It seems as though the issues of pricing and compensation are the most significant challenges to overcome as online retailers explore the possibilities in creating marketplaces for the resale of digital content.
Both Amazon and Apple have filed patents that address the technology side of used ebook resale (Amazon received theirs in January). It turns out that the people side continues to cause most of the commotion.
It’s not as though this is uncharted territory. So many of the discussions about the issue compare the sale of used e-books to the sale of used print books. Authors may not appreciate the comparison, but the resale of an ebook more closely resembles how to pay producers and talent for a rerun of Gilligan’s Island than it does the resale of a work of literature. A reader’s experience maybe be richer than a sitcom viewer’s, but it’s a similar act of experiencing an art (that term is used somewhat loosely, independent of the medium).
A look at the history of residuals for screen performances might be helpful in structuring a fair way to compensate publishers for their costs and risks in bringing ebooks to the marketplace and authors for their labor in writing them. The capacity for passing along a digital work is so much greater and immediate than for print products that even if their cuts decline over time, the big resellers should be open to negotiating some amount of compensation beyond that of the first sale.