To Own or not to Own

The move from a manufacturing and product-based economy towards a knowledge-based service economy is certainly exciting and interesting.

One obvious change of course is the digitization of products which companies use to switch from the „buy it and own it“ mode to a „license the right to use it“ mode. Even in the non-digital world we observe an increasing trend towards „PaaS“ (Product as a Service). Think car sharing which transforms the need to buy and own a car towards the service of going from A-to-B whenever you need it.

For example, in 2014, publisher Aspen attempted to license a (physical) book to students during the run of a course which they would have to return after the course finished. This would have done away with pesky reselling to others while the costs would have remained the same ($200). (src: (in German))
In this case, Aspen seems to have backed down by continuing to offer a sales option after the move was heavily critizied by the EFF and others.

Technological progress enables thousands of new possibilities, but rather than empowering users, it seems that we are increasingly limiting and controlling them in ways stronger than ever.
We are moving away from a world in which the first sales doctrine enables library loans and resale of owned property to others towards a world where your licensed rights are limited by severe restrictions, where CODE IS LAW.

Restrictions such as: not moving countries, not bequeathing your „property“,  only using specific devices, not being able to print or backup your content, or not being able to consume your content after a few years (at the whim of your vendor). Your „purchased“ media might even disappear, for example because your multi-billion turnover vendor has a bug in its code.

It is surprising how many limitations consumers are willing to accept in return for the convenience to read to watch that media right now.