Monday, February 14, 2011

Information Wants to Be Free of You

Mike Shatzkin on The Idea Logical Company makes an argument that we should perhaps just get over our longing to "own" ebooks and accept that, as digital entities based on software, they can only ever be held close to our hearts for a little while, as long as we hold the license to access the file, before they are gone.

Here's a main point:

First sale rights make complete sense with something physical. They make no sense with something digital. When you lend, give, or re-sell a print book, you don’t have it anymore. When you lend, give, or re-sell a digital file, you still have it and you could lend, give, or re-sell it again and again without limit. Surely, that’s a distinction that justifies a departure from the physical world paradigm.

Perhaps it does, indeed, but don't call me Shirley.

There's a lot more interesting stuff to the post, about how publishers and agents have, each for their own reasons not wishing to rock the book-selling boat, allowed this idea of ebooks as being fundamentally similar to paper books to take hold, even though it may just not be a very good way to approach things.

Having dealt at work with the faint uneasiness that comes from discarding thousands of volumes of print journals because we have online access that takes up less room, even though we now no longer physically own the material, I guess I could see dealing with the same model for my personal reading material.

I already do it with my money, right? I get paid, but it's direct deposit, so I never even see a paper check. I've never possessed the physical representation of all the money I own in the world. It's all in computers.

And if I do it with my life savings, I could do it with my copy of The Lord of the Rings, if I wanted an electronic copy of that.

The internet is really all about paying to access things, rather than to own them. You pay just to get on the internet, and then once on it there's all kinds of stuff I wouldn't even want to own, it would make no sense for me to own it, but I might pay for a license to access it.

I don't want to own a copy of every movie I can think of, or even every movie I'd like to watch, but I'll pay Netflix to use theirs.

And if we imagine that Netflix also offered ebooks, it could make sense to think of purchasing a license to some individual book so that I could access that one anytime I wanted without it counting against my monthly total or whatever, rather than thinking of owning some discrete individual copy of that book.

It's an interesting shift in the 'possession' model, that's for sure.

I saw this on LISNews.

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