Amazon to Resell Used Ebooks

This rumor has been running across the internet chat room and websites like wild-fire.  Have you heard about it yet? If you’re a self-published author strictly using Amazon (KDP) for publishing, this may affect you in a huge way.  And if you aren’t strictly using Amazon, it still affects you, but you may have options, such as not using their service.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not telling the literary world to take up their Kindle and storm the gates, but only that authors take time to consider the alternatives.

According to this article at The Dish (and other sites):


[A] U.S. patent that Amazon Technologies in Reno, Nev., received last week indicates that the mega-retailer has its sights on digital resale, including used e-books and audio downloads. According to the abstract, Amazon will be able to create a secondary market for used digital objects purchased from an original vendor by a user and stored in a user’s personalized data store.

What does that mean for e-book authors? Simple. It means that once John Q Reader finishes reading your e-book purchased through Amazon for Kindle or the Kindle app, he can resell the book back to Amazon at a lesser rate.  From there, Amazon can resell the e-book at a slightly cheaper price than “new” and the author will receive no royalties on the resell transaction.  And, considering a used e-book will always be in new condition, most readers would go for the “resell” book at the cheaper price.  Thus, Amazon makes a major profit on your book while you make nothing at all.

While a physical book would eventually have wear-and-tear, and the buyer would have the choice in purchasing a new or used physical book, the choice is pretty one-sided when buying a “used” e-book.  Buy a new e-book for $4.99 or used e-book for $3.99, which would you buy?

Consider this: how many e-books would have to be returned before the market for new e-books is dead? My best novice mathematical figure is just one. Here is my reasoning: Today I buy Be Still for my Kindle app and return it by next Friday. On average I sell one copy a week, so next week my returned e-book will resell at the used price.  And suppose for argument’s sake that the reader returned the book the following Friday and Amazon resold it that night.  And let’s say this continued for the year, which comes to 52 weeks, how much books did I sell? Answer: Just one, the original one.  And that one book will be all the profit I will ever see. Do you see how this plays out now?

This does not increase your rank either, as resold books do not count into the ranking system.  All it takes is one resold e-book to stop everything.

amazon clipWhat’s all the fuss? Physical books and CDs are resold all the time, right? Yes, but at the discretion of the consumer receiving used and worn goods.  Given the choice between a new and used book I will read for leisure, I buy the new one. Now if you’re talking about a textbook, then I buy used, and these days even textbooks are revised almost yearly so they can maintain their sales.

Is there a fix? None that I can really see, except asking people not to purchase your book on Kindle and to use another avenue like Barnes & Noble, iBook, or some other eReader.  But how long before the other distributors follow suit?

I have been told, and have blogged prior, on the topic of writing for fun or profit, in which I stated that I write for fun, but I’d love to be making a living from it.  It’s not easy holding a more-than fulltime job, and then coming home and writing after midnight.  Writing is my passion, my career is a job. Given the choice, I would write, but the dream of being able to support my family from this may be drastically suffocated to the e-book resell program, because 90% of my books are sold through eReaders.  What do you think?

Please give your thoughts and honest opinions on this discussion here.

Tania L Ramos


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23 responses to “Amazon to Resell Used Ebooks

  1. I think its crap. I don’t think anyone should be able to resell digital work for the very fact that it will never show wear and tear. So there will never be a reason NOT to buy the used ebook or CD.

  2. Think of all those authors who used the Kindle Select program and gave away thousands of free copies. Those people will actually score a profit selling them back to Amazon!

    • I’m not sure how they will profit, since when Amazon resells them the author receives zero profit from the resale. The author only takes a profit the first time it is sold, so if it was given away free where is the profit? Not sure if I’m missing something here. And if it was given away free, I’m more than certain Amazon will not pay to buy it back.

  3. He means the “buyers” of free books will get a profit from selling “used” e-books back to Amazon. No the author won’t get anything for that.

    • Ah, now I see. But I still question if Amazon would buy back something they gave away for free. If that were the case, I wonder how many people would start downloading free books just to be able to sell them back. I’m sure they would have stipulations regarding that somewhere. It’s still a scary thought.

