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Access and Inclusion through Technology

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The ethics of pirating ebooks you already own - a continuation

April 10, 2010
I read with interest the article by Randy Cohen on Gizmodo (see link above). In which he argues that whilst it may be illegal to download an ebook without paying for it, it isnt unethical, as long as you own a copy that you have purchased from a bookstore with money going to author and publisher. In doing so he introduces the moral dimension to what is an increasing acrimonious debate. Publishers are keen to "do a CD" where we all went out and bought music we had already purchased in a new format to take advantage of new players, and equally keep to avoid "doing an mp3" where we noticed we had bought the music twice already and just ripped or downloaded it to a new device.

Complicating this debate is that despite the reduced costs of distribution and production of ebooks as compared to both hard and softcover books, publishers are determined to squeeze every drop of blood out of the techie book buying market in a bizarre attepmpt to re-enact scenes from classic horror novels - but with more screaming.

Itnot even as if we get the added features of DVD's that sort of convinced us it was ok to update our VHS collection, we get a couple of mb of data to read at our leisure.

So in my view its ok to go into Tesco, buy a top 20 paperback and then have an electronic copy available - ESPECIALLY - if the print copy is not something you can use because becaise you have a print disability.

its not ok for publishers to offer special schemes where those poor disabled people can be tested to make sure they are disabled enough to have discounts, its not enough for publishers to claim that ebooks have to be this price to support investment in new technology - they have to produce electronic versions of texts, in accessible formats at a price that anyone can afford.

The whole point of books is that they are universal, something anyone can access regardless of time and place - as new technology offers increased universal access to reading we need to make sure that we pay a fair and reasonable cost for usage - regardless of format.

So it may well be illegal to download a copy of a book you have paid for - its probably equally illegal to photocopy it onto larger print - but that doesnt make it unethical or immoral. The sooner publishers and somne authors recognise this, the sooner the ebook explosion will actually happen - and everyone will benefit

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