What is wrong with today's Intellectual Property, in one sentence

Can books be “consumed”?

A few weeks ago, an article trying to assess the dameage of “book piracy” started with the following statement:

“The UK government’s Intellectual Property Office estimates that 17% of ebooks are consumed illegally.”

What is wrong with today's Intellectual Property, in one sentence /img/devouring-books.jpg
**CONSUMING** books???

I don’t know about you, but I find the very concept of books, or more exactly, of literature and culture in general, as something that ought to be “consumed”, just like sandwiches or paper napkins, really appalling, and intrinsically wrong. Livelihood of authors and creative people in general is a critical issue in a fair society. And yes, copyright can and should play a crucial role on that front. But accepting the position that books, in whatever form, are there to be consumed is one of the worst ways to tackle the problem I can think of.

With ebooks, it is even absolutely ridiculous. Ebooks are sequences of bits, that is something that by definition is copiable endless times without the slightest degradation. Tell people that downloads and readings, legal or not, “consume” ebooks is like saying that thinking to mustard consumes the definition of mustard. An avalanche of laughs, and people ignoring whatever comes after such a statement is the least you deserve, or can expect anyway.

Let’s talk ebook streaming and lending, instead

Several comments to that article are along the lines of “why don’t people pirating ebooks just go to a library, instead, to borrow paper or digital books there?”

The obvious answers are that:

  • too many books worth reading are not in any public library and will never be, if nothing else because of physical limitations. See here for a real world example
  • above all: these days, it makes no sense to be forced to visit a library to borrow a book.

We are already streaming movies and songs, why not books? The article itself goes very close to the actual problem:

most respondents owned up to pirating books not because of cost, but ease.

Make it easy to download ANY book ever published…

…for a LOW, fixed monthly fee. Just do that easier than it a Netflix subscription is today, of course allowing the possibility of using any device, and keeping personal copies in non-proprietary formats, and:

  • the great majority of readers will jump on that opportunity head first
  • plenty of people will still pay separately for “special”, richer copies of the books (hardcovers to signed copies, copies with higher definition pictures etc) to make authors and editors happy

“Consuming” books? Duh.

Image sources: screenshots of Google image search results for “devouring books”