rip lnu
February 16, 2012 10:32 AM   Subscribe

"rip lnu". So ends 13 months of the greatest pirate ebook site the world has ever known.

library.nu / ifile.it was notable not only for the volume of books (claimed 400,000 but likely much higher), but the quality of the authors and subject matter. It had huge runs of very hard to fund and expensive books in the humanities, medicine, engineering and so on. An obscure 17th century European poet might see 4 or 5 books. Collections of Nobel Prize winning authors, Pulitzer Prize authors and so on. The thousand or so Harold Bloom Western Canon authors. Huge runs of Oxford, Cambridge, Yale, Harvard titles; Penguin Classics, Oxford Worlds Classics, New York Review of Books, Library of America, Everyman's Library, Blackwell, Barnes&Noble, Routledge etc.. It was a step beyond the typical pirated NYT best-sellers and genre sci-fi / fantasy passed around by fans. It was run by someone known only as "Smiley", who has been revealed to be the team of Fidel Nunez and Irina Ivanova operating out of Ireland, supposedly earning 10s of millions of dollars through donations and ad revenue, though they dispute that after bandwidth costs. This is not the first time Smiley has taken this Alexandrian-trove down under pressure, as the war on organized for-profit-piracy escalates.
posted by stbalbach (102 comments total) 52 users marked this as a favorite

 
GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOD NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO why didn't you post about this before it got shut down?
posted by WidgetAlley at 10:36 AM on February 16, 2012 [37 favorites]


Why do I always hear about the cool stuff too late.
posted by penduluum at 10:37 AM on February 16, 2012 [14 favorites]


NOOOOOOO! I totally would have spent this weekend archiving stuff if I knew this was happening. /sniffle
posted by Phalene at 10:38 AM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well I guess we're all going to have to legitimately purchase our ebooks of out of print academic works now. When they're available. In 2040. If ever.
posted by theodolite at 10:42 AM on February 16, 2012 [16 favorites]


At least we still have horse_ebooks.
posted by modernserf at 10:44 AM on February 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


Sweet Jesus, how, how did I miss this!
posted by jadepearl at 10:44 AM on February 16, 2012


Did anyone archive all of this before it went offline?
posted by jadepearl at 10:44 AM on February 16, 2012


bummer. not for the authors tho.
posted by lalochezia at 10:45 AM on February 16, 2012


not for the authors tho.

The dead ones you mean?
posted by Old'n'Busted at 10:48 AM on February 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


From the PW article:

Not only was it difficult to find the identities of the operators of the sites, but the top level domain names led as far as Italy and the Pacific island of Niue.

The second half of that sentence is hilarious. "Bit.ly, an URL-shortening service mysteriously affiliated with the war-torn nation of Libya.."
posted by theodolite at 10:49 AM on February 16, 2012 [15 favorites]


Yes, those poor, dead 17th century European poets will now have no incentive to create the works they already created.
posted by DU at 10:49 AM on February 16, 2012 [18 favorites]


.
posted by RolandOfEld at 10:50 AM on February 16, 2012


Yes, those poor, dead 17th century European poets will now have no incentive to create the works they already created.

I was going to write an epic poem but stopped when I realized that somebody might read it for free in three hundred years. Chilling effects, man.
posted by theodolite at 10:51 AM on February 16, 2012 [59 favorites]


Couldn't at least the pre-Disney stuff be uploaded to Project Gutenberg?
posted by kmz at 10:53 AM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Fuck's sake, around here this was pretty much the only way I had to read through many obscenely expensive compsci and maths books that neither I nor my univ will ever have the resources to buy/subscribe online to. Time to get used to hunt for those roaming blogs that play whack-a-mole with the regular takedowns, I suppose.
posted by Iosephus at 10:57 AM on February 16, 2012


i'm good
posted by facetious at 11:01 AM on February 16, 2012


Do people know about gen.lib.rus.ec/ ?
posted by urschrei at 11:02 AM on February 16, 2012 [10 favorites]


How do you find these sites before they go bust!? I frequent a few "less-than-100 percent legal" software / music sites...but it seems like the really good ones I never hear about until they go under. I assume it's kind of a word of mouth thing like it used to be back on IRC?
posted by jnnla at 11:04 AM on February 16, 2012


