Consumer interpretations of digital ownership in the book market

Sabrina V Helm, Victoria Ligon, Tony Stovall, Silvia van Riper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)177-189
Number of pages13
JournalElectronic Markets
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 1 2018


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

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Marketing
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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