Sale of Used E-books Getting Closer

used_1.jpgAt a time when many independent booksellers both here and abroad are beginning to gain traction selling Kobo e-books, other retailers are eyeing the secondary market for e-books and other digital content.

Boston-based ReDigi, which opened a used digital music storefront in late 2011, may have gotten there first, but megaretailer Amazon isn't far behind. Last month Amazon received a patent to create a digital marketplace for used content, including used e-books and audio downloads, much like the one it already provides for sellers of used print books and CDs.

There's still one obstacle for ReDigi to overcome, at least in the U.S: a lawsuit that Capitol Records filed in January 2012 claiming that ReDigi is violating copyright. Capitol called ReDigi "a clearinghouse for copyright infringement," rejecting the idea that it is the digital equivalent of a used CD store. That doesn't worry founder, president, and CEO John Ossenmacher, who is moving forward with plans for expansion both in the U.S. and in Europe. The only concession that the technology entrepreneur has made, at the advice of the company's attorney, is to keep the site in beta until the suit is settled. Ossenmacher said that because the case is so technical, ReDigi elected for trial by judge, but he never realized that it could take three months and counting for Judge Richard J. Sullivan of U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York to reach a decision.

One of the reasons that Ossenmacher, who was recently appointed to the Congressional Internet Caucus's Advisory Committee, is optimistic he will prevail is that ReDigi uses a so-called "verification engine" to determine whether a given song, or soon an e-book, has been legally downloaded and can be resold. And it provides an "atomic transaction" that transfers content without copying it. "With ReDigi's method," states Ossenmacher, "only the 'original' good is instantaneously/atomically transferred from seller to buyer, without any copies. ReDigi then assists the seller with an antivirus-like software application that monitors the seller's computer and synced devices to ensure that any personal-use copies of the sold good are removed." By contrast, the patent obtained by Amazon appears to rely on a "copy-and-delete" mechanism, which is at the heart of the Capitol suit (Amazon didn't respond to PW's queries).

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SOURCE: Publishers Weekly
Judith Rosen
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