Posted by Caren Crane Jan 8 2012, 1:01 am
by Caren Crane
Yeah, I though that would get your attention. It certainly gets mine! As much as I love to read, free books make me feel like a crack addict in line at the methadone clinic. Must. Have. Books! As I have mentioned (ad nauseum), I got a Kindle for my birthday last May. As soon as I did, my son came over and loaded a number of books onto it for me as a gift. Free books!
That was enough to get me solidly hooked on the splendors of reading on the Kindle. But then I found out that Amazon offers all kinds of free books(!) for the Kindle. I was hooked for LIFE, people. But then my husband got a Kindle of his own and he started on a free book frenzy, too. The circumstances of this brought vividly to life that there is a Light Side and a Dark Side of all this electronic book availability. Let’s peek behind the curtain, shall we?
The Light Side
On the Light Side there are, as I said, many free books available for the Kindle and in other e-book formats. Most of these are classics which are in the public domain. That means the copyright has expired and the author has no claim to royalties, basically. Anyone can publish it, in its entirety, and offer it free wherever they like. Of course, publishers still make money on many of these by packaging “special editions” or academic editions, but the money goes to the publishers not the authors (who are, in most cases, deceased) or their heirs. I have no compunction about downloading and enjoying these books.
Many authors and publishers also offer free books, short stories, or other content, to readers. Although they do not get compensated directly, these “teasers” often hook readers on a new author they may not otherwise have discovered. In those cases, the free book resulted in sales of other books so the author, at last, is compensated for their work. Win-win!
The Dark Side
On the Dark Side, there are many free books that are offered by websites who have no rights to the books they offer that are still copyright-protected. In other cases, people may buy books and share them with friends by sending them a file. Unless they have permission, such as is granted for some books on Amazon, allowing you to lend them to another Kindle user, this is a violation of the book’s purchase since the publisher and author receive no money. The ugly name for this is piracy. My husband has a friend who has given him hundreds of books. I don’t know whether he purchased or simply downloaded pirated content, but in either case, my husband is getting a TON of content free and no publisher nor author is receiving a penny from him. Win-Lose.
This really burns my biscuits and has been the subject of many heated – and unresolved – conflicts between us. As a writer, I feel it is plain wrong for anyone to download pirated content and deny the author of the content of any compensation for their consumption. I completely understand the temptation to download free content from a sketchy source, and I try hard not to judge others for doing so, but I simply cannot support it. My husband, on the other hand, sees no harm in downloading books his friend sent him. His argument is, he wouldn’t have paid for the books anyway. He either would never have read them or would have checked them out of the public library. He is very cheap, so I believe him on this point. Still…burned biscuits!!
So where do you fall in this debate? Is it okay to download books as long as you are not knowingly robbing the author of royalties? Can you support a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy like my husband’s? And have you ever found a new Great Author by downloading a free book first? Do tell!
Posted in Amazon, book piracy, Caren Crane, free books, free download, kindle, piracy