Could Selling Used eBooks Work?

Here’s one that I’ve been thinking about, courtesy of Media Bistro: “Could Selling Used eBooks Work?

“The whole concept of selling used digital content is tough. Yes, it was nice in the days of print to resell records, CDs, DVDs and books that you have already listened to or read, and to pick up used copies of other people’s old media at a cheaper price. But how do you do this with digital content?”

I’d rather think that the potential is there, since ebook lending (for example, Kindle Lending) that involves transferring ebook files from one user to another is only one step removed from selling those ebook files from one user to another. Right? The main questions seem to be less of a technical issue as it is a matter of economics.

For another interesting perspective on why used ebooks might or might not make dollars and sense, check out (“ ‘Ere, mate, wanna buy a second hand ebook? “) —

“What’s actually happening, of course, is not the transfer of a physical object, but the transfer of access rights or data. Data don’t depreciate, so there’s no real reason to discount the product because it’s been used. The straight transfer is therefore rather dull: person A yields it to person B for the same amount he or she paid for it, and person B gets the file via bluetooth or similar rather than via Whispernet or broadband download. Um. No measurable benefit to anyone. Or, yes, you’d end up with a market where people would discount in order to make some money back, and ultimately drive down the value of the book. Not great news.”


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I run the ThinkLab at the University of Cambridge, and research digital habits, productivity, and wellbeing.

tyler shores cambridge

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