Saturday, September 8, 2007

eBay to ban virtual items acquired from online games

One of the newest developments in massively multiplayer online games is the sale of virtual goods. Players who have spent hours working for and accumulating items may wish to sell them for real-world money. Outside of in-game avenues, one of the more popular ways to sell ones in-game currency, items, property and characters is to list on eBay. But according to what the popular auction site had to say, sales of virtual items will soon be disallowed.

Speaking with Slashdot, Hani Durzy of eBay explained that future auctions for virtual goods from online games would be delisted "for the overall health of the marketplace." Durzy points to eBay's existing policy for selling digitally delivered goods and items: "The seller must be the owner of the underlying intellectual property, or authorized to distribute it by the intellectual property owner."

eBay may be concerned about potential legal ramifications if a games publisher becomes unhappy that a third party is profiting intellectual property that it does not own. Sales of virtual goods are still currently permitted on eBay, but according to Durzy, the company will begin to delist such auctions in about one month's time.

"Any policy decision we make...has to do with...basically a good buyer experience and good seller experience on the site," said eBay spokesman Hani Durzy to CNET. "We want people to continue to come back, and we want people to have good user experiences on the site."

The policy on virtual goods, however, will not apply to Second Life, which eBay has exempted from its ban. Second Life publisher Linden Lab has tried to make it clear on multiple occasions that its product is not a game, at least not in the same sense of that The World of Warcraft is.

"If someone participates in Second Life and wants to sell something they own, we are not at this point proactively pulling those listings off the site," Durzy said. "We think there is an open question about whether Second Life should be regarded as a game."

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Monday, September 3, 2007

Books On Demand

(FSB Magazine) -- Buying a book could become as easy as buying a pack of gum. After several years in development, the Espresso - a $50,000 vending machine with a conceivably infinite library - is nearly consumer-ready and will debut in ten to 25 libraries and bookstores in 2007. The New York Public Library is scheduled to receive its machine in February.

The company behind the Espresso is called On Demand Books, founded by legendary book editor Jason Epstein, 78, and Dane Neller, 56, but the technology was developed six years ago by Jeff Marsh, who is a technology advisor for New York City-based ODB (

The machine can print, align, mill, glue and bind two books simultaneously in less than seven minutes, including full-color laminated covers. It prints in any language and will even accommodate right-to-left texts by putting the spine on the right. The upper page limit is 550 pages, though by tweaking the page thickness and type size, you could get a copy of War and Peace (albeit tough to read) if you wanted.

Neller says that future versions of the machine will accommodate longer works with fewer hassles. Prices for the finished product will vary depending on locations, but the production cost is about a penny per page.

Some 2.5 million books are now available - about one million in English and no longer under copyright protection. On Demand accesses the volumes through Google and the Open Content Alliance, among other sources. Neller predicts that within about five years On Demand Books will be able to reproduce every volume ever printed.

Epstein says that the larger obstacles are consumer preference - the machine can't make you a latte - and convincing skeptics in the industry. But some early adopters are already sold on the idea.

Niko Pfund, a publisher at Oxford University Press, says the evolution away from traditional bookstores is only natural. "For hundreds of years the industry was unchanged," Pfund says. "Then audio came out. Now it's time for digital."

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