The Future of the Ebook

Could Amazon Interest You in a Used eBook?

Before anyone freaks out: It's just a patent. (So far.)

Oh boy, the big six are just going to love this: Geekwire reports that Amazon has secured a patent for a “secondary market for digital objects,” meaning anything from ebooks to mp3s.

That means Amazon has hammered out the basics of a system that would, according to the abstract from the patent application, let you transfer the ebooks you don’t want anyone into someone else’s Kindle library. In short, you can sell ‘em.

Well, at least you’d never have to wonder about the origins of that mysterious brown stain anymore.

Of course, God and Bezos only know whether this will ever translate into an actual Amazon feature; it could be simply a strategic gambit of some sort. (PaidContent points out that the patent could conceivably be used as a cudgel against other marketplaces for reselling digital content, like ReDigi.) But it’s not quite as bonkers an idea as it seems, either. Think of what you get for your $9.99 as a license to access a piece of content, as opposed to a book per se. Theoretically, you’d be selling the license.

Romantic, it’s not.

The patent application also suggests there’d be a limit on the number of times you could transfer or download an object before the proverbial music stops, which presumably would help prevent the market for new digital books from collapsing like a over-cooked souffle. So it’s not like the nation’s entire population of teenaged girls could simply pass around a single digital copy of The Hunger Games, gutting blockbuster sales.

But the copyright implications are positively migraine-inducing, and it’s hard to imagine publishers, music companies or movie studios letting this stand without throwing the kind of shit fit that actually makes a pretty crackerjack read.

(h/t Gizmodo)

Follow Kelly Faircloth on Twitter or via RSS. kfaircloth@observer.com