Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Little Moral Dilemna

Regulars around here will know that I've got a Kindle and am a firm fan of the little ebook reader. You'll quite probably also know that I read voraciously, everything from fiction to, well, non fiction.

A few weeks ago I met a bloke. We were chatting and the matter of electronic book readers, Kindles specifically, came up. We discovered that each of us owned one and did some of that mutual praising thing that Kindle owners do, that iPad owners do to a factor of about one hundred and eleven and chaps who own Japanese cars never do.

Then the new found friend mentioned to me that he's got a CD. Nothing special there you may think, as did I at first. But, he continues, this CD is special, as it has about two thousand books on it, books that can be dragged and dropped onto a Kindle. Without thinking twice, in fact I probably didn't even think once, I said "oh cool, bung me a copy of it if you can". His reply was in the affirmative.

Two days later it appeared in a plain brown envelope on my desk. I opened the thing and threw it into my CD drive. I navigated my way through the windows explore tree, that one that seemed so intuitive until we got our first Mac. Sure enough the chap was right; there really were about two thousand books on this tiny piece of plastic, or glass, or whatever it is CDs are made of.

There were old classic books, there were modern ones by current authors, many in the bestsellers book charts of the moment, and there was everything else too. It would take me many years to read them all. Just to see if things would work I dragged a couple onto the Kindle. Things did work.

Then it happened.

My conscience woke up from a pretty long sleep and kicked me sharply in the balls. It told me that it's wrong to use the CD and load these books without paying for them, without the respective authors getting their royalties they should receive. I listened to the voice and asked a few people.

The advice spectrum was wide and unhelpful, from "why don't you just download the books that were published more than fifty years ago?" ( as I had a feeling these don't pay royalties to the author, though I'm not sure) to "how about you just read the ones written by mega famous authors who don't need the money?" to "just read them, the authors will never know anyhow".

None of it really helped me, except I postponed activity, pressing the pause button as it were. The CD is still in my briefcase, I've bought tens of books through the proper channels since. Actually there is only one channel for the Kindle and it's called Amazon.

So I put it to you. You seem like a sensible person with a mixture of morals and rebelliousness.

What would you do?


Confab said...

well, now that u have the cd, it would be a waste to throw it away.

Sach said...

It is a tough one.

Something the software users in Sri Lanka never stop to think about.

Not only in Sri Lanka, actually the world over; why on earth would Torrent sites be so popular otherwise? Same with people who so generously download movies and TV series off Torrent sites (which I'm guilty of too) without stopping to think twice.

There is of course the fact your friends said; they already make so much money but that's a very thin and fragile excuse.

I think you can afford to read the classics since they are free anyway even on Amazon Kindle site.

Maybe read whatever you want and do some charity to clean up your conscience.

Or just toss a coin.

Jack Point said...

Out of copyright books are available on the Guntenberg project and similar websites.

If your friend had the original CD you could just borrow it and read a few books and return it to him.

. said...

you did the right thing. i would do the same...the way i see it...if you live in the developed world, its most likely that your income supports your lifestyle, if however you live in a country where such a purchase would not be defined within one's cost of living a pirated copy would work just fine....as obviously they'd have to break the bank to afford an original.

PS: this is why you're such a great dad. its so important to live true to your heart.

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Thanks for the opinions. I must admit, I'm erring towards ignoring the CD, though perhaps I'll read the small handful of books I downloaded already.

chi chi said...

I don't have a kindle or any electronic reading device, but a lot of the books i read I either borrow or buy second-hand. Neither way gives any royalties to the author.

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

chi chi - someone said similar to me. The only difference is that I'm not sure the ebooks on this CD were ever paid for to start with.

indi said...

A friend gave me some Kindle books which I ignored for months. Then I had to take a flight and I downloaded them, which was worthwhile.

You can drag and drop any PDF onto a Kindle (I copied the directions to the hotel there for example). The thing is that the formatting sucks, the text doesn't fit and flow and it's hard to read. I have to change the display to landscape to see the text properly.

So, it's not really a replacement for buying books. I don't think it's a big deal to read a few PDFs on the Kindle. You still get higher value and a better user experience from buying the books, where I think it's right for a content provider to compete. Too often they try to slap your hand when offering a mint would do.

I think the Kindle business is good enough that they're OK with people reading a few PDFs. The pay product is more than just the text, and it's something that I personally don't mind paying for. On a long flight, however, I was glad to have a bit more options than I can rightly afford.

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Indi - I agree, I've thrown a few PDFs on the Kindle and, though it's quite handy to have them available on there, the experience is pretty poor.

Currently I don't think that the Kindle is a replacement for many types of books, specifically those with colour and big bold imagery, or books that are just tactile. However, I've got to the stage where I'd always rather read a work of fiction on the Kindle than on paper. The convenience and ease I love.

In a few years I'm sure the Kindle will be an all colour all singing thing, that it will develop like the iPod did, and we won't even consider "real" books as an option.

Aboo said...

Do you borrow books from friends or even buy second hand? How is this any different?

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Aboo - Sometimes and rarely are the respective answers to your questions.

It might be different because I don't know that the books were ever paid for in the first place.

Aboo said...

In this case you have a pretty good idea that the contents of the CD were acquired through less than legal means, fair enough... In any case I think the real catalyst for your moral quandary is the sheer volume of books available on the CD, if it were just one or two books would you have had the same issue? I suppose its like shoplifting really, the fewer the items, the more willing people are to rationalize the theft away as being somehow less illegal. I don't know, have I made any sense here?

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Aboo - I honestly don't know if the contents are above board or not, but you make a very good point about the volume of books. If it were just a handful I think I would have downloaded them with no moral issues at all, in fact I have put about 3 books on the Kindle already.

A couple of thousand seems like a bigger deal to me, you're right in that it seems less illegal. A bit mad!