Sunday, July 14, 2013

Pre Singularity, Post Life Bit Distribution

I have purchased a considerable amount of digital music and digital books from Amazon, O'Reilly, Apple and Barnes and Noble.  Digital music is especially close to my heart since I was involved in a very early digital music effort, a2bmusic at AT&T, which really was a foreshadowing of what was to come.

In order to determine whether I could distribute my books to relatives, friends and institutions after my death I wrote an email to each of my content providers.  Here's the text:

This may be a crazy question but I have a substantial number of <insert name> ebooks.  Can I bequeath them to someone or to some organization?  I know I could just will my login and password but that is not the same since someone would have to effectively become me.

So do you have some policy to point to or do the books go away when I go away? 

Thanks and sorry if this is a creepy question but I am trying to sort this out.
The responses to this email were interesting (for amazon and apple I included music too):

  • First Barnes and Noble had zero clue and  basically sent me a form response detailing how I could loan an electronic book.  
  • Apple stated there is no iTunes policy for donating purchases, and it is not possible to transfer purchases, however they would be willing to transfer ownership if the account owner died, but the relatives would have to provide the necessary documents.
  • Amazon, actually called me, it was a baroque process, I had to provide a phone number and they would call me within the minute and they did.  The service rep was great and she suggested just having the relative go into my account and change the email address.
  • O'Reilly sent me email that they were going to discuss their policy and get back to me.   Given my experience with O'Reilly I know they will and I will let you know how that goes.
  • (updated December 26th, 2013) O'Reilly has a policy on their web page that addresses their policy - essentially you can give your ebook to another person with some caveats. The policy can be found here.  This is the key text from that link:

    Usage

    Lending: If you buy an O'Reilly ebook from oreilly.com, you may lend it to another person, provided that you do not retain any copies of the book after you lend it. This is the same as the situation when you lend a used print copy—when you lend the copy, you deliver it to the buyer and no longer have a copy in your library. If you have bought a hard copy/ebook bundle, you may of course retain the hard copy, if you lend the ebook.
    Resale: If you buy an O'Reilly ebook, when you are done with it you may resell it, provided that you do not retain any copies of the book after you sell it. This is the same as the situation when you sell a used print copy—when you sell the copy, you deliver it to the buyer and no longer have a copy in your library. If you have bought a hard copy/ebook bundle, you may of course retain the hard copy, if you sell the ebook.
    By the way, because the lifetime access is a special benefit available only to those who purchase ebooks directly from us, the lifetime access benefit is not transferable to the recipient of your used ebook.
So basically you can transfer all of your bits to another person with varying degrees of difficulty.   However you can not divide your digital assets, so for now best divide by bit provider - my son gets the Apple collection, my daughter the O'Reilly collection and my wife the Amazon collection.  Not great, but a beginning.  I will continue to advocate for a more flexible way of distributing our digital life to our loved ones and keep you posted.

video
On the hardware hacker front I built a quick kickstarter, qflame.  The most interesting aspect is that I surface mounted the LED's and the solder joints held.  This was the first surface mount soldering I have done and it was a gentle introduction.  I do like the way the board was programmed and the flicker is very effective.  I know want to discover how to do the whole thing myself.  I also have an email into the kickstarter to see if he is going to sell kits or open source the design.  Note to self, need tweezers for next surface mount adventure or buy more bandaids.  Later!


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