Reselling E-Books and the One-Penny Problem (NYT David Pogue). Face it: access replaces ownership!

Interesting piece by David Poque at the NYT, but imho is lacks the realization that we don’t really have a choice to re-think the rules of the physical world; i.e. ‘material degradation’ is no longer something we can count on to generate or maintain ‘value’.  IMHO, if we had flat-rate access to books at a low-cost rate (or in bundles via telcos and operators) why would ‘renting’ a book even be an issue any longer?  Much like the foolish debate on streaming music versus downloading tracks (and why they should be paid for differently), the debate about renting versus buying (owning??) ebooks is rather silly – we need a digitally native model, not bandaids to cover the wounds of the past.

So let’s see. Bob buys an e-book from Amazon for $10. After reading, he sells it to a new person for $8. After a couple more transactions the used e-book is going for $1. But the reading experience is as pristine and clean as the first one. In this world, you could buy any e-book for $1 or less if you’re willing to wait long enough. For best sellers, you wouldn’t have to wait long at all. Turns out material degradation isn’t just a fond side effect of book resales. It’s essential. It’s what ensures that the resale price matches the diminishing value of the product. If every copy is perfect, the whole thing breaks down. With unlimited e-book sales, every book’s price would eventually drop to a penny. I couldn’t believe that Apple and Amazon would be so naïve. Surely they’d thought of this nightmare situation….


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