Do we really own our digital possessions?


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Rebecca Mardon, Cardiff University

Microsoft has announced that it will close the books category of its digital store. While other software and apps will still be available via the virtual shop front, and on purchasers’ consoles and devices, the closure of the eBook store takes with it customers’ eBook libraries. Any digital books bought through the service – even those bought many years ago – will no longer be readable after July 2019. While the company has promised to provide a full refund for all eBook purchases, this decision raises important questions of ownership.

Digital products such as eBooks and digital music are often seen to liberate consumers from the burdens of ownership. Some academics have heralded the “age of access”, where ownership is no longer important to consumers and will soon become irrelevant.

Recent years have seen the emergence of an array of access-based models in the digital realm. For Spotify and Netflix users, owning films and music has become unimportant as these subscription based services provide greater convenience and increased choice. But while these platforms present themselves clearly as services, with the consumer under no illusion of ownership, for many digital goods this is not the case. So to what extent do we own the digital possessions that we “buy”?

Fragmented ownership rights

The popularity of access-based consumption has obscured the rise of a range of fragmented ownership configurations in the digital realm. These provide the customer with an illusion of ownership while restricting their ownership rights. Companies such as Microsoft and Apple present consumers with the option to “buy” digital products such as eBooks. Consumers often make the understandable assumption that they will have full ownership rights over the products that they pay for, just as they have full ownership rights over the physical books that they buy from their local bookstore.

We buy eBooks just as we do paperbacks, and yet the former are subject to very different terms of ownership.
Oleksiy Mark/Shutterstock

However, many of these products are subject to end user licence agreements which set out a more complex distribution of ownership rights. These long legal agreements are rarely read by consumers when it comes to products and services online. And even if they do read them, they are unlikely to fully understand the terms.

When purchasing eBooks, the consumer often actually purchases a non-transferable licence to consume the eBook in restricted ways. For instance, they may not be permitted to pass the eBook on to a friend once they have finished reading, as they might do with a physical book. In addition, as we have seen in the case of Microsoft, the company retains the right to revoke access at a later date. These restrictions on consumer ownership are often encoded into digital goods themselves as automated forms of enforcement, meaning that access can be easily withdrawn or modified by the company.

This is not a one-off occurrence. There have been many similar instances that raise questions of ownership. Just last month, social media site MySpace admitted to losing all content uploaded before 2016. Blaming a faulty server migration, the loss includes many years’ worth of music, photos and videos created by consumers.

Last year, after customers complained of films disappearing from Apple iTunes, the company revealed that the only way to guarantee continued access was to download a local copy – which, some opined, goes against the convenience of streaming. Amazon hit the headlines way back in 2009 for remotely erasing “illegally uploaded” copies of George Orwell’s 1984 from consumers’ Kindle e-reading devices, much to consumers’ dismay and anger.

Illusions of ownership

Once you purchase a physical book, you own it entirely.
LStockStudio/Shutterstock

My research has found that many consumers do not consider these possibilities, because they make sense of their digital possessions based on their previous experiences of possessing tangible, physical objects. If our local bookstore closed down, the owner wouldn’t knock on our door demanding to remove previously purchased books from our shelves. So we do not anticipate this scenario in the context of our eBooks. Yet the digital realm presents new threats to ownership that our physical possessions haven’t prepared us for.

Consumers need to become more sensitised to the restrictions on digital ownership. They must be made aware that the “full ownership” they have experienced over most of their physical possessions cannot be taken for granted when purchasing digital products. However, companies also have a responsibility to make these fragmented ownership forms more transparent.

Often there is a logical business reason for such restrictions. For instance, since digital objects are infinitely reproducible – they can be duplicated quickly and easily at negligible costs – restrictions on sharing are a means to protect the profits of both distribution companies (Microsoft or Apple, for example) and media producers (including the authors and publishers of an eBook). However, these restrictions must be stated clearly and in simple terms at the point of purchase, rather than hidden away in the complex legal jargon of end user licence agreements, obscured by the familiar terminology of “buying”.The Conversation

Rebecca Mardon, Lecturer in Marketing, Cardiff University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Article: Oyster and Book Ownership


The link below is to an article that takes a look at Oyster and asks the question, ‘what does it mean to own a book?’

