I started writing a response to Chad’s comment on my post E-books and illegal file sharing, but halfway through I realized my response was longer than some of my actual blog posts. So I’m just gonna put it out here on its own. More after the jump. Continue reading
I very much liked this post about the ethics of file-sharing, especially of e-books: http://deepad.dreamwidth.org/61462.html
Obviously, as an independent bookseller, I am in favor of physical copies of books. But there’s a lot to chew over in this space; e-books vs. paper books; illegally sharing e-books vs. using the library or buying used books. As the post points out, just having the option of using an e-book means you’re in an incredibly privileged position:
To have the ability and the desire to read an e-book, one must first, have the privilege of being literate. Second, literate in a dominant language like English. Third, have computer literacy enough to be able to navigate the internet enough to obtain the book. Fourth, have sustained access to a computer or other electronic device in order to be able to read it. Fifth, have access to whatever complex catalysts of creative and societal stimulants that foster a spirit of creative consumption – the desire to read, and the desire to read that particular book. And then finally, after all those barriers, the book must be there.
A used book store like Anthology tries to lower the entry barrier to reading, by making more books available to more people for less money. Books don’t need expensive equipment like a laptop; don’t even need electricity. They are freely sharable, nearly untraceable, and don’t become obsolete. But of course, getting a book from a used bookstore or a library doesn’t benefit the author either.
It’s a complex issue, and there are no easy answers. What do you think?
I’ve been considering getting a Kindle (an e-book reader from Amazon.com) for some time now. Much as I love paper books (and an entire wall of my house attests to just how much I do!) there is something alluring about the prospect of carrying my library around on a single device. But I have some philosophical issues with the DRM (Digital Rights Management/”copy protection”) scheme Amazon has put on these devices to prevent people copying, modifying, or using the books you buy. The EFF has some interesting (and funny!) videos up discussing the issues here.
The EFF has all kinds of cool stuff about how computers and the internet impact our creative life and cultural heritage, focusing on US copyright laws. The info on their site includes anything about intellectual property, copyright duration and public domain, patents and trademarks, fair use, DRM, network security, internet censorship, etc. They also provide legal assistance to people involved in lawsuits around intellectual property. I highly recommend checking them out.