You never buy an ebook; you only rent it from the landlord.
When you buy an ebook, you have not purchased it.
You have only paid for the right to rent it and read it on your device.
Because of DRM (Digital Rights Management), retailers such as Amazon, Apple, and B&N (Barnes & Noble) allow you to read the ebook you purchased on the retailer’s device, such as your Kindle, iPad or Nook.
But what happens when the retailer has a change of heart or a change of business model?
Nook owners in the UK have found out how nasty DRM can be.
B&N sold off its Nook business in the UK to Sainsbury’s, a UK supermarket chain.
It was bad news when it was announced because, as some predicted at the time, a supermarket chain hardly seemed the ideal kind of enterprise to take over a large ebook business.
The chickens came home to roost on this move by B&N to lazily dump its UK Nook business to a grocery chain.
Nook owners in the UK discovered how bad DRM really was, as their Nooks cannot access the ebooks they have legally purchased from B&N.
The Digital Reader reports that “UK Nook Owners Are Now Discarding Their “Useless” eReaders.”
The problem seems to be that between B&N and Sainsbury’s, the two weren’t able to transfer the DRM from B&N to Sainsbury’s. Or, they didn’t bother to do it.
Either way, UK Nook owners cannot access ebooks that they have bought over the years from B&N.
There is nothing at all UK Nook owners can do, other than complain, or throw their Nooks away.
While this problem was restricted to Nook owners in the UK, don’t think that this could not happen to you.
Microsoft also closed its ebook store. But for readers who bought ebooks from Microsoft, there was good and bad news.
The good news was that they could ask for a refund on the ebooks they purchased.
The bad news? The ebooks they bought were wiped, erased, and disappeared from their reading devices and will never be seen again.
It can happen with any retailer
All it would take is for Amazon or Apple to make a business decision to either not support older model devices, or to change or upgrade their ebook file types, which may not work retroactively.
With technology, nothing is forever, and especially so with electronic devices and file types.
The only way to save and back up an ebook library from a device using DRM is to strip the DRM from the ebook files.
It is against the terms and conditions of use of ebook retailers, and as such, it is illegal.
However, there are many articles on the Internet explaining how it can be done.
The only way to be absolutely sure you own an ebook is to buy a DRM-free ebook.
However, do not expect the ‘Walled Garden’ ebook retailers to offer this option anytime soon.
They would lose the control they have over your ebook purchases, meaning that they do not want you adding Apple ebooks to your Kindle or Kindle ebooks to your Nook.
The other insidious reason retailers love DRM is that they can track what, when, and how you read.
Without DRM and this tracking ability, there would be no Kindle Unlimited.
Does all of this make you think you might visit a bookstore tomorrow and buy a real book that you can own, keep, lend, sell to a secondhand bookshop? Or after you have finished it, give it to your grandmother to read?