Why You Can’t Actually Sell an E-book (and What That Just Might Mean for Your Finances)

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May 2011
by Mike Shatzkin

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Why You Can’t Actually Sell an E-book (and What That Just Might Mean for Your Finances)

by Mike Shatzkin

You can’t have a discussion of any length about e-book sales and pricing and digital rights management in any group of digital publishing observers today before you hear that it is somehow wrong or unfair that “purchasers” can’t do everything with an e-book they’ve bought that they do with a print book they’ve bought.

That is: various “controls”—sometimes deliberate (DRM) and sometimes circumstantial (tech doesn’t always work smoothly)—make it hard or impossible to lend, give, or resell an e-book in the same way that you can lend, give, or resell a printed book. Have enough of these conversations, and you will become educated about “first sale” rights, which are enshrined in law, and which basically say that when you buy something you own it and can lend, give, or resell it.

So the way the complaint often goes is that those damn publishers are putting this damn DRM on my e-books, so I can’t do all the things with them I can do with my print books.

This has always struck me as highly questionable on its face. First sale rights make complete sense with something physical. They make no sense with something digital. When you lend, giv…IBPA Members – Click here to view the full article (login required).

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