Why you cannot actually buy Ebooks

That’s right, you are forbidden to buy e-books. You also cannot buy songs off the radio or apps for your mobile phone. You can go to Amazon or the App store and give them money, and they will send you something in return. But you do not OWN them… And if you don’t own something you’ve paid for, you haven’t bought it.  In other words, Amazon®, Apple® etc. won’t let you BUY anything.

I first realized this a couple of weeks ago I was stranded in Las Vegas, and was about to take a mid morning nap, when I decided to call a friend. He as surprised to hear that I was there and asked me if I was going to go to the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) which was going to start in a couple of days. I told him that I expected to be able to fly out late the following afternoon, well before it started.

“There are a whole bunch of pre-show events before that, and I want to you attend a few of them,” he barked. So, I checked out their website, called them up, and headed to the Venetian Hotel and Casino and somehow got a press pass. There were indeed events for when I was there, and one of them was the preview reception, where they fed us delicious cheesecake and showed us highlights from what would be on the floor in two days’ time.

One of these was a device from a company called PURE®, with which you could “buy” songs off the radio. I was immediately offended beyond words. Grabbing stuff off the radio is an old American, if not WORLD, tradition, going back to the very invention of the medium.

At the Henry Ford Museum (http://www.hfmgv.org) in Dearborn, Michigan, there are ancient record player/radios, which were capable of cutting records of shows RIGHT OFF THE AIR dating all the way back to the 1920s.

Clearly “pirating” is as American as apple pie, but it wasn’t pirating. The stuff was literally in the air, trespassing through one’s airspace, it was YOURS to do what you wilt. That’s still the case, which is why they have encryption.

Having to PAY for something that’s trespassing through one’s air is dead wrong, which is why Pure’s new device is so galling. It’s an attempt to make that seem palatable, if not cool, and that’s even worse than attempting to make you pay for stuff off the air!

The next day I heard something that was far worse, which was also sugarcoated in an insidious way. Amazon -- out of the goodness of its corporate heart -- was going to let Kindle® owners LEND e-books to their friends.

But only to one friend and only one time. Last time I went to Amazon® they were SELLING e-books not lending them or renting them out. S-E-L-L-I-N-G! That means if I pay someone good money for something, I OWN it. If I go to Powell’s (http://www.powells.com/) or the Strand(http://www.strandbooks.com/), purchase a book, a DVD or a candy bar (why the Strand started selling candy bars I dunno) It’s MINE. I can go off and sell these things on the street, tear them shreds, burn them, eat them, whatever. I can even give them to someone as a gift or lend it to a neighbor.

That’s what ownership is all about. If something is yours it’s YOURS. The right to property is right there in the Constitution, articles five and fourteen. You shouldn’t have to get permission from Amazon.com or Bartlesman to do what you want with your property…and if it ISN’T your property then don’t call it buying or selling. Call it leasing or licensing or something else.  They aren’t selling you anything.  They’re RENTING it to you for an indefinite time. That’s a big difference.

When they first announced this, a commentator said “Loaning a ebook seems so unfair to the publisher/­authors.”

How is it unfair? If you don’t want people to use your stuff in ways you don’t want, then don’t SELL it to them.  If someone buys a copy of Captain America #4 for $60 thousand and then burns it to make his other copies more valuable, or buys a Picasso print, cuts it up and makes paper dolls out of it, that’s dumb and destructive, but it’s within his rights, it’s HIS stuff, after all, not the artist’s not the previous owner’s, HIS.

For example, back in 2009, Amazon remotely DELETED all the works of George Orwell from people’s Kindles, some sort of rights thing, or so they claimed. That means that the people don’t OWN the books they allegedly “bought” If they did, then Amazon would be stealing them back. This is far more a theft than any rights dispute. Amazon apologized, but that didn’t change the fact that the people who thought they were buying something really weren’t.

The new copyright abuse that’s been going on over the past 10 years has blurred the line over who owns what. This is a topic for a different article. This is about semantics abuse. You cannot BUY something if you do NOT own it afterwards.

Therefore, you CANNOT BUY an e-book.