Can You Really Own Anything?

I’ve been reading some articles lately aimed at the legalese one encounters with the purchase of digital property, ebooks for instance.  Basically the articles are meant to point out the strict controls that the publishing world wields on ebooks, that you have rights to transfer them, that they can occasionally yank them without warning, that you’re essentially a “licensee”.

The writer of said articles are trying to put a magnifying glass on the strict terms of digital property ownership.  Look!  They say.  You can’t really do whatever you want or give your digital stuff to whoever you want and you probably don’t have the right to own it in perpetuity!  The horror!  The unmitigated corporate greed!

But they’re using their brief moment of your attention for the wrong reasons.

The ebook debate is one that will be forefront in the coming days as more and more publications go digital, from magazines to newspapers to the day when even well known authors publish full-length novels strictly in digital form.  As always we’re focusing on the wrong thing, trying to get you worried about someone stealing your precious things, the stuff that makes you who you are.  Right?The terms that come with an ebook don’t come with a physical copy of a book, they say.  You can lend a real book out.  You can keep it…forever.

Can you keep something forever?  Can you take it with you when you shuffle off this mortal Barnes and Noble?  Obviously no.  Can’t take your iPad either I’m sorry to say.  We’re all just renting.

Everything you have, will one day be someone else’s.  It’ll be your kid’s or your sibling’s or your girlfriend’s or the dump’s.  It’s all going to go away.  Why spend your life maintaining things?
Even more ridiculous is the idea that maybe physical stuff is better than digital stuff because then you can at least have it for as long as you live.  How insane.  The point of a book is not to display it, is not to hoard it, is not to fetishize it or build an altar to it, it’s to read it.  Crazy right?  You’re supposed to read the thing.  Like it, love it or hate it and then MOVE ON.  There are a thousand more books to read in your lifetime, a thousand more stories to connect with, make part of your own story and keep growing.

Let’s stop worrying about how to keep as much stuff as we can for as long as we can and start focusing on enriching our lives with thoughts and experiences.  Focus on sharing your love of a story with a friend rather than your ebook lending restrictions.  If they are that interested they can go to the library like we should all be doing anyway.  We already paid for that.

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