nor a lawyer and don’t play either on t.v.

  89. “Information doesn’t “want” anything. I’m sure there is some idea behind this common phrase and it might even make sense, but I wish people would say what they actually mean rather than ascribing volition to information.”

    “Information wants to be free” is a common theme amongst people that are looking for justification for stealing digital media, or breaking into other people’s computer systems. It goes way back to the early days of the web.

    My bottom line is that “The creator of information has an absolute right to do with it as they see fit. You have a moral obligation to abide by that.” If Scalzi thinks used ebooks suck, what I think about it is for the most part irrelevant. I won’t buy them.

    I have enough respect for artists to comply with their wishes.

  90. John, I’m not seeing how to reconcile the “or anyone else” in the opening paragraph with your first comment about Amazon’s market position. Is this really about ebooks? Or Amazon?

    My local bookstore is looking into selling ebooks. They also have a used section, so presumably used ebooks would not be out of the question. Would you rather I pirate a copy of your book than buy a used ebook from them?

  91. So couple things:

    1) Current licensing (ebook/App/online currency) does not allow for this type of system, both at the EULA and contractual levels. As an example: the end user does not have the right to transfer their license to another party. It is also, likely, prohibited at the publisher and retailer contract level (unless someone was really stupid). It would require relicensing/renegotiation or a SCOTUS decision to even get off the ground.

    2) No one else has this sort of system patented… yet. A patent on this sort of system would be quite valuable, if only from a licensing standpoint. I wonder how much Blizzard Entertainment would be willing to pay, and do they, or Microsoft, or SEO, have prior art sitting around somewhere?

    3) Amazon cloud player / MP3 store / Instant Streaming / Appstore for Andriod are all in last place, firmly in the “also ran” category. The ability to resale tracks, movies, games or port your existing licensing over by trading with other users, “I’ll give you my Beyonce on iTunes for that Prometheus on AIS” or even “I’ll trade you my farmville farm for your WoW Character.”

  92. @Jason: I don’t think it’s as clear-cut as you suggest. What if the license is just traded between two individuals? Is that something that the publisher has a right to object to? Can they only object if there’s a consideration, or can they also object to gifts? When I die, can I will my ebook collection in the same way I can my physical book collection?

    With physical books, this is well-established law: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First-sale_doctrine

    With ebooks, nobody really knows. But I have an old Edison Gold Mould cylinder recording, made circa 1904. On there is some text trying to claim that resale isn’t allowed. They lost on that eventually, but it suggests to me that content producers have been trying to take back resale rights for a very long time, and that the introduction of a new distribution technology is a fine time to try.

  93. questioningauthority writes:

    “I want to see people like John be able to make a decent living from their art.”

    Please quantify “decent living” corrected for Ohio, USA, early 2013.

    Thanks.

  94. StoicJim in an act of Gordian knot-slicing not seen since the days of yore wrote:
    “Too bad I can’t sell back my ebook rights to the author and let him re-sell it. I’d like that.”

    Gawd, I wish this WordPress install had a “Like” button.

  95. I fully admit the whole concept of “used e-book” just seems questionable to me from the outset.

    For my electronic reading, I just really appreciate the Nook application from Barnes & Noble, and have been happily purchasing and receiving my electronic books in that manner.

    Particularly confusing, how does this work with the books that are released DRM-free? Is someone showing a reciept for their DRM free electronic copy that may exist on several devices, selling their used copy back basically blocks it from their Kindle; but is still readable via other devices? All you seem to “own” in these purchases is access through a device. I am very likely missing most of the pertinent information.

  96. John: I think ‘monopsony’ may be an error. Is Amazon looking to be the only purchaser of books? It’s self-evident that they’re trying to become the only seller.

    Or do you mean of used books only? Are they really trying even that?

    I thought monopsony was for things like military hardware, certain kinds of which ONLY the Pentagon is allowed to purchase, and so on. Either the use of the word is an error in that initial comment, or I really don’t understand something pretty important. You’re pretty careful of terms like that, so I’m guessing the failure is mine. Could you elaborate or link me to what Amazon is doing at the purchasing end?

    Tim: Self interest usually trumps integrity, nothing to be ashamed of.

    The first half of that seems to be true, unfortunately. I don’t see how you can argue the second. It’s absolutely something to be ashamed of. That’s just the kind of thing that shame is FOR.

    Or did I miss an ironic tone there? Doesn’t always come across in writing.

  97. I would like to see legislation mandating that Anazon pay a royalty on used book sales. It’s not technically all that difficult for Amazon to implement. There’s no reason why if I pay $ 4 for a used book, the post office and Anazon get the bulk of the benefit. Add a dollar royalty, and let the publisher and author benefit too.

  98. Xopher writes:

    “Or did I miss an ironic tone there? Doesn’t always come across in writing.”

    It’s both ironic and sincere.

    Nobody can be perfectly consistant in their morality and exist in the real world. Amazon’s profits from the sales of Mr. Scalzi’s books enable them to advance their actions. By allowing Amazon to profit from his works, Mr. Scalzi clearly values the money he receives over whatever damage he believes Amazon does to the writers market.

    I DO NOT criticize him for this, please understand. I just don’t think it’s a complicated.

  99. @Jon Marcus, Hahaha. It is a rare and distinct pleasure to be appreciated. Thank you. I don’t miss the political donnybrooks too much, I have to tell you.

    We’re all passengers on the same ship, when it gets right down to it, and I’m ready for some smooth seas for a change.

  100. And this is one of the reason why I still buy physical books. If it ever comes down to a point where I have to buy ebooks I would buy them for full price from just about anyone but Amazon or else pirate them and then hand/mail the author cash in return.

    Still, I’d much rather not have to pirate anything. I actually believe in people getting paid for their work (This includes all the behind the scenes people that John mentioned above.)

  101. @Sophie Lizard

    While technically true, you can’t bind it, glue it, print out the high gloss covers, print out the covers on standard paperback paper, etc, etc, without spending TONS of time and money to get the required stuff, and that’s not counting the time it would take to manually scan each page.. To copy an e-book file, it literally takes me the click of a button. Once one person writes the code and distributes that program online, it would take me probably ten minutes tops to copy an e-book.

    Of course, I don’t want to. I like supporting the author and staff, but you see my point.

  102. Pretty sure you *can* sell a used print book and still keep a copy. We have scanners and photocopy machines for that, no?

    Which is why it’s good that JS said “really hard” not “impossible” to do so.

  103. @BW You are overly distracted by the phrasing “information wants to be shared.”

    The points I made in my original comment is that there is little difference in secondary markets for physical books and secondary markets for eBooks. Do you have any valuable commentary on that?

    In either case, allow me to elaborate on my choice of phrasing:
    1. Information is a public good. If I have information and I share it with you, I do not lose it.
    2. Information builds upon prior information and combines with prior information to create new information. In modeling information dissemination, one must use combinatory functions, not linear ones. This is important for understanding value of information at the margin.
    3. Per #1, #2, the value of any piece of information increases as a combinatorial function of the existing pool of information.
    4. Consider want / desire. One implication is that it is emotional. Another is that anything that increases the value of something increases its desirability.
    5. Per #3, the sharing of information increases the desirability of any other piece of information.
    6. As a writer, clarity is preferable. Consider:

    “Each additional piece of information increases the desirability of all existing information.”
    “Information wants to be shared.”

    I prefer the 2nd sentence *despite* the fact that it requires a flexible interpretation of the word want. Perhaps you disagree.

  104. Tim:

    “I just don’t think it’s a complicated.”

    And you would be incorrect about that, because it is complicated. For example, I think it’s good that Amazon has helped to democratize publishing and made it simpler for self-published authors to find a market for their works. I also think it’s bad that Amazon tried to single-handedly drive the price of eBooks to the $9.99 price point. I think it’s good that Amazon has entered into the actual publishing field (with its 47 North and other imprints), offering writers another venue to sell their wares. I think it’s bad that Amazon has non-disclosure terms in its contracts, which keep authors from sharing information. I think Amazon is a fantastic market for me — it sells tons of my books. I also think it is aggressively striving for a monopsony position in the marketplace.

    It is entirely possible to acknowledge that there are both positive and negative aspects of a company, just as it is possible to acknowledge positive and negative aspects of a politician (I voted for Obama in the last election; I don’t endorse every single policy his administration has) or how it’s possible to acknowledge positive or negative aspects of a person.

    Amazon is both a positive and negative force for authors (and for readers, and for publishers, etc). Saying that it’s not complicated is rather dramatically simplifying the issue.

    Xopher:

    Amazon wants to be the most significant buyer for the publishing industry, so, monopsony. It may also be trying to be the most significant seller for consumers online as well, so there is a monopoly concern as well, but I think one is more of a present concern than the other.

    Alex, BW:

    Your discussion is a little general and soapboxy. Please focus on how it relates to the subject at hand.

  105. E-books and libraries is a thorny issue. As both library staff and patron, I have discovered that frequently the wait on a popular title for e-book is longer than that for a physical copy. Some libraries have agreements that let patrons read their books on Kindles, some do not, and it also depends on the title and user agreement.

    I personally would be very happy with a limited access/one use ‘rental’ of a popular book that will expire from my e-reader after 3 weeks, for a substantially lower price than the current e-book price, not unlike movie rental. I don’t need to reread Nora Roberts that often.

  106. Mr Scalzi,

    I think my original comment* does relate to the question at hand. This side conversation w/ BW does not.

    *http://whatever.scalzi.com/2013/02/07/no-wait-i-do-have-another-thought-re-used-ebooks/#comment-437164

  107. I’m a little bit surprised that it’s John Scalzi who is so up in arms over this, since Redshirts is the only e-book I’ve ever read that, as far as I know, I could already have sold or given away under current US law. Which is also, of course, also the reason why it’s the only e-book I’ve ever bought (no pirate me, and no fan of the format’s current limitations, but the Tor giveaways and the Bean library are nice).

    Was this transferability not actually what was intended, when the book was distributed not only without DRM, but without a “license agreement”? If we buyers weren’t intended have all the rights of a traditional book, how should we have understood our purchase? If, in the absence of a license, we can’t transfer or copy Redshirts at all, can we make even the incidental, in-RAM copy that’s necessary to read it?

    I thought that I’d made a purchase where the usual DRM horseshit had been replaced by “We expect you to be honest. Treat this like any other purchase you’ve made.” Was the actual intention more like “Be honest. Treat this like any other e-book ‘purchase’. Do not lend, lease, sell, bequeath, fold, spindle, or mutilate. Contents may be under pressure”?

    If the later message was the one meant, I really think it could have been communicated more clearly. Judging by what I took to be Redshirts’ unusual success in the e-book marketplace, is it possible that the former might describe terms that will be more valuable to authors in the long run? Certainly I could lend or sell the file without deleting the original, just as I could could put it up on bittorrent or a warez site. But if a seller treats with respect and due consideration for my rights as the buyer, I’m a heck of a lot less likely to treat them disrespect and disregard in return.

  108. Maybe w/ the advancement of technology the opportunity to update copyright will offer a chance to have author’s paid for used digital goods such as ebooks. I think that would be a worthwhile change if it legitimizes the resale of digital goods. Not only do you help strengthen consumer rights, but also provide another way for authors to be paid for their work.

  109. It seems to me that some folks are getting a but hung up on the ‘usedness’ of used books in this discussion. If I resell a used book because I’ve read it many times and I’m done with it the books will look worn. I can just as easily buy ten copies of Red Shirts to give to friends only to discover that five of them have already bought the book and thus resell the spare copies as ‘used’ where they have undergone no wear whatsover. The real issue here it seem to me (from the book buyer’s perspective) is that you have bought something (and paid for it) and common expectations (and legal rule of thumb I believe) suggests that you should be allowed to sell that thing on to someone else when you no longer need or want it.

  110. Well…I bought Agent to the Stars in hardcover after reading it on this site…for free. To understand, see my comment in the other thread about my hardcover fetish (My….precious). We shared around a copy of OMW that John had provided free for deployed troops…I bought a paperback and hardcover copy. I agree used books can drum up business for an author.
    As far as Amazon though? ARRRR, matey!

  111. As William Gibson said, “The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.” Two points then my opinion.

    1. There are resellable ebooks. Currenly O’Reilly media sells eBooks without DRM and their terms of service state “Resale: If you buy an O’Reilly ebook, when you are done with it you may resell it, provided that you do not retain any copies of the book after you sell it. ”
    http://shop.oreilly.com/category/customer-service/ebooks.do

    2. Ebook resale marketplaces are being built. Boston based ReDigi anounced at the Frankfurt Bookfair this fall that they will be expanding from music into eBooks which has not happened as of yet. The ReDigi business model DOES pay authors a percentage of resale, but that percentage is set by ReDigi and it is not an obligation in that they can change the rate or even end it if they want. In the same way that a feudal lords vassals property is a gift from the lord these payments are a gift from ReDigi.

    This is a topic I have been pondering as President Scalzi knows. I think there can and should be a “used ebook” market, but I think it should only be created at the first “sale” of the book wherein the right of resale and terms/conditions of doing that are set down by the publisher. To go back and make eBooks sold without the right of resale granted at the start is theft as philosophy might define it. ReDigi’s approach of doing it without working with creators is one doomed to fail.

  112. Chris H:

    I don’t think a respect for the reader to own the work they’ve bought in whatever medium is entirely incompatible with the desire not to have a billionaire make money off of my book if I do not.

  113. I’d feel better about protecting the new ebook market if your publishers weren’t using their monopoly on licensing new copies to rip me off.

    Some of your ebook titles on Amazon almost double in price when browsing the site from Australia when compared to the prices offered to people in the US. If used ebook sales would eliminate that kind of regional price fixing, then perhaps it isn’t such a bad idea.

    When the ebooks are being sold at a significantly higher price than physical copies, then something is obviously wrong with the system.

  114. A minor correction: actually, Amazon does need your money. Now, of course your local bookshop probably needs it more, but the notion that Amazon is swimming in an endless sea of dough is incorrect. Yes, last quarter they had record revenue, but their profit margin was more razor thin than ever. Their business model is not sustainable.

    If Amazon does implement something like this, I would think it would be less encompassing in scope than people think. Greenman gaming already does this for digital games that you buy through them, but publishers get to decide if a game can be traded in, and you get credit for the store only. If Amazon were to implement something similar I would definitely buy more ebooks, and it would definitely make the ebooks that are barely or not less expensive than the dead tree versions more enticing.

    Also: the fact that Amazon was able to get a patent on this is ridiculous.

  115. James, it’s FRIGGING AMAZON that’s doubling that price. NOT the publisher.

    This is why I personally hate amazon.

    Well, and their repeated attempts to wipe gay literature and other uncomfortable stuff out of their search and recommended books history.

  116. @Carina: it really is the publishers setting the price.

    For example, Redshirts is listed as US$17.98 and says “Sold by: Hachette Book Group. This price was set by the publisher” when browsing from Australia. When browsing the same page via a US proxy, the price is $9.99 and again says the price was set by the publisher.

    Do a search for “agency pricing” for details on this practice.

  117. Stevie says: “Actually, it is true. I have used the same public library for 30 years and they really are truthful people, as well as good librarians who like to see as many people as possible reading as many books as possible. I have read Jack Reacher 1-15, all of them on ebook loan from that public library, on my iPad. If I’d bought a kindle instead I would be unable to borrow those books since Amazon will not allow it…”

    Your argument is wrong. If we’re going to use individual experiences as a valid form of argument: At my library, you can get Kindle eBooks. In fact, according to Amazon itself, 11K libraries participate. The problem is, to distribute a library eBook to a Kindle, the publisher has to allow Kindle loaning (not all do) and the library has to pay more for a license that comes with a Kindle/ePub format (libraries find this ridiculous). Why? Because Amazon will not pay Adobe a licensing fee for the DRM. The solution would be for the industry to come to an agreement on a particular format (like computer manufacturers did for USB) and license it for free.

    You may have 30 years as a patron to a single library…. I’m marrying a librarian who’s job is, among other things, buying eBooks for the library. Whee!

  118. James Henstridge:

    “Sold by: Hachette Book Group. This price was set by the publisher”

    It also says that in places where the price of the individual episodes of The Human Division are $3.50 and above, despite the fact that Tor sets the price at or near 99 cents (US).

    Which is to say the publisher sets the price, on top of which other prices are added.

  119. For years I bought books from Half.com. I read so much and always enjoyed the hard cover so it was cheaper to buy used. I really didn’t care too much about the physical condition of the book. But there were certain authors that I would buy direct in order to support them.

    This could work if at least a couple of developments were made. 1) the technology were perfected to assure that once a book was sold it could not be used by the seller 2) some agreement could be worked out where these sells are monitored and the author could continue to receive some type of royalty. There may need to be some other considerations.

    I really don’t know how realistic this could be with current technology and digital rights. Something to think about.

  120. “…This could work if at least a couple of developments were made. 1) the technology were perfected to assure that once a book was sold it could not be used by the seller…”

    Realize that buying into this feature means buying into DRM in perpetuity. Used sales that remove the electronic book from the seller’s Kindle cannot happen without DRM. Used sales that do not remove the copy from the seller’s Kindle aren’t sales, they’re piracy.

  121. Eh, I vote with my wallet. When something is novel or good (i.e. an episodic novel or OMW series), then I buy it new and sometimes repeatedly. When it is an unknown or, well, kind of trashy, then I buy it used. Sorry, that’s just the way it is. I didn’t buy my car new either, so maybe Dodge is crying in its’ beer somewhere. Then again, probably not.

    I’ve always found that bad used books cycle endlessly through the used book store. Good used books cause me to run out and buy the whole rest of the series. I see them as teasers for the rest of the author’s work.

  122. @rickg17: Not so. O’Reilly sells DRM free, specifically mentions you can resell the book, and they _trust_ you to delete your copy. I think that’s nice. A little too optimistic maybe.

    In another world, you could sell the license, which there is a repository of valid licenses which retailers can verify against, and thereby buy the license and resell the product as used. No, you could never guarantee that the individual selling the license did not copy the product,; but then you can’t tell that with a CD, a DVD, or even a dead tree book anymore. Dear goodness, I could back up my Wii games and play them from a hard drive should I choose.

  123. @John Scalzi: the Human Division episodes are priced quite reasonably (in parity with the US prices), and say they are published by Tor. So I’ve got zero complaints about those ebooks.

    The problem seems to be with books where the international publishing rights require that Amazon sell a trivially different version of the ebook to Australian customers.

  124. “In fact eBooks can go “out of print” — I have contractual points which specify that if fewer than a certain number of eBook units sell in a certain time, then the book is considered “out of print” and the rights revert back to me (it’s more complicated than that, but that’s the basic idea).”

    That’s interesting. Nice to know that.

    I was going to say the biggest difference between the eBook and paper market was scarcity. The trading in second hand copies may be the only way to get a copy if the print run is limited to say 50,000 units and there is no re-run. With digital there is a theoretical infinite run which means there should be no issue with easily obtaining a new copy. However the above contract point potential negates that and brings me back to being more supportive of second hand ebooks – but only if a new copy is unavailable!

  125. OK, I’ve read or at least scanned the comments on both ebook posts, and what I am still having an impossible time braining is how the frak a ‘used ebook’ can even be a thing. It’s exactly the same as a new ebook! I know, I know, comparing the real and the digital is fruitless, but I don’t know what other comparison to make. When you buy a used car, it has mileage. It does not run with the efficiency it had when new. It may have faded paint, or cigarette burns, or a vague aroma of cabbage. It differs from the new car in any number of ways, nearly all of them for the worse in some degree. Again, with a book – the pages may be yellowed, the spine is weaker to a certain degree, the cover/jacket has a degree of wear. Maybe there are notes in the margin or folded down page corners (shudder). So of course you pay less for these items. The car, and the book, will slowly degrade and eventually reach the point where they have little to no value.
    But with a digital file there is no change! It has not degraded. Everything is exactly the same as it was on day one, and assuming there are still computers in 100 years, it will still be exactly the same. So how can it be said to be worth less? Until someone can convince me that a ‘used’ ebook actually exists, I fail to see this as anything other than amazon trying to keep more money for themselves and give less out to other people – meaning everyone who did all the work creating the thing before letting amazon sell it. Which is irritating. It’s hard enough avoiding giving my money to Walmart in my part of the country, if I have to start doing that with amazon things are going to begin to get difficult in some regards.

