Three features we'd want in an Amazon used ebooks marketplace
Posted 20 February 2013 - 07:25 AM
I'm a published mystery writer. I make money (not much but some) from the sale of my books, whether paper or electronic. Since I live in Canada, I also get some money every year from the Canada Council for the Arts for each of my books that are listed in library catalogues. However, I make zilch from secondhand sales or loans. The benefits are indirect, though, as more people become aware of my books. Still...
I wonder if Amazon will pay royalties on used ebook sales or loans. I kind of doubt it.
Posted 20 February 2013 - 08:24 AM
Posted 20 February 2013 - 08:27 AM
A writer is entitled to profit from his creation, but he or she isn't entitled to *unending* profit from that creation. Copyright law—as screwed up as it's gotten in recent decades—concedes there's a limit: Once a certain number of years pass, you no longer control your own words or ideas after they've entered the public realm.
Trying to get writers paid for used sales and loans of ebooks would be awful, probably putting a further stranglehold on the free flow of words and ideas that undergird a healthy society. I want you to get paid when I buy your book, Michael. I don't want you to get paid when I lend that book to a friend.
Posted 20 February 2013 - 10:02 AM
But, the next day I say "Golly, instead of the vinyl album, or the paperback version; I would rather have the CD or Hardcover". If I had indeed purchased the "license", my cost for exchanging the medium would only be for the cost of the medium (paperback to hardcover, vinyl LP to CD). I can assure you, as you already know - I will again be charged the FULL PRICE for the same content, in a different medium. Thus, one could argue that in fact; I had no "license" at all; I literally OWNED the work I purchased, as any other copy of the work would be procured at full price.
That is reality. I have no problem with the artist being paid on each sale of his work - whether vinyl, CD, paperback, hardcover or virtual. Once I have exchanged a sum of money for this - it is mine to pass on, destroy, deface or discard.
Posted 20 February 2013 - 12:51 PM
For instance, used ebooks simply can't be dealt with as casually as their printed cousins. To be legal, tracking and enforcing ownership will be necessary and that has nothing to do with DRM. If Amazon, Apple or any other retailer wants to be able to resell that ebook bought from them, they've got to come up with a credible way to make sure the original buyer no longer possesses it. Otherwise they're a knowing party to copyright infringement.
Another major issue is linked to the purpose of copyright and patents. To encourage creation, our laws provide a way for their creator to get a return on their investment of time and effort. Reselling ebooks without compensating an author/publisher each time threatens that worthy purpose.
Imagine for a moment that you write fiction that a typical customer reads once and discards. There's nothing wrong with that. Most fiction books are like that. Wanting to reach more people, you put a Kindle edition up on Amazon and for a few weeks it sells marvelous before tanking.
Checking out the book's Amazon page you discover that alongside your retail price, a modest $2.99, is another saying "Used 1.99 cents." For the $2.99 version you're getting a little over $2 for each sale. For each 'used' sale you're getting nothing, even though it's identical in every way.
Checking further, you discover that Amazon is giving your readers $1.66 cents for their used but still pristine copies and reselling them with a 33 cent markup. Enough readers are taking Amazon up on that offer to destroy your sales. They buy your book 'used' for $1.99 and return it for a $1.66 credit, meaning that reading it is only costing them 33 cents. Great for them. Awful for you.
Amazon is, of course, making out like a bandit, posting 33 cents of pure profit from each sale. On the other hand, you're getting nothing from all those sales even though you're losing customers by the hundreds.
That illustrates why a lot of thought needs to go into what reselling ebooks could come to mean and how that might impact the rewards, limited as they are, for most writers.
Posted 20 February 2013 - 03:29 PM
I agree, and I would also add that this is the same issue faced by not only artists but pretty much anyone who sells any kind of good. You make money off the first sale of the item, and then the entity who purchased it makes whatever money they can if and when they re-sell it. If there is a facilitating entity like Amazon would be in this case, they take their cut for providing the marketplace (think of eBay, who similarly does not and is under no obligation to pay any proceeds to, say, Apple for resales of Macs or iDevices).
Posted 21 February 2013 - 06:07 AM
All of these "issues" are no different than what exists today with printed books. I can buy used books at a multitude of places both physical (used books stores, yard sales, etc.) and internet (eBay, Amazon, etc.). I can go to the library and borrow the book. If I know someone who owns a copy, I can borrow their copy. How much does the author currently get for each of those transactions currently? Nothing.
By extension, how much should the author get if a legally purchased copy of a digital version is transferred to a new owner? Nothing.
Posted 21 February 2013 - 11:17 AM
This. I buy many books used to save money and because I spend time in used books stores. I buy other things used as well. Someone did presumably pay full price initially. This has been happening long before Amazon and the Internet.