Maybe Amazon Doesn’t Intend to Sell Used eBooks – Just a Thought

Cuerpo_humano_jaqaruI was talking to my husband the other night about the concern over Amazon seeking a patent for an online system to sell used ebooks.

I had no further finished telling him about this that he actually started laughing at me. “I don’t know why anyone is worried about that. It would be like Barnes & Noble setting up a section in their bookstore to sell the same books–that look as if they’re brand spanking new–for a tenth of the price.”

Well, why would Amazon be seeking such a patent? He had a ready answer. “Just so they can stop other companies from doing it.”  And that actually made a lot of sense. I mean, if Amazon owns the patent on it, they could conceivably stop others from trying to do it, ensuring there is no market for used ebooks.

Now, I don’t believe the patent and trademark office likes giving out patents for  technology for the sole purposes of keeping others from using the technology. So, Amazon has been mum on why they’re seeking the patent. And I also don’t know enough about patent law to know how much of the patent is actual mechanics vs. general idea. As all us writers know, copyrights cover the expression of an idea, not an idea itself.

But seeking a patent as a preventive measure is certainly an intriguing idea.  And it’s not one just floated by my hubby. Wired Magazine suggests this approach, too.

I do hope it is an attempt to stop others from selling used ebooks, because I agree with critics of the swap-meet model of ebook sales: if used ebooks are available for a penny, no one is guying to buy new ebooks.

About RJ Crayton

RJ Crayton is a former journalist who now writes fiction. She's reported for the Kansas City Star and Wichita Eagle, as well as the smaller publications Education Technology News and Campus Crime. She has two published novels, Life First and Second Life and blogs for Indies Unlimited and the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. For exclusive content and first looks at her new work, sign up for the newsletter at
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4 Responses to Maybe Amazon Doesn’t Intend to Sell Used eBooks – Just a Thought

  1. Dale says:

    Your husband’s point sounds right to me. Off to find something else to worry about.

  2. Mel Parish says:

    I thought there was something more behind the patent than just being able to sell used e-books – it doesn’t make business sense for Amazon. Why sell something for pennies when you could sell the same thing for a higher amount and get just as much (if not more) revenue from selling a new version. But it might appear to be an attractive proposition for someone not already in the e-book selling business and perhaps this is what Amazon is hoping to prevent.
    Besides, how can you sell something as used when it only exists in digital format? Yes, Amazon can remove the book from the seller’s kindle, but it’s unlikely to be exactly the same file that is transferred to the ‘second-hand’ buyer.

    • RJ Crayton says:

      You make a great point about not actually being able to get the book back. While Amazon can remove it, if it’s not the same actual copy, is it really used? Hopefully this idea of used ebooks will die on the vine.

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