Or really, the question is this: What is the difference between a public library and internet piracy?

1. The internet reaches many more people, much faster.

2. With a library, you have to give the item back.

3. The government, at least in part, supports public libraries.


Now, the object here is not to rankle librarians or those who love libraries, but to raise what i think is a legitimate question.

Books might be a bad example, because not many people go around scanning every page of a book and posting it online. Yes, it does happen (Harry Potter for example), but it's not nearly as widespread (at least in the U.S.) as film and music piracy.

So let's take movies as an example. Many public libraries now let patrons check out DVDs. So let's say I check out Major Payne, a movie which name implies the level of enjoyment I got out of it when I did check it out a month or so ago.

Say I watch MP and like it. Will I buy it? Maybe, maybe not. Say I watch it and don't like it. Will I buy it then? Probably not.

If I don't buy MP, the film company loses $20 (I know, this one is probably in the $5 bin by now, but the amount isn't important anyway).

If I take the DVD and rip it to my computer and post it on the internet, maybe 1,000 people a day will download it, watch it, and conclude the same as I did that it is not worth buying. That would be $20,000 the film company won't get.

So the film company loses way more money through internet piracy than through the library, but from an ethical standpoint, isn't it the same thing? I still got to watch the movie without paying for it. If I downloaded MP from the internet, watched it, and then deleted it off my computer, would it be okay then? What if those 1,000 people did jut that? The film company would still lose $20,000, just much more quickly.

So is it the same? Are libraries as unethical as internet piracy? Or am I missing something?

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I totally disagree that the library benefits everyone but the author. I would be well chuffed if my book was in libraries in the UK, or in the US. It means that people are reading your books. How does that NOT benefit you? And even if your only definition of benefit is 'put cash in my pocket' then I still think you're wrong. Someone who is reluctant to shell out $20 on a new to them author, reads that book from the library, loves it, then buys the rest in the series...well, that benefits you financially does it not? A woman at my work borrowed a Martina Cole book from the library and really enjoyed it. Martina Cole has a big backlist. My colleague went out and bought the ones she could find and borrowed the rest from the library. She also recommended the author to another colleague who went out and bought one to try. Also, based on her raving about Martina Cole I suggested other authors she might like. She found a Mark Billingham in the library and found she likes him too. She'll buy his books in the future. I just really don't understand how libraries don't benefit authors.
If you read my earlier post, you will see that I said precisely this. However, the assumption that people who read the first book from the library will then buy all others in the store is simply not realistic.
I don't think you can get away from the "unethical business" when this thread is titled "Are Libraries Unethical?" It was guaranteed to provoke a response, because that was the chosen focus of the creator of the thread.

I completely disagree that libraries don't benefit authors. Frankly, I'd rather buy my books new any day of the week over taking them out of the library, because I'm possessive with my books. But consider this:

According to ALA Library Facts there are currently approximately 16,500 libraries in the US. If a lot more people used libraries so that their funding level increased and they were able to buy more books, consider the repercussions. What if half of those libraries carried my book? That would be 8,250 sales. That's considerable, and probably more than most authors currently sell. (Offhand, the number I found for fiction sales to be considered successful was 5000, but I'm not sure of the source.)

Part of the reason the personal library is in decline is down to space. You see this when your closest city goes through a boom - used to be you could buy a three bedroom house for $150,000. Now, you're counting your blessings if you can buy a one room condo in the sleaziest neighborhood for that pricetag. People don't have room to collect and keep the same way they once did. If more people use the libraries so that it justifies more finances for the libraries and that boosts sales for authors, the benefit is huge. If those people buy the books and then take them to second hand bookstores and they get recycled endlessly, authors really do lose out.

And I'm not launching the campaign against second-hand book stores, but I'm reiterating that if libraries are unethical, then I don't know how anyone can describe second-hand bookselling and book exchange sites as anything less than criminal, and I'd get on that bandwagon long before I started in on libraries. There are a lot of benefits from libraries to authors. In fact, emails and phone calls came in ours regularly from authors telling about their latest book, hoping we'd carry it.
No Sandra, my focus was to make a comparison and see if it holds up. I knew it would upset people because I know there are librarians on here, but that also means that they can give more insight than I have. And your royalty thing is a good example of that. I'm not trying to bring down libraries; I just wanted to look at this question as objectively as I can. That's why I asked if I missed something, because I assumed there was something I missed, since no one ever talks bad about libraries, I've never heard anything negative against them, yet the situation I presented was very similar to internet piracy.

