I haven't written here in a while; so why not write about a controversial topic? I don't think anything is as controversial these days as piracy - the "scourge of the Internet". I don't know if that's an actual quote from somebody, but let's pretend that it is.
To clarify, I'm thinking of a specific branch of piracy. I don't believe that music piracy - as rampant as it likely still is - is a hot-button issue anymore. To put it simply, people are finding ways to legally support artists they like (something music fans have always said they are willing to do) in models that now work. There's also a lot of music available legally for free online if you know where to look (and it's not hard to trip over all of it). I'm not thinking of the piracy of films either - I think the movie industry has done a much "better" job locking down their content.
My target today is book piracy - specifically, e-books. I don't think anyone can make their morning commute on the bus without seeing at least five people reading from their various e-readers. They're everywhere, and have exploded probably a lot faster than the publishing industry ever anticipated (mostly thanks to the Amazon Kindle). Blah blah blah - this is old hat now in 2011. Long story short: we now have the same technology that was introduced in Star Trek: The Next Generation: the PADD. Moving along...
Wait, can I back-pedal for a second and point out that this isn't going to have any kind of reference to statistics? This is largely an anecdotal piece.
Where was I? Oh yeah, e-book piracy. I'm indifferent to e-book piracy - that is to say, it's a gray area for me. Would I download an epub version of a book I don't own? Probably not (unless we're talking books by Cory Doctorow, which are freely given away); I consider that to be piracy. But if I get an e-reader (which I might quite soon), what if I want to read one of the books I already own on my shelf? I really don't think I should have to buy it in another format if I already have it on my shelf.
I suppose it's the same argument as music - if you own the CD, why re-buy it as an mp3? But the difference there is that it's really trivial to put a disc in a CD tray, and rip the music to your computer's library. Not so easy with books, unfortunately.
And, books are one of those things that friends and family usually give to us (or lend). If I'm given a physical book to read, is it still piracy to download an ebook format if I don't feel like lugging around a physical copy? That's a tough one, and the answer is both yes and no. Probably I should read the physical version.
Anyway, I really don't know where I stand on this, as you can tell from this wishy-washy post. Originally I was going to include some statistics on book piracy but I got lazy. So uh...hooray for e-readers?