There’s been a *bit* of discussion in regards to Randy Cohen, writer of the “Ethicist” column at the New York Times who advised someone that had downloaded a pirated eBook of a Stephen King book he already owned that ethically he had done an ‘okay’ thing. Opinions vary, some like Victoria Strauss finding it objectionable, others not so much.
I’m firmly in the not-so-much camp.
Now I’m just starting out, so my opinion weighs little on this front, but if you buy writing of mine once, you can have it any other format you want. Period. That said, I don’t condone pirating or hosting pirated writing (or other stuff). I simply think publishers should be giving out eBook copies of their books (or at a reduced rate) if you own the physical copy. It adds the convenience option to the purchaser and it will not decrease sales.
The way I think of it is this:
This particular person wanted a more convenient copy of the book for a flight. He had a few options — carry the big physical book (didn’t want to do that, and I agree with him, I hate lugging around extra stuff on flights), download or read a different book or obtain an electronic version of the book he wanted to read. In no universe would I have actually purchased the duplicate copy, if I really wanted an electronic read, I would have purchased a different book entirely.
And that is something I find happening with my own reading a lot… because the eBooks I own are easier and more convenient to read my pile of ‘real’ unread books grows and grows. I get through the eBooks more quickly, am able to write reviews on them more quickly, and so on. Very few people would ever buy two copies of a book so any author worrying over the imaginary loss in sales, loses some credibility in this argument, in my eyes.
What if this person had instead photocopied his version of the book to read on the flight; would people still object to that? I suspect less would, but in the end it is the same thing as what he ended up doing.
For a post by a more established author supporting what Mr. Cohen did, check out John Scalzi’s recent post on the topic.