You know, I can't help it if other people aren't able to look at a question based on its own merit. I didn't intend to offend anyone. I put a disclaimer in so people know that and get on with the actual comparison I made. Now yes, I did want to provoke a response, but I was hoping for one that was on topic. And most of them have been. Your thing with second-hand bookselling is a good point, but maybe you should start your own topic on it, because that's not what I was talking about.

And as for the thing with Margot: it was a personal attack, and if I had done the same thing then everyone would have jumped at the chance to tell me so. If a person thinks the question is stupid, that it has no merit, or is not worth answering, or whatever, then don't respond to the topic. Coming into this discussion and saying that question is stupid, or how can you ask that, or something similar to that, is off-topic and not helpful. I didn't make this a sensational discussion. Everyone could have responded to what I actually wrote with their own examples and everything would have been fine, instead of assuming I had my own unmentioned agenda.
What you seem to be saying is that people can only raise points that might be valid if they're what you want to talk about. I'm not interested in discussing second-hand book selling in a thread, but I am pointing out that if you are going to suggest libraries are unethical and compare them to internet piracy, it's a floodgate statement that by its nature infers commentary about other things that affect the book business as well. Frankly, I can't fathom why you've decided to go after libraries in this manner. This isn't the first time you've basically said "We're not going to talk about that" - earlier to Margot, actually - so perhaps I should send my comments to you privately so you can inspect them and decide if enough of them is about what you want to discuss here?

Margot didn't call you stupid, she called your question stupid. There's a huge difference. One can be called a personal attack, the other isn't, and you are not innocent in the exchange with her, so cry me a river. She never asked me to take her side, to lecture you, but you've dismissed what I said on the basis nobody took her to task. And under the definitions of stupid, I can see how some people would consider this discussion "irritatingly silly or time-wasting". Several valid points have been raised that show distinct differences between libraries and internet piracy but I don't see any concession that "okay, there is a difference" and thus, an end to the discussion.

If you'd had some other focus, you would have titled your post differently, or should have. I'm not sure who "everyone" is that's inferring you have some unmentioned agenda, but I'll state this: I think you phrased your topic in a way that was deliberately provocative, intended to provoke a reaction. And you admit that, and you got one. I never said a think about you having an agenda to justify internet piracy, so don't heap that crap on me. Why don't you take a page out of your own book and only respond to what I said when you're talking to me? Your original post infers you knew it would be sensitive and potentially offensive. It's no different than if I made a post titled Are Authors Criminals? and then followed it up with a line about "now my intent isn't to upse the authors here or those who love authors". I'm going to upset people, and that's my fault for either a) choosing to provoke people to get a response, or b) poorly phrasing my post, in which case I have a responsibility to clarify and apologize.

For me, it ends here. It is like many discussions end up being - pointless posturing. You seem to have your opinions, I have mine, nobody's going to "win" here. If you have an issue with Margot then take it up with her. This has been a problem from time to time on forums, with people who post topics who don't want to actually discuss them and the points raised and aren't open to changing their mind, but only want to harp on the point they want to make, and when people use variables the poster mentioned in the initial post in a way they don't like, they just say they don't want to talk about that. Bluntly, too bloody bad. Everyone has a right to express their opinion on it, using the examples they choose. If you don't like their points you don't have to respond to them.

This ends this discussion for me. It is, truly, a waste of my time.
But the fact is that the library benefits everyone but the author.

I disagree, IJ. It's all part of building a brand, getting your name in as many public places as possible. Even without royalties, having your book on library shelves and having librarians recommend it (all across the country!) and having the folks who check it out tell their friends how good it was is the best kind of advertisement. When I get published, I want as many of my books in as many libraries as possible.
wow! you go girl!
That about does it for this discussion. Nicely put.
In essence, I don't think the public library cuts into profits all that much... You're assuming that if a book gets checked out twenty times that takes away twenty sales, but if the library is in a poor neighborhood, the people don't have the money to buy the book. The publisher has lost exactly no sales since they would not have sold the book to those people anyway.

There is also a definite net financial gain for publishers, in that the library book just like an excerpt the publisher might allow onto the internet will entice the reader to buy - certainly has worked for me though I admit I'm more likely to do this with non-fiction. I have had people tell me they read book one in my series from the library, but had to get the rest so they went out and bought them.

Also, I'm not bothered personally how a reader gets their hands on my books - unless they beat someone up for it or something. I wan to be read by as many people as possible and not just so that they'll buy my next book (though that would be nice). I want the ideas my books present to be out there and acknowledged. I want to communicate.
I have to admit that your question as posed puzzles me. It might have been better to ask the question without the comparison to internet piracy, merely asking if lending out books by libraries is unethical. As I have donated copies of my books to our local library, I don't personally view lending libraries as unethical.

