David Pogue’ followers have been worried about e-book resales and their impact on authors. I also offered my speculations on the same topic. Pogue went to the trouble of looking at the patents and finds:

[The] patents also give the publisher or bookstore the right to impose a minimum price for reselling an e-book. That limit could drop over time, as Apple’s patent makes clear: “As another example, all digital movies must be sold for a minimum of $10 until six months after their respective original purchase date. After the six month period, all digital movies must be sold for a minimum of $5.”

Both proposals suggest that publishers could also limit the number of times a digital item can be resold: “A threshold may limit how many times a used digital object may be permissibly moved to another personalized data store, how many downloads (if any) may occur before transfer is restricted, etc.,” says Amazon’s patent. “These thresholds help to maintain scarcity of digital objects in the marketplace.”

It would be fun research project to work out the optimal scheme: how many new e-books should be produced each period, how should they be priced, how should the “second-hand” e-books be priced etc. Might be easy in the full commitment case. The limited commitment case might be more fun….

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