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New patent tips Amazon marketplace for secondhand eBooks

A recently awarded patent suggests Amazon may be preparing to introduce a marketplace for secondhand eBooks.

The patent in question covers a technology used to power an “electronic marketplace for used digital objects" and would ostensibly allow the online retailer to take its Kindle lending service one step further.

Amazon’s software would let users to transfer the licenses of eBooks - and perhaps digital music, films and applications, too - to another person. When a copy is downloaded onto a new device, it is deleted from the old one, ensuring that it only exists one place at one time. By buying the license, and not the content itself, users would likely be able to bypass the legal issues surrounding the reselling of digital content.

There’s no word yet on what kind of implications this will have on pricing, as digital objects are not subject to the same wear-and-tear that can leaves books ripped and dog-eared.

However, online startup ReDigi, which offers a similar service, pointed out a legal challenge to Amazon’s patent.

“As ReDigi understands Amazon's patent, it is for a marketplace that employs a seller to buyer ‘copy and delete’ mechanism, in which a user sells a ‘copy’ of a digital good to another user while both the buyer and seller simultaneously own the copy (even if only for an instant in time), and then supposedly/subsequently the seller's copy is ‘deleted’,” ReDigi wrote on its website.

“ReDigi takes no position on the legality of this technique under copyright law, but simply notes that it has been central to the music and publishing industries' scepticism and opposition to a "used" digital marketplace, and that the ReDigi Marketplace does not use this technique,” it went on to add.

Image Credit: Flickr (mikeblogs)