The Future of Used E-Books

The recent Amazon-MacMillan brouhaha made one thing clear: people who read e-books don't want to pay a lot for that muffler!

Now if they read regular books, like most people, they could always go down to the local used-book store to browse for cheap books. But if you want to go down to the local used e-book store... umm, well there's a bit of a problem there, since the most popular e-books tend to have DRM protection on them, and you're not supposed to be able to transfer that data to another reader.

But, hey, I once donated five bucks to the National Association for the Advancement of Smart People, which makes me an honorary genius.

So here's what we need to do to make a used e-book store possible: Rather than the current DRM model, e-books need to be coded to follow the natural life-cycle of a regular book.

What gave me this idea was the sad fact of JPEG degradation: every time you change and save a JPEG image, the image degrades, eventually becoming illegible after enough cycles. I figure e-books can be deliberately encoded to do something similar. ("I have this great idea. If you do the programming, we can split the money fifty-fifty!")

So, the original e-book is pristine and spotless. Done with the book, you transfer your copy to an online used-e-book store.

For that copy, the style-commands of the book get changed, and the new buyer finds himself reading a book set in Aged Book Worn font. Any color contents fade slightly, like a poster that gets direct sunlight on it.

The next reader down will notice the pages on the screen starting to yellow. Some of the pages will have coffee-cup circles on them. If previous owners have bookmarked any pages, those pages are now actually dog-earred, with the page corners breaking off and falling down the screen at unpredictable intervals. Color fading continues to worsen.

Next reader: mildew stains.

Next reader: scorch marks

We get serious with the next reader in line: silverfish and bookworms start crawling across your screen, eating holes in the pages.

And finally: the binding comes undone, and whole pages and entire signatures rip loose from the left edge of the screen and fall down below the bottom edge.

And that's how you'll get used e-book stores.

[wild applause from the Internet]

Thank you, thank you. It was nothing. Next week, I solve global warming.


mjlayman said...

LOL I have old books that are in good shape!

typeNighter said...

haha!! Excellent. But what about the bit where, just before the whole thing disintegrates, it's photocopied and scanned into a computer....then translated into a file that can be used to create.........a second generation e-book.