Crap. This is really bad news. I was wondering about the weirdness in the site a few days ago, but now I understand. Library.nu will be missed.
posted by dhruva at 11:06 AM on February 16, 2012


They took donations and profited off of ads? On a site that let people download unlicensed copies of books? Fuck them.
posted by Nelson at 11:06 AM on February 16, 2012 [8 favorites]


@ubuweb and @aaaarg are good accounts to follow for this sort of thing. I'm sure there are various \m/~*~DarkNet~*~\m/ resources which are far better for this sort of thing, but I don't really have the time/inclination.
posted by urschrei at 11:08 AM on February 16, 2012 [7 favorites]


Nelson: I agree with you, but there's been speculation that it's not as clear-cut as that, in terms of anyone having profited: http://breakingculture.tumblr.com/post/17697325088/gigapedia-rip
posted by urschrei at 11:10 AM on February 16, 2012


Not sure if this is kosher, but this has been my go-to list of sites for hunting down particularly obscure texts: http://derpy.me/pIOUx
posted by pinsomniac at 11:10 AM on February 16, 2012 [13 favorites]


Yes, those poor, dead 17th century European poets will now have no incentive to create the works they already created.

Well, the American Constitution does not actually say that:

"To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries."

Only a humanities graduate can hold the narrow view that "the useful arts" is limited to writing and painting. Moreover, it is also conceivable that progress in the "the Arts" could advance science in some as of yet unrevealed way.

In this case, what pirates take away from all of us is the basic economic incentive that which would encourage other entrepreneurs to provide commercial access to such works. In other words, as long as Napster exists, there is no incentive to develop services like iTunes, Amazon Kindle, etc. etc. etc.
posted by three blind mice at 11:10 AM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Which, um, is why, er...iTunes, er...is why iTunes, um...doesn't, er, doesn't exist?
posted by maxwelton at 11:14 AM on February 16, 2012 [12 favorites]


Yes, those poor, dead 17th century European poets will now have no incentive to create the works they already created.

The article mentions Salman Rushdie and Jonathan Franzen for starters. Granted, they're both fabulously wealthy and therefore not deserving of further compensation, but, you know, it's sales of guys like that help publishers back the money losing writers.

Myself, I find poor dead European poets are pretty well represented in google books.
posted by IndigoJones at 11:14 AM on February 16, 2012


For what it's worth, I only caved in and bought a Kindle because I knew I could get most of what I wanted to read for free. You know, the same reason three hundred million people bought iPods.
posted by theodolite at 11:15 AM on February 16, 2012 [15 favorites]


Yes, those poor, dead 17th century European poets will now have no incentive to create the works they already created.
In this case, what pirates take away from all of us is the basic economic incentive that which would encourage other entrepreneurs to provide commercial access to such works. In other words, as long as Napster exists, there is no incentive to develop services like iTunes, Amazon Kindle, etc. etc. etc.

Wait wait wait. Are you saying that pirates shouldn't put out works in the public domain and make it easy for people to get because it disincentives corporations from generating revenue based on creating lesser distribution channels?!
posted by Freon at 11:16 AM on February 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


In this case, what pirates take away from all of us is the basic economic incentive that which would encourage other entrepreneurs to provide commercial access to such works. In other words, as long as Napster exists, there is no incentive to develop services like iTunes, Amazon Kindle, etc. etc. etc.

wait, are you being sarcastic? i can't tell anymore.
posted by facetious at 11:17 AM on February 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


Library.nu was truly awe-inspiring. Need a book about Papua New Guinean governance? Pick from one of the fifty.

They took donations and profited off of ads? On a site that let people download unlicensed copies of books? Fuck them.

I see your point, but at the same time, a great, great many of those books were already long out of print and/or priced completely out of the range of a curious consumer. If it's $250 for a used copy of a Routledge book, or a digital copy for free, then you can do the math, for right or for wrong.

In this case, what pirates take away from all of us is the basic economic incentive that which would encourage other entrepreneurs to provide commercial access to such works. In other words, as long as Napster exists, there is no incentive to develop services like iTunes, Amazon Kindle, etc. etc. etc.

Are you seriously suggesting that iTunes and Kindle developed in the absence of free, illegal file-sharing alternatives?