  4. As they protect the books so you can’t realistically *lend* the book to a friend as you could a paper book, this is even worse. They prevent you doing what you want with your book and them suggest selling a second hand version that is identical to the original. Worrying times.

  5. This is no joke, my patent examiner husband assures me.

  6. If Amazon goes through this, I can’t see the big publishers or the record labels putting anything new on Amazon. They may have all of the old stuff, but why would anyone put anything new up if they can’t make any money. The answer is, they won’t. And Amazon is going to start losing money if people have to go somewhere else to get the new stuff. And Amazon will be leaving themselves wide open for a competing site to step and fill the gap.

    • Right. Daniel and I were just talking about that. This would be a very opportunistic opportunity for another company to step in and take over. I for one would definitely pull my e-books off Amazon. The only problem is that so many readers use them, so it would become a matter of educating readers as well.

      • If readers start being unable to get new titles and new music, they will educate themselves. It never takes buyers long to figure out where the best place to buy is.

  7. So Amazon is sly and writers need to pay attention and educate their readers.

    • Yes, but I think those big traditional companies will make a huge stink over this and it will get world-wide media. Or at least I would hope so.

      • I often wonder just how much business this e-revolution has taken away from traditional publishers. E-publishing feels like a way for the little guy to get published by foregoing all the stuff, and costs that comes with going traditional. Is this so, do you know?

      • Now I’ve read that the self-pub revolution has taken a healthy chunk of revenue from traditional publishers. This is the reason so many of the big six have tried to dismay authors from self-publishing. However, almost all the traditionals no longer accept new authors, thus dead locking the doors on outsiders. All the while they say we should wait our turn and pay our dues by waiting. Those days are long gone, and why wait for something that won’t come if they aren’t accepting new authors anyway?
        The difference with traditional publishing is that they pay you upfront, and with self-publishing you front the costs. By self-publishing you absorb every cost associated with writing, publishing, marketing, and advertising your book. It is actually a much more tedious task to go the self-pub route. However, I implore all indie authors to not spare any expense with their book: editing, cover design, and such.

  8. A good indie author doesn’t forego the costs associated with publishing, they assume the costs. Meaning the cost of editing, cover art, book design and formatting all come out of the author’s pocket.

  9. Pretty awful situation this. I’ve sold twelve books this month. I only sell my book for $2.99, so I don’t make an awful lot anyway. Amazon get 30% of this for storing my tiny file on their servers. Now, in the last nine months I’ve sold almost 750 copies. But I did the KDP giveaway thing (and was considering doing another one soon), and gave away over 19,000 copies in three days. I currently only use Amazon. This could be a big wrangle, and I’m not looking forward to it if it happens. See, when large companies corner the market they then almost become unregulated. Their terms and conditions will retain a clause saying basically that the terms and conditions count for diddly squat, because they can change them whenever they please. So, a digital book is a digital book, which should only be sold once, that’s my opinion.

    Authors could take their work elsewhere, but realistically Amazon are the big guns and readers will never be educated on a scale large enough to drop Amazon in favour of paying more for something somewhere else.

    Another thing, the re-sell thing doesn’t go towards rankings on Amazon, but that’s not really a big deal, as these fluctuate wildly with a couple of sales anyway. But if we take our work elsewhere, then we don’t get the ‘readers who bought this also bought’ thing, and I reckon we probably get a lot of our sales from being so visible on other, more well-known authors’ book pages.

    It could be a ploy to cut down on the amount of indie books being put on Amazon, or it could simply be the fat cats trying to double-dip and score points and wealth without effort, something they already do pretty well anyway. It sounds a lot like academic publishing, where the favoured route of making articles open access is, in the UK, becoming the ‘Gold’ option, meaning authors must pay (usually about £1500) to make their own work available freely permanently. Universities and healthcare trusts might pay this fee, and then still be charged for subscriptions to the journal in which the article appears. Hence the ‘double-dipping’ title.

    Worrying times indeed.

  10. This just makes me want to cry.

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