I am committing a crime. Right now.
If there is any solace and forgiveness in confession, that is what I hope for while I write these words. But I know there isn’t; my conscience is relentless. My only resource is to do what everybody does, what man seems to have been carved to do since its conception as a species: evade. All I wish is that my brother won’t read this post.
Plato told us the story of the Ring of Gyges, that magnificent solution to all our problems. The ring in this tale is a magical ring that makes its owner invisible at his will, allowing him to carry out any and all misdeeds he could think of effectively and secretly. How wonderful would it be to have it, don’t you think? You might be thinking that you wouldn’t take advantage of the ring and that you would instead toss it in the water.
But I say you would use it indeed. In fact, you already do.
The Internet is your ring.
And while I could go on and on about all the atrocities you can perform online and walk freely afterwards (with 99.9% certainty), I will stick to just one, the one I am so guilty. So VERY guilty.
Yeah, you could argue that knowledge should be free for all, that progress depends on that, that attaining wisdom is the closest you can get to God, and bla bla bla.
Tell that to book authors.
With all the effort from amazing people like the guys from the Gutenberg Project or the Internet Archive or the Wikipedia, it is next to immoral to look for other hacks in order to download the only books these guys don’t have. It would be like having at your disposal naked and blonde Eve all for yourself in the most beautiful of all gardens, not knowing what pain or fatigue or thirst or hunger is (and so being able to delight on your company nonstop) and, yet, to decide to waste time talking to an ugly snake and then eating a red and shining apple (even though everybody knows that both ugly snakes and red shining things in nature are almost always poisonous).
The thing is: there are these websites that let you download entirely for free, and in a mere touch of a button, pretty much ANY book that you would normally be able to buy only for a lot of bucks. The problem is that for book-worms or the interested student, this is a much larger temptation than a naked and willing blonde (well, not for all book-worms, I guess, but I see no naked blondes around). So, these weak and disgraced man eventually slide to the dark side of the Force, and unwillingly, see themselves pushing the goddamn button and then lavishly paging through dozens of books like a fifteen-year-old in a brothel (in a FREE brothel!).
And that’s how I got to where I am, in need of confession.
This is no excuse, of course, but pretty much EVERYBODY (except my brother and his colleagues) does that, and do it in one of four ways:
1 – not even thinking about the legality or not of this activity;
2 – not knowing such activity is criminal (I refer here to either providing the downloads or carrying out the download itself);
3 – not giving a rat’s ass about it;
4 – feeling bad, evading or writing a post about it, but, nevertheless, doing it.
Do you know who told me about the site that finally broke my determination? One of my professors. Another of them had already told me about another site and I had openly mouthed my disapproval in class — when I used to be innocent. And these guys are not only book authors and scholars, but devout Christians! But none of them feel the slightest guilt about it. They probably fit in options 1 or 2, maybe even 2.5, but the truth is they all do it. And foment it. They do it because otherwise their already neglectful students won’t buy those expensive books, won’t study enough, won’t learn, won’t pass the exams. Is that a good excuse? Of course not. But it’s the truth. In fact, the truth is they simply do it.
It is also true that it is easier (MUCH easier) to go around obstacles than to face them bluntly. What could professors do about the availability of books? The same thing anyone should do about any obstacles in life: WHATEVER THE F$%^@ YOU CAN!
And what is my problem, my obstacle that prevent me from doing the right thing?
I have the money and I value the knowledge enough to spend it. I wouldn’t perhaps (most probably) buy dozens of books at once, but I would pay for the ones I really need or cherish. Yes, it would be harder to decide to buy them; some of them don’t even have previews online. But an informed decision could, of course, be done in some way.
When I think about all the easy ways we have for doing anything nowadays, I feel ashamed about how much we whine. We find out about a book online, we find it for sale online, we know we will be able to download it immediately after payment online — which means not even getting our buts off the chair — and we whine. We complain about the price of the book but we ourselves know we could never have written it ourselves. Most of us can’t imagine the sheer amount of time these guys have devoted themselves to their vocation, to their writing, all the days and nights away from their dearest ones in order to dedicate themselves to their craft. Most of us know we wouldn’t have the stamina, the nerve, the mind to do it, every day, day after day, toward that single end that define our lives, that wonderful or even useless manuscript that might never be published, but that nevertheless lures us and that we evade. That same manuscript that thankfully was published, and which profits are being stolen at this very moment by those who have no scruples to wear and use their ring of Gyges!
People like me.
By the way, my brother is an intellectual property and copyright specialist.