Do You "Own" Your Kindle Books?

Gizmodo wonders aloud…when you “buy” “content” for Amazon’s Kindle or the Sony Reader, are you buying a crippled license to intellectual property when you download, or are you buying a book?

It was just a matter of time before a discussion of the “first sale” doctrine commenced as it relates to the electronic book. eBooks with DRM tied to a device aren’t like print books, CDs or DVDs. When you buy these, you buy a license to use them on the device. If the device becomes obsolete, you shouldn’t expect your books to be removable and re-installable on some other device. That functionality and the user permissions are completely up to the device maker and the owner of the copyright to the content.

Just think of the thousands of people who bought the Rocket eBook device (like me). Luckily, I probably spent less than $100 ordering eBooks for the device. Others spent thousands. Today, the company that created the Rocket eBook no longer exists, and there aren’t any more books available for it either. I misplaced the charger for my Rocket eBook, so I can’t even read the books I purchased any longer. So it goes.

As eBook reading devices become more widely available, and more broadly adopted, I suspect many will attempt to draw parallels to the portability of traditional print books. Unless a company develops a model where their money is made on the device and not the ongoing book sales, you shouldn’t expect to be able to loan your eBooks. After all, they’re really just data running on software.

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eBooks, DRM, Amazon, Kindle, Copyright

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