I shared it on the grapevine

torrentWhen questioned about the morality of producing and exchanging illegal ori-e-books, a standard answer is, well, many classic books are long out of print and so hard to find. It’s easy to see this as a justification, except that the whole perspective is skewed by the prevalence of file-sharing and the common belief that “if it’s out there for free, why shouldn’t I have it?”

I watched a documentary last night on the singer/songwriter Ron Sexsmith and was struck by several tracks from his new CD. I’m certain I could have found a torrent and be listening to it within half an hour, but how are musicians (and origami authors) to survive if their readers / fans adopt this attitude wholesale? I admire this mans work immensely, so adding an extra sale is the least I can do.

We should also cast our minds back to the 70s, when it was still just about possible to own every origami book in the world, with some effort. Folders then had no internet, no CDs, no computers! Yet they managed to sustain themselves from the available resources they had and if they wanted a specific book, they had to contact 2nd hand book shops and spread the word.

A Honda bookI’m not suggesting we set the clocks back, it’s out there and I don’t see how it can be stopped. However, today’s web-savvy folders take many things for granted and have scant defense when you question file-sharing (“I’d never download one of your books Nick!”)

I should say, I have a chequered history of music torrenting myself, but I am trying to improve! The fact that you can get away with dubious/illegal activities doesn’t mean, as moral beings, that we should. At every turn in our life we make decisions. I’d also argue that the joy of having an obscure book found on ebay (such as the Honda book shown here) come through the letter-box is hard to beat. The day I have my library on a hard drive is the day I shall turn my toes up & sleep the eternal sleep.


Comments

I shared it on the grapevine — 3 Comments

  1. An issue with legal ebooks that you don’t touch on is DRM. Part of the problem right now is that getting a legal copy of a book (ebook or paper) has a lot move overhead and limitations that downloading a copyright protected set of scans without permission.

    In other words, one can not only more easily acquire an illegitimate copy, but those copies can be more useful than a very limited ebook (e.g. one that can only be viewed on an ipad/iphone). That makes it a somewhat uphill battle until it’s addressed.

    • I’m not saying we should do it because it’s easy. What I’m saying is that one of the hurdles of legitimate online distribution is to make it almost as easy/useful as illegitimate distribution. There is certainly a segment of the populace that doesn’t mind paying, but doesn’t like paying extra just for more hassle.

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