Or, I Stole a Book
Oh, the twisty world of the internet, where a few clicks can take you somewhere you never intended to go…
The other day, I learned that Deadlocked, the new Sookie Stackhouse novel, had recently been published. I love the books in that series, low brow and trashy as they are. Reading them is the equivalent of having wine and chicken fingers for dinner. Delicious, comforting, terrible for you, and not something that you’d generally like to advertize about yourself. They’re a Southern, sexed-up Buffy, with an even greater wink at the audience.
I’ve read the whole series as ebooks, checked out from various libraries. (If trading library cards ever becomes a thing, I’ll be an overnight success.) My frustrations with the limitations of the Overdrive system aside, I love that I can check out a book with a few clicks. Sure, digital collections are limited, but after checking with enough libraries, I always find what I’m looking for.
Except this time I didn’t. No one had Deadlocked. It wasn’t just that it wasn’t in stock, it wasn’t even listed in any of the databases. No matter what keywords or library I tried, I got an error every time. So, I came to the conclusion that maybe this book hadn’t been released as an ebook, or that maybe the ebook hadn’t been made available to libraries.
So I googled “Deadlocked epub.” (epub being the file format in which I read books on my iPad.) And, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but thousands of sites with links from which I could download the book – without needing to enter a credit card or an Apple ID.
I probably should have stopped right there, but didn’t. Curiosity, meet my cat. So, I clicked a link and down came the book. A few clicks and file conversions later and there, in my iBooks, was Deadlocked. In three minutes, I’d gotten an unauthorized copy of a book into Apple’s walled garden – and I hadn’t really even meant to do it.
I started reading, thinking that after a few pages, I’d be prompted to buy the book from iTunes or Amazon or some other DRM enforcer. But, no warning showed up. No men in black suits knocked on my door. And the book didn’t self destruct.
I’m not finished with it yet, but it’s lovely, a wonderful indulgence. It’s comforting in the inappropriate way that I find vampire romances to be. But, my enjoyment of it is marred by my Catholic guilt, which rears its ugly head every few pages.
A little Catholic angel sits on my shoulder, shilling for the interests of the publishing industry. “You stole this! You shouldn’t have it. If authors don’t get paid, we won’t have any books. And it will be all your fault.” (My little Catholic angel is a bit of a drama queen.)
But, on my other shoulder there’s another little guy, kind of a hipster, definitely a tech nerd, looks a bit like the “I’m a Mac” character. He’s telling me that information should be free. “Don’t feel bad. Buying books doesn’t give money to authors, but to big corporations. The internet is the death of the author – end copyright. Free books means more books.” Okay, so maybe tech guy’s arguments aren’t as clear, but they’re much more appealing.
I want to be able to click and read (or watch or listen to) anything that I can think of. Generally, I see pay walls as an obstacle course – a personal challenge to get around. (I’m looking at you, New York Times.) I have no qualms about streaming a show that I missed the night before or ripping a CD that I checked out of the library. Those things don’t cause my little Catholic angel to get all uppity. But, downloading a book, it feels worse.
Maybe because I put more value on books than I do other forms of entertainment. For me, they’re the archtype. Rightly or wrongly, I attribute books with all of these immutable, intangible qualities – I think there’s a little magic in them. And, getting a book this way, downloading it from some site of ill repute, it seems like the magic doesn’t quite make it in the download process. The magic file, it’s still stuck buffering up there in the cloud somewhere. Apparently, all books go to, or come from, heaven.
So, will I do it again? I’d like to say no. But, I know myself too well to make that promise. Knowing how simple it is, I’ve opened a can of worms. An addicting and guilt ridden can of worms. Sometime, probably in the not too distant future, I’ll rationalize this decision again… and then again. And the more I do it, the quieter that little Catholic angel will get. And my guilt will end, not with a bang but a whimper.
Questions of the day: Have you every illegally downloaded a book? Would you? Do you think I’m terrible for having done so? Or, have I sorely tempted you to do the same by letting you know that it’s possible?
MaggieCakes is a blog about social media, marketing, culture, and what’s new on the internet written by me, Maggie O’Toole. It’s been on a bit of a hiatus while I’ve been working on my MBA, but school’s out for the summer and the blog’s back on. Find anything interesting in the worlds of tech, culture, or social media that you’d like to see a post on? Leave a comment or send me an e-mail at email@example.com.