If you've never read the short short story "The Right to Read", by Richard Stallman, do yourself a favor and go check it out now. I'll wait....
It was written in 1997 and is looking more prescient every day. It is not a coincidence that it appears on gnu.org, a site and organization dedicated to free (as in liberty) software. Software and information and free speech are inextricably linked, as we use software more and more to get information and to speak.
This comes to mind because lately I've been checking out Lendink.com, a site for legally borrowing and lending e-books. If you've read this blog much you know that I like to drone on and on about how preposterous it is to discuss the loaning of digital files. So naturally this site intrigues me.
Naturally, since I'm done reading them, I decided to make all the e-books I've purchased available for loan. This makes sense because, since I will probably never ever read them again, there is no reason not to contribute to the Lendink community. So I logged in and typed in "Dune Messiah", and got this:
Note the note at the bottom, "Sorry, this book is not lendable by the publisher".
I thought it was I who was lending the book?
I tried all the other books I'd bought, and only one was lendable. I checked the Overdrive site, which many libraries use for lending e-books, and indeed that one was available there, too, and not the others. After a cursory analysis, it appears to me that very, very few e-books are "lendable", and it is largely at least the same few e-books made available to libraries.
Now don't get me wrong, I understand why the publishers do this. If you can lend books freely, in the end, there is no need for anyone to ever buy one.
Just to make things crystal clear, you can go download Dune Messiah for free right now by Googling "Dune Messiah torrent mobi" (mobi is the open version of Amazon's AZW format) and you will find the whole Dune series here:
Just install the standard bittorrent client and you're good to go.
So the next time you decide to pay full price for an e-book, just remember, you are not buying anything. It is not the same as a real book, which you can bend, mutilate, spindle, or LEND to a friend.
(And you're also contributing to the downfall of the human race!)