Major publishing houses almost certainly would be unwilling to permit Amazon to sell e-books sans DRM, in the same way that music labels were originally unwilling to sell DRM-free music. But so why not bundle the Kindle e-books with the good old-fashioned shareable, preservable, paper books? Change the pitch from “buy digital e-books instead of paper books” to “get a digital Kindle e-book with each paper book you buy from Amazon”.
There may never be an iTunes Match for books – it’s hard to prove to a machine that you own a book – and that’s a shame. But if someone has bought a meatspace book from Amazon, why the heck shouldn’t they be able to add the electric version for a reduced price? (Some cool indie book publishers already have this model in place.)
That argument in 2012 seems less infallible than it did in 2007. The status quo now encourages a diet richer in electrons, which more being more high-margin than paper is more preferable to the Jeff Bezos Dog Doo-Dah Band. Better for Amazon, but not better better. And Amazon is a scary gorilla that gets what it wants. (Maybe, right there, I have found the problem with capitalism.)
Clearly, this is a somewhere where Waterstone’s, Barnes & Noble – the big and still meatiest meatspace booksellers – could compete in the face of their own dwindling revenues and inferior/imaginary ebook stores. Imagine: If you bought some books from Waterstone’s, now you can “copy” them all onto your hypothetical Waterstone’s sandwich of plastic for a small price. Why hasn’t that happened yet? Is it already up someone’s sleeve? I hope so.