For this week, I would like to explore the ethical issue of e-book piracy, so please read and respond to this blog with your thinking caps on.
Books lose their value due to wear and tear; but it is the e-reader, rather than the e-book, that loses value due to both wear and tear and new technology. Since what causes a physical book to lose value does not cause an e-book to lose value, the issue of e-book piracy is a two part issue. First, it is an issue of what we as readers allow to determine the value of literature. Second, it is the issue of what determines the deterioration of the value of that literature.
If it’s not considered stealing to rummage through a used book store’s free book bin, is there a point that an e-book, perhaps 20 years from now, will also lose value? What will cause it to lose its value? If a I can borrow a physical book from a library, shouldn’t I be allowed to borrow an e-book from a library? If I cannot borrow e-books from libraries, why should I buy an e-reader? For me, convenience is not enough.
Perhaps, with e-books, publishers will come out with a technology that allows friends and libraries to transfer e-books provided they agree that e-book be erased from their computer or e-reader. In the case of author royalties, perhaps authors, publishers, and distributors should raise e-book prices, thus accounting for waste and theft.
I am of the persuasion that literature is created to be shared not hoarded, but never stolen or pirated. How should authors and publishers handle e-book piracy? Should they raise e-book prices to adjust for potential piracy? Should they shy away from selling e-books much like so many would be authors never publish because of fears that someone will steal their ideas? I’d love to hear any thoughts or suggestions.
Again, my question is not about what defines e-book piracy, rather it’s where do the ethical lines of what is e-book piracy begin and end, as well as what determines the value and the deterioration of the value of literature? It’s obviously stealing to walk into a Barnes & Noble, take a book off a book shelf, and walk out of the store without paying for it. It’s not considered stealing to go to a library and borrow a book. If authors have a right to expect readers not to download pirated copies of their books, readers have a right to expect that they can share that author’s information with other readers in an ethical way.
Perhaps, aspiring authors, such as myself, can take a lesson from names like Harriet Beecher Stowe, William Faulkner, and Fyodor Dostoyevsky who determined the value of literature according to strong content that caused people to think and change society rather than fluffy literature that did nothing more than allow people to further delude themselves from the ills of society.
Next week, I’ll explore the issue of e-publishing, so make sure to come back.