In an interview in early 2004, I was asked how I would improve a book-sellers website.

Between 2002 and 2004, as a graduate student, I had moved atleast 2 apartments every year. My biggest crib was moving my books, which unfortunately were also very important to me. It was an onerous task, but an important one. I would hate to start a new quarter without my references an arm’s-length away.

Naturally, I suggested that owning a copy of the published material could also lead to owning a copy of the electronic print, available ubiquitously over the Internet. This is an obvious solution, has been documented in History and applies to other media too – Movies, Music and so on.

Coincidentally, Amazon.com filed a patent for the very same idea a month ago. I quote from the patent application: Methods and apparatus of the invention enable users to request access to one or more electronic images of pages in a physical text. When the user is identified and user ownership of the physical text is confirmed, the user is given access to the requested electronic images in accordance with the one or more access rules. Electronic images of pages may be automatically added to a user-personalized library of electronic content for later access. A flag associated with the user and the pages images may be set to indicate confirmed user ownership of the physical text. A user may purchase a physical text itself or purchase an item that the physical text normally accompanies. Electronic page images may be acquired by scanning printed pages of the text or from a user upload. Access to the electronic images of a physical text is based on user ownership of the physical text.

I am not sure what to make of this, but I have a gut feeling that this is an awful attempt to patent a mechanism that should actually be available ubiquitously and not just through a single network or organisation.