  126. I for one think it is a great idea that is long due. I buy a lot of books. In the past I would go to the local used book store and buy them half priced. If I just had to have the newest book or if I wanted it for display in the library or simply did not want to go out then I would either buy the hardback new or paperback, but always on Amazon (cheaper, no sales tax, etc). Several but not all of those new purchases were a Scalzi creation.
    Then many years ago I got a Kindle. I bought books on it. Many if not most were not recent released. These were the same books that would have bought at the used bookstore. Authors, including Scalzi, started getting more money from me they would not have otherwise.
    Then people got greedy, raised prices of ebooks and then I was back to the used book store for those titles that I felt were too high for a ebook.
    I am sure that many authors would love to see the used bookstore market go away. It appears to me that JS would fall into this category based upon the big reaction to it. So if ebooks cannot be resold safely do we then somehow find a way to stop used bookstores (online or brick and mortar)? Then what? Book burning of used copies?

  127. As for anyone thinking Amazon is any form of a monopoly I say BS. I can buy ebooks at many places. Compete or die…..

  128. Something to remember, Amazon employs many people and supports LGBT employees. They are not some evil company. Yes they are out to make money, but isn’t everyone….including authors (Fuck you, pay me comes to mind)….

  129. I just want to echo pretty much what everyone says about libraries and ebooks not being an easy solution. Not the least of which is the problem of ebook collections being new and therefore sparse compared to print books – a sparseness that is exacerbated by the fact that 1) ebooks exploded just as library funding crashed and 2) we can’t collect donations of ebooks to grow our collection the way we can and do with print books. Donations of physical books (and their sale or inclusion in the circulating collection) is a non-trivial portion of how most libraries (that I know of) fund pretty much everything other than salaries and office supplies.

    At least a 3/4 (more likely more) of the physical copies of the Hunger Games that my library owns we have because they were donated or because they were purchased with money from the Friends of the Library. An even higher percentage of our digital copies were bought not with FOL money or regular budget funds, but rather with grant money that also went towards new computers and circulating ereaders.

    (DVD rentals are another big way this is funded, which pretty much means we’ve gone back to libraries being semi-subscription libraries without people much caring or noticing, but wev as I don’t think subscription libraries are all bad.)

    Regarding books being loaned out by libraries on Kindle – my understanding of the issue was that it centered on Amazon themselves being proprietary as hell and Kindle not being set up to read standard epub and pdf formats. Which led it taking longer to work out a deal where OverDrive (and others?) could lend out Kindle formats, which means that most of my library’s Overdrive ebooks are still not available in that format. (As opposed to the copies we bought specifically for the circulating ereaders.)

  130. Something to remember, Amazon employs many people and supports LGBT employees.

    Well, fuck, that means I have to cancel my Amazon account.

    But seriously, does it really matter whether or not the support or don’t support your little pet cause? Because all I really care about is that they provide a good service, good customer service and operate within the law.

    If they did that and gave a cold shoulder to the LGBT “community” I would give a flying fuck.

  131. scorpius, I only mention it because that is such an important issue is this little part of the internet and JS and others are harping on Amazon as if it is some big bad wolf because they make money. I think they provide great service, particular to me as a customer and operate just fine within the law.

  132. Here’s the difference between a used paperback in a used bookstore and a “used” e-book. A paperback has been handled. Pages might have been turned down and dogeared. The edges might be ragged. A page might be missing. You dropped a pound of spaghetti on page 96. An e-book, on the other hand, is digital, therefore it is THE SAME AS NEW. The author has his e-book for sale on Amazon for say, $2.99. UserPerson comes along and puts up his “used” digital copy of that book for $.29. Readers will buy essentially THE SAME e-book and they know that, so they will pay the User the thirty-nine cents while the author loses a sale. Over and over and over and over. Until the author makes nothing at all. And think about the hundreds of thousands of free e-books that were given away by authors to interest readers. Ereaders have them stored all over the globe. Those Users can sell their copies they got FREE and again, the author never makes a cent. Do you really want to put authors out of business? Because this is one way to put authors out of business. We do write for the love of it, but most of us pay bills too and writing is our work. Sure, buy my used paperback, resell it, but buy my “used” New digital copy and I never get paid? No. No, this is not right. Amazon should not do this. Buyers should not buy this. Writers should not sell this or agree to any portion of it. No.

  133. I don’t understand the Amazon animus, generally. I’ve been an Amazon supplier, a customer, and an employee, and all three experiences have been excellent. Bezos is actually a pretty awesome dude, and the company is made up of people who are really, deeply, sincerely committed to their stated values. Yes, sometimes they fuck up big time, but they take their spanks seriously and work hard to correct themselves. Just like any other company, it’s made up of people, but in my experience, Amazon tends towards the “starry eyed idealist” type, rather than the “cynical bastard” type.

  134. Billie: The bottom line is that people buy used books to read them. If they want a pristine edition they can and will find it used usually sitting right next to the falling apart edition. But when you want to read the story, you usually don’t care if the pages are dog eared, etc. I flip through them to be sure no stains, notes, etc. But I never have bought a used book I could not read and then sell back to the used book store. During the whole process the author/publisher etc is not getting paid. A used ebook will be the same experience.
    You get paid once for the first sale. Then there after you get nothing, just like a library, used book store, garage sale, borrowing from a friend, whatever. Deal with it.

  135. Sorry for the followup…. But I do still buy new editions of print books and would do so for ebooks of those authors who’s well being I am worried about or if I want a pristine edition. But there is no reason I should not have the same options available to me for ebooks as there are for printed books. None.

  136. Just out of curiosity for the professional writers here, do you make any more or less money based on the media? That is, if I buy something for my Kindle, do you get paid any more or less than if I buy a printed version?

  137. I’m divided on this; I buy used books for Out Of Print back catalogue – which would be the main reason I would go for ebooks to be able to get this and support the author, except that many books are too old to have digital copies but too new to be out of copyright and too niche for anybody (including the author) to bother making a digital copy.

    Why would there be OOP Ebooks? Yeah i saw what Scalzi wrote about the rights expiring if there aren’t enough copies sold, but still there is a digital copy in the first place, and it doesn’t seem to be that hard just to offer it for sale again – just can’t think of any benefit to me at all in terms of getting something i couldn’t get otherwise.

    On the other hand what is the difference other than the price point? I already don’t buy ebooks mostly because i can still get the paperback cheaper. And i already got a sony reader rather than a kindle because i didn’t want to get locked in with amazon only ebooks.

    I swear i’m trying to make a point but i can’t think of it right now.

  138. [For the purpose of avoiding confusion, well, or at least explaining it, two of us seem to have used the handle "Alex" in this conversation. I use this to be identifiable to people who know me, without making the conversation about me. My gravatar shows me in a stone circle near Amesbury. I have chaired a convention where John was guest of honour. I'm not responsible for what the other person says. Sorry to have taken up people's time to explain this.]

  139. Used eBooks? Hardly. When I buy an eBook I see it as a license to view the copyrighted material within my household. That license does not allow me to sell them or trade them. It is a non-return policy. Seems pretty straightforward.

  140. “You get paid once for the first sale. Then there after you get nothing, just like a library, used book store, garage sale, borrowing from a friend, whatever. Deal with it.”

    But it’s not ‘just like’ any of those things. How many different people’s hands do you think a physical book will pass through? Obviously library books will have a higher total than books purchased by a consumer, but really, I’m sure the average number for any book is not that large. They age. They wear out. They get wet and puff up. They get damaged. The dog chews on them. They get thrown away. Whatever. I spent years working for a used bookstore that had over two million books in stock. I can promise you that most people, even serious readers, are quite casual about taking care of their books.
    An ebook can go through the hands of everyone in America and still be in the exact same condition it started in. That’s a pretty enormous difference to just ignore and pretend “oh, that doesn’t matter.”
    The current model of publishing and sales will not work with ‘used’ digital copies. I suspect you’re going to either see a fundamental shift in the business model, or all this talk will just go away quietly. Because dozens of publishers and thousands of authors are not going to just say “oh, sure, amazon deserves to make all the money for doing absolutely nothing other than running a revolving door DRM service.”

  141. “And that costs a great deal less to produce”

    They don’t. People continue to think this, and it’s not true. The actual cost of printing, shipping and storing a book is a small percentage of the cover price of a book. As in, if an ebook is three dollars cheaper than the print, you’ve received the benefits of all those and then some.

    Not actually owning it is another matter. I don’t know what that’s worth and have no idea how you’d calculate it. I mean I, personally, don’t care. It’s completely irrelevant and worthless to me to be able to give away or resell a book, because I don’t.

    But as a rule of thumb, the cost of printing and shipping a book is ten percent (or less) of cover price for a book from a decent sized publisher. This doesn’t even kind of sort of apply to self pubs.

  142. Justin – comparatively speaking, however, you’re still talking about an enormous difference between:
    1) printing, say, 100,000 books on paper, storing them, shipping them, etc.
    vs
    2) formatting a book on a computer and then making 100,000 copies of it.

  143. I read books from all these sources: I buy ebooks, I borrow ebooks from the library, I check out books from the public library and the university library, I check out books from our shared library systems, I buy books from the local used book store, I buy new books from the local book store and, when all else fails, I buy new books from Amazon. I am not a writer, but I’m a highly experienced reader.
    The concept of used ebooks leaves me almost wordless. The problems of DRM are legendary (Still have books I can’t read sitting on my old Sony e-reader thanks to a software “update”) but the only way a used ebook has any integrity is with unbreakable DRM.
    With DRM, the book is much less valuable. Without DRM, anyone can sell millions of “used” ebooks after purchasing one. It boggles the mind.
    Actually, it really makes me think of Dilbert and the PHB: “If you’re sending a fax on the company fax machine, be sure to replace the electrons you use.” (paraphrased). Used ebooks are just reselling the same electrons over and over again.
    I wish I knew how to help stop this. Any ideas?

  144. Hadn’t heard about that brainstorm.

    Hmmmmmm…….

    Maybe it’s time to rely more heavily on SmashWords and other competitors? I know some people who say they are making better sales there. The problem is I’ve never done an analysis on why one writer is successful one one platform, but not another. To the best of my knowledge, no one has. Or at least no one who I would trust. The other option is direct sales from your own website. Since I run a small press, I’ve been considering that too.

    I remember hearing something about someone trying to sell used MP3 files a while back. Not sure how that played out. Damn, there goes the evening, I’ll have to search TechDirt and see if they know.

    Wayne

  145. Todd, a few comments uptopic, pointed out: “An ebook can go through the hands of everyone in America and still be in the exact same condition it started in.”

    I addressed this same problem (with tongue somewhat in cheek) back in 2010, suggesting e-books be programmed to wear out in the same manner as hardcopies: The Future of Used E-Books.

  146. Had the time to do some research, something I specialize in. I write technical research and analysis articles on various subjects.

    1) Amazon has a patent.

    2) Amazon has not made any statement saying they will sell used eBooks.

    3) As someone who used to evaluate patents as part of my job, I can tell you it probably wouldn’t hold up in court. It would however act as a block against anyone else trying to sell used eBooks.

    So currently I don’t see any immediate problem. If Amazon makes an announcement that they will sell used eBooks, then all hell is going to break loose.

    Wayne

  147. The basic difference, is that I can’t keep the paperback if I sell it to someone else used. But I CAN do that with ebooks.

  148. When I first told my wife about this, she stared at me in utter disbelief. She’s been a reviewer for years, and has collected any number of FREE books–both paper and electronic edition. She’s militant about protecting ARCs, as they were never meant for the general public. Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean that unscrupulous people won’t sell them anyway. It’s offensive because it violates a standing agreement between reviewers and the publishers/authors.

    The notion that there can be any such thing as a “used” ebook is ludicrous. As has been pointed out by several people in this thread, there are any number of ways a hacker could break any protection publishers try to create, and even FAKE licenses and/or code keys. Any security can and will be broken. Period. There are generally more people working on THAT end of thing as there are people working on securing stuff. It’s the way of the digital world especially.

    And as far as people whining about John actually criticizing Amazon, get over it. You don’t have to believe an entity is perfect to do business with them if their current business model is more or less acceptable to you. You DO have the right to object if they change their business model to one that you find less palatable. Just like we have the right to criticize our country for things we think it could improve, be it income inequality, gay rights, or our seeming inability to stay out of the internal affairs of other nations, we have the ability to criticize even our business associates when we disagree with their policies. In fact, sometimes the only way to change a policy you don’t like is to bitch and get enough other people to bitch.

    So far the only one of your books I’ve read, John, was your Fuzzy update. I really enjoyed it. I mostly do audiobooks these days for a number of reasons. (It’s nice to have a book last longer than a movie, for example).

    As an author, albeit not a particularly successful one, I’m in general agreement with your stance on this issue. I’d rather someone steal the book to enjoy it than have some billionaire steal money out of my pocket to profit himself. Or anyone else’s pocket, for that matter.

  149. Forced to be a Pirate
    Sorry John but the current copyrights and distrebution agreements forces us to piracy.
    there is no reason for different distreution time around the world.
    When a new book is being published I want to read it, and the fact that I was born and currentlly living abroad does not mean that I have to wait month’s for it to be imported here.
    take for example Fuzzy Nation, now my favorit J.S. novel, which even today more than a year after publication, still can’t be baught in Israel.
    The easyest way to get the book’s is through the pirates.
    I understand and accept that book are written by author’s who are entiteld to be paid for them, but why can’t u just open a paypal account and let me pay you directly for the book’s i download.

    pix

  150. This makes me pause and think,,, but since I am no author,,, perhaps I am out of my depth and touch on this,, I think it is important we support authors,, and this,,”piracy” hmm I object to the use of the web or internet for commercial use,,,I know about arpanet,,, and it was designed to be a tool for military, educational facilities (UCLA, and Stanford) in case of war,,nuclear,,or bio emergency,,fast exchange of data freely among the smartest,,,, so,,it was not meant to be a commercial mall full of pornados for people to sell stuff,,, eh,, I admire the free exchange of data,, a place where being smart,, is what matters,,not how thick your pocketbook is,, my heart bleeds hacker,,old 2600 style,, where it was all about the baud,,not the bod,,,I always loved libraries,, and suspect some hackers or pirates view the web as a ,,international library,,, where sharing is caring,,but supporting authors,,and making sure they get credit as due is important,,

  151. What I would like to see Amazon do is package the paperback and the ebook together. I like to have the real book, but I don’t see why I should also have to pay full price for an ebook copy of a book I already purchaed. I don’t mind if they, say, charged a dollar more than normal paperback price in order to include the ebook.

  152. @pix37
    “Forced to be a pirate.”

    Ugh…

    You aren’t being forced to download an illegal copy of a book. You’re deciding that you’re entitled to that copy of the book even though the author (or publisher) of said book has not chosen to put the book up for sale in your market.

    You’re stealing from the author (and the publisher and the publisher’s employees) and then justifying your theft based on your sense of entitlement.

    Unless Amazon is 180-degrees differently transparent than it is now, it’ll be extremely difficult to be sure it isn’t doing the same thing you’re doing. Stealing from the authors and publishers of original works and justifying those thefts based on a rather weird sense of entitlement.

  153. “I don’t understand the Amazon animus, generally.”

    Mintwich – much of it is the Walmart approach to pricing. For some bizarre reason investors are fine with Amazon running razor thin margins and showing basically no profit. This enables them to use their market pricing power to make life very very difficult for competitors and since investors don’t punish them on the stock price, they can continue to use this power to drive out competition that, for whatever reason, needs a non-zero margin to stay in business.

  154. “@rickg17: Not so. O’Reilly sells DRM free, specifically mentions you can resell the book, and they _trust_ you to delete your copy. I think that’s nice. A little too optimistic maybe.”

    O’Reilly is a niche publisher and runs a very different operation than Amazon. At the scales Amazon operates in the markets in which they operate working on the honor system would not be feasible. You simply cannot let people ‘resell’ things that they still possess with a wink and a nod. It happens in the CD market because there isn’t a way to check to see if a CD has been ripped. In the Kindle market, there is a way to see if the Kindle has a copy and to remove it.

    You can hide from this, but any viable system that does this will require DRM.

  155. PS (and I’m sorry about the serial posts, John), let’s also note that O’reilly is the publisher. Amazon generally is not. Letting people resell works published by others without some way to remove them from the seller’s Kindle account will hit the courts faster than you can say Bezos.

  156. I find this thread offensive.

    If I buy the ebook, it’s mine. I own it. My property. This is moral and now increasingly the legal status around the world. It may be “just a file” technically, but I own a copy of the file.

    If you are telling me I cannot then sell it, you’re either disagreeing that I own it or disagreeing with first sale doctorine.

    If you object to my then selling it through vendor A but not vendor LocalBookStore, I ask “why? How does the difference affect you?”

    If you say “because!” ( and monosomy, etc, which I do get ), I say “ok, but you publish through them and sell new products through them.”. And you say “because!,” again to which I can only respond “WTF?”

    If you say “but ebooks will not degrade!,” I say “Bug in physical books not desired feature and sure as hell not part of the legal ownership framework”.

    If you say “But you could sell it and keep a copy! This encourages piracy!,” I say “…this from the champion of commercial publisher DRM free ebooks???”.

    If you say “New wrinkle in ebook publishing economics makes me queasy!,” I say OK, but that does not mean was not predictable, or that it’s unreasonable.

    Reselling ebooks already happens and has been duscussed. What changed, and why is everyone knee-jerking about it? Why were you not expecting this? This has been a logical step in the progression for years and years…

  157. If/when(?) ebooks become the dominant medium, will there be some sort of secondary market that comes into play? Plenty of people finance the purchase of new (to them, even) books with the sale of old books that have fallen out of their favor. If everyone is paying for ebooks (and they’ll be paying damn near to what they pay for books) you can be sure there will be a demand for a secondary market. Of some fashion.

    However, I can’t see any reason why any of these copies would cost any less than a penny less than the new. Interested parties should arguably be willing to pay anything less than the market price for a new copy, considering they’re identical (still in the original packaging!). I don’t see this as some sort of magical place where ebook prices are forced down to whatever your personal conceptualization of the “moral” price for an ebook is.

    So, what’s the incentive to not directly support the author? Why buy a used copy at the same price that doesn’t do anything to facilitate the production of additional books by the authors you like? I think the inability of ebooks to degrade, and be sold for less than they would be new, pushes out most of the demand for a secondary ebook market.

    This leaves me thinking that this will establish a natural push and pull between the print and emarkets. People who sell their books later on to facilitate their next purchase will continue to be incentivized to buy print copies.

    Do aftermarket prices for ebooks fluctuate briefly in the afore mentioned situation in which they go “out of pint” and then eventually pop back into print?

    I’m more inclined to think that the declining cost of hardware capable of functioning as an ereader combined with increased lending accessibility at libraries will eclipsed the secondary market. You can buy a basic dedicated eink ereader for $40, already. On the used market. Locate the variant your local library gets along with and obtain a lending card.

  158. I really want a universal tip jar – everyone producing content should have a way for me to chuck $5 at them directly. There are many creators, including you, who produce content that I get without paying one way or another (like, reading this blog, or reading an online comic) where I would just like to give them money. One of my favorite webcomics actually holds a contrary position – he doesn’t feel right about just taking money so the only way to give him money is to buy THINGS from him. But I don’t want any things, so I can’t give him money.

