My Smartphone is filled with songs. Songs from artists I’ve recently discovered, songs from my youth, songs my mom used to play. I can’t think of a tune I haven’t been able to find on MUVE’s selection of 20 million songs. Other than my monthly phone fee, I don’t pay for any of these songs.
Amazon has a similar program. For an annual fee consumers can join a club that includes free shipping and loads of digital content delivered without any extra charges.
Last week, I read an article in Fast Company about a company that wants to help people resell the digital content they’ve purchased. They maintain that there is no difference between physical goods and digital goods. Two of the visionaries behind this idea are John Ossenmacher and Larry Rudolph of Redigi.
Redigi might just shake up the digital marketplace sooner rather than later. They pay a 10-20% gratuity to the artist on the content they’ve resold. But there’s no law requiring them to offer this gratuity. And whether or not they’ve infringed on copyrights is currently being reviewed by a federal judge. (They lost.)
Ridigi is not alone, either. Apple and Amazon both hold patents on technology that will allow their customers to resell digital content once they’re finished with it.
Since Amazon is already allowing their customers who are part of the above-mentioned program unlimited access to everything that falls under the umbrella of that program, it seems to me that:
- the Seattle retailer is probably one step ahead of the rest of the pack
- e-book authors like myself might be in deep-shit trouble
Apologies for the profanity. I rarely use it. When I do, it’s to make a point.
Sure, experts claim a secondary marketplace only drives up sales overall. On the other hand, even if Amazon has the technology to verify the buyer of the original content, there is zero difference between a new and used copy of my digital book. But will I be paid for the lower-priced “used” copy? (Probably not.) Who sets the price on the used copy? (Ultimately, the consumer.) Will I lose control of my intellectual property if I publish with Amazon? (Likely.)
And what if one of the free e-books I’ve downloaded suddenly becomes popular? Can I resell it at a profit— cutting out the author entirely?
What if the popular e-book is mine?
Overall, I believe Amazon will protect authors who pledge allegiance to the company and publish exclusively with them. Hey, you can’t be king without a kingdom, right? Plus, if history is anything to go by, Amazon has always paid their authors (other large digital content providers have fallen short).
I’ve been thinking about this resale digital marketplace a lot over the past week. I love my unlimited FREE music. I’ve downloaded my fair share of e-books. I have yet to stream free movies or TV, but I certainly enjoy YouTube. The future seems clear to me. A second life for digital books is a WHEN, not an IF.
As an author, this terrifies me. And it also makes me kind of excited, too.
If everything in the future is virtually FREE, all the quick-buck artists hawking less-than-quality products will be run out of business. Quality will rule the future (at least I hope so). If everything is free, and readers enjoy what I write, they can read (AND REVIEW) my books into FREE bestseller-dom.
The only trouble with that scenario is that I still need to keep the electricity on, feed myself, etc. Just like readers do. Which brought to mind another possibility:
Printing my own books. Exclusively.
Why not? Bands and comedians (Louis CK) are embracing direct sales to fans. And my friend, Maggie Jaimeson (aka Maggie Faire), a true visionary in my opinion, launched Windtree Press as a way for her and other indie authors to engage and sell directly to their readers. Why not?
So bring on the future! In the meantime, I’ll be building my brand and searching Craigslist for a used Espresso Printing Press. I mean, hey, the current model Espressos are already half the size and half the price of the original. By the time I get around to printing and selling my limited-edition print book, I’ll be casting about among my author friends to see who wants in.
I’ve got talent, a truck, and good, strong back… anyone have any extra space in their garage to set up shop?