Why a used ebook ecosystem makes sense

Authentication and revenue are two reasons why the ReDigi model will work

In an earlier post I mentioned my plans to speak with ReDigi, the company making waves by helping consumers resell their digital music. One day consumers will also be able to resell their ebooks via ReDigi and that has some publishers concerned. What’s a “used ebook” anyway and should consumers be allowed to resell them? I felt the answer to the last part of that question was “yes” before I spoke with ReDigi founder John Ossenmacher but our conversation convinced me even more that reselling ebooks will be a good thing for everyone.

I should first mention that at O’Reilly we already allow you to resell the ebooks you buy directly from us. Here’s a link to the terms on our website.

If you’re not a fan of consumers reselling their ebooks I ask you to consider two key points John made in our conversation: authentication and revenue. One of the first steps you take after joining ReDigi is to let the service scan your music collection so they can determine what’s legit and what’s not. That’s right, ReDigi is able to analyze your music collection to determine which songs you bought from services like iTunes vs. the songs you illegally downloaded from a torrent site. RedDigi only lets you resell songs they’ve identified as legitimate purchases. John tells me their ebook service will have the same forensic capabilities. That means pirated books cannot be resold through ReDigi. Better yet, the ReDigi service also puts a little “make me legal” reminder next to every illegal file it finds in a customer’s collection. Click on that reminder and you’ll be able to pay for each of those pirated files to make them legit. How cool is that?

Still not convinced it’s a viable service? What if I told you the IP owner also gets a cut of the resale transaction? It’s true. When ReDigi launches their ebook reselling platform publishers (and therefore authors) will get part of the resulting revenue stream. Good luck making that happen at a used print book shop!

Seeing what ReDigi is up to makes me even more excited about the future of reselling digital content. I also wonder if consumers will tolerate higher ebook prices if they know they can resell them just like they can resell a print book.

What do you think? Is ReDigi on to something here? Could a service like this help the industry avoid the race to zero pricing?

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