  159. The difference between reselling a physical book and an ebook is that there is no difference between selling an ebook and reselling one.

    Let me say that in a less obtuse way: When a store goes to sell a used book they have to check it for quality and storage it till it sells. It’s more risky because they don’t have a return guarantee with the publisher. When Amazon sells a used ebook it would get copied to your device from the same master file that new ones do. (Or at least that would be the smart way to do it, It would be ultimate silliness to have a separate file for each copy “in stock”.)

    Why shouldn’t the author get a cut? Because the author doesn’t get a cut from hard copy resales? Is inertia and precedence is the only reason? The whole digital resale thing is being hammered out at the moment and if authors can get their hand in the pot while it’s happening why not try?

    I’m not talking about person to person sales. When there is a middle man getting a cut, be it Amazon/Ebay/Chegg etc. part of that cut should go to the creator.

  160. Others have said it, but it’s worth repeating: Selling a “used” copy of something that is identical to a “new” copy, by the same seller, is problematic. From a buyers viewpoint, there is exactly no difference. There is no wear, it is the same file they will get if they buy new. So the upshot is, one, from a purely selfish economic standpoint, would never, ever buy a new copy of one available used. As soon as a used copy is available, sales of the new will stop until the “used” supply is exhausted. yes, there are those who will boycott such sales, but if you’re a student buying a book, and it’s 10% of your disposable income or 20% of your disposable income, they’re going to hold their nose and buy “used.”

    I like the used market in books. It keeps books in print. How else would I have the Journeys of McGill Feighen? The used ebook market? That’s just a scheme, and a thinly veiled scam. I’ll voice my displeasure to Amazon, but I hope to see some push back from authors. As I am almost universally on Amazon’s side in the ebook wars versus the “we refuse to step into the late 20th century” publishers, it’s worth noting that this is an easy one for me. Amazon is wrong. The idea is one whose practical “merit” is entirely immoral.

  161. After thinking about this overnight, I’ve summed up my own position on used books, electronic or otherwise:

    1) The principal value [1] of used book trade is to provide access to books that are out of print.
    2) The principal reason I trade books I don’t read any more is to make room on my limited shelf space (currently about 250 linear feet or so.)
    3) The secondary reason for trading books is to acquire store credit for reason #1.
    4) $HERSELF occasionally sells one of her book collection that she doesn’t see a reason to keep. However, hers are absolutely out of print, not to mention copyright, and she gets far more for them than your usual used bookstore offers, primarily because they’re centuries old. I don’t think they’re germane to this discussion in any way.

    Reason #1 seems unlikely to ever apply to e-books, reason #2 is a pretty safe bet to never apply to e-books, and reason #3 doesn’t look like nearly enough to keep a market alive. We can revisit #4 in a century or so.

    Bottom line: I think the “used e-book market” is, from where I stand, a solution in search of a problem.

    [1] To me. Y’all can of course find reasons of your own.

  162. I am uncomfortable with ebooks. I’ve bought a few and I’ve borrowed them from my library. I prefer the feel of a paper book and I like being able to give that book away when I am finished with it. ebooks just are not the same.

    It seems to me that Amazon is not selling used ebooks. Amazon is buying back the right to read an ebook from a customer and then reselling that right again. Who is going to audit Amazon’s books to verify that it actually had bought the right to the ebook it’s selling as used? I believe, if I buy an ebook from Amazon, I don’t have the right to sell that book on the open market myself. So Amazon is creating a little market here that only Amazon can play in. Amazon is not only squeezing the author and publisher but also the reader.

    So I am uncomfortable with ebooks and I am uncomfortable with buying/selling used ebooks because the entire concept makes no sense. It seems like Amazon is just playing a legalistic game so that Amazon can sell the same digital file again without paying royalties for it. Amazon is pirating it’s own products.

    That said, I still will buy lots of stuff from Amazon. It’s the best game in town for the consumer. The ebook market is young and still undefined in a lot of ways. Many people love it. Maybe the future will see it make more sense for everyone.

  163. Poster: “Something to remember, Amazon employs many people and supports LGBT employees. They are not some evil company. Yes they are out to make money, but isn’t everyone….including authors (Fuck you, pay me comes to mind)….”

    They are also the company that treated their warehouse employees like dirt, including no ventilation until people started fainting and they faced lawsuits. No one has ever said that Amazon is evil, including Scalzi. That doesn’t mean that they can’t be criticized for some of the things they do, and that they haven’t done some really nasty business practices to secure a dominant share of markets. Amazon is backed by a lot of investment funds and they are a leading retail seller that is now heavily involved in data and video. That means they can undercut smaller competition and take losses for a long time to do it. That’s had an impact on the entire industry and it has actually reduced a lot of authors’ incomes at the same time that Amazon can move a lot of books for some authors. This is not a matter of picking sides. It’s a matter of looking at what may happen in the industry. If Amazon goes forward with this patent and if the patent is approved and if Amazon uses it to broker resells of e-books, it will have a big impact. And it will have a big impact on self-published authors too. That’s what we’re talking about. It’s not a lynch Amazon party,

    Mintwitch: Again, it’s not animus towards Amazon; just criticism and worry. It’s in many ways a great company that has done major things. But it also has done major things that have driven a lot of companies and authors out of business. Corporations and for that matter small businesses, as you know, are neither all sunshine and roses or demon spawn.

    The reality is, completely irrespective of Amazon beyond them being a major player, that this possible trend in the business will have a big impact to the overall industry. For the last twenty years, individual author earnings and book sales per individual author have gone down. Author costs — having to do more promotion, travel, etc. to get sales — have gone up considerably with the collapse of the wholesale print market and the demands of the Internet. While e-books grow large (though starting to slow down now,) the industry as a whole is not getting growth, so e-books are not yet growing the book market, just offering a different format for sales. So monetization issues are rather critical at this point. These are things we can talk about without it always being characterized as the dark side of the force against the light side.

    For me, whenever we are dealing with e-books and electronics and data information, there are important socio-economic issues involved that I’ve found people really, really don’t want to look at. If Amazon, the biggest player in e-books, did start reselling and cutting the author out, there are wider social-economic impacts of that beyond the book market as well. The selling and reselling of data is our brave new world and so we can look at how that may effect the people in it.

  164. There’s a company called Safari, a joint venture between two technical publishers, that offers technical e-books and videos by Netflix-like subscription: you pay them $20/month and you get a “bookshelf” where you can read up to ten books a month on your browser, phone, or iPad.

    I’d love to see a service like this for fiction, although perhaps it’s not yet profitable enough for mass-market publishers. (Safari has the advantage of offering its wares in a market where a lot of their potential customers are not only personally well-off, but can probably pass along the subscription cost to their employers.)

  165. To any author:

    Would any of you consider pulling your ebooks from Amazon and not licensing them for sale on Nook over this? With some software (like Office or Windows) you get a license for only so many installs of it. I would think that is reasonable for an ebook. I would also think that if you cut out Nook then the other vendors (apple and B&N) might give you a better deal. You can still sell paper books at Amazon (if they would take them).

    I am not an author and I do not know anything about the publishing industry. I don’t know how the contracts work. I would think something like this would have to start with a very big name and wealthy author who can afford to piss of Amazon (see Stephen King, JK Rowling, etc…)

  166. @Kat Goodwin: I am a techy and I have been recruited by Amazon 3 times(over the last 8 years). They have expressed interested in paying to relocate me from Northern Virginia to Seattle. I have no interest. Google them and see what it is like to work for them. Now as a techy they won’t treat me like they do their warehouse workers, but its right on google. I know people who have worked at Amazon and they have all told me it sucked.

  167. Kate Goodwin: fair enough all companies, or money making entities (such as authors) are not perfect and do or say stupid things….
    I can understand all the fear and drama from authors over such a things as used ebooks. But it really is no different than running down the nearest Half Priced Bookstore (a large used bookstore chain in Texas) and buying my books in which authors still get no income.
    Authors, publishers etc must evolve or die. It is that simple. It happens to many other industries, and disciplines. Authors/publishers are not exempt from that. If Amazon proceeds with this you bet it will have an impact on the industry. Good, that is a good thing. It may be negative at first for an author but positive for a consumer. But I am willing to bet that the industry will adapt and do just fine. There are many successful authors and publishers and they have managed to weather digital media, pirate bay etc so far. We live in a dynamic world.
    And I have a secret for you, your data is already being sold or used everywhere, even this site uses the frequency of visits and higher level numbers as marketing elements, just look at the back of some of the ARC’s.
    As for slow down in ebook growth, that is natural. Anyone who thought it would all become ebooks was not thinking. People start to run into the DRM and hate it, ebooks start to not be any cheaper than printed books or the dreaded used books and they don’t like that either.
    The industry not having much growth in total is your real socio-economical problem. Reading in all forms becomes less and less popular. People want instant gratification and have many ways to achieve it with video games, movies, mindless tv shows, idiotic adult targeted cartoons and talk shows. To sit still for 30 minutes or more and read takes effort that people either do not have the time or do not want to make the investment. Authors must adapt. Scalzi himself realizes this which is why he has diversified his talent into TV, movies and video games.

  168. Seth: Safari is great…for tech books. Tech changes all the time. You buy a tech book today it will be obsolete next year. As for doing that with fiction books, I don’t think the general public would go for that. I know I wouldn’t. Pirating might become a strong option then in which guess what, authors lose again.
    As for not doing business with Amazon or Nook. Go for it. Authors always have the option to cut off their nose to spite their face.
    As a side note I saw someone mention tip jar. You know, there are a couple of other authors I read who have that very same thing on their websites. A nice yellow paypal button for doing just that same thing. I will say I have done it once or twice (around Christmas). I also buy autographed copies of books from them direct because I like their writing and things and I know they get a big bang for the buck when I buy a autographed copy direct (even though I have the ebook already).

  169. In a somewhat related bit of news. MacMillan settle with the DOJ to stop their collusion and price fixing activities that Apple got them tied up with. Apple itself is all that remains. Great news for the consumer!

  170. A quick one on the Amazon evil/awesome argument

    Firstly – they are amoral. Applying morality to a “for profit” company, especially one as large as Amazon, is flawed. They will do what is in the benefits of shareholders/the company/profit. If you treat a huge company as a single individual, you must accept that they will act sociopathically at least some of the time. By hooking their measure of performance to the market, consumerism and capitalism, they will do whatever is required to add value to the company in the long term. Yes, this means they might lose money, or not choose the most immediately profitable option because, they feel, in the long run it will make them the most money. Low pricing is a marketing ploy; customer service is a marketing ploy; sales are a marketing ploy. If they get their money appealing to the customer, then the customer is the focus of their marketing.

    Some companies might focus on price, some on quality, some on status etc etc. None of it is a moral, personal obligation. Because “for profit” companies don’t have any. They are slaves to the morality of whomever gives them their money so they can exist – is there any real wonder that, after the boom in concern about global warming, all the fuel adverts stopped being heavily about performance and quality, and veered towards explaining how the company is developing green fuels? No – they needed to deal with the green concern to get the money from your pocket, to theirs.
    (I accept this is infinitely more nuanced than this, but hypersimplistically this is how basic capitalist theory meet society)

    Now the objective stuff is out of the way – I don’t buy anything from Amazon I can get elsewhere. Why? It’s to do with an App…

    In the UK they launched an app and subsequent ad campaign that said (paraphrasing): “Go into your local Borders or Waterstones, find the book you want, scan it and find the price on Amazon – then if you buy it from Amazon you get 10% off the cheapest of the two prices” – WOAH!!!!

    Ok Amazon may not be Evil, but at best they are spectacularly inconsiderate. Amazon’s is helped in no small part by not having brick and mortar stores to run and pay for – and yet they are using other businesses to supply the major function they can’t do: Physical displays! I couldn’t believe it. They were, in effect, hiring brick and mortar stores completely free with not a thought to paying for it – all in the name of giving “the customer” the best price.

    But neither the act, nor the reasoning has any morals, good or bad. It’s a business deal. A human would be called sociopathic if they made the same decisions (BTW they did a psyche test and found that a number of high-flying business people had a crap-ton in common with socio/psychopaths because of their ability to divorce action and consequence from emotion and enable that knowledge to be used to manipulate people positively).

    As such – I don’t buy from Amazon (my wife does, for everything nearly, so I’m not preaching conversion).

  171. Poster: “But it really is no different than running down the nearest Half Priced Bookstore (a large used bookstore chain in Texas) and buying my books in which authors still get no income.”

    It really is very different in a number of ways (see the other thread on this topic.) The attempt to categorize the e-book market as just another type of print retail physical object is, for me, not being very realistic about the tech market. E-books are not print books in a slightly altered form. E-books are part of the tech and data industries, quite apart from print books and dealing with a ton of business practices and factors that have nothing to do with how the print book market works. That’s one of the reasons the establishment of legal e-book retail was slow and haphazard — publishers and booksellers who had little involvement in tech through their retail trade divisions had to build, employ, negotiate and produce an entire new tech mini-industry with entirely different rules, laws, and economic factors. So reselling e-books has virtually nothing to do with the used print book industry, especially since there is no such thing as a used e-book. What it has to do with is pricing of access to select electronic data.

    The assumption that lower prices are always good for the consumer and that pricing is the only issue with consumers is one of the problems we have in these e-book conversations. There is actually not a if you die, too damn bad attitude among regular readers in retail fiction. And there is the fact that maybe we don’t want fiction authors whose work we like driven out of the business. That doesn’t mean that we can stop tech changes and effects. But it’s an issue of monetization and who gets the money, not blocking or unblocking technology. (And this isn’t really about new technology anyway — data file copying has been around nearly as long as computers have. This is about a new business practice and the regulations globally concerning it.)

    I am well aware that data is constantly being collected and sold for marketing — the question is which info is getting sold and who gets a cut of it if it is. The assertion that authors should always be last or never in getting part of the new revenue stream is not necessarily a good thing for the consumer, much less the author. And Amazon having a monopoly on the market is most definitely not a good thing for the consumer. This is a chain of sale issue, not a tech one. A printed book changes in value and substance. An electronic data file does not. A printed book involves costs that have nothing to do with data flow transmission. How many times access to a data file can be charged, how long buyers have access to the data file, who gets a portion of fees — these are issues in everything from selling mailing lists to video advertising revenues. And authors, in order to be able to monetize from business practices in the market for their created product, need to advocate, bargain, and pursue all legal means to position themselves to obtain some of the indirect revenues of data selling, rather than just direct, just as Amazon itself may be doing. To say that Amazon can do it but authors can’t and must rely on a charity tip jar or get out of the business altogether and into other media — where opportunities for entry are way more limited — strikes me as kind of weird.

  172. John Scalzi writes:

    “Amazon is both a positive and negative force for authors (and for readers, and for publishers, etc). Saying that it’s not complicated is rather dramatically simplifying the issue.”

    It’s a straight forward balancing act. On one side are all the “bad” things your partnership with Amazon advances; on the other side are the “good” things, including those things that are good for John Scalzi.

    Problem is, Self-Interest has the density of neutronium.

  173. One point that’s not been brought up here too is that Amazon is patenting selling ‘used’ electronic goods. Think about that. If successful, then you would NOT be able to ‘run down to the Half Price Books’ on the web and buy a used ebook there. Or from B&N. Or Kobo. Or your local indie. Not unless those companies either license Amazon’s patented tech or build tech that does not infringe on the Amazon patent and want to take the legal risk that they can prove that if Amazon sues.

    This is yet another way in which the ebook and egoods industry is not just like the physical version but digital. What many of you are failing to understand is that Amazon will be perfectly content to run every single book retailer on the planet out of business. To the above point, they’re not evil for doing this, they’re merely doing what companies do… but that also doesn’t make it right in the larger context. Amazon’s interests are Amazon’s, not necessarily those of authors, readers or society’s.

  174. “Amazon’s interests are Amazon’s, not necessarily those of authors, readers or society’s.”

    But that’s true of eveybody, isn’t it? For example, John Scalzi’s (or a baker’s) interest is selling the most books (bread) for the most money. A reader’s (eater’s) interest is paying as little as possible for the books (bread).

    Scalzi “greed”, like all authors (or bakers) is constrained only by market demand for his books (bread). That’s why his books (as all things) are priced the way they are, to maximize profit. For John Scalzi.

    I don’t expect Scalzi to sell his books for less than he can get for them, so he shouldn’t expect I will pay him any more than that.

    And there is nothing wrong with that.

  175. Here’s my thought: Nobody wants to buy used eBooks. What they want is to buy cheaper eBooks (and whatever nonzero price we give them, someone will want to pay less), and the chief model we bring over from the physical world is “new book costs x, used book costs .5x, store gives me .1x in credit when I sell the book back”. I’m not sure if that’s going to work well as a template for in the digital world.

  176. rickg17 says: “It happens in the CD market because there isn’t a way to check to see if a CD has been ripped. In the Kindle market, there is a way to see if the Kindle has a copy and to remove it.”

    Yes, the can pull the kindle copy on my Kindle. They can not pull a backed up copy I have on my hard drive which has no DRM. ie: The same as a physical CD, they can’t tell if I deleted my back-up.

  177. I say there is no such thing as a “used ebook”. Used carries a diminishment in value concept with it and no such thing accrues to a copy of a copy if a copy of an electronic file.

    And I also say that since the “used book” is a fictitious object, the patent should be invalidated; utility patents have to be functional and reproducible on the part of those skilled in the art, and no one anywhere can do anything with fictitious objectcs – except authors of course.

  178. But that’s true of eveybody, isn’t it? For example, John Scalzi’s (or a baker’s) interest is selling the most books (bread) for the most money. A reader’s (eater’s) interest is paying as little as possible for the books (bread).

    You do realize that this reads like some vaguely Ayn Randian parody of the real world? A baker may well be interested in a lot of things besides selling the most bread for the most money, and an eater may well be interested in many things other than getting the most bread for the least money. Both often are.

  179. Two questions:

    Couldn’t this just be another effort to lower price? Sub-question: how do we know that there aren’t an infinite number of “used” e-books available and Amazon is just calling them “used” in order to drive traffic to Amazon? I really don’t know why they wouldn’t do this.

    Why would anyone ever buy a new ebook if used ones are available, other than out of desire to support an author?

  180. I’m late to the party so I might have missed this but…

    I generally resell my books and video games after using them. It’s a big part of the reason I justify the initial price, sort of like an after-market rebate. The ability to resell ebooks (even if it’s for half the price) means that I’m much more likely to buy them in the first place. The ones I like a lot, I keep.

    I have an ‘ick’ feeling thinking of Amazon doing this, but so far I don’t know if this will be as disastrous as some imagine. I could spur renewed interest in ebooks which could lower costs for everyone, especially if it shifts paper buyers & resellers to ebooks.

  181. This discussion reminds me of one I had with a former colleague, decades ago. He wrote academic textbooks and made a very good living from it (much than from his university salary but then again he devoted much more time to his textbooks than he did his students). He was INCENSED that anyone would sell or buy an used book since he wasn’t getting paid for it. I asked him if he thought the same thing about used cars……end of conversation. If I buy something, then I have the right to resell it, end of story (with the possible exception of firearms and drugs and probably some other things, in some jurisdictions, which I have no problem with). It’s up to the BUYER and SELLER to provide documentation down the line that they’re not dealing in stolen goods, and it doesn’t matter whether we’re talking books or cars.

  182. Steve – So “Used” is a misnomer. “Secondhand” or “Pre-owned” or whatever term you want to use.

    As I said earlier, the physical degradation of many physical books over time is a bug and not a feature. There’s nothing magical about that that is required for Used Book Stores to be a legal or moral business activity.

    Again – No matter whether it’s degraded or not, if I purchase an eBook, I own it. It’s property, not just a license – a copy of a file plus legal personal use ownership rights to the data and intellectual property within. If I own it, should I not be able to transfer that ownership, either to give it away (gift, lending to a friend who likes similar books, etc) or sell it?

