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.
When things go wrong with DRM
But what happens when the retailer has a change of heart or a change of business model?
Nook owners in the UK 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 couldn’t access the ebooks they had legally purchased from B&N.
The Digital Reader reports that “UK Nook Owners Are Now Discarding Their “Useless” eReaders.”
The problem seemed 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 couldn’t access ebooks that they had bought over the years from B&N.
There was nothing UK Nook owners could do other than complain or throw their Nooks away.
Microsoft and DRM
While that 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, 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.
But it is against the terms and conditions of use of ebook retailers, and as such, it is illegal.
However, many articles on the Internet explain how to do it.
The only way to be absolutely sure you own an ebook is to buy a DRM-free ebook.
Don’t expect the Walled Garden ebook retailers to offer many DRM-free options 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 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?
Then you can buy a real book that you can own, keep, lend, or sell to a secondhand bookshop.
Or give it to your grandmother after you have finished reading it.
Related Reading: Amazon KDP Delivery Costs Can Eat At Your Ebook Royalties