All signs point to a new Kindle

Amazon press conference on 2/9: I can haz kindle too?.

Interesting article at CrunchGear about the upcoming Amazon press conference.  It seems very likely that the second generation Kindle will be announced.

More interesting, though, since it’s been widely assumed that the new Kindle is coming out early this year, is the wish in one of the comments for the ability to resell an ebook purchased for the Kindle.  This is not going to happen, and it’s a big reason why ebooks are going to have to wait to become a real part of the mainstream.

There are two possible ways in which it might be possible to resell ebooks, and neither of them works.

First, you could apply DRM to the ebooks.  This removes the concept of ownership – it is impossible to own something that can be revoked by the “seller” at any moment (see here, here, here, and here).  Without owning the ebook, any reselling would have to go through the original “seller”.  The DRM would have to be transferred in some way, and the new “owner” would still depend on some indifferent third party to allow access to the content.  This third party will be incurring costs for each transaction, and would be crazy not to pass these costs onto the customer.

So every time you “sold” the property you “own”, the original seller would take another cut.  And what happens when they decide to stop supporting the DRM anymore?  It’s bad enough if you’ve bought from someone and they take back what you bought.  What if you buy from someone and someone else takes back what you’ve bought? In almost every case, the reseller could make more money than the original seller.  The reseller has no costs beyond the original purchase price, and therefore can sell at a much cheaper price.  Since the copies are exactly as good as the original, only one original need ever be purchased.  This is not a sustainable business model.  Bargaining on irrational behavior on the part of all of your customers will not get you very far.

Clearly reselling DRMed content doesn’t make sense.  So what are the alternatives?

You can resell content without DRM.  But why would you?  You can copy it as many times as you want.  If it was worth $10 to you, surely you can find twenty people to buy it for $0.60 and make a profit.  Or you can give it away, since it doesn’t cost you anything, and the new friends you might make would be worth more than your initial investment.

So reselling non-DRMed content doesn’t make sense, either.  Where does that leave us?

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