    There’s a lot of hemming and hawwing because this is unfamiliar and new, but you all are beating around the bush in a way that is incompatible with “I own this eBook” and “I have a right to transfer or sell things I own”. Either those things are true, or eBooks are NOT property (which is both legally and morally suspicious as an assertion). If they are not property I am not going to buy them. I don’t buy media as a license to use.

    The logistics of ensuring that people don’t misuse this are nontrivial, but any non-DRM eBook can be much more easily spread around and misused already, without resorting to a major media sales website doing something illegal or immoral or fattening. If Amazon can’t get that right they shouldn’t go into the business of reselling them.

  183. David writes:

    “A baker may well be interested in a lot of things besides selling the most bread for the most money, and an eater may well be interested in many things other than getting the most bread for the least money. Both often are.”

    Perhaps, but as a practical matter I wouldn’t count on it. From a writer or a baker or an eater.

    Look, our time and resources are finite so it natural and prudent that we seek out the most for the least. This isn’t an “Ayn Randian parody,” it is Planet Earth Economics 101.

    Scalzi is on record that his goal has always been to get monetarily “rich,” and that he writes because he believes it is his best way to accomplish this goal. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t expend the irreplacable hours of his life pounding a keyboard, time away from his wife and daughter, because he feels it’s his obligation to provide you with science fiction.

    Do you doubt that if John could charge twice the $$ for his works he wouldn’t do so? When was the last time you offered the GAP more money then the tag price for your pair of chinos?

    Sure, John gets non-material goodies from being a sucessful writer (and boy does he clearly enjoy them!), but I’m sure Mrs. Scalzi and Athena appreciates him keeping them and the pets first and his eye on the financial ball.

    Which is as it should be.

  184. “…We don’t charge an arm and a leg for the things,[eBooks]…”

    This is the part of your point which I disagree with, and in fact one of the reasons why I understand the perspective of those seeking cheaper options. I personally buy a few hundred dollars worth of books a year, and have been moving towards 100% eBook purchases in the last few years (Once you fill enough bookshelves, the appeal of a digital version of your library starts to grow). Amazon is a great example – when a new title launches, the eBook is (often, though not always) priced at the same price point as the hardcover print title. However, the hardcover often has some sort of promotional special which reduces the price – meaning: The eBook actually costs more than the Hardcover print version of the new book.

    Setting aside costs for creation, speaking only in terms of content, this is not an apples to apples comparison. eBooks are often poorly edited (something I will never understand, since someone had to have a digital copy of the physical book to send it to print). They usually do not include illustrations, and none of the jacket content is present (though admittedly, the jacket provides minimal content beyond the cover art). So, you get an inferior product, often for more than the comparable physical version.

    I’m sure that, to some degree, this is a result of the fact that physical booksales still dictate things like NY Times Bestseller lists. The Publishing industry is clinging to old models, and IMO this is what starts screwing the authors they represent. Once you move out of new releases – when Barnes & Nobles prices a mass-market paperback down to 4.99, but Amazon still has to sell the eBook for 12.99 because the publisher insists on that price (despite the fact that the eBook would be more profitable for them at the comparable $4.99 price point), something is breaking down in the way books are sold.

    I want to support my favorite Authors, I buy books early and I pay ridiculous eBook prices which sometimes exceed hardcover prices. I loathe publishers who are probably pocketing the vast majority of those sales, and congratulating themselves on how well they are managing to avoid changing their business models and practices to the reality of new distribution channels.

  185. @david I sure have a hard time finding these new release hardcovers that are priced lower than their e-book version. Even with the heavy discounting Amazon does on hardcovers, they still seem to be at least a couple of bucks more than the e-book. I also don’t see this 4.99 mass pb pricing B&N is supposed to be doing. What I see are e-books that are generally somewhat cheaper than hardcover and the same or slightly less than mpb.

    I also see a lot of people going on about new business models, but I see very few people actually outlining what these new business models might entail, other than hawking t-shirts on a website.

  186. George William Herbert”

    “As I said earlier, the physical degradation of many physical books over time is a bug and not a feature. There’s nothing magical about that that is required for Used Book Stores to be a legal or moral business activity…If I own it, should I not be able to transfer that ownership, either to give it away (gift, lending to a friend who likes similar books, etc) or sell it?”

    I agree that ownship of the item entails that you can give it to a friend the same way you’d give them a book you think they might like. And while I think it’s reasonable to also be able to sell your ebook to a second hand afficionado, I sincerely don’t understand why they’d buy it from you, or the Great Purveyor of Used EBooks. The item’s value has not degraded in any way. Why would a market for used ebooks not nearly match the current market price for a first hand ebook?

  187. I don’t profess to know all the legalities surrounding digital books, but just because I purchased does that mean I actually own in the same way I do a physical book. If I recall, Amazon has allowed publishers to pull books and remove them from Kindle owners with the explanation that the publisher retains ownership, the customer is just paying for the privelage to read it as on their device. I may be wrong, but I think Amazon would have a hard time doing this without large repurcussions. I mean, I’m a huge Amazon fan and fully supported their push to bring e-books down to the $9.99 price point, but they’re pushing it with this one.

  188. Perhaps, but as a practical matter I wouldn’t count on it. From a writer or a baker or an eater.

    Actually, I think it’s more often the rule than the exception.

    Planet Earth Economics 101.

    No, it’s Ayn Randian parody. In that world, no one ever gives to charity, no one ever does helps someone out, no one ever gives a neighbor a ride without charging them, no one ever sacrifices their lives for their country. It’s exactly the kind of ridiculousness that Rand put forward, cloaked in a weary sort of “that’s the way the world really works.” It’s the kind of ridiculousness that fools think make them look wise.

    But let me ask you about Jason Dunham. On 14 April 2004, Corporal Dunham and his squad were in Iraq when a grenade fell near them. Dunham leapt on top of it, absorbed the blast, and saved two other Marines. He was awarded the Medal of Honor, posthumously. Why–given that he got no money for it–did he do it?

    (http://www.history.army.mil/html/moh/iraq.html )

  189. @other bill So I should be able to sell things I own and for whatever price I find reasonable. That we agree on.

    I’d expect that I’d wind up selling my used book for less (even if it were a physical copy that I had never opened and thus was also in store fresh condition) because I don’t have the market power of the book store.

    As for Amazon doing that, I suspect that sort of pricing structure would exist to maintain the semi-fictitious difference between a used book being re-sold and a new book. Of course, legally I can’t see any reason why they couldn’t resell the used ebook for full price.

    Same thing as applies to returns of physical books. I’ve had the book and returned it to the store in sellable condition. They re-sell it for the full price because it has retained its original value. There in fact exist plenty of used physical books that are sold for as much or more than they were originally bought for.

    I think the first question that we’ve got to resolve as a culture is whether any of these digital things can be owned. If buying a digital thing results in ownership then you must be permitted to sell it. If all digital things (music, books, software, etc.) are really just leases/loans then the rules would look different and you can never really own any of this stuff…just have a temporary permit to peruse it for a time. I’ll be much more comfortable once we’ve resolved that question (and I’ll have a better idea what digital items are worth to me as at the moment I buy software, but not much else in digital form).

  190. David writes:

    “I want to support my favorite Authors, I buy books early and I pay ridiculous eBook prices …”

    This statement of yours astounds me. Why do you feel eBook prices are “ridiculous?”

    I mean, your Kindle (or other e-reader), an utterly amazing device, a product of the capitalist system that allows you to procure literally millions of titles INSTANTLY, without getting up out of your chair, that enables you to keep a room full of books in your pocket, that was sold to you for less than ten pounds of Starbucks coffee beans, was developed and marketed to you at a LOSS, and you’re bitchin’ at a price difference of a few dollars?

    A hundred years ago a music lover was lucky to hear Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony ONCE in his life. Because of geniuses like Edison, Ford, Rockefeller, Jobs, Gates and Jeff Bezo, allowed to make “ridiculous” profits in a (semi-free) capitalist system, I have at my fingertips fifty different performances of the Fifth, in extreme high fidelity, and practically the entire canon of Western music available to me anytime and almost anywhere on earth.

    David, may I suggest you take out your e-reader, kiss it, and give a silent thanks to all those who have enriched your life far beyond your ability to ever properly compensate them for the quality of life you enjoy every day.

  191. Kyle Wilson:

    “I think the first question that we’ve got to resolve as a culture is whether any of these digital things can be owned.”

    Well, maybe. But, for the discussion on Amazon’s possible interest in a used ebook market place, we can posit a world in which the distinction is functionally meaningless.

    “So I should be able to sell things I own and for whatever price I find reasonable. That we agree on. I’d expect that I’d wind up selling my used book for less (even if it were a physical copy that I had never opened and thus was also in store fresh condition) because I don’t have the market power of the book store.”

    Well. Yeah, that’s your prerogative if you are the seller. You pick your price. And, if money is more important now than later, you’re incentivized to sell for speed and not maximum value. But, I don’t think I agree with what follows. In this world of secondary ebook markets we need to be able to be sure of some things. For one, the concern about stolen or illegitimate copies is of more significant concern than the origin of used paper books or used cars. One can reasonably assume that your average joe does not have access to the production means required to create an infinite supply of stolen automobiles or book templates. The same is not true for ebooks. So, if a used market is to exist meaningfully, it follows that we would have to have a means of watermarking/provenance. Right?

    This is aside from problems of whether or not DRM is unbreakable, expressly because we are talking about the viability of an organized, legit second hand market for digital products. So, for this market to exist, this must be so.

    “There in fact exist plenty of used physical books that are sold for as much or more than they were originally bought for.”

    But, only so much as they are improved by some new ink or a significant reduction in access to similar copies. Digital copies are neither improved nor degraded. And, as John noted above, they are unlikely to be out of print for very long once the digital copy has been created.

    If Amazon were to enforce a price difference in their market, weird things would happen. For one, only as many new copies as were required to eventually pass around the entire customer base for that title would be purchased. Your first adopters would pay the high price and pass it on to someone else. Then everyone else would take their turn reading and selling it back until everyone had consumed it. Then the collectors would come in and start adding the deflated price back to their inventory.

    I envision a culture of second hand procurement specialists with an ingrained set of values. If you buy second hand, you’d be expected to sell it back when done. Because, with the limited supply, if you buy it and hold on to it, you’re screwing the rest of us, right? You’d be shunned from the community. And, Amazon is already experimenting wildly with small internal vendor divisions. So, used book shop after used book shop would eventually permaban you from participation because you’re screwing with their supply chain/business model.

    But, so what if you did? Wouldn’t the used vendors be incentivized to buy some titles for themselves and start the process of reselling it as quickly as possible? Like 95% of their books come back to them until everyone has read them.

    “Buy from us? Prove it and will give you a 10% buy back bonus!”

    So, they sell everything 10, 20, 30 times. $10 bucks for an original, $5 mandated for each sell, $3 per buy back and they make $2 for every single sale. They sell the same book 25 times and they make $50 bucks a title. Repeat this process across the entirety of the yearly book market, get rich. And with no degradation of the product, this can happen until there is no demand. But, publishers would literally gear up for war because this would effectively extract every bit of value from their operation. Especially the closer we get to ebooks being the dominant medium for reading.

    But, the thing I keep coming back to is that all of this thinking is very Amazon, very seller minded. So, everything above is just as true at $10 for an original and $8 for a used copy and $4 for a buy back. Additionally, it’s just as true with an enforced price point of $15 for an original and 9$ for a used copy and $4 for a buy back. Because, first adopters will pay anything. And everyone else will be happy to get a cheaper copy at any discount. Because, that’s money saved. And Amazon wins because now they’re making $5 cash profit for every sale.

    TL;DR All of this secondhand market for a product that doesn’t degrade, improve or become scarce is only as enforceable (and profitable) as the market place is dominant. At least, I’m just spitballing here. And am open to corrections.

  192. @other bill So if I’m reading your comments accurately it sounds like the end result is a shake out of the market caused by a disruptive technology where in the end the revenue streams get rattled around. Your scenario seems to lead to higher prices for new books sold to early adopters and a huge secondary market for cheap books. It really sounds very much like a mutant version of the current hard cover to mass market flow, just with zero revenue to the originators from the secondary market.

    I do think that there needs to be some clearing house for book ownership to make this work. I’m not sure that this needs to be DRM per-se. An embedded serial number with a bit of crypto would probably do to identify any given copy as legitimate and registered to one and only one owner. Anyone else who has that instance is using it improperly. Keeps the market flowing and identifies ‘bootleg’ copies as needed. I’m not all that comfortable with Amazon being that clearinghouse, but some entity needs to fill the void.

    On the degradation side, I’m suggesting that some goods get resold without noticeable degradation over time and those markets remain legal. Original artwork tends to be well tended and suffer no significant wear (thus allowing us to enjoy works hundreds of years old). Well bound hardcovers that are well cared for aren’t that far behind. The fact that these items appreciate in value over time doesn’t invalidate the resale market for them. The fact that an ebook that I legally own can be resold many times without loss shouldn’t be a consideration either then when you’re considering the legality of allowing me to resell my digital property.

  193. Kyle Wilson:

    “The fact that an ebook that I legally own can be resold many times without loss shouldn’t be a consideration either then when you’re considering the legality of allowing me to resell my digital property.”

    Maybe. But, what I was thinking more expressly about was what impact the ability to resell – without loss – a non-degradeable copy of an ebook would have on the book market. Which is to say that I think that, outside of a price enforcement by a dominant market place, the ebook secondary market prices itself out of utility and then out of existence.

    “So if I’m reading your comments accurately it sounds like the end result is a shake out of the market caused by a disruptive technology where in the end the revenue streams get rattled around. Your scenario seems to lead to higher prices for new books sold to early adopters and a huge secondary market for cheap books. It really sounds very much like a mutant version of the current hard cover to mass market flow, just with zero revenue to the originators from the secondary market.”

    Well, I can see some similarities to the transition from hard cover to mmpb. At least as far as the somewhat limited early adopters analogy goes. But, the last sentence there is a huge deal. I mean, that is the complete restructuring of the book making industry away from the authors and publishers to the vendors. And, I imagine that the publishing houses have some conceptualization wherein they rely on that mmpb, or tpb, for revenue. Same as an author relying on her back list once it earns out.

    This model would seem to direct that money away from them. Which, I think, would be bad for the industry as a whole, in terms of producing things which stimulate me. But, it would be a huge victory for the likes of Amazon. Both in potential profit and market power.

    “I do think that there needs to be some clearing house for book ownership to make this work…I’m not all that comfortable with Amazon being that clearinghouse, but some entity needs to fill the void.”

    To a certain extent, I suppose they already are that clearing house. They can reach in to my ereader and pull out information as they like, based on their assessment of provenance or at the request of a publisher. But, I think this goes back to ownership/DRM/etc which is more on the technical side of the discussion. I’m more interested in what a functioning market would like and what its impact would be.

    “Original artwork tends to be well tended and suffer no significant wear (thus allowing us to enjoy works hundreds of years old). Well bound hardcovers that are well cared for aren’t that far behind. The fact that these items appreciate in value over time doesn’t invalidate the resale market for them.”

    My comments on that are not intended to disqualify them from sale. Many things do improve in value for the mentioned reasons. To clarify, given that an ebook will neither degrade nor improve its condition, it is unlikely to see a “used” price that is anything more than a penny less than the current market price for that title. If anything, I suppose, this means that ebooks have the ability to lose value as the new print editions are rolled out and the market price is adjusted accordingly.

  194. @other bill

    I suspect that used ebooks would be priced in at a psychologically acceptable point just far enough below that of new ebooks to keep the buyers happy. Not sure how much that would be, but the market would sort it out. Probably more than a penny and less than half of the original price. I’ve seen this sort of thing in small durable goods like SLR cameras. The resale price isn’t far enough below the price of a new camera of the same model, but it is enough lower to get people’s attention.

    I suspect that the transition between the current state and the new market would/will be chaotic and traumatic and will harm many existing stake holders. I can’t see this being particularly good for anyone as the transition happens as readers will lose access to authors they value, authors may find their incomes substantially reduced and the publishing industry may get sliced and diced. I’m not sure how to avoid this though unless we legally decide that ebooks and similar items can’t be owned by purchasers and thus can’t be sold.

    I’ve no idea how the market can restructure to accommodate this sort of transition, but I’d expect that in the medium term there will be smart, creative business types who find new models that work. I also suspect that this will be fought out in the courts and legislatures for some time to come and the existing stakeholders will do all they can to ensure that legally electronic media is not property and thus may not be transferred or sold. Given what is at stake here they may win too…

  195. “Look, our time and resources are finite so it natural and prudent that we seek out the most for the least.”

    Nevertheless, we often don’t. It’s been proven that people will pay more for things they merely perceive as better, even if they can’t tell a difference when blind tested. Or more to the point, people don’t always buy the cheapest and best thing they can get. This is so common and obvious I wonder how you could miss it. Starbucks exists.

    Or more to the point, anyone who buys a book at Barnes and Noble they could quite easily get at Amazon for quite a lot less.

    It’d be nice if people were rational actors who worked predicably and fit into neat boxes, because then we could make communism or libertarianism work. But they don’t.

  196. David – Using a story about a Marine who sacrificed his life so his fellow Marines could survive the day to win an ebook conversation is – and this is just my opinion – not cool.

    Kyle Wilson:

    “I suspect that used ebooks would be priced in at a psychologically acceptable point just far enough below that of new ebooks to keep the buyers happy.”

    Right. But, why would they do that? I understand the example about the SLR cameras, And, I think it’s interesting. But, it has moving parts that degrade, and may be outside of its warranty for parts do to resale or time. So, it isn’t a one to one.

    It seems to me that the marketplace would sell the ebooks at the price point they could sustain. I don’t see where the psychology of the buyer comes in on this one. I mean, what’s the out loud argument for a reduced price? I think it’s perfectly reasonable for the reseller to say “Well, this is exactly the same product you can get new. Exactly the same. And I am offering it for less than market price. Feel free to buy it anywhere else or not.”

    “I’m not sure how to avoid this though unless we legally decide that ebooks and similar items can’t be owned by purchasers and thus can’t be sold.”

    I don’t think the trend towards ebooks in general is destroying the market. And I don’t think it’s harmed my access to authors. I think it’s required some adjustment of business models, which has incurred some friction with the new grinding against old. But, authors seem to be moving along. And, in some new and intersting ways as well. The Amazon self published ebook model is interesting. But, I’m trying to be careful not to conflate the issue of resale price fixing and the general right to sell an ebook you purchased.

  197. David writes:

    “No, it’s Ayn Randian parody. In that world, no one ever gives to charity, no one ever does helps someone out, no one ever gives a neighbor a ride without charging them, no one ever sacrifices their lives for their country. It’s exactly the kind of ridiculousness that Rand put forward, cloaked in a weary sort of “that’s the way the world really works.” It’s the kind of ridiculousness that fools think make them look wise.”

    Before I can respond to this you need to clarify. Are you saying that, “in that world no ones every gives to charity, no one ever does helps (sic) someone out…etc….” is an Ayn Randian parody? If so, you are confused as to the definition of the word “parody.”

    I am not a Randian but have studied her writings intensively. If you actually believe Ayn Rand advocated such a world you have totally misread her, and I cannot begin, in this limited space, to even try to correct you.

    Further, I suspect you haven’t really read her works. If you had, you’d know that Rand NEVER presented her philosopy “cloaked in a weary sort of ‘that’s the way the world really works.’ Quite the opposite. Capitalism and the free market are shown to be the catalyst for the invigoriating, joyous release of human potential and productive energy. That’s why Americans have always been known for their generosity and optimism. It is the collectivist, socialist economic systems that turn people petty and cynical about the human condition.

