A month after Amazon was taken to task for trashing a Kindle user’s entire library we find Barnes & Noble refusing access to a library because the original credit card used to buy (or should we start to use “rent”) the books had expired. Online booksellers will argue that these instances are anomalies and will rush to put things right, but I am left with a bad taste.
If you contract to “buy” a book or a piece of music, that medium should be yours for keeps. In the old days, we downloaded the stuff we’d bought and, as long as we didn’t lose our data, it was safe for ever. Now, with cloud storage becoming the norm, it is easy for Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Apple to cut the cord.
In the old days, books were books. We could put them on a library shelf and admire them, we could even lend them to friends, give them away or sell them. Now, our ebooks are supplied to us in golden fetters. Woe betide anyone who attempts to copy a book, even to give it to a friend.
The time has come for international regulation of on-line booksellers. We should know exactly where we stand. Either we buy a book and have access to it for life, without quibbles, or it is made absolutely clear that we are renting for a specific period.
I have no preference either way because, call me a philistine, I seldom read a book twice unless by my beloved Dickens. But if it is clear I am renting instead of buying, I am entitled to a very substantial discount on the store price of a printed book. Unfortunately, at the moment, we often pay more for less.
by Mike Evans, 29 November 2012