In the latest edition of the iBook Lessons from Slashgear, you will come across a piece of material mentioning a rather interesting patent that Amazon got awarded. We will come back to that later. But now, let us talk about the used goods market. We all know about that. We have used goods markets for books, cars, smart phones, and a lot of other objects. You can literally go to these markets and buy used goods. And since you can see some wear and tear on these objects, you will have to pay less for these than you would have to pay for the brand new versions of the same objects.
Now, if you have used an ebook, you would know that there is literally no wear and tear. How much ever times you open an ebook, you cannot possibly damage it. And since all of the legally available ebooks are read only, you cannot even tear out (delete) a page from the book. So even after a 100 years of buying an ebook, it will be the same as a brand new book. So can you fix a price for such a used ebook?
You might think this is just absurd, but Amazon begs to differ. According to the new patent awarded to Amazon, it can open an online marketplace for used digital objects. And since it has given the example of books, there is a strong possibility that there will an online market for used digital books.
As use of digital objects increases, users may wish to transfer the digital objects to other users. These transfers may include a sale, a rental, a gift, a loan, a trade, etc. However, several problems manifest when transferring a digital object. While a physical object such as a copy of a paperback book only exists in one place at a time, easy and inexpensive copies of a digital object without loss of fidelity are possible. Thus, easy copying and repeated sale of the same digital object is possible, potentially eliminating scarcity of the digital object. Because of this, many owners implement digital rights management to prevent such impermissible transfers. Furthermore, the digital object as originally transferred to the initial purchaser may have license restrictions or other limitations on permissible use or further transfer. For example, a license to use a free download of a popular song may expire after a few days.
A secondary market which allows users to effectively and permissibly transfer “used” digital objects to others while maintaining scarcity is therefore desired. A “used” digital object is one to which a user has legitimately obtained access or ownership rights (hereinafter “access rights”), and to which the user may permissibly transfer to another user.
We might even be able to sell used apps, software, digital magazines, songs, movies, games, and… operating systems? Anyway, there is no idea how content developers would react to this as there would be exchange of ownership of these digital contents. But I guess we will soon get to see what will Amazon do about this new patent it has.