    As for Corporal Dunham, suffice here to say Miss Rand would have properly understood Dunham as the hero he was because his action, he surely believed, served to protect his fellow soldiers and thus the United States and the ideals it was founded on. And for the preservation of these ideals of individualism and liberty against the onslaught of Islamic barbarism I would give MY life, for the entirely selfish reason that I would not want to live in a world bereft of them.

  198. How about against the onslaught of Christian barbarism?

    And btw Ayn Rand died in poverty (and on public assistance) because none of her alleged “friends” would help her when she fell on hard times.

  199. Also, are we really trotting out the same tired argument about e-book pricing again? I can’t find where John asked us not to do that in this thread, but I think his previous requests should be honored.

    Shorter me: Ladles and Jellyspoons, we’re better than this.

  200. This is a link to Amazon’s Sell Your Stuff gateway page.
    https://www.amazon.com/gp/seller/sell-your-stuff.html/ref=ret_ro_si

    This is the link for anyone who wants to sell their used copy of Mr. Scalzi’s A Voice In The Wilderness.
    https://www.amazon.com/gp/seller/search.html?ie=UTF8&index=stripbooks&keywords=A%20Voice%20In%20The%20Wilderness&ld=direct-link&x=51&y=6

    What should we infer from the fact that ebooks are listed alongside legally resaleable paper books on a dedicated Sell Your Stuff page?
    How much would it take to join up the dotted lines to create a Sell Yours box?
    Can any tech wizard discover whether there is a hidden button in the space?

  201. I am not a Randian but have studied her writings intensively

    Of course you have. You voted for Ron Paul, too, didn’t you?

    If you had, you’d know that Rand NEVER presented her philosopy “cloaked in a weary sort of ‘that’s the way the world really works.’

    I didn’t say she did. I said that you did. It’s the “the world’s not complicated, it’s simple” pose. To quote myself: “the kind of ridiculousness that fools think make them look wise.”

    And for the preservation of these ideals of individualism and liberty against the onslaught of Islamic barbarism I would give MY life, for the entirely selfish reason that I would not want to live in a world bereft of them

    But Tim, you just got through telling us that the only thing that does (and should) motivate people is maximizing their financial gain.

  202. Xopher writes:

    “How about against the onslaught of Christian barbarism?”

    Please cite an example of “Christian barbarism” in the past two hundred years comparable with 911.

    “and btw Ayn Rand died in poverty (and on public assistance) because none of her alleged “friends” would help her when she fell on hard times.”

    This is untrue. Rand left a substantial estate which has been used to fund the Ayn Rand Institute, among other things. Her copyrighted works still generate impressive royalties, ATLAS SHRUGGED itself having sold, I believe, over a half million copies since Obama’s election. Rand didn’t have any financial “hard times” after THE FOUNTAINHEAD became a bestseller in the late 1940s.

    As for this “public assistance” smear that Rand sought Social Security and Medicare benefits, she herself wrote in 1966 about the morality of accepting such government benefits:

    “It is obvious, in such cases, that a man receives his own money which was taken from him by force, directly and specifically, without his consent, against his own choice. Those who advocated such laws are morally guilty, since they assumed the “right” to force employers and unwilling co-workers. But the victims, who opposed such laws, have a clear right to any refund of their own money—and they would not advance the cause of freedom if they left their money, unclaimed, for the benefit of the welfare-state administration.”

    So Ayn Rand was forced to pay into these government rip-offs and so was lawfully entitled to their benefits. A bit of a rationalization to be sure, but not nearly as bad as a left-leaning writer who profits from the supposed predations of the free market.

  203. @neverever says: I would either buy the hardback new or paperback, but always on Amazon (cheaper, no sales tax, etc).

    That whole “cheaper, no sales tax” argument puzzles me…. as a rationale for loving Amazon.

    I always thought that either one lives in a State that does *not* charge sales tax, in which case one made no sales tax related saving, or one lives in a State that *does* charge sales tax, in which case, one is legally required to declare and pay the full amount of taxes on online/internet purchases retroactively with ones tax filing.

  204. David writes:

    “Of course you have. You voted for Ron Paul, too, didn’t you?”

    No.

    “I didn’t say she did. I said that you did. It’s the ‘the world’s not complicated, it’s simple’ pose. To quote myself: ‘the kind of ridiculousness that fools think make them look wise.’

    And for the preservation of these ideals of individualism and liberty against the onslaught of Islamic barbarism I would give MY life, for the entirely selfish reason that I would not want to live in a world bereft of them

    “But Tim, you just got through telling us that the only thing that does (and should) motivate people is maximizing their financial gain.”

    You are putting words into my mouth. I merely said that it is natural and prudent that human beings act in their own interests. Ever hear of Adam Smith’s “Invisible Hand”? I think your conceptual problem is not understanding that everybody preceives their self-interest differently than YOU might.

    For example, the author of THE TROUBLE WITH KANSAS was flabbergasted that lower middle-class people voted for Republicans when it was clear (to him) that such a vote was against their economic interests, as they would gain from Democrat tax and spending policies.

    (As an aside, I thought his pique amusing because isn’t it the Leftist position that we all should put aside our selfish self-interest for the Greater Good?)

    Of course what was really going on was that the lower-middle class voted Republican because they thought the long term collective health of the nation was more important than any immediate short-term personal benefit. Ironically, the way Democrats WANT people to act.

    Bottom line, David: in business it is wiser to depend on someone’s self-interest than the goodness of their hearts.

    Much wiser.

  205. No.

    Rand Paul?

    You are putting words into my mouth

    I was putting your own words in your mouth. If you don’t like their implications, then you shouldn’t say them.

    in business it is wiser to depend on someone’s self-interest than the goodness of their hearts.

    Which is a much more nuanced statement than your earlier tripe.

    Please cite an example of “Christian barbarism” in the past two hundred years comparable with 911.

    Oh Good Lord, what are they teaching in schools these days? Let’s start with the German genocide against the Wa-He-He in the late 19th century, American genocide against Native Americans in the 19th century, the British on the Australian aboriginals, the Belgians in the Congo in the late 19th, early 20th century (Heart of Darkness anyone?) and those are just what come to mind immediately. They all talked in explicitly Christian ways about what they were doing, just as Al-Qaeda invoked Islam, and were criticized by other Christians, just as Al-Qaeda was criticized by other Muslims. And note that the deaths in all of these were in the tens of thousands or millions, much worse than 9/11.

    Other Bill said: David – Using a story about a Marine who sacrificed his life so his fellow Marines could survive the day to win an ebook conversation is – and this is just my opinion – not cool.

    As an example of how the world is a much better place than some cramped Randian devotee thinks it is? I think that’s quite cool, thanks.

  206. “Which is a much more nuanced statement than your earlier tripe.”

    Well, now I know your level of discourse and civility, David. You’ll understand if I choose not to play anymore with you anymore.

    Besides, a man who finds moral equivalance in Islam and Christianity (and I’m an agnostic, by the way) is beyond my powers of persuasion.

    Have a nice day.

  207. Well, now I know your level of discourse and civility, David. You’ll understand if I choose not to play anymore with you anymore.

    My level of discourse and civility is always tuned appropriately to the person with which I’m engaging.

    Witness:
    Besides, a man who finds moral equivalence in Islam and Christianity (and I’m an agnostic, by the way) is beyond my powers of persuasion

    I’d say I found the perfect level for you.

  208. Interesting read and fascinating comments, but did anyone bother to actually read the patent in questions? Aside from the two folks who posted links to it?

    The patent addresses setting up a user-to-user marketplace for the legal transfer of digital licenses for ebooks, music, videos, etc. It includes provisions for an optional nominal transfer fee by the marketplace operator, and the optional configuration of both maximum number of downloads per license and/or maximum number of transfers per license. It’s more akin to the way Amazon sells used paper books now where the individual seller sets the price, pays Amazon a small percentage, and the buyer chooses which seller to buy from.

    The used ebook licenses are not unlimited – they are based on previous legally purchased licenses. They do depreciate in value with each transfer – the number of subsequent permitted transfers is decremented by one with each sale, moving towards total depletion, likewise the total number of allowed downloads might also decrease with each download to a device.

    The legality of this will be interesting to see – there are precedents with respect to the resale of software licenses, though I’m not sure if there are cases decided contrary to the EULA or not. From the language in the patent, Amazon appears to be possible intent on working with the rights owners regarding the resale permissions allowed. Unless, of course, some legal decision concretely settles the first-sale doctrine vis-a-vis digital media in the purchasers favor.

    I think the “threat” to authors and traditional publishing from this are not the risk that dishonest folks will keep a non-drm’ed backup and sell their original – to be blunt, most of the folks capable of or intent on doing that are quite able to harvest their books from the dark net anyway.

    The “threat” is that your everyday average user will be satisfied with reading a book once, and then reselling to someone looking for a bargain. Why this should be a problem when the original ebook price is on par with a hardcover, I have no idea.

  209. David et al responding to David:

    Keep it civil, or I will start the mallet. Please consider this your first and only warning. Arguing about how you disagree derails the thread. Disengage or tone it down.

  210. Re: Library borrowing

    One cannot borrow Tor eBooks from Overdrive enabled libraries as Tor does not allow this. So the library idea is not going to work unless John can convince Tor to allow library borrowing of eBooks.

  211. I don’t see how Tor can allow Amazon to sell their eBooks second-hand. It just won’t work. Without DRM on Tor’s eBooks, there is no way Amazon can be assured that a copy was not kept.

  212. Tim, calling 9/11 “Islamic barbarism” is just bigotry. How about the ethnic cleansing of the Bosnian Muslims as “Christian barbarism”? That was done by self-identified Christians, with the victims selected by religion (unlike 9/11, btw). And it’s a hell of a lot more people than died on 9/11.

    If you don’t think that counts as “Christian barbarism,” I’d be interested to hear how 9/11, which was perpetrated by fanatics who are denounced as unIslamic by 99% of Muslims in the world, counts as “Islamic barbarism.”

    If your view of the world is that distorted by hate, I don’t know why I should listen to you on any topic.

  213. For the record, I’m drawing an analogy to make the point that the term “Islamic barbarism” is bigoted and absurd. I do NOT actually think the Bosnian genocide should be laid at the door of Christians everywhere, any more than I think 9/11 (in which I narrowly, in some senses, escaped dying, and many of my coworkers did NOT escape) can be legitimately laid at Muslims everywhere, or indeed ANY Muslims except Al Qaeda.

  214. David:

    “As an example of how the world is a much better place than some cramped Randian devotee thinks it is?”

    Any general example of a person willing to do something not in their direct interest, up to and including general acts of self sacrifice, are testament to the fact that there is more going on in our society than capitalism.

    Unless that person was your friend and you have personal knowledge about his preferences regarding the use of his name as a rhetorical point, it strikes me as vulgar for his name to be brought up in conversation about Ayn Rand’s view of the world and its merits, or lack thereof (in a thread about ebooks).

  215. Parker Benchley: “It’s more akin to the way Amazon sells used paper books now where the individual seller sets the price, pays Amazon a small percentage, and the buyer chooses which seller to buy from.”

    Again, it’s really not. Buyers will pay a higher price for new books because they are in better condition. Buyers are more likely to buy a book directly from Amazon as new then they are a used copy from a vendor going through Amazon because it’s faster and more reliable and they just want to deal with Amazon, and if they buy used, one of the big issues in picking a seller is again reliability. Buyers are also more likely to buy new from Amazon for gifts for others, which makes up about 40% or more of book sales (with the largest season being Christmas.) A percentage will buy used books to try books out, get books that are not available new or because they are voracious collectors, but the used book market is an entirely different market from the new print book market. But with a data file, there are no differences between a resold file and a newly sold one, none of these factors. There’s no difference if you buy the file as a gift for your wife’s Kindle, etc. There is no difference in buying from a vendor or Amazon directly in reliability since Amazon transfers all the files. There is no reason to pay the new e-book price.

    This works out well for Amazon since it allows them to get additional income on one e-book resold several times and forces the prices of e-books down, potentially below the level that e-book producers can sustain them against business costs. Which will do some interesting things to the market. It’s unclear whether this is a maneuver by Amazon to try and completely take over e-book production, increasing their monopoly or what, but on the other hand, they don’t have a lot of choice about it, given what’s going on in smart phones and data marketing.

    And the idea of limiting access by a set number of resales is unenforceable. If I buy an e-book from someone other than Amazon and resell it through Amazon, there’s very little Amazon can do about me also reselling it elsewhere. Amazon may get a patent, but as has been noted, e-book resells are already going on. They aren’t going to have control of this market, just be a major marketplace for it.

    And this raises some interesting issues since Amazon decided for reasons unknown to get into book publishing when they really have no interest in it. (It seems to have been largely a screw you gesture to publishers.) If they are trying to attract big name authors to them, then obviously the e-books that Amazon can sell is a big draw. But if Amazon is selling new e-books for which their authors receive royalties and then also reselling the e-books for lower prices and not giving the authors any royalties on those sales, that decidedly lessens the appeal of partner publishing with them. Because the lower price/no royalties will be more appealing, Amazon would be sabotaging their own releases. They’ll still make money off of that, but the author is making much less because of the efforts of their own publisher. So that will be an interesting aspect if it goes through.

    Authors out in the marketplace and e-books are not like bakers or soldiers or Randians or religious terrorists. These comparisons — and the largely irrelevant moral emotional attachments to them — are getting wilder and wilder. Authors have a right to criticize their business partners and seek positions that maximize their interests — which are not always maximum money for this particular business. A resale market for e-books, on-going and which may develop including Amazon, will have major impacts on authors, consumers and publishing in general because of the type of product an e-book is. Amazon makes a lot more money on data sales than they do on just e-book data sales and this patent would seem to be more geared toward their money-makers. But it will also effect e-books, and at a rather critical stage of the market’s development.

    Given that e-books are not growing new sales mostly but just replacing print ones, that tablets, phones and devices have already moved beyond e-books as a pretty of initial device launches and no longer have much interest in them, this all reflects on the difficulty of monetizing anything on the Web beyond floating stock prices on large companies with name recognition (and of course the Net servers.) And as the money available for access to data goes more and more to the brokers, like Amazon and Google, than to the producers of data, that’s going to make some big shifts. It is again not a black or white, doom or exaltation, money or free situation. The Web is still figuring out how to have a data economy with any stability. This is just one more wrinkle.

  216. Kat Goodwin:

    “This works out well for Amazon since it allows them to get additional income on one e-book resold several times and forces the prices of e-books down, potentially below the level that e-book producers can sustain them against business costs.”

    Yes. This is sort of what I was getting at earlier. The problem for ebook publishers is that they can’t, in any way, compete with that. Even if they lower their ebook prices by half, Amazon would be able to continually rip a profit out of the resale of the ebooks at a lower price still than the original. If Amazon wants to use this to dominate the ebook market, they could. But, that way lies nuclear armageddon between them and the publisher.

    However, I’m not convinced that they can force the market price of ebooks down by opening a resale market. That market is about maximizing value for the seller. Whether we’re talking about Amazon as a whole, or the invidual looking to sell a book, the mindset there is on increasing their profit. Which means selling a pristine product for what it’s worth. Why would I offer to sell my old ebook titles to Amazon at 40% of their current market value? To facilitate Amazon’s nuclear arsenal?

    If it is about Amazon developing the equivalent of the hydrogen bomb, I think they’ll have to use it for it to mean anything. Otherwise, there is no market effect. Which, I’d say leads to total market destruction in a few short years. Read ‘em while you got ‘em.

  217. I’m not entirely sure on that part. If the best, easiest way to resell was on Amazon, and Amazon does not allow me to resell my e-book files for the same as the new release price or the current publisher e-book price, then I might go ahead and resell through Amazon at the lower price because it allows me to recoup some of my costs for buying the e-book and that lets me buy other e-books that I can then resell. However, if a resold e-book can be sold, let’s say six times, then I make out better if I buy the resold e-book in the first place and am the second or third reseller, because the cost to me will be less and the price difference of what I bought and then resold will be smaller. So yes, potentially bombs. (Although it does perhaps prevent e-books for going for free as there’s no resell value to free.) The big effect would be on self-publishing, which already goes at a lower price point since they are a bigger risk for a reading purchase. If the reselling prices of self-published files are say dropped to 99 cents, and the author gets no cut of it and has no print copies to sell, then the money that a percentage of self-published authors have been able to make on Amazon goes bye-bye, and the short story/novella market also goes bye-bye. So that’s a question — Amazon seems to be far less interested in self-pub, now that they’ve gotten their use out of them. Various access and cut agreements could be worked out with the publishers, but will Amazon bother with the self-pubs? Especially as Amazon has that handy clause in the contracts that say if you sell at a lower price elsewhere or give away for free elsewhere, they can drop the price of your work at Amazon to the lower price or free. Is resell going to count on that? I haven’t seen how vague the contract language is, but it’s possible, if Amazon wanted to do it.

  218. “If the reselling prices of self-published files are say dropped to 99 cents, and the author gets no cut of it and has no print copies to sell, then the money that a percentage of self-published authors have been able to make on Amazon goes bye-bye, and the short story/novella market also goes bye-bye.”

    Yeah. I hadn’t expressly considered that. It would annihilate any value for the self published. One thing I’m finding difficult to game out in my head is that for this to work, we’re assuming a hard control of supply. No pirate goods. Which means a controled, finite supply of second hand titles. I’d almost want to see a vizualation of the time line of a book and its readership. As in, how many people are reading it at any given time. Which – aside from general sales data because you can buy the tpb and stick it in your hopper of books to read – would make the prominence of ebooks on dedicated readers whose builders have access to your reading data very interesting. They could track rates of readership for a title and game their supply of second hand books. “I’m sorry, we’re not buying that title any more. We have all the copies we need to sustain demand down in the pasture.”

    “Is resell going to count on that?”

    I suppose it could, but I wouldn’t think so. I mean, Amazon could say it, do it, and just try and stop them.

    What makes all of this interesting to me – so this is strictly personal interpretation – is that regardless of Amazon’s moral intentions and aspirations – whatever they do in this arena with have a big footprint. I wonder whether that makes Amazon the better or worse choice to be the experimenter. They’ve got the bandwidth to guage the impact of small changes, but their footprint is so big that they can’t know if it’s them shaking the ground or something else.

  219. @Other Bill. I think you shouldn’t presume to speak for Corporal Dunham. That strikes me as much more disrespectful than invoking his name in an argument.

  220. David, Other Bill’s point was that you were presuming to speak for Corporal Dunham. A general, rather than a specific example of selflessness would probably have been better to make your point. This is not a thread for arguing the principles of libertarianism or Islamaphobia and both you and Tim are grossly simplifying a lot of stuff. So how about we just stick to e-books, authors and Amazon. As you did initially point out, authors’ interests are not always and just maximizing the money they earn. Many times, many authors will turn down higher amounts of money in order to get other benefits or because they have other goals than monetary ones. Many of the people who are self-publishing are not necessarily doing so to get oodles and oodles of money. And the reality is that Amazon could often meet its goals while better honoring its business contracts by using other business methods than they chose. They also have pioneered things that have been very valuable for publishing. Amazon initially started with books online in the 1990’s, for instance, which helped publishers and authors because the wholesale print market collapsed in the 1990’s and the online sales started to pump the numbers back up over time and left them less reliant on big chains and warehouse stores. But, as another example, Amazon has been ruthless with small presses, driving some of them out of business, and has also slowed the growth of online bookselling considerably to keep their monopoly. So again, it’s not black and white. And again, since companies are already reselling, if Amazon goes in with this, it will simply have a rapid expansion effect — Amazon will not be the only reselling market, and practices will not necessarily be consistent online across companies. So we’ll see what we’re getting, I guess.

  221. @Kat. I wasn’t speaking for Dunham, I was using him as as an example. That’s a different thing. And you know what? It’s a bit ironic, you criticizing that when you’re coopting Other Bill with your comment. He’s perfectly capable of speaking for himself, so why don’t you let him?