For more visit:
http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2013/09/oyster-iphone-app-ereader-what-does-it-mean-to-own-a-book.html

Article: Your Bookshelf and Dating


The link below is to an article concerning the books you own and what your date may think about you. It just might be that your books declare what type of person you are.

http://www.howaboutwe.com/date-report/what-your-bookshelf-says-about-you-to-a-date/

Book Review: Currently Reading – Print is Dead, by Jeff Gomez


I have been reading ‘Print is Dead – Books in our Digital Age,’ by Jeff Gomez. Having just read chapter two, ‘Us and Them,’ I must say that his point in that chapter is well made. The demise in traditional book sales has not been because ebooks have taken the world by storm – at least not at this stage – but because other areas of the digital world have. Generations of younger people have turned away from books in all their forms and have sought entertainment in other things, such as the Internet and video games, to name just a couple. It is reading itself that is being passed by, so the advent of the ebook is not that which is killing off the traditional book and by extension the bookseller/bookshop, but rather ‘dumber’ forms of entertainment.

Books will always be around in one form or another (at least I believe that), whether they remain as prolific as they now are is quite another thing, it is the habit of reading that may fall away dramatically and cause books to be cast aside – at least in the wider community. I think there will always be a group or community of diehard book readers, who eventually will have ebooks as their primary source of books and reading material. There are those who will not be lost entirely to less intellectual forms of entertainment, though perhaps some of these other forms of entertainment may play a role in the ‘reading’ of the future in the digital world (linked to videos, etc). Reading is a great skill that is being lost and the medium for ideas through the ages faces its greatest threat from a lack of it.

The next chapter, ‘newspapers are no longer news,’ deals with newspapers as a source of news and book reviews, or rather, how they are rapidly loosing their ascendency to online applications and tools. In a world that is rapidly changing and access to news as it happens online, newspapers are becoming a too infrequently updated source of news and information. Online access to news and events as they happen are so readily accessible, that the traditional source of news is fading away. As for book reviews, the avenues of discussion about books on the web via social networking, Blogs and the like, opens the opportunity for all to join the discussion. Book reviews in newspapers, like movie reviews, are opportunities for the reviewers to pontificate and/or push their own views onto a public unable to respond – online however the avenues of discussion are legion and varied. All may be involved – or not at all. The decision as to how one may be involved is left to the individual, which also translates to news stories in a similar manner. Interaction with the news and books has never been so simple and as rich an experience.

See also:
http://www.dontcallhome.com/books.html (Website of Jeff Gomez)
Podcast (Excerpts from the Book)
Google Books
Amazon

Ebooks: Not There Yet?


The following article Wired lists five reasons as to why ebooks are not there yet. I would say that ebooks will never be the same as traditional books and they probably are never meant to be the same. I would also say you should probably never expect them to be the same. Television is not the same as going to the movies and never will be. I think waiting for ebooks to be the same as traditional books is to ensure you never use ebooks all that much. Just my opinion.

There are some useful considerations in the five points raised in the article – but there are also some fairly ordinary ones also, which suggest to me a bias against ebooks from the start. Being concerned that ebooks don’t allow you to use them in home design – I mean, really??? If that is a major concern with ebooks – you have to be kidding.

Some years ago I never thought I would ever like ebooks – I love them now and I don’t even have an ebook reader (I use by laptop) at this stage. I can see myself buying one in the near future – that would make ebooks so much more convenient to me. I could read one on a bus or ferry, I could read at work without too many difficulties (in my breaks of course), etc.

How many books can I now own? For a bibliophile like me ebooks are a dream come true. I have well over 1000 traditional books and I will soon eclipse that number in ebooks – many of which are old and out of print works which are very precious to me. These brilliant old books are now so accessible to me and I can store them all in such a small place. Fantastic I say.

See the article mentioned above at:
http://www.wired.com/epicenter/2011/06/ebooks-not-there-yet/all/1

 

THE STORY OF THE ENGLISH BAPTISTS: John C. Carlile


I have recently posted on the particularbaptist.com library site ‘The Story of the English Baptists,’ by John C. Carlile. The book can be found at the following link:

http://particularbaptist.com/library/englishbaptists_john-carlile.html

I own the 1905 edition which was printed as a hardcover by James Clarke & Co. in London, England. My copy is quite aged and is in quite poor condition. The version I have placed online is of course in pristine condition and will undoubtedly stay that way.

There are a number of illustrations and photographs in the book – all of which can be found in the online version.

The book provides something of an introduction to both the General and Particular Baptists, and as such is probably a useful book in that it whets the appetite to research deeper into the history of Baptists in England – which in my case is especially true of the Particular Baptists (of whom I am one).

There are some very interesting and useful chapters in the book, though the treatments of some of the ‘big’ names in Particular Baptist history are quite brief – as I say, something of an introduction. Perhaps an overview may be a better way to describe the book.

I don’t think everyone will necessarily agree with all of the conclusions and statements made by the author of the book. For example, there is something definitely hinky about his comments regarding possible unification of General and Particular Baptists. I’m not sure that he really grasps the significance of the differences between the two camps.

Out of 5 I’d probably give the book a generous 3. I think the book has merit, but is yet disappointing.