Ideas don't follow the laws of commerce. They are not objects. They are not a product. They don't run on batteries.
Information is not a fuel that you can pump out of one mind and into another. You can't price it at dollars per barrel.
If our society made money obsolete and whatever you wanted was free, would people stop writing books, making music, putting on plays?
The following video is 4 minutes long but very pertinent to anyone considering selling books online.
Did you discover your favourite author through someone lending you a book? Pick up something at a library? Read it at school? Intelligent humans like to read. They enjoy it, they benefit from it, and others around them benefit too. And it generates money. Lots of it. Always has. But not because of copyrights and intellectual properties and strict regulation.
Morality and ethics are flexible, evolving things, as is culture. Trying to apply the concepts of the old model on the new isn’t going to work. Haven’t you ever wondered why the values and wisdom of one generation are never taken up by the next? It’s because the world has changed. For the better, for the worse, it doesn’t matter. Things are different.
Your children will find your advice pretty useless.
What you went through to gain an understanding of life, they won’t. You may want to save them some pains by learning from your mistakes, but your mistakes were particular to you and your time. They’ll experience something else, and suffer their own mistakes. You may think you recognise what they're going through, but you don't. It looks the same, but the context has changed. And context is everything.
When it comes to art, the means of distribution made it very difficult for the artist to operate alone. Thus the middlemen rose as ferrymen to get entertainments from one end of the world to another. And took a cut for their efforts. A big cut. A very, very big cut.
They controlled art but they were not artists. They controlled the means of production and the means of distribution. And context is everything.
Now the world changes once more, and the cry goes up. The end of art as we know it! The silence of beautiful voices! The death of meaningful words!
But audio cassettes did not kill music. Video tape did not destroy the movies. And online downloading will not change our need for a good story. But there will be change. Money will be made, but not necessarily by the same people as before. And those businessmen who lose out won’t like it. If the choice is between a corrupt, redundant system where they make a lot of money, and a streamlined, efficient new one where they make no money at all... which do you think they'll insist on?
Paulo Coelho (The Alchemist), one of the bestselling authors in the world, makes his books available for free on the internet through P2P sites, without the permission of his publishers. He in effect pirates his own work. And his books keep selling. In fact he has noted that the effect has been to boost sales in those parts of the world where he hasn’t previously sold very much.
Just because people don't understand something doesn't mean it doesn't make sense.
I don’t know how things will pan out but I know the greatest thing a civilised society can do is build libraries and make books free to read. And I also know the man who tells you what you must do for YOUR protection, is the thing that will make HIM rich, is a man not to be trusted.
What's your view on piracy in general and book piracy in particular? Will eReaders make a difference? Do you want to be read as widely as possible or as profitably as possible, and is there a difference?