  222. David: Kat opined on a public opinion I offered in a conversation in which I’m participating. For future reference, please appreciate that in conversations in which I am participating, I prefer to be the one to address any concerns about things I say being coopted.

  223. @Other Bill, and I was opining on something Kat said, and the irony of speaking for you when she was criticizing me for the same thing. I’m sure you do prefer speaking for yourself, so I was wondering why Kat wouldn’t let you?

  224. David: (Because you ended with a “?” I will note) I’ve said my part on this as well. I will not engage with you any further on this specific line of discussion.

  225. John, what do you think Amazon intends to do with a monopsony, presuming they are successful in obtaining one? The standard expectation is that companies that obtain monopoly or monopsony positions will use those positions to extract excess profits and limit product choice, among other things. Do feel that Amazon will choose to extract excess profit, given the opportunity to do so? To date, they have shown little interest in being anything but a low-margin business that spans many markets. Will that change in the future?

  226. Next book you write make sure to include a piece of any future used book sales in the contract. Maybe make the new agreement include a piece of used books sales for all previously published books as well.

    Good Luck.

  227. The whole publishing business is based on copyright belonging to creators, and this began in 1710. It means just what it says: the right to control copies. For an author that is the words, often now called content. A print book, as physical object, is sold which has a licence to include that content. Thus it is a physical piece of property which contains copyrighted material.

    The physical object itself becomes owned by the buyer – the copyright content is incidental to the buyer’s ownership, not – under any circumstance – the property of the buyer of the paper book. Purchase of the book does not give the buyer any rights to copy the content.

    The digital file is very different. It has no corpus and it is easy to copy. The file also generally is practically all content. Any onward sale is, in effect by the nature of the technology, a copy. The original buyer has no right, under copyright, to sell that copy. Only if the file is in a permanent piece of physical matter – on a non-rewriteable disc, for example – does it relate to the print book as an object.

    Thus, unless Amazon is to keep this to only its own publishing, it is committing a breach of copyright law, and probably already is with various of its schemes.

  228. The point I was attempting to make without being overly paranoid about Amazon’s intentions is that e-books are already in place (albeit not enabled for reselling) on the SELL YOUR STUFF pages.
    Amazon appears to take a 15% referral fee.

    Best,
    Rowena Cherry

  229. David: “I wasn’t speaking for Dunham, I was using him as as an example. That’s a different thing. And you know what? It’s a bit ironic, you criticizing that when you’re coopting Other Bill with your comment. He’s perfectly capable of speaking for himself, so why don’t you let him?”

    He did speak for himself and you ignored what he was saying. He said that you speculating on Dunham’s motives for his action was speaking for Dunham, where upon you accused him of trying to speak for Dunham. (If you want irony, there you go.) The point you were making is that rational choice theory has a lot of holes in it, which I think a lot of people, myself included, would agree with, and I have said so on this thread. The point Old Bill was making is that you were speaking for the dead and that it was disrespectful to do that just to win a point in an argument. And that’s a point I pretty much agree with too and have said so on this thread. As for your giving me imaginary powers of repressing Old Bill, I have never known him to have a problem speaking for himself and eloquently too, whether we agree or disagree on an issue. He just decided to stop speaking to you because you were being obnoxious, as he stated now twice, all by himself. And Tim is long gone. My talking to you was to suggest that you might want to talk about e-books now instead.

    Secebeen: Scalzi is away for a bit, so you might want to email him with your question so he might answer it later.

    Joseph Harris: That was a very succinct explanation of the basics of copyright, I think. Of course, a lot of gray areas have cropped up over the years. But again, goes back to my point — used print books and e-book files are just not the same things. It will be interesting to see what happens with this reselling issue.

  230. This discussion seems mostly conducted by Americans. In the UK and elsewhere we campaigned many years ago for the Public Lending Right by which authors would be compensated for books of theirs taken out by public library users. Perhaps there is some way US readers and others could extend this idea so that authors did get a royalty for each borrowing, however that borrowing was done. Given the constant pious appeals to our consciences by corporations regarding ‘piracy’ I wonder if Amazon could be said to be joining the pirates they currently describe as the enemies of individual creators and publishers alike. If my music royalties are guaged according to ‘plays’ why can’t my fiction be similarly guaged ?.

  231. Have you met the U.S.? They’re closing the libraries as it is, much less are likely to add to their budgets to pay royalties to authors on loans. And this is happening even as libraries have become increasingly important community centers, offering computer and Net access to the unemployed, disadvantaged and students, a locale for groups and community events, increased assistance to cash-strapped schools, etc. Not to mention a valuable resource for video and music and a major helper in the e-book market. But the attitude of state and county governments is close them and screw the poor kids here. When the attitude of most American Net users is that authors should subsist on charity tip jars and give their stuff away for free, I wouldn’t bet on libraries becoming revenue sources anytime too soon, assuming they survive.

  232. Kat Goodwin: “And the idea of limiting access by a set number of resales is unenforceable. If I buy an e-book from someone other than Amazon and resell it through Amazon, there’s very little Amazon can do about me also reselling it elsewhere. Amazon may get a patent, but as has been noted, e-book resells are already going on. They aren’t going to have control of this market, just be a major marketplace for it.”

    Hi Kat, did you by chance actually review the patent in question? The proposal only applies to digital content which resides in the marketplace cloud and which was purchased, in this case, from Amazon in the first place. So no, someone cannot sell a title purchased elsewhere or sell multiple copies of a pirated title, and yes, resale and download limits would be enforceable making second-hand and subsequent purchases less valuable than a new purchase, creating a differentiation other than just the price.

    But, irrespective of all that I’m curious to how you and others view the first-sale doctrine with respect to ebooks. Is the end user license transferable, as has been decided in the case of software? Or is it limited, as in the way publishers used to try to restrict paper books with the warning that “this book must not be loaned, sold, bartered or given away.” The latter, of course, was struck down under the first-sale doctrine. The former decided based, i believe, on business acquisition cases.

  233. Rowena Cherry, is your posting name your real name, or is it made of the first name of a truly horrible fantasy painter and the last name of a good one?

  234. “Is the end user license transferable, as has been decided in the case of software? Or is it limited, as in the way publishers used to try to restrict paper books with the warning that “this book must not be loaned, sold, bartered or given away.” The latter, of course, was struck down under the first-sale doctrine. The former decided based, i believe, on business acquisition cases.”

    Right now, Amazon feels that it is limited, at least in their baliwick. They can wipe titles off your Kindle at any time. I’m not sure if they can wipe a Kindle title that was downloaded to another type of device, but it well may be possible. They also have set rules on their loaning program, etc. And they insisted on DRM in an attempt to limit transfers. But realistically, everyone including Amazon knows that they can’t really stop copying and transfers. The DRM on Kindle titles is, I understand, quite easy to strip off, and at this point, the market has shifted from being Kindle-centric in any case. You can buy Apple brokered titles for your Kindle and Kindle titles for your iPad, etc., which was always expected to happen, along with the slow easing out of DRM. (People just wanted it instantaneously instead of giving the market a few years to get up and running properly.) And realistically, Amazon could restrict reselling on their platform, but they couldn’t enforce limits on reselling elsewhere. E-books existed well before the Kindle, but Amazon’s launch of the Kindle expanded the e-book market into a wide-spread retail market. Likewise, people are already reselling e-books, but Amazon diving into e-book reselling would also expand it into a wider practice that they would not control beyond their own borders.

    But even within their own borders, the limitations you are talking about would not create a different value. There’s still no reason for people to buy the “new” e-book since the new e-books and the resold e-books are the same file. If you wanted to resell, you’d only get one chance to do it and have to do a slightly lower price, but then you do recoup some of the purchase price. And if you bought the resold copy and then resell it yourself, you recoup even more. It doesn’t matter if Amazon sets the resell limit at six resells or two resells — there is no difference except price. And again, if Amazon is the publisher for an author, they are then simultaneously selling the “new” e-book they produced, for which the author gets royalties, and the resold e-book, the same file, for which the author gets no royalties, and which is far more attractive to the consumer. An e-book does not change value. It remains exactly the same. It has no other purpose besides its content, unlike print books, which serve as both display decor and art collectible objects. It’s the same thing as your boss sending you an electronic memo — a file of text.

    In order to resell e-book files, Amazon is definitely stating that the person has a limited time license. They are essentially taking back the e-book file and letting the person have some money back for it, but the person is no longer allowed to keep the file. You give it back to Amazon and they just download the data to someone else. “Reselling” thus isn’t even reselling. It’s a return/partial refund program. And that lets them draw people into buying Kindle files and Kindle devices over other reading devices and non-Kindle e-books, because they have the partial refund program. So guess who else is going to need to have that program? The other large and small e-book sellers. So yeah, the market definitely sees it as a limited time license, (access to data,) not a purchased object of property. The subscription plans work on this idea too that it is a limited use. You are subscribing to get access to selected data, rather than just purchasing individual files, and there are incentive benefits built into the offer.

  235. Joseph Harris wrote (in part):
    The digital file is very different. It has no corpus and it is easy to copy. The file also generally is practically all content. Any onward sale is, in effect by the nature of the technology, a copy. The original buyer has no right, under copyright, to sell that copy. Only if the file is in a permanent piece of physical matter – on a non-rewriteable disc, for example – does it relate to the print book as an object.

    This is in a brief word completely bogus. If I purchase a digital property – delivered digitally, and “ownership” and not a useage license, it’s property.

    And transferable, as with other property.

    The idea that one cannot own purely electronic data is absurd on its face.

    That this – in combination with the ease of its copying and with the copyright and publishing regimes in force – throws a monkey wrench into people’s expectations on resold eBooks is unfortunate, but in no way changes the legal status of purchased – or generated – electronic information.

    The EU courts just unambiguously ruled this is their legal model for purchased “media files”, and cases and law in the US establish the same here. First sale doctrine, right to resell software, these are all well established now. There’s an ambiguity around first sale doctrine and grey market imports, not about ownership and right to transfer.

    I know it’s breaking a bunch of people’s noggins, but this is the law and it’s what it’s been for some time now. I do not wish to see widespread copying of books by authors who I wish to see paid well and publishers whose services I continue to value, and I hope that this development does not fundamentally change that situation. I don’t forsee it as enabling that in any special way. It does change that a bit, but since eBooks came out, DRM-cracking has been routine (author Charlie Stross freely admits that he has to crack DRM on his own eBooks to read them on all the platforms he owns… !). DRM-free eBooks are a more fundamental change. Enabling a used-eBook marketplace is another wrinkle, but if we presume some chain-of-ownership tracking ensuring that someone bought a copy legally in the first place, them keeping a copy and selling the first one back seems like the least of an authors’ or publishers’ worries.

    Amazon’s role in all this, with its monosomic practices, is entirely a different story, but either you do business with them or you do not.

  236. georgewilliamherbert:”The EU courts just unambiguously ruled this is their legal model for purchased “media files”, and cases and law in the US establish the same here. First sale doctrine, right to resell software, these are all well established now. There’s an ambiguity around first sale doctrine and grey market imports, not about ownership and right to transfer”

    Yup, bang on. Usedsoft v. Oracle.

  237. @georgewilliamherbert:

    ” Enabling a used-eBook marketplace is another wrinkle, but if we presume some chain-of-ownership tracking ensuring that someone bought a copy legally in the first place, them keeping a copy and selling the first one back seems like the least of an authors’ or publishers’ worries.”

    Would you mind expanding on this thought? I’m not sure what you mean here.

  238. I had written:
    ” Enabling a used-eBook marketplace is another wrinkle, but if we presume some chain-of-ownership tracking ensuring that someone bought a copy legally in the first place, them keeping a copy and selling the first one back seems like the least of an authors’ or publishers’ worries.”

    Other Bill asks:
    Would you mind expanding on this thought? I’m not sure what you mean here.

    Let me explain by example. Say John’s future book “Of Supermice and Men” is published as a DRM-free eBook, available from Amazon for in round numbers $10.

    OK scenario:

    I purchase an eBook “OSaM” from Amazon for $10. I read it. Halfway through, I realize John’s brain has been occupied by malignant alien entities and his writing now greatly offends me, and I want to stop reading and get some money back. I go to Amazon and say “Hey, I want to sell this back.” Amazon says “Here’s a $4 credit.” I say “Here’s the file, have a nice day.”

    This I find to be fine.

    Not OK scenario:

    Gamma Bunny (not his real name) purchases an eBook of OSaM from Amazon for $10. He then sends copies of the file to 10 of his friends with the notation “D00d! We h@k0rz can t0ta11y c0py dis!”, and as there’s no DRM they can all read it.

    They are being unethical, however the DRM-free-ness makes this an honor system type of thing. this is entirely possible today, the resale aspect does not change that.

    More Not OK scenario:

    Gamma Bunny’s friend Neutron Goat is offended by his l33tly copied file of “OSaM” sooooo badly that he then takes it to Amazon and says “D00d! I want my money back! Here’s the file!”. And Amazon blindly says “Ok, thank you, here’s a $4 credit,” and accepts his copy of the file in again.

    Neutron Goat has now “returned” a pirated copy, that someone else bought. This would be a new crime or fraud, enabled by the eBook buyback program (implemented poorly).

    Worse not OK scenario:

    Gamma Bunny’s other friends Neutrino Newt and Photon Pig ALSO are offended, and take THEIR pirated copies, and go back to Amazon, and scam another $4 each off Amazon for turning in those files. Amazon has now paid $12 in refunds on a $10 purchase. Also a new fraud, enabled by the poorly-planned buyback program.

    MUCH WORSE not OK scenario:

    Someone creates a business model, probably running on cloud servers hosted (on their own petard) in Amazon’s AWS, which purchase eBook items from Amazon, copy them excessively, and then turn in all the copies for $4 each, thus defrauding Amazon extensively. Within seconds. (runs off to file business model patent, and… hmm… I DO have an AWS account and a test cluster… Naww…)

    Somewhat better scenario trying to prevent the above:

    Despite the “no-DRM” on the eBook files, Amazon stamps each file on the way out with a crypto signature with a unique ID number which they can verify that they sold this, to Gamma Bunny, etc. This signature does not prevent copying or viewing, but is an individual watermark.

    Gamma Bunny’s friend Neutron Goat tries to sell his pirated copy back to Amazon. Amazon scans the watermark, and puts the repurchase on hold while they send an email to Gamma Bunny saying “Hey, um, this guy over here is trying to return this eBook you purchased. Can you confirm whether you sold it to him privately or not, and that you deleted your copy of it off your Kindle if you did? Thank you!”.

    GB can then either confirm (“Yes I did!”, in which case Amazon might discreetly check if his Kindle still has a copy) or deny (“No, I did no such thing!”) in which case Amazon replies to Neutron Goat “We believe you have a pirated copy of the file, no $4 for you, sorry.” Any parties who may be engaged in fraud can be watched more closely going forwards.

    In either case, even if they allow the first repurchase to happen, they they disallow any further repurchases of the same signature. To allow them to track it properly after they resell it, they will then probably issue a new watermark on the resale.

    Does the watermark solve all possible problems? No. Someone could strip it and then pirate the stripped version. But Amazon (and other commercial entities) could then just not repurchase any stripped copies, even if I buy a legit version and strip it and try to sell it back. Even if it’s not fraud, if I don’t keep the original file around I don’t have a right to expect them to buy it back.

    This balances everyone’s interests. It’s not restricting useage (like DRM would) but also minimizes any given fraud’s effects.

  239. “I purchase an eBook “OSaM” from Amazon for $10.” — Why would you do that? If the file is offered by Amazon for $10 and for $4, and Amazon is hyping the $4 file, just as they do with Kindle titles over print though they sell both, then why wouldn’t you buy it for $4? (This is largely why Amazon lost money on having e-books for sale at $10 in the first place — so people would buy from them and buy a Kindle to do so.) And for Amazon, the $4 ones can be far more profitable as they don’t have to cut in the author and publisher and make their money on volume of orders.

    “They are being unethical,” — The problem there is that you made the argument that the file is Gamma’s property and he can do what he wants with it. Here, you’re saying that no, he can’t do what he wants with it. That is the problem with the electronic files are my personal property argument. You actually believe there are limits to the personal property and it’s really just a license. If there aren’t, then they aren’t being unethical, especially as Gamma is just giving it to his friends.

    “scam another $4 each off Amazon for turning in those files. Amazon has now paid $12 in refunds on a $10 purchase.” — Amazon hasn’t been scammed at all. While the program would technically be a refund to the reseller, it’s not coming out of Amazon’s pocket. You are putting up the file for sale, Amazon brokers it, someone buys it and that person pays for the file. Amazon takes its cut from the first sale and then takes further cuts from the resales. So Amazon has made 30% say of 4 different sales of the same file. And they are doing that for thousands, millions of sales with no risk of their own money at all, and barely likely any increase in overhead costs. So Amazon is fine.

    You seem to also think that without DRM, Amazon can’t track and identify their files. Amazon has access to everything on your Kindle that you bought from them. They have all sorts of tracking, from time stamps to cookies. They collect marketing info on your purchases that they sell to advertisers. When a publisher turned out not to have e-rights to several reprinted works they were selling through Amazon, Amazon simply wiped the files off the Kindles of those who had purchased the books. So if, as apparently the patent application stated, this would only be resale of Kindle files, the watermark set-up is pretty much already in place. But it certainly doesn’t stop folk from copying the file and reselling the original file back to Amazon, while keeping a copy elsewhere in storage and making further copies that they’d resell elsewhere.

    Which is besides the point, since the threat of piracy has always been there, long before there was a real, substantial e-book retail market. It’s a factor of the business. What is the big issue is that it’s Amazon reselling their own files to make more profit on them, none of which goes to the publisher and the author, the copyright holders. This is a very different thing from software programs which are owned by the companies that designed them, not a secondary individual, and those companies usually are not then reselling the software program, though purchasers of the software might be. In the case of e-books, the author is the designer who owns the patent/copyright and Amazon, who owns nothing of the work itself unlike a software company, in reselling the files is essentially violating that copyright and their license with the author/publisher as well. So it’s a little more complicated.

    Further, an entire software program, being an older program, then becomes less valuable in reselling, which is why software companies continually up-date their software programs to provide “new” products that will be more valuable and thus purchased at the new price. An e-book, by contrast, is not up-dated — the text remains the same. The software to read the file may become obsolete, but the file is easily converted to the new, updated software that the person buying the e-book has bought and which Amazon easily provides as it updates (and gets money for the updates of devices and software.) So again, an e-book file does not change value in reselling and in fact becomes more valuable because it is sold at the lower price. Its value is based solely on the text, which does not change. So DRM is pretty much irrelevant to the main issue, which would be not illegal piracy but that Amazon will earn multiple profit from one e-book file that will not be shared with the copyright holder. Amazon (and others already doing it) has found a way to copy e-books legally by pretending that selling one file to multiple people is not a form of copying.

    So essentially again the purchaser doesn’t buy and own an e-book. The purchaser buys a license to access the e-book, and gets money for letting Amazon to then sell that license of access to others. The person who purchased the book is not supposed to keep a copy of the file for his own use if he resells. But Amazon can sell as many copies as it wants as long as it’s the broker. They don’t even have to set a number of times resell limit. It’s just probably a bit easier to track if they do. The first profit they have to share with the creator/producer, the rest of the profit they don’t. So the big issue isn’t the people reselling through Amazon (although if enough of them engage in piracy outside of Amazon, that’s obviously going to have an impact too.) It’s that Amazon is brokering the resales at the same time it does the new sales and there’s no difference in the product except price, which drops the entire e-book market. Amazon is thus playing around with property they don’t own — they don’t “buy” e-books from the publisher the way they do print books. They just license the e-book as a seller, and then fill orders from customers as they get them. So again, e-book resales are not like print books, not like software programs, not like video games, etc. They are data content files to which access can be turned on and off. As such the price of e-books — and a way to afford the costs of having an e-book market and producing e-books with such prices — has been a continual issue in the e-book market. If Amazon does this patent, they have a complete way around that issue with publishers at all, and authors will probably see a major decline in their e-book sale royalties — the royalties that are currently growing. Publishers will have to cut their lists further and do fewer new books. Self-published authors will not be able to make profit, as their prices will potentially be in the cellar. It could have a very big effect on the market as a whole, including ultimately negative effects for the consumer. But Amazon will have increased their profits, even if the amount of content drops. So if Amazon is able to go forward with this — and the whole market may be in the process of going forward with this — then it will have a very big impact and there’s not a lot of up-side in it for authors.

