Book Piracy or That Building Called a Library

Book Piracy or That Building Called a Library

September 20, 2011


A few months ago, I subscribed to Jackson Pearce’s Youtube Channel. Pearce falls into the category of authors whose work I’ve never read but really want to. As I was going through some of her past videos, I came across this one about book piracy:

And I found myself thinking about book piracy. There are lots of excuses people come up with to pirate books. One that pops up a lot is “I really want to read this book, but I can’t afford to buy it.” Look, I’m all in favor of people being able to access the books they want to read. I can certainly sympathize with not having a lot of money. But every time I hear this excuse, I wonder if the person really doesn’t have any other options. Let me explain. There are these buildings called libraries. And in these buildings are books. And you’re allowed to borrow and read the books for free*! Sometimes I wonder if people realize all the services available to them through the library. I live in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. If I want to read a specific title, I can place a hold on it and pick it up at my nearest branch. If my branch doesn’t have a copy but another branch does, a copy will be transported to my branch and held for me. If none of the branches of the Free Library of Philadelphia have a copy of a book I want to read, the book can often be had through inter-library loan. Through Overdrive I have access to tons of eBooks (ok, so I find the selection here to be a bit limited, but there are still eBooks here I’d be interested in reading). All of these services are available to me for free as a resident of Philadelphia. I’d wager that many library systems around the country have similar, if not identical, services. These services give people the opportunity to read books both legally and for free.

Let’s go back to the people who claim they have to pirate books because they cannot afford to buy them. I’m curious as to how many of the people who make these claims have access to the library and if they’ve contacted their library to ask if such services are available. If you truly do not have access to a public library that will let you borrow a copy of whatever book you want for free, that’s a pretty serious problem and probably better discussed at a later date. However, I kind of get the impression that a portion of the people who make the claim that they have to pirate because they can’t afford to purchase a book are just being lazy. If you have access to a public library, you have access to a free and legal way to read whatever you want. Ergo, the argument that “pirating books is the only option I have to read a book” holds zero weight; it’s a pathetic excuse to make you seem like less of an ass. So if you have access to a library but pirate anyway, what are some of the real reasons someone might pirate a book? In the day and age of the Internet where information can be had quickly and cheaply, I’d wager that people pirate books because they expect that books can and should be had the same way they get other information over the Internet. We live in an age where we expect information to be a mouse click away and we often find ourselves unwilling to wait…which is something we might have to do when dealing with the library. Could impatience and a sense of entitlement be the motivating factors for many people? I wouldn’t be surprised.

*OK, so public libraries are supported by tax dollars, so if you’re paying taxes you’re supporting libraries in a round about way.

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