What? Used ebooks?
When I first read this article about Amazon and Apple’s recent patent applications to enable the re-sale of used ebooks (and digital music), I was naturally quite perturbed. But after a little reflection, it is actually quite a logical step in the process of transforming publishing into electronic publishing.
When you think about it, the concept is only an electronic extension from street front second hand bookstores that have been an integral part of the book market ever since books were first printed. The only difference being that instead of a kindly second hand book store owner making a living from used books, it will be two mega-giant corporations that will rake in the profit.
It is easy to be somewhat bitter about this and saddened that yet another little store on your high street will perhaps be closing soon, but the reality is that change happens in all industries. Few tears were shed when local video rental stores disappeared and there was little sympathy for door-to-door encyclopaedia salesmen being thrown into unemployment. Change is constant, and for those of us involved in publishing, the only constant will be change.
From Caxton and Gutenberg’s time until just a few years ago, little really changed in publishing, so the rapidly evolving landscape of the last few years has been a real culture shock. In such times the natural reaction is to want the world to stop and for everything to go back to how it was. The comfort of the past. However, the past never returns and the only way forward for publishing now is accepting change, adapting to it and understanding that the Internet, social networking, electronic distribution, lower prices and even more change are the new realities.
Used ebooks will be a reality soon. So accept it as just one more change along the way.