Electronic Markets

, Volume 28, Issue 2, pp 177–189 | Cite as

Consumer interpretations of digital ownership in the book market

  • Sabrina V. Helm
  • Victoria Ligon
  • Tony Stovall
  • Silvia Van Riper
Research Paper


Technological advances in electronic markets, particularly product digitization, have transformed customer-product interactions. For example, altered ownership perceptions in the digital domain affect product acquisition, usage and disposition. This study’s goal is to explore how consumers conceptualize ownership of digital possessions in order to help marketers develop tailored positioning and commercialization strategies. Comparing physical books and e-books, we contribute to the literature on electronic markets, which neglects a consumer-focused perspective on digital possessions. Using focus groups with U.S. consumers, we identify six themes surrounding perceptions of psychological digital ownership, which mainly portray a constricted sense of ownership, limiting usage experience, and value perceptions. However, we also find that ease of disposition favors e-book usage. Typical assumptions about younger consumers’ preference for digital products were not supported. Based on our findings, we offer two managerial approaches: (1) enhancing the digital product experience or (2) emancipating digital products from their physical correlates.


Psychological ownership Digital ownership Digital possessions Digital products E-books Focus group research 

JEL classification



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Copyright information

© Institute of Applied Informatics at University of Leipzig 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Retailing & Consumer SciencesUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA
  2. 2.Take Charge America InstituteUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA
  3. 3.Department of MarketingTowson UniversityTowsonUSA

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