Questions About E-Books

by Gene Michael Stover

created Thursday, 2012-04-19 T 23:16:00Z
updated Thursday, 2012-04-19 T 23:16:00Z

Can my grandchildren inherit a library of e-books from me like I inherited a library of paper books from my grandparents?

Can I loan an e-book to a friend like I can a paper book?

Can I give one of my e-books to a friend after I'm done reading it like I can a paper book?

What if I someday prefer the swank new e-book reader manufactured by a different company? Since my books are in the older company's cloud, will I be allowed to download them to my new reader? And if so, will the new reader grok the proprietary file format of the old reader?

It costs money for the online publisher to keep copies of all those books. Do I have a guarantee that they won't some day decide that it's too expensive to keep some book & delete it? Sure, it won't happen with a bestseller, but what about some book that was purchased by only 100 people, the e-book equivalent of a fanzine? Or a book that, however popular at one time, hasn't been downloaded in 20 years?

How do the economics of the previous question depend on whether the online publisher keeps a copy of a book per purchase, or just one copy & a lot of little notes about who purchased it?

How do I know that a modified version of a book hasn't been silently downloaded to my reader overnight? My magazine & newspaper subscriptions are downloaded silently over night, & I've noticed that a few issues have been re-downloaded with corrections (such as missing images inserted). What if the content were also updated? How would I know? And who decides what needs correcting?

When a book finally passes into the public domain, & I purchased a copy-protected copy before it, will my copy-protected copy automatically be updated to a copyable copy? Will this silently happen in a download overnight?

What if the online publisher goes out of business or drastically changes its business model? What happens to my e-books in their cloud? Even giant companies go out of business, but trickier situations could arise. Consider Ma Bell's breakup into AT&T and the RBOCs in 1984. What if a similar legal action affected the online publisher whose cloud contains my e-books? Am I sure that one of the new companies would be legally responsible for maintaining copies of my e-books? And if that answer is Yes, am I sure that they can enact the transition correctly, without forgetting what books I purchased & without other mishaps? Will I need to telephone customer service & sit on hold for an hour to straighten things out so I can read my books again?

If I boycott the online publisher for whatever reason, does that mean I shouldn't read my e-books?

Considering that I read most e-books (& paper books) just once, why did I purchase it at all instead of borrowing it from the library?