Thanks to a set of recent patent filings from Apple and Amazon, reports are saying that the two companies are both looking at ways for consumers of their digital products to resell them to other users, in a sense, setting up “used” mp3 and ebook exchanges.
Many seem confused about how this would even work, as in, how can the company be sure that once I’ve sold a file to another user that I no longer keep a copy for myself? And then, how is there any reason thereafter for anyone to buy “new” digital media when there is literally no difference between the new and the used, and the used is presumably cheaper?
I have no idea about the second question.
But the first seems easy if we assume a cloud-centric model. The trick is that the selling company needs to be able to reach into your storage and erase files you’ve sold through them, ensuring this manufactured scarcity. It can’t be done with the current iTunes model, of course, because it would mean Apple sneaking into your personal hard drive and deleting data. Right, that’d go over well.
But if Apple moved to something more specifically cloud centric, and the user understood that while this file might be cached on their device, it really lived on Apple’s servers, Apple could simply revoke access to that file once it’s been sold.
And for Amazon, well, they already do this. Recall a couple years back when an illegitimate version of Nineteen Eighty-Four was zapped out of people’s Kindles? Amazon already operates with a model under which the purchase of an ebook is really just a license to access that file on a bunch of devices. And that’s whether Amazon’s customers understand that or not. So if Amazon were to open a used Kindle book exchange, they already have the mechanisms to ensure the integrity of the transaction, presuming these devices connect regularly to the Internet. (One could anyways go all Galactica on them, I suppose, and stay off the grid.)
Consumers really just need to understand that they’re actually licensing these files, not owning them like they’re physical objects. If that can sink in to a sufficient number of folks, then there’s a real and doable initiative here.
(And for that nut-cruncher second question, I dunno. Maybe first sales are of a higher bitrate for music, higher resolution for video, fewer “x-ray” type bells and whistles for ebooks? Man, I’d hate that.)