The article mentions Salman Rushdie and Jonathan Franzen for starters. Granted, they're both fabulously wealthy and therefore not deserving of further compensation, but, you know, it's sales of guys like that help publishers back the money losing writers.

I won't deny that scoring a free copy of The Satanic Verses cheats Rushdie out of his fairly-earned cut. But what about out-of-print books? Hell, what about used book stores and libraries?

I'm NOT a "steal everything, information wants to be free!!11!!" kind of guy, but books are tricky territory, especially when they're expensive, out-of-print, and readily accessible at the library.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:18 AM on February 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


In this case, what pirates take away from all of us is the basic economic incentive that which would encourage other entrepreneurs to provide commercial access to such works. In other words, as long as Napster exists, there is no incentive to develop services like iTunes, Amazon Kindle, etc. etc. etc.

Good?
posted by DU at 11:21 AM on February 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


The difference between the cost of some of the books and their value is crazy. Some of the springer books are priced so that they can only exist as required textbooks. No one else would ever buy them. It's fun to come across them in university libraries on occasion, but some great ones will never see the light of day because they cost 5x what they should.

What's silly is that as a student, with access, you can download every chapter for free!? Then just bundle them up into a PDF for your own reading. It's completely absurd, not to mention the fact that as a student you can often get them for 50% off from Springer. Yet for the general public, it just sits there...

Springer brings together great technical writing like no other, but so much of it is locked up in a byzantine price structure which excludes nearly everyone outside of academia from easily browsing.
posted by nutate at 11:21 AM on February 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


In this case, what pirates take away from all of us is the basic economic incentive that which would encourage other entrepreneurs to provide commercial access to such works. In other words, as long as Napster exists, there is no incentive to develop services like iTunes, Amazon Kindle, etc. etc. etc.

I don't think that information wants to be free, and I'm not a hippie, but I think it's self-evidently true that the existence of pirate sites and bootleg media in general *substantially increases* demand for books, records, video games, etc.. Every single argument I've seen that argues the contrary goes like this: "demand for cd's is down. piratebay exists. therefore piratebay caused the decrease in demand for cd's." i.e. is not any more of an argument than my personal conviction to the contrary.
posted by facetious at 11:24 AM on February 16, 2012


If the choice is between some authors missing out on the proceeds of a couple hundred copies of their book, and having a significant portion of the collected literary output of the human species available to anyone for free instantly...

I mean, are you kidding me?
posted by danny the boy at 11:25 AM on February 16, 2012 [18 favorites]


.
posted by rdr at 11:27 AM on February 16, 2012


There are organizations dedicated to legally providing access to old, rare, and out of print books. archive.org, for example, and its Bibliotheca Alexandrina. Those folks are heroes.
posted by Nelson at 11:30 AM on February 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think I'd rather see "information wants to be paid for." A tax could support information hosting like this and the authors, editors, publishers that make it possible. And if people who didn't read didn't want to contribute... too bad.
posted by nutate at 11:31 AM on February 16, 2012


sad day or saddest day?
posted by dustyasymptotes at 11:31 AM on February 16, 2012


If the choice is between some authors missing out on the proceeds of a couple hundred copies of their book, and having a significant portion of the collected literary output of the human species available to anyone for free instantly...

And you have the numbers, I presume, to back up the assertion that this site only pirated a "couple hundred copies" of works in copyright?

There is a vast storehouse of free literature, probably in your community. It's called a library. I'm not down with the hardcore war on piracy position, but I do detect a whole lot of hypocrisy in the "everything needs to be free" position, and that hypocrisy poisons the well of the more idealistic free culture movement. If you don't like copyright law, work to change it. If you choose to defy it in an act of conscience (LOL), then like all such acts, you should be prepared to endure the penalties as part of your protest. Rule of law and all that.

And yes, I know, copyright law is absurdly biased in favor of corporate interests and digital media are absurdly overpriced on the legal market by any measure. So I don't condemn those who conscientiously object by "pirating" copyrighted work to the extent that their actions are conscientious and they are willing to pay the price of civil disobedience. But that's not what I see in most cases. What I see -- and I see it implicitly defended here -- is "I want my free stuff."

(* disclaimer: I am a published author and songwriter)
posted by spitbull at 11:36 AM on February 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


And there are also huge legal repositories of most classical literature and a good deal of less significant out of print and out of copyright material, such as Project Muse