Apple Joins Amazon in Quest to Establish Market for Used Ebooks

Apple filed for a patent yesterday for a system for ebook readers to buy and sell used ebooks, according to the New York Times.

Apple joins Amazon in its quest to establish a marketplace for used ebooks. Amazon received approval for its patent for a used ebook marketplace in February.

The two major digital content sellers, however, are not alone. ReDigi, a start-up firm, is currently embroiled in a court case that could decide the future of used digital content exchanges. The company is being sued by music giant Capitol Records for copyright infringement. ReDigi’s position is that the so-called “first sale doctrine” applies to digital files, which would mean that it would be legal for an individual to sell her own property (a digital file). The first sale doctrine essentially limits the copyright holder’s rights to the first sale of each copy of a work, meaning that the new owner (the first buyer) can re-sell that copy of the work without permission or limitation from the original copyright holder. While ReDigi bills itself as an exchange for used digital music, there are obvious implications for the ebook market.

An online used ebook market could affect the business of ebooks much in the same way that Amazon’s online used book market affected the print trade 13 years ago, the New York Times points out: “The price on the Internet for many used books these days is a penny.”

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