C. Max Magee was inspired by the Attributor report on e-book piracy to track down and interview someone who’s active sharing e-books via BitTorrent. “Confessions of a Book Pirate” covers a lot of ground — why a particular book is chosen, how it’s digitized, insights about the community around this activity, and how they feel about stealing (answer: just fine).
I do not pretend that uploading or downloading unpurchased electronic books is morally correct, but I do think it is more of a grey area than some of your readers may. Perhaps this will change as the Kindle and other e-ink readers make electronic books more convenient, but the Baen Free Library is an interesting experiment that proves that at least in that case, their business was actually enhanced by giving away their product free.
Whether sharing copyrighted work is really “a grey area,” it definitely isn’t a green area, as Maya Kaathryn Bonhoff says in a comment:
Alas, when the big nameless corporations who own our publishers lose money, they take it from the individual writer’s revenue stream. They don’t count the books you’ve downloaded free as sales and we don’t get those added to our “numbers,” so ultimately, it’s our pockets and our careers as writers that are being affected by big nameless piracy. Some of us choose to give away some of our work, but don’t you think perhaps it should be our choice?
The last line of the interview includes a name of fame in the sf community:
One thing that will definitely not change anyone’s mind or inspire them to stop are polemics from people like Mark Helprin and Harlan Ellison – attitudes like that ensure that all of their works are available online all of the time.
Andrew Porter took that as an opening to comment:
I am the original publisher of THE BOOK OF ELLISON, via my Algol Press in 1978. It is long since out of print. Despite Harlan Ellison claiming that the book was done without his permission, this is not correct-and I still have the cancelled royalty checks to him to prove it. Although I’ve approached Ellison about reprinting it, he refuses to allow this. As far as I know, it’s not available on line.
Any idea how a book pirate might respond to that revelation?
[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the link.]