Some (new) third party would offer this service to content buyers as a type of insurance or escrow policy. On purchasing content, I would register the purchase as part of my profile. Obviously, I would have to provide some proof that I had made the purchase but the transaction would sit in this profile as long as I paid my monthly premiums. The amount paid by the consumer wouldn’t have to be a lot because only a small amount of the ‘members’ would ever make use of the insurance. (It becomes an actuary exercise).
Circumstances arising whereby a user would make use of the insurance could be anything from ‘passing your library on to a family member’ to simply moving over to a new platform. Depending on how the insurance company was set up (as a pseudo-retailer possibly) they wouldn’t host this content but they would allow the consumer to ‘re-purchase’ the content and then submit a ‘claim’ for the purchase. For each ‘re-purchase’ they would get a refund just like a traditional insurance company. (And maybe the following year your premiums go up also). There maybe other benefits to this solution including the return of the right of first sale: As registered owners maybe we build a secondary market for e-Books.
I assume that Michael’s idea, like mine, would or could cover situations where the publisher went out of business, or decided someday to get out of e-books as Jeff Bezos once reportedly said he might. And therein lies the fun. I’m not as confident as Michael that customers’ purchases would be absolutely safe. For example, to boost Kindle sales, Amazon capriciously decided to discontinue the Adobe format and zap the lockers where customers had stored books in that format. Who’s to say such situations won’t arise again? In an era where even GM’s survival can be open to question, it is just damn wrong to tie a book to any specific format or company.