It’s About Ethics in Book Ownership!

Hey all. This is a short post today, because I want to pose a question.

First, some backstory. I’m looking at trying to declutter. Not to Marie Kondo levels, as much as thanking my clothes for their service appeals to me, but just to try and make my spaces at home feel less overstuffed. One thing that would be helpful is reducing the number of physical books I have. There’s a number, mostly novels, that I wouldn’t mind owning in e-book instead. But, e-books are expensive! At least, in the numbers I’m looking at, and especially for books I already own in a different format.

Which brings up an ethical question that looks like it hasn’t been discussed much on the internet since around 2010: How do you feel about book piracy of ebooks for a book you already own? I realize it’s illegal due to the way copyright law works. But how do you feel about it on an ethical level? And what if the person who downloaded the ebooks got rid of their print books afterwards? Should they shred them, since that way it’s more like a trans-substantiation of format? Donate? Is it kosher to sell them?

I haven’t decided what I’ll do, and if I do end up taking the less-than-kosher route, I’ll probably not admit to it in a blog post. But I’m very curious what everyone thinks about it. Let me know in the comments! And be nice if people disagree with you! Thanks. 🙂

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4 Responses to It’s About Ethics in Book Ownership!

  1. Kari Ann says:

    You can use the library OverDrive system when you want to do that. I’ve read a lot and watched a the documentary on the decluttering groups. I think that the question is would it be “do you really want to give them up?” Is it worth it to you? Like the old VHS tapes I spent money sending to a place that would put them onto a mpg file way back in the day, most of them I was OK with giving up when it came to spending money. Now I can rent them on Amazon and question that choice, but it’s been almost 11 years.

    If the book isn’t worth a physical space, is it worth a file you may look at every five years or less?

  2. Jennifer says:

    What about something like Kindle Unlimited? It’s a monthly fee and authors still benefit in some small way.

    While I’m against piracy in general, I know it happens and will continue to do so. I would ask that you look to alternative ways to get your ebooks cheap/free: Humble bundles, storybundles, bookbub, 5 day free on Amazon, the Gutenberg project, your local library, and I’m sure there are a myriad of other ways “kosher” ways to get access to the books you want to read.

    If you do pirate, I’d like to think you’d do something nice for that author… a review, word of mouth compliments, etc. But, as an author, I can’t condone piracy.

  3. Alan Barclay says:

    Myself, I think the ethical questions are two: 1) did the author get fair compensation, and 2) did the distributor get fair compensation. Historically, there’s good reason to suspect the distributor is not passing on a fair share to the author. And unfortunately most books and ebooks don’t come with an “ingredients” list that tells you how the funds are distributed. In general, I’d say if you bought the paper book you’ve probably met your obligation as best you are able to as an individual. The next step is to promote authors you like (which you do.)

  4. Alan Barclay says:

    That said, I see paper books as easily replaceable these days. Given the Gutenberg Project, Google Books, ebooks, overdrive, public libraries, and other sources, most books will always be available for reacquisition. (barring the Apocolypse).

    Personally, I use these guidelines for keeping books:
    – is it something I reread or refer to least once a year?
    – is it special for some reason? A cool, rare cover or the copy I read when I was a child.
    – is it hard to find?
    – is it something I want to display on a shelf?

    That cut my collection down about 75%. I still have boxes of books in the closet that I don’t have room to shelve. But at least I don’t need to hire movers to move them around.

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