  240. The #%%*^€£ server gakked over my detailed reply, but in short short summary: You are arguing against *established ownership rights under US and EU law* to the contets – AND – suggesting Amazon must or will take this idea and commit felony criminal scale copyright violations and accounting fraud.

    I disbelieve.

    The scenarios don’t hold up under close inspection, you don’t understand either the IP ownership or transfer, seem to miss that both books and ebooks cone with a transferrable license to use (but not duplicate) the contained copyrighted material.

    Again, I see that this is breaking a lot of people’s heads, but the opposition is increasingly irrationally thought out.

  241. Also… Let’s talk about what this will realistically do to new book sales.

    Let’s hypothesize that OSaM will sell 1,000 eBook copies in the first month, half the previous months’ sales per month thereafter, and that sellbacks will be 50% total (an absurd number, but just for the sake of assuming) with half that number in the month after purchase and then half that number each month thereafter. Sellbacks go to contingency buyback if there are more sellback attempts than buyers in a month, so Amazon is not paying for buying back something it can’t then resell promptly.

    Modeled this on a spreadsheet, so bear with me as I describe the time behavior…

    Month 1 – sales 1,000 new copies. No sellbacks yet.

    Month 2 – sales 500 total copies to new buyers. 250 of the first month’s sales sold back, 250 new copies sold to keep up with demand.

    Month 3 – sales 250 total copies. 125 sellback attempts from Month 1, 125 sellback attempts from Month 2, all succeed; total sellbacks 250, new unit sales 0.

    Month 4 – sales total 125 copies. 63 sellback attempts from Month 1, 63 from Month 2, 63 from Month 3 (rounding up). 125 of the 189 sellback attempts succeed, 64 are held on contingency, new unit sales 0.

    Month 5 – sales total 63 copies, the contingency from last month are slurped up. 32 sellback attempts from Month 1, 32 from Month 2, 32 from Month 3, 32 from Month 4 (rounding down), all 128 go on contingency, plus one from two months ago still left over.

    Future months should total another 64 sales, so at this point some people who want to resell will never “find a buyer” as it were.

    Total sales under the simple model (ceiling rounding) total 2002 units, 1250 new, 752 sellback/used. 241 units will want to sell back but not have buyers.

    Sales are 62.5% new.

    Again, this is made up and hypothetical, but an analysis like this could be done using any known month-by-month book (printed or ebook) sales distribution and known printed book used book resale attempt rates.

    This is significant but not catastrophic. It would be worthwhile to see what repurchase / used book store / Amazon new+used offers do in terms of their volumes, and how that affects existing new sales, and how long people hold on to those before selling them back. Actual results would be more useful.

  242. There is no such thing as a “used” e-book. It’s not really a book, just a license to access a text file.

  243. George: This is in a brief word completely bogus. If I purchase a digital property – delivered digitally, and “ownership” and not a useage license, it’s property. And transferable, as with other property.

    As someone who has been into open source software and open content works for quite a number of years, I just have to ask: what the hell are you on about?

    No, of course a digital work is not property like any other physical property. Just because I buy some ebook doesn’t mean I can make a derivative of the original story and resell that. But physical property, I can go to Home Depot, and buy a weed wacker, modify it, and resell it as a turnip twadler. But with copyright works, I cannot buy a DVD of StarWars, and then “modify” that into a T-shirt with Chewbacca on it, and sell the shirt.

    Clearly, you really, really, really, really want copyright-ed works to be treated completely indistinguishably from physical objects. But that doesn’t make it so.

    Most devices have been either “approved” by courts or “denied” by courts based on whether or not the device has some “legitimate” use for users. VCR’s, cassette recorders, etc, have all been approved as “legitimate”, and they copy and potentially distribute works, but they do so in a manner that the courts decide is a legitimate use. Other devices have been rejected as legitmate. The simple example is the original, old-school Napster website. Technically speaking, maybe I only wanted to upload my songs to Napster so I can listen to them anywhere. But since eveyrone could download them, the courts rejected that idea as enabling rampant piracy.

    You can hop up and down all you want about digital works being “property” like any other property, but the fact of the matter is simply this: If Amazon starts buying and selling used ebooks, and if they have nothing in place to discourage rampant piracy, then all it will take is some publisher to sue them, and the courts will reject Amazon’s approach to buying and selling ebooks as illegitimate, as enabling too much piracy compared to the legitimate benefit it might grant. And you’re argument about “property” won’t amount to a hill of beans.

  244. As an ebook reader (purchaser), I would consider the ability to resell my ebooks as an increase in value. At the margin, it would most likely cause me to:
    a) Purchase an ebook that I otherwise wouldn’t have purchased.
    b) Pay a higher premium for an ebook.
    Either way, authors could benefit from a) increased sales or b) higher revenues. I think that you should at least incorporate the increased customer value into your model (as Amazon probably has).

  245. GWH: “You are arguing against *established ownership rights under US and EU law* to the contets – AND – suggesting Amazon must or will take this idea and commit felony criminal scale copyright violations and accounting fraud.”

    Actually I’m doing neither of those things. You don’t seem to understand the arrangements that Amazon has with publishers regarding production and sale of e-books and seem to think I’m casting Amazon as a criminal. It’s more that they are opportunists exploiting loopholes. Also, the laws concerning e-books are continually changing and developing as new situations arise, such as reselling e-books.

    “Month 1 – sales 1,000 new copies. No sellbacks yet.”

    Again, that’s not a realistic scenario. You are offered the exact same product for the price of $10 or $4 by the same store, right next to each other. If you purchase the $4 one, the cheaper price, Amazon will give you all sorts of special extras — 1 month subscription to Prime, gift coupons, etc. Why would you buy the $10 one then? One faint reason you might is because you know the author will get royalties fro the $10 sale and nothing from the identical $4 sale. So you might be nice. But that’s a small percentage of folk.

    The only other reason is that you want it just as it goes on sale. But maybe a day later, resells would be on offer. The only time it would be a month delay is if Amazon insists that you have to wait a month from point of purchase to resell. Publishers and Amazon have done this with e-books being delayed 1-3 months so that hardcovers are out first. Customers have screamed bloody murder and peppered such books with 1 star reviews, etc. Amazon might go along with the one month delay because otherwise the large publishers won’t sell e-books through them. Or they might not. Even if there is a month delay, however, book sales are not like movie sales where it’s all the first weekend box office. As soon as the day delay or the month delay is past, there would be the resales and no need to buy the “new,” and the bulk of the sales would be resales, not “new”.

    Further, you seem to think that books have a limited shelflife and therefore the resale opportunities would run out even without a resell limitation. That’s again the case with things like movies and games, which also degrade as used, but it’s not the case with text. There are fifty year old novels that still sell in regular large numbers. Old Man’s War was published in 2005 and is nearly eight years old. Successful authors don’t make most of their money from their frontlist, the new releases, except for time sensitive non-fiction which will lose value as outdated info. They make money, and this is particularly the fiction authors, from their backlist, which sells more copies of older in print titles every time they have a new release and even when they don’t often. And books that are out of print can easily be brought back in print. So basically any well known successful book will continue to be a resale opportunity for decades unless the power runs out or you put a limit on the number of resales of one file.

    You are making up sales numbers out of your ass with very little knowledge of how book sales actually work. Further, even if we went with your numbers, which don’t make any sense frankly, you’re talking about authors taking a 40% drop in sales while Amazon doubles or triples their profit. E-books currently are mostly replacing print sales, which are down except for areas like YA. That’s okay since authors and publishers get money from the e-book sales. (It’s not so good for poorer readers, but put that aside.) If resell e-books replace 40% or 50% of e-book and print sales and the author gets zero, their income is cut in half and more of them will not be able to afford to write. (Most of them barely can now and have day jobs.) And that has a negative effect on the consumer and won’t grow the business as a whole, further cutting product. The self-published authors already sell at rock-bottom prices. If resells are even cheaper, then they are in even worse shape. There is no downside for Amazon and other vendors who do this; there is no upside for authors. And as we know from the used print book market, having people able to sell used copies and get some cash back spreads awareness of an author but they don’t necessarily turn around and spend that money on more new books. It doesn’t really grow sales much. But because the books are actually used — a different product and value — it works out. But e-books can’t be a used product. They are the same as the “new” e-books — they are all new. But Amazon is offering some of them cheaper, if they do this set-up.

    And one more time, Amazon won’t be paying the resellers any money ever. They would not be buying the e-books for resale. They would be offering to let the reseller sell the e-book file on their platform, just like they do with self-published authors. They don’t buy an inventory of e-books. They’d just let you sell it on their site and take a cut on the sale as a broker. So again, Amazon risks no money, but gets multiple profit on the same e-file. The author meanwhile has their income decrease. You can’t get around those numbers by claiming there will be lots of “new” sales. It’s simple reason. The majority of people are not going to pay $10 for the exact same product when the same store also offers it for $4. So unless Amazon cuts the authors and publishers in on the resales — and there are a number of various arrangements that might be made in this direction — authors are screwed by resales of e-books. If you can come up with an argument for why they aren’t, let’s hear it.

  246. I wrote:
    “Month 1 – sales 1,000 new copies. No sellbacks yet.”

    Kat Goodwin:
    Again, that’s not a realistic scenario. You are offered the exact same product for the price of $10 or $4 by the same store, right next to each other. If you purchase the $4 one, the cheaper price, Amazon will give you all sorts of special extras — 1 month subscription to Prime, gift coupons, etc. Why would you buy the $10 one then? One faint reason you might is because you know the author will get royalties fro the $10 sale and nothing from the identical $4 sale. So you might be nice. But that’s a small percentage of folk.

    Where are the “used” copies coming from on day 1 of sales? There are none. There’s only new. Again – there is no USED product until NEW product that was bought new has been sold back to Amazon to sell again. Amazon cannot “invent” used product – that would be fraud. They have to repurchase a unit that someone sold (presumably them, but hypothetically them or another eBook vendor). They can then resell that.

    How long does it take the first people who start selling back after they read it to do the sellbacks? This will be a time-distribution series (some percentage after a day, a week, a month, etc). I’m assuming – again, assumption and challengable, but it’s part of making a model – that this is minimum 1 month of read and decide to turn back time, and that 25% of buyers sell back 1 month after purchase, and 12.5% two months, etc.

    If you assume the average buyer will read it in a day and half of them sell it back a day after reading it, then the results are (time-wise) very different, but I don’t think that’s credible. So…

    We can redo the scenario with time increments of weeks, days, hours, seconds if you like. We can redo the scenario with any time distribution of sellback and percentage of sellback that you want. Tell me what scenario for sellbacks you want me to model – what total percentage end up sold back, how soon before that starts, how fast it decays (or ramps up, or whatever… enough that I can mathematically model or spreadsheet it). I’ll run the simulation for you / us / everyone.

    Just give me the models for how fast you want to assume people buy, read, sell back after reading. The rest is just numbers calculation.

  247. I wrote:
    This is in a brief word completely bogus. If I purchase a digital property – delivered digitally, and “ownership” and not a useage license, it’s property. And transferable, as with other property.

    Greg’s response:
    As someone who has been into open source software and open content works for quite a number of years, I just have to ask: what the hell are you on about?

    No, of course a digital work is not property like any other physical property. Just because I buy some ebook doesn’t mean I can make a derivative of the original story and resell that. But physical property, I can go to Home Depot, and buy a weed wacker, modify it, and resell it as a turnip twadler. But with copyright works, I cannot buy a DVD of StarWars, and then “modify” that into a T-shirt with Chewbacca on it, and sell the shirt.

    Clearly, you really, really, really, really want copyright-ed works to be treated completely indistinguishably from physical objects. But that doesn’t make it so.

    Clearly there is a disconnect here.

    No, I do not assert that an eBook or other digital work is only property like any other physical property. Nor is a physical book property just like any other property – it’s both a physical item AND a bundled transferrable intellectual property license to the copyrighted materials within it. You can’t unbundle those. I can’t expand the IP license by running off copies on a printing press or copier – that’s illegal.

    BUT I CAN SELL THE BOOK.

    That future sale includes both the physical property of the paper and ink and cover, and the bundled IP license to the copyrighted content.

    Nobody argues with this. Used book stores have existed forever.

    That is not “I can create derivative works and resell those, based on buying one book once”. That’s a copyright violation.

    I’m just ascribing rights to eBooks – and other digital IP content – that come with the physical equivalents. When I buy an electronic music track, I own a copy of the file and a bundled transferable personal right to play license to the copyrighted music content within. When I buy an eBook, I own a copy of the file and a bundled tranferable right to use the copyrighted IP. They come together.

    This is not about doing anything Copyright law doesn’t already allow. It says I can read it. I can loan it to a friend. I can sell it to a friend. I can sell it back to the bookstore I bought it from, or another one. I can do all the same things, regardless of whether it’s an eBook or a pBook.

    That’s all.

  248. georgewilliamherber This is not about doing anything Copyright law doesn’t already allow. It says I can read it. I can loan it to a friend. I can sell it to a friend. I can sell it back to the bookstore I bought it from, or another one. I can do all the same things, regardless of whether it’s an eBook or a pBook.

    USA Copyright law does NOT allow you to loan an ebook to a friend or sell it to a friend unless you sell or lend a loaded device. You need to check out loc.gov or the current copyright law. The only exception (which may or may not be legal) is if you go through Amazon, in which case, the publisher is deemed to have agreed to it.

  249. Rowena Cherry:
    USA Copyright law does NOT allow you to loan an ebook to a friend or sell it to a friend unless you sell or lend a loaded device. You need to check out loc.gov or the current copyright law. The only exception (which may or may not be legal) is if you go through Amazon, in which case, the publisher is deemed to have agreed to it.

    The recent EU decision explicitly allows selling, and the US first-sale doctrine software court rulings allow it for software (also a files + right to use license bundle) in the US, and every IP lawyer I know says that should extend to eBooks, including those that work or consult for publishers and large ecommerce sites. The perception in the field is that this is settled.

    Loaning without device is still a grey area. But see for example what libraries are doing. Which publishers aren’t suing them over.

  250. I would assume that the difference between a full price eBook refund and a “used eBook buyback” is that on the refund, the publisher is accepting that it’s an undo of the first sale (and thus, Amazon does not need to pay them the royalty in the first place), and that a used buyback is “Amazon now owns a ‘used’ copy, but still owes them the royalty in the first place”.

    That’s an assumption on my part, if someone has better reference please inform me.

    It would seem that it’s in Amazon’s advantage to buy back if the “used” resale price minus the “used” buyback price (their expected revenue for buyback) exceeds the royalty to publisher in the first place, and do a refund and undo-transaction if they couldn’t resell with more margin than that. What they care about is maximizing their markup on the final transaction sequence.

  251. 1) You aren’t answering my question about this being all down side for authors.
    2) You clearly don’t get how books and e-books are sold.
    3) You keep talking about Amazon buying back and repurchasing e-books and owning them as used e-books, when as has been explained repeatedly, they would not be buying anything, only letting sellers use their platform and taking a brokers cut. They would not own the resale e-books. They don’t own/purchase the “new” e-books either — the e-book market does not function like the print market.
    4) There is no such thing as a used e-book as has been explained by numerous people.
    5) You keep trying to run imaginary numbers that don’t make any sense with the pricing system in a vain attempt to insist the majority will buy the exact same product from the exact same vendor platform at a higher price.

    So I think I’m done with this conversation.

  252. Kat Goodwin:
    ) You aren’t answering my question about this being all down side for authors.

    Sure, it’s all down side for authors, because less new copies are sold. There’s no question there to answer.

    However, it’s exactly analogous to “There’s all down side to authors in having a physical book used book resale business, because less new copies are sold.”

    It’s not a question of “is it good or bad” it’s a question of “is there any legal or moral standing to complain about the activity”, to which my answers would be “no” and “no,” respectively.

    2) You clearly don’t get how books and e-books are sold.

    (physical) Books are sold in three general categories, by numerous vendors and distribution mechanisms; books that if unsold are pulped, books that if unsold are returned for credit, and books that if unsold are not returnable and get remaindered by the distributor or dealers. Books are put on shelves or electronic catalogs by a wide variety of distribution agreements ranging from “we’ll pay you when we sell to customer” to “paid up front” to various crazy schemes. I have talked business with publishers, authors, agents, retailers, and both physical and electronic distributors at one point or another.

    (virtual) eBooks are sold by delivering a master file to a media distributor company, who then handles sales accounting according to specific agreements with the publishers as to when a sale is accounted for and how it’s reported and so forth. There’s no “inventory” for “new” eBooks; there’s a file copy and (legally, not physically) a virtual end-user IP license created at time of sale, and the sale is reported via mutually agreed accounting mechanisms to publisher and payments follow in contractually due time.

    3) You keep talking about Amazon buying back and repurchasing e-books and owning them as used e-books, when as has been explained repeatedly, they would not be buying anything, only letting sellers use their platform and taking a brokers cut. They would not own the resale e-books. They don’t own/purchase the “new” e-books either — the e-book market does not function like the print market.

    Whether they broker “repurchase” eBooks or “virtually stock” them depends on details of how the technical and legal repossession of the property happens. It also – and I want to stress this – does not affect the time / activity model I presented. I never assumed they would “stock up” and repurchase for resale things they aren’t going to be able to sell; my modeling spreadsheet puts these into a contingency sale category.

    You’re imputing characteristics to the model that it never had, both for handling “new” stock and repurchase type stock for eBooks. Stock being a bad word given that there’s nothing stocked per-se in the sense that a physical book is sitting somewhere, this is a license and dollar accounting mechanism rather than any physical transfer; the file transfers and management are an implementation detail.

    The legality of whether it’s a broker or purchase/resale, detailed mechanism, etc is an implementation detail on an actual business. The business model, including time/activity model, is the important part.

    4) There is no such thing as a used e-book as has been explained by numerous people.

    Sure there is. There’s nothing different about a used eBook from a new one, other than history of chain of ownership. But that history and chain of ownership is the entire point.

    At a used (physical) book store, I go in, and buy another paperback copy of Old Man’s War, to give to a relative for Christmas. It costs say $2.50. John gets nothing. He doesn’t get nothing because it’s slightly dingy. He gets nothing because he, and Tor, got paid a bunch when it was first sold new, and the bundled intellectual property rights were transfered from the publisher to the first end user. Those rights go with the book from then on. The important part – because we handle and track it – is the physical paper and ink. But the rights are bundled right in there still.

    With an eBook, it’s almost backwards; the important part is the bundled intellectual property right, that was originally sold to the first “new” eBook buyer. The file is really of secondary importance, once we start considering resale and so forth. Yes, you need it, but the legally important part of the transfer (as opposed to a few bits of data) is the IP license.

    5) You keep trying to run imaginary numbers that don’t make any sense with the pricing system in a vain attempt to insist the majority will buy the exact same product from the exact same vendor platform at a higher price.

    No. The majority will buy the cheapest product available, that’s indistinguishable.

    ON DAY ZERO NO USED EBOOKS ARE AVAILABLE, BECAUSE NOBODY HAS “RETURNED” ONE TO AMAZON YET.

