As ZNF readers are well aware, one of the biggest challenges we face with digital media (books, music, video) is in sharing it. Legally. Over at Live Digitally, Jeremy Toeman details one possible scenario for an Amazon Kindle used book store – allowing folks to resell books back to Amazon for a store credit. And in turn, Amazon offering these ‘books’ at a lower cost than ‘new’ ones.
Despite his calculations, I’m not sold. Traditional supply, demand, production, and distribution rules don’t transfer cleanly from the analog world to a wired marketplace hawking digital goods. Other than an artificially lower resale value, what’s the difference between a ‘used’ ebook and a ‘new’ one?
A better solution to increase adoption and loyalty while staving off piracy is the integration of a gifting option. After purchasing most Season 1 episodes of Mad Men and Burn Notice digitally, I’d have liked to give these titles to my mom (~1,000 miles away). Instead, I ended up buying her the DVDs. Which I’m sure the studios love. But how about thinking bigger picture?
What if each digital download/license could be transferred (not copied) just once – what I believe to be a reasonable compromise between producers and consumers. And let’s give incentivize the retailers by limiting transfers to their own ecosystem. So in my case, Apple would get a new iTunes member in my mom and probably an Apple TV purchase – as I don’t see her watching video for any length of time at the computer. Building upon one of Jeremy’s ideas, perhaps retailers could also facilitate bartering (with a per exchange fee) between strangers. Which could also be a big win for music discovery, leading to additional digital purchases.
Over the years, I’ve had many music licensing, DRM, etc talks with ZNF contributor Dale Dietrich. He (had) envisioned a digital media “utopia” where every piece of content is registered with a unique serial number via an online licensing clearinghouse – and could be freely traded, sold, or loaned. In reality and unfortunately, I doubt any of our scenarios will come to pass. They’re too consumer friendly. And perhaps to complex. Guess we’ll continue to settle for low-def Hulu streaming with commercial interruption.