As an author who has work available in e-format as well, I do not at all see any similarity between libraries and internet piracy. Publishers wouldn't sell to libraries if there was a problem with lending the books out. The permission is there to loan the books out. There is only one copy (or however many copies the library purchased) involved. With internet piracy, though, one person buys a copy, and then makes copies to distribute, sometimes for free, and sometimes for money. It's no longer a question of lending out a copy of something because there is no longer just one copy involved. The original purchaser retains a copy while distributing a potentially unending number of copies to others. And in all honesty, if you got a free copy off the web, what incentive would you have to ever buy the real thing? Internet piracy is a way of owning a copy for yourself without ever having paid for it. The eventual result is that only people who don't mind giving away their work for free will ever risk making their work available.

Books available in e-format are also classified with software--you're buying a license to use it on your personal computer or device. The fines for copying and distributing software without permission are $250,000, plus jail time. Like all other software, if you pass it along to someone else, you have to delete all copies that you have on any electronic devices you own, as well as destroying any backup copies. You cannot retain ownership while passing along ownership to someone else.

Personally, I feel the issue boils down to respect for intellectual property and the rights of the publisher and author (or makers of the movie or music or what have you) to make a living off what is a great deal of work. People have a real tendency to feel that if something is not tangible, something they can hold in their hands, that they shouldn't have to pay for it. Someone who downloads that pirated material may feel that they are paying the creators of that work a compliment, but they aren't. Can you really say you love an author if you're downloading their books free off pirate sites and denying them the right to make a living off their work? If enough people do it, the author's work doesn't sell enough copies to make any publisher want to risk the money publishing anything else they write, and that author's career is dead.

If you'd like, try viewing libraries as a form of advertising. Yes, they do make books available for people who wouldn't otherwise be able to have access to books. They also are a calculated risk for the publisher and author. A single sale to a library may result in many future sales of the same author's work to people who read and returned the book to the library. As with all advertising, only a fraction will respond and buy the product, but it's a risk they're willing to take because of the huge scale of potential readers and sales involved. Plus, that bit of advertising did in fact include the sale of a copy of the book, so it's advertising that the publisher and author get paid for. If it didn't work, they wouldn't do it.

Some of the big box stores do let you buy a book and then return it for any reason, even if it's obvious that you read the book. It's a lousy policy. As for the US library system, no, there is no royalty paid when the book is checked out of the library. That would be nice, but the compensation is, once again, that potential for future sales generated by the loaning out of the book, an advertising risk the publisher is willing to take.

I'm sorry if you did not particularly want to discuss internet piracy, but by bringing it up, you did open the door, and you did so in a way that couldn't properly be ignored.
Regarding series books - I virtually always mix buying and borrowing the items, I am more likely to buy the new books if they are on offer when they come out (possibly opening up another can of worms!). So in my case, borrowing books does lead to ultimate purchasing, or recommending that friends and family purchase.
There are two ways to address this issue. One is that libraries that buy a book can share it (as can anyone who buys a book) under legal protection - the First Sale Doctrine. It's perfectly legal so long as you don't make a copy.

The second is that the digital environment is changing everything. John, you own the copyright to the words you just posted here, but the only way I can read them is to have my computer make a copy of them - cache them - on my computer. I've just pirated your intellectual property, as does every crimespace reader, as does every Google search result. It's the only way for those words to be read. The concept of copy is problematic in a digital world. The only real question is whether culture will find a way to thrive other than through sales of an artificially scarce resource.

A good book on the topic is Larry Lessig's Free Culture, which you can buy, or borrow from the library, or download from his website since Lessig's whole point is that copyright law has harmed cultural production and needs reform. (Another book I've thought of reading on the subject - specifically on the value of free software - is Decoding Liberation, but since Routledge is charging $95 for it I won't buy it, and I won't be able to borrow it from the library because most can't afford it either. Darn.)

One comment from a writer on Jim Huang's analysis of the problems of publishing these days is that publishers shouldn't have gone to acid-free paper; they should print books that will self-destruct after three readings.

Now, it may be upsetting to see your book for sale second hand for a quarter, but this seems to be a Farenheit 451 solution - though not unlike what the RIAA has been doing. If we're going to publish books we have to have readers, and if it comes to the point where we're making most of them criminals, it's not going to grow the market.

I don't know what the answer is, but locking down culture isn't it.

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