Can You Really Own An Ebook?


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This week, Publishing Trendsetter published the first of my monthly articles. It is called Libraries and Ebooks: An Australian Perspective.

The issue of ebook ownership has come up on this blog before. However, in this article I look at the differences between the Australian and American ebook industries in relation to libraries.

The article was written after it was revealed that Barnes & Noble can stop already-purchased ebooks from being downloaded by customers if the credit card they used to pay has since expired. This is the most recent example of the way that the ownership of ebooks is put under the spotlight, but there are many other examples which I outline in the article:

A Norwegian Amazon customer alleged that her entire Kindle library had been wiped… In 2009, Amazon made George Orwell’s novel, 1984, disappear from Kindles across the world when they realized their version of the ebook had been sold without a license. These and other incidents have helped us understand that there are varying degrees of owning ebooks. You can own the rights; you can have access to the ebook indefinitely; you can have permission to sell copies of the ebook; and you can have permission to “loan” the ebook for certain periods of time.

I believe that we need a simple, uniform system for buying and owning ebooks. There is a veracious appetite for reading and libraries will continue to cater for this need. Publishers and libraries need to work together to create a system that is fair and profitable for all.