In our family it’s mostly Kindle these days. We share an account, and read on various electronic devices. This works great; recently my wife and I read the Inspector O novels, while my 12-year-old and I read The Hunger Games.

This works because Amazon doesn’t mind multiple devices at once having access to a book; and because our “Amazon identity” is a lightweight shopping-context thing, not like a “This is really me” Facebook or G+ identity. It requires trust; anyone in the family could go and charge anything Amazon sells to my credit card. But you can have that, at the family level.

I will buy a certain number of e-books, even while grousing about the price, but it’s really important that the natural unit of book purchase is the household not the individual. Or put another way, book-reading is essentially social; the original viral media, and what family doesn’t pass viruses around?

I probably shouldn’t write this; somewhere a publishing executive is reading it and thinking “They’re sharing books?! Shock! Horror! We’ll make them each buy their own copy! Ka-ching!!

Let’s try to keep the go-back-to-paper option alive, maybe.



Contributions

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From: tom jones (Mar 10 2012, at 11:16)

i think amazon/publisher has nothing to lose, but everything to gain with this kind of scheme.

there is (almost) nothing stopping people from making illegal copies if they want to. be nice to people who give you money.

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From: Bud Gibson (Mar 10 2012, at 11:51)

I wish you had sent this strategy to me in private email so Amazon couldn't catch on. It makes perfect sense. Apple is kind of moving in this direction with Apple TV. When I tried Google TV last year, we made a separate account for the family that I've lost track of. But, the idea was the same.

Ultimately, the problem with all of these solutions comes down to how digital identity tries to work:

1. Define rigid digital identities for individuals. Individuals have distinct identities but they're not rigid, and they're not all used all the time.

2. Assume all identities are individual identities and, in some important sense, fully orthogonal, which is just simply false.

In other words, digital identity is false in ways that matter.

You're a closet subversive.

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From: Alex Waterhouse-Hayward (Mar 10 2012, at 15:22)

There is an ever cheaper alternative which is our very own and most wonderful Vancouver Public Library.

With over 4000 books in my home I decided to stop buying books in January 2010. I select my books on line and the library delivers them (for free and even tells me when they are there) to my nearest branch. The same happens with movie DVDs that are not on Netflix. But best of all is going to the library and random findind stuff in shelves called fast reads, or new books. And sometimes you simply find stuff by accident.

I have recently been going through all the Witness Series books which are found in their own section of the juvenile sectio of the main branch.

All for free!

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From: Murray Barton (Mar 10 2012, at 16:47)

Tim,

how do you manage sync between users of a Kindle book? I recently re-read a Thief Of Time by Terry Pratchett and found that reading the footnotes borked sync- every time I tried to sync it said the end of the book (where the footnotes are) was the last read position. In the end I just read from only one device and even then it lost my position a couple of times. I'd imagine that would be so much worse with multiple users of a book, or have I missed something?

Thanks

Murray

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From: Nathan Bullock (Mar 11 2012, at 11:26)

Our family does the exact same thing. We have one account that we share. Recently a couple of my children, my wife, and I all read the hunger games, we are now working our ways through Scott Westerfield's "Leviathan". Kindle seems to be the only ebook system today with enough books, enough devices (any android, iphone, kindle, etc), and an open enough DRM system that I am willing to buy ebooks from them. If anyone from Amazon is reading this though the one final feature I would like is to be able to split accounts at some future date, for example when I buy books for my daughter, who in a few years will be going off to university, I am always concerned how we can move these off to her own account once she has her own credit card and her own family.

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From: Nathan Bullock (Mar 11 2012, at 11:42)

Tim, is this legitimate to do on an Android as well? For example lets say our family has three android phones and a tablet. Each individual member of the family has their own Google accounts, and we create a "family" Google account. So a phone will have a personal and a family Google account (since a device can log in to multiple Google accounts). A tablet may have just the family Google account. This would allow us to buy a game or a book, for example, on the family account and all use it.

This easy sharing of apps is why we have tended to be an ios device family.

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From: Brent Melson (Mar 19 2012, at 15:43)

I wouldn't worry about the authors or publishers on this one. How is this different than physical books really?

A possible scenario for a physical copy: after your family reads it you loan it to a friend... who loans it to her housekeeper, who leaves it at a beach rental where it stays and is read until somebody way crunchier than you donates it to a library. How many "free" reads would that be?

Fake sales estimates are just that, fake. Same in music industry, same for movies.

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From: Marvin (Mar 23 2012, at 00:47)

Most writers are not rich. Why do you begrudge them payment for their work? Nobody's preventing anyone from recommending a book or giving one as a gift. But pay for it.

Rare is the person who gives away more than a small percentage of the books he reads (at least, gives them away to a willing recipient, not one who dreads the gift, since he'll have to lie about having read the damn thing). Paying for that percentage that you do give away is just the classy thing to do. Amazon makes this quite easy to do, with a gift button right there.

I have no problem with the account sharing. That's very limited, and is not going to cut that much into sales. It's kind of cute, like couples who share the same e-mail address or wear matching clothes.

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March 10, 2012
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