    That becomes less true over time, as some new eBook buyers return them. Buyers coming in to purchase the product for the first time will eagerly slurp up all (cheaper) “used” eBooks, in preference to new eBooks. But the supply is limited to the number of new eBooks which have been returned / resold / re-agented back by the original buyer. Anyone who wants a copy, for which no “used” item exists to match with them for a cheaper purchase, buys (more expensive) new.

    Until rate of sellbacks equals rate of new buyers coming in wanting product, new product will continue to be sold. At that point all sales in the future can be assumed to be “used”.

    New sales – through that point in time, and presumably the total over all time – will be equal to the total number of people wanting product to that time, minus the ones who bought it and sell/agent/broker/whatever the product back after reading it up through that time.

    When that happens depends on how many people want to sell it back, and how long it takes them to decide to do that. Again, these factors, particularly compared to the new items sales rate over time, determine the shape of the curve and how long until the “used” market saturates and new sales drop to zero (presumably permanently). Pick your values for what proportion of people want to sell back, how long they take to do it, how the overall buyer interest in the product trends over time, and it’s just math to show how the resales affect the new item sales.

    So I think I’m done with this conversation.

    I would hope not, you seem to have been arguing with something other than what I am saying.

    This is all applied business financial modeling 101. Once you understand sales mechanisms and how to model business activity in rules and math, and put spreadsheets together, this sort of stuff is trivial to model around. I’ve done models like this for activity that resulted in … somewhere between $25 and $50 million in direct business activity over the years and that supported somewhere in the realm of another few billion dollars in activity. If I understand what the business rules are, I’m entirely comfortable modeling it up and walking up to a board of directors or executives and running the cost/benefits/business activity benefits out for decisions and asking for yes/no decisions on spending tens of millions of dollars. This sort of understanding and modeling is necessary for functioning at my level in my day job, which says “IT” on the outside but once you’re talking about spending tens of megabucks of people’s money requires one to be able to understand and model the impacts of that spend. I’ve done it for decades now. Last big project finance model I did, the corporate finance team (CFO team) that had taken 2 companies fully public in 5 years reviewed the model and results and told me it was better prepared than anything they’d ever seen before for equivalent projects, and we got fully funded for about $5 million in immediate spend without a snag.

    All of this flows from two simple principles, and basic business economics modeling:

    1. Buyer X can resell the intellectual property use rights they bought with eBook Y.
    2. Amazon, or anyone else, can agent the resale of, or repurchase and resell the rights to the IP and content of eBook Y legally after the first sale.

  253. georgewilliamherbert:

    First, thanks for delving into that a bit more. Much appreciated.

    “How long does it take the first people who start selling back after they read it to do the sellbacks? This will be a time-distribution series (some percentage after a day, a week, a month, etc). I’m assuming – again, assumption and challengeable, but it’s part of making a model – that this is minimum 1 month of read and decide to turn back time, and that 25% of buyers sell back 1 month after purchase, and 12.5% two months, etc.”

    I think the conversation has progressed slightly since my request, so, I’ll use the quote as a jumping off point.

    Modeling is where this gets interesting. Amazon has a God Mode for insight into your Kindle. By being the major seller of ebooks to customers with tablets that are accessible by Amazon, they could conceivably keep track of what kind of progress you were making on the book and put odds on how long until you complete the book based on previous reading history and the probability of your selling it back based on previous history as well.

    Which is important to the extent that if we were able to create a market for Amazon in this way that would preclude pirate copies, Amazon has the computing ability to accurately game the system. And that amounts to a full scale barrage against a major pillar of income for both authors and publishers. I do see that there is a distinction between Amazon acting as the purchaser and reseller and Amazon merely acting as a conduit with a rake. But, functionally, I’m not sure there’s ultimately a difference. Amazon will make your easiest click option the one that nets them the most cash.

    In which case, what ultimately prevents Amazon from crunching the numbers, purchasing an educated guess of “new” copies of the ebook and chumming the water with some resell titles? That is, if that’s what makes them the most money.

    “It would seem that it’s in Amazon’s advantage to buy back if the “used” resale price minus the “used” buyback price (their expected revenue for buyback) exceeds the royalty to publisher in the first place, and do a refund and undo-transaction if they couldn’t resell with more margin than that.”

    And that leaves me highly skeptical of that. I can’t imagine a publisher being okay with a business model based on having an ebook “returned” for a credit after the purchaser knowingly consumed the content. I think there’s a fairly solid distinction between paper books and B&N returning unsold copies for credit and Amazon returning sold and read copies for credit. If this is a thing they already do, I’d be interested in why that makes sense.

  254. George: BUT I CAN SELL THE BOOK.

    Except it depends on how you do it. If you set up a Napster-like website, and don’t do anything to prevent rampant piracy, and the courts will shut you down.

    You’re relating to copyright law as if it were “mechanical”, cold, hard, cogs in a machine, no slop, no tolerance, no give and take. It never works that way. The fact that you keep acting as if it works that way is a big indicator that you don’t actually understand how copyright law actually works and are simply assertig the way you want copyright law to be.

    You can sell your used copy of a work to someone else, in principle. But if the reality is that the way this happens is in a sea of rampant piracy, then, no, actually, you can’t. The courts will shut you down.

    And this is the thing you’re not acknowledging, at all. You’re not acknowledging that HOW the transaction is done is just as important as what the transaction is. The transaction IS a sale of a used work. But if its done via a system that is rampant piracy, then NO, REALLY, THIS IS HOW IT WILL WORK, the courts will shut it down at the first lawsuit.

    I can’t see how Amazon can do anything whatsoever to prevent customers from selling a copy of their work, and keep a copy for themselves. DRM won’t help. DRM is an annoyance to law-abiding people and as secure as scotch tape to keep a Porsche from being stolen (i.e. no security at all).

  255. George: If I understand what the business rules are, I’m entirely comfortable modeling it up and walking up to a board of directors or executives and running the cost/benefits/business activity benefits out for decisions and asking for yes/no decisions on spending tens of millions of dollars.

    Dude. Seriously? Argumentum ad crumenam??? Christopher Columbus did the cost benefit analysis based on models of how the world worked and pitched an idea to Spain asking for a yes/no decision on spending a lot of money.

    Only problem was, his model was entirely wrong. Everyone else knew the circumference of the world was a lot bigger than Columbus thought. Columbus’ model was wrong, and he had Asia a whole lot closer to Europe than it really was. (ya know, that whole thing about native americans being called “indians” because he thought he landed in India?) The only thing that saved Columbus and made him famous, was that there was a whole other continent in there that europe didnt know about.

    So, good for you for having the confidence and business acumen to pitch business ideas to boards of directors and asking for yes/no decisions to spend tens of millions of dollars.

    What you need to stop doing, however, is confusing your self-confidence as a businessman/salesman with any sort of understanding whatsoever with regard to how copyright law will actually pan out around selling used Ebooks.

  256. I wrote:
    George: BUT I CAN SELL THE BOOK.

    Greg:
    Except it depends on how you do it. If you set up a Napster-like website, and don’t do anything to prevent rampant piracy, and the courts will shut you down.

    You’re relating to copyright law as if it were “mechanical”, cold, hard, cogs in a machine, no slop, no tolerance, no give and take. It never works that way. The fact that you keep acting as if it works that way is a big indicator that you don’t actually understand how copyright law actually works and are simply assertig the way you want copyright law to be.

    You can sell your used copy of a work to someone else, in principle. But if the reality is that the way this happens is in a sea of rampant piracy, then, no, actually, you can’t. The courts will shut you down.

    And this is the thing you’re not acknowledging, at all. You’re not acknowledging that HOW the transaction is done is just as important as what the transaction is. The transaction IS a sale of a used work. But if its done via a system that is rampant piracy, then NO, REALLY, THIS IS HOW IT WILL WORK, the courts will shut it down at the first lawsuit.

    I can’t see how Amazon can do anything whatsoever to prevent customers from selling a copy of their work, and keep a copy for themselves. DRM won’t help. DRM is an annoyance to law-abiding people and as secure as scotch tape to keep a Porsche from being stolen (i.e. no security at all).

    At no point have I suggested that violating copyright on purpose is going to be a valid part of this business model.

    Your argument that the ease of copyright violation (which nobody has any real argument against, particularly once DRM-free becomes the standard industry-wide) precludes any further sales, is specious.

    You’re by fiat creating a new protected category of work, that can be sold, but no resold, because it might be a copyright violation somehow, and therefore you can’t resell it.

    This is a form of prior restraint. Usually that requires demonstrating that there is in fact a specific problem, usually with that user and not with the process in general.

    The PRESUMPTION that people who want to sell back MUST be keeping a copy and violating copyright, and the conclusion that therefore the transaction MUST be prevented from happening, is a couple of giant logical leaps.

    Courts won’t go that far. The existing law and case law precedent, for digital music files and eBooks in the EU and for software in the US, is exactly against that. First sale doctrine exactly specifies that the ownership can then be transferred – legally – and there’s no cause for the original owner / publisher to intervene. If resales are legal, as a rule, AND THEY ARE NOW, then preventing dealers or brokers or auction houses or Amazon from engaging in the business, as long as they take reasonable precautions, would be tortuous interference.

    I can go on eBay right now in the US and – entirely protected by law and precedent – resell an Oracle enterprise database license. All the IP lawyers agree that that should directly apply to eBooks in the US. If I keep a copy of the software (which Oracle makes freely downloadable) and use it without the license that’s up to Oracle to come find and get me over.

    I can go on the European eBay right now and – entirely protected by law and precedent – resell an eBook of “Old Man’s War” (or could, if I had no non-paper copies). If I ran it through a photocopier first and kept that, it would be up to Tor to come get me for copyright violation.

    Amazon doing the same actions in a more efficient exchange in the future wouldn’t make them suddenly illegal unless you could establish a pattern that a preponderance of the business activity was in fact copyright violations. Which would require statistics and lots of them. The Napster shutdown required a lot of data on violation levels.

  257. GWH: At no point have I suggested that violating copyright on purpose is going to be a valid part of this business model.

    Who gives a rat’s ass whether Amazon does it on purpose? All that would matter is that copyright violations happen, and that they happen to such a degree that the court decides to shut it down.

    Your argument that the ease of copyright violation (which nobody has any real argument against, particularly once DRM-free becomes the standard industry-wide) precludes any further sales, is specious.

    Jesus. It’s like fucking Napster doesn’t even exist in the alternate history in which you live.

    Napster: No DRM was industry wide at the time. Ease of copyright violations was their M.O. In its defense, Napster argued that there were legitimate uses for its website. Technically, there were. But the copyright infringment so outweighed the piracy that the courts told them to go screw. In an attempt to avoid a settlement, Napster tried to cut a deal with the record companies, we’ll pay you some money for eveyr download. The record companies told them to go screw.

    If Amazon is little more than Napster, but adding the incentive to users uploading copyright violations by letting them get money for a copy of the book, then it is only a matter of time before its shut down.

    preventing dealers or brokers or auction houses or Amazon from engaging in the business, as long as they take reasonable precautions,

    Right, because reasonable precautions is written in fucking stone. Jesus Christ. This history of copyright law is nothing, but an evolution of law over time. As technology changes, the law chagnes. As usage models change, the law changes.

    The fact that you’re arguing with such certainty about something so fluid as copyright law is absolutely mind boggling. The fact that you’re doing this, apparently based off of pitching some multi-million dollar idea to some business people and getting it approved, and reacting to that response as if that’s the same as case law, is just ridiculous. THere are bad business ideas approved all the time. It doesn’t make you special and it doesn’t mean you’ll stand up in court.

  258. Okay, boys and girls. Time to take a break. I’ve watched the at-times spirited discussion with interest. There is some great back and forth, but now it’s getting nasty. If you can’t maintain civilized banter from this point forth, don’t comment. Any who do will see the mallet.

  259. My only remaining comment…

    Greg wrote:
    Jesus. It’s like fucking Napster doesn’t even exist in the alternate history in which you live.

    At one point or another most of the attorneys involved in that, on both sides, have been around. You seem to be presuming something in the way of ignorance here that confuses and saddens me, as someone who’s been working on internet applications, business, and intellectual property (both rights and freedoms) for well over 20 years now.

    Napster happened, but it happened in a relative vacuum, in which alternate models and strategies for IP concepts in online music didn’t strongly exist yet. There was no iTunes when the suit started; it debuted only about 40 days before the injunction. The iPod came out after the shutdown and prior to the settlement. There were a number of MP3 players on the market in the contemporary timeframe, and no legal method for getting files other than ripping your own personal CDs or tapes or LPs, which some of the music publishers then still asserted was illegal.

    Consider that DRM-free files are now the norm on all music distribution channels and that no effort is made by music publishers or artists to avoid private (non-bulk, non-network-share) copyright violation, either technical or policy or legal.

    Youtube happened since Napster; Youtube developed anti-infringement technology and survived its lawsuit. It didn’t pay a dime. Its fundamental business model remains the same as the day it launched.

    I’ve heard attorneys involved in shutting Napster down say the shutdown would not happen today, if the situation replayed over again. Technical measures would satisfy the music publishers sufficiently to avoid even a monetary settlement.

    So, again. We’ve apparently come to agree that I own the eBook. There appears to be little opposition to my being able to sell it, on principle. Do you really still believe that Amazon could not create a sufficiently robust eBook resale market that publishers would accept it as reasonably respecting their copyrights and IP value, in the post-Youtube, post-DRM-free-eBooks-becoming-standard, post-DRM-free-music-files-becoming standard era, enough that they would not sue to try and obliterate it?

    Really?

  260. GWH: Do you really still believe that Amazon could not create a sufficiently robust eBook resale market that publishers would accept it as reasonably respecting their copyrights

    truly, truly amazing. It’s as if I never framed the entire debate on “Except it depends on how you do it.”

    yeah, sure, amazon could throw money at publishers and threaten to countersue with lawyers, carrot and stick approach, and it might be enough that the publishers decide it isn’t worth their time to sue. On the other hand, what you apparently are completely and totally incapable of doing is acknowledging that THAT isn’t the only way for this to go down.

    Hey, ya know what? It might be that the way Amazon is doing things right now this very instant is NOT sufficient to satisfy publishers and is sufficiently infringing copyright that it would be worth a publisher’s time and money to sue. It could be that they’re actually violating copyright enough this very moment that it would satisfy a court case and get shut down.

    But you can’t acknowledge that. It’s completely outside of your vocabulary. It’s like Fonzi saying “I’m sorr… sorrr.. sorr”. Instead, you have to hop up and down about how “I CAN SELL THE BOOK.. And i keep saying “So WHAT?” That is not sufficient. It is not enough. Even if you own the ebook in principle, if you set up a website that allows rampant copyright violations of ebooks, it can still be shut down.

    Like I said, and like you keep pretending I never said: “it depends on how you do it.” .

    And instead of acknowleding what I actually said, you have to come back with this “best case” nonsense about Amazon creating some ebook sales thing that satisfies publishers. Sure, they could do it. But just because it’s POSSIBLE doesn’t mean thats actually how they’re going to do it though.

    Just because “you own the ebook” hop, hop, hoppity, hop, doesn’t mean that you can set up a website any old way you want and not get shut down by the courts.

    But, for you to acknowledge that would be akin to the Fonz acknowledging he made a mistake and he’s sorr… sor… sorr….. So, I’m not holding my breath.

    Youtube happened since Napster; Youtube developed anti-infringement technology and survived its lawsuit.

    http://mashable.com/2012/02/17/youtube-content-id-faq/

    To use Content ID, rights holders submit copies of content or ID files that are then run against user uploads. Copyright holders can assign various policies to their content in the event of a match. The policy options are: Block, Track, Monetize

    Also: http://www.billboard.com/biz/articles/news/1098076/youtube-copyright-infringement-suit-reinstated-by-appeals-court

    And lastly: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/YouTube#Community_policy

    In August 2008, a US court ruled in Lenz v. Universal Music Corp. that copyright holders cannot order the removal of an online file without first determining whether the posting reflected fair use of the material.

    I’m not a copyright lawyer, but nothing I’ve ever read about Fair Use says that I can sell a used ebook and keep a copy for myself.

    Someone making a video of their kid dancing to a famous song and putting it on youtube for free is NOT the same thing as me posting an exact copy of an ebook for sale on a website for others to buy and download to their kindle or nook. A video of a kid dancing ot music could be Fair Use. If the kid-dancing video doesn’t take away sales from the music owner, then it could be Fair Use.

    If I put a used Ebook for sale on Amazon’s site, and that site has rampant copyright violations, then that directly violates copyright. There is no Fair Use defense for me selling pirated goods for cash.

    The fact that you think they ARE the same should be a red flag to everyone reading this that as certain as you are, you’re also completely and totally wrong about the law. Also from wikipedia:

    In April 2012, a court in Hamburg ruled that YouTube could be held responsible for copyrighted material posted by its users. The performance rights organization GEMA argued that YouTube had not done enough to prevent the uploading of German copyrighted music.

    Again, you relate to copyright law as if its written in stone. You couldn’t be more wrong.

    Copyright law in the US has constitutional basis: To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.

    This is important because copyright law has to follow a balance where it promotes the creation of new works. Authors have to be able to make money, or authors stop writing. That’s the entire point of the copyright clause. It also provides a hard limit on how far this monopoly can go. When copyright law gets too restrictive, it actually impedes others from creating new works, and therefore the concept of Fair Use basically says “copyright cannot monopolize too much or it isn’t Fair”.

    But its important because depending on how amazon does it, if they allow people to sell ebooks in such a way that copyright infringement becomes so rampant that authors can’t make money, then the US Constitution provides a basis for shutting that used-ebook-sales site down.

    And even if Amazon does it in a way that might pass a court case today, Congress could decide to change the law. And hey, guess what? They could change the law to say Amazon can’t sell used ebooks. They have all sorts of laws specifically related to vinyl records. they could just as easily create laws specifically targeting ebooks. And they could do it in such a way that says that used ebooks can’t be sold. And depending on the wording of that law, it might well stand up to the Copyright Clause of the US Constitution.

  261. Ok. Simple question –

    With DRM-free eBooks and music media, why on earth would anyone bother to use an Amazon used media sell/buy service to illegally copy and redistribute?

    The premise here in opposition is that the service is enabling that sort of abuse (which I believe can be avoided, but I’ll for the sake of argument…). If someone is up for copying stuff illegally, why use Amazon, when a website or P2P network or a friends’ computer and a USB thumb drive or wireless file transfer is available?

    What about Amazon’s potential service would make it more attractive to illegal copiers?

  262. so, in the end, it doesnt depend on how you or anyone else does it. Right? If it is legal, in principle, to sell your copy of a used ebook, then there is absolutely no way you will acknowledge that profit motive could ever possibly result in a bad outcome. why indeed would amazon’s service to make money off of copyright infringement. no one ever uses a legitimate business front for illigitimate activity. why indeed even bother to question the motives of amazon or anyone else. this is the goldilocks approach to capitalism. it is the just-right mix of laissez faire combined with just enough regulation to get us where we are today, but no further. because copyright doesnt evolve in your model of the world. it evolved to get us exactly where we are right now, but that is the just-right amount of regulation for now and for the forseeable future. why i.deed would we need to further regulate amazon? in principle, i can sell a used ebook. no other responses are ever needed .

  263. What about Amazon’s potential service would make it more attractive to illegal copiers?

    Wow. Even sleeping on it, the level of myopia required to ask this question just boggles my mind.

  264. from Xopher’s link: “Stolen content and scammers” is another area, and there isn’t any pressure on Amazon to stop ‘em, since they get their cut regardless.

    same link it mentions a legitimate author who discovered that someone had taken his book, created an ebook, and was selling it on Amazon, and that unsurprisingly, Amazon doesn’t care. Because they get their cut whether the seller is legitimate or not.

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