Confessions of a book pirate

Scary news for publishers and authors who complain too loudly

C. Max Magee, creator and editor of The Millions website, tracked down an illegal downloader—a tech-savy, mid-30s Midwesterner—and asked him why. The man told him he was an avid reader who owned about 1,600 books and just didn’t think there was much harm, at least to real authors as opposed to a “faceless corporation,” in what he did: “I do not pretend that uploading or downloading unpurchased electronic books is morally correct, but I do think it is more of a grey area than some of your readers may.” That’s because, he argues, an electronic copy of something costs virtually nothing to create, there is no value to what’s being stolen. As for what might make him stop, only a price reduction steep enough to make the effort of stealing not worthwhile. “One thing that will definitely not change anyone’s mind or inspire them to stop are polemics from people like Mark Helprin and Harlan Ellison”—authors vocal in their condemnation of book pirates—”attitudes like that ensure that all of their works are available online all of the time.”

The Millions