Hi all, sorry for the non- book review post. However, I find this issue to be particularly important and given the controversy, I think it is important to talk about it.
The Trouble with “Free” Books
The Internet Archive has recently launched what they call a “National Emergency Library,” which they explain will allow readers to access thousands of ebooks for free without a limit on the number of users. What this means is, unlike your public library lending policies, you can take out the book at your leisure with no waiting in line. Sounds awesome, right? Like a dream come true?… Maybe too good to be true?
Ding ding ding, it is too good to be true. Here’s the problem with this as a concept:
They have bought this book once as a hard copy, scanned the copy, and uploaded it to the internet. For free. Does this sound awfully like piracy to you? That’s because, despite their impassioned defense, it is.
The argument that, because the people are paying tax dollars to use physical libraries and are unable to do so, the National Emergency Library should exist, is absolutely bullshit since this is not a federally or state sponsored program. The concept that Fair Use doctrine applies because the company bought one hard copy of the book is absolutely bastardizing the meaning of the doctrine and the spirit of intellectual property law.
The National Emergency Library is uploading these books without author consent. The fact that there is a form you can fill out to have your book removed from their site does not change this fact. They are turning down requests regularly, stating that if a book is less than five years old, they can do that. This goes against copyright law, but most small publishers and independent authors can’t afford to litigate.
Here is how some of your favorite authors feel about this:
As a reminder, there is no author bailout, booksellers bailout, or publisher bailout. The Internet Archive’s “emergency” copyrights grab endangers many already in terrible danger. https://t.co/MJjZltH8Ce
— Alexander Chee (@alexanderchee) March 27, 2020
What the Internet Archive is doing right now–allowing unlimited downloads of books under copyright, for which they have not paid, and have no legal right–is not serving as a library. It’s piracy.
— Seanan McGuire (@seananmcguire) March 29, 2020
What can you do?
We all want to read, but we all want to support the authors we know and love. The sad fact is, however, that many of us are out of work and low in funds. Here is what you can do to get your “fix” without harming the artists who support our reading addictions:
- Bookbub is one of the first places I go to get my fix. This site scours the internet for you for author-authorized deals on ebooks, and sends you emails with those deals daily/weekly/however you like for your favorite authors.
- Your local library, I can almost guarantee, has some form of e-lending program. My library uses Overdrive, the New York City Public Library uses something called SimplyE, and I am sure libraries in all places have something similar. Go forth and seek. ALSO, most libraries are letting you apply online for a library card, so if you haven’t done it yet, get on it!
- For those of you like me who love having a physical copy of a book, try Better World Books for gently used books at discounts. Unlike the NEL, buying a used hard copy does comport with the one-for-one concept of selling used goods, and you should not feel guilty, especially if it inspires you to buy books by the same author later down the line. ALSO, Better World Books helps libraries not have to destroy old books, and they donate a book for every book sold.
- For those of you who are still working and care about keeping your local bookstore open, check out The Book Shop, where you can buy books from your favorite indie bookstore through one convenient site.They have raised close to a million dollars for local bookstores; let’s keep it up!
If you are an author and think your books may have been shared without consent, the Author’s Guild has some useful tips on how to try and get your title removed here. For average Joes like me who just want to show our support, sign the Author’s Guild open letter to the Internet Archive.
The end of a rambling rant
Thank you for coming to my “TED talk!” Please tell me your thoughts on this in the comments; I am always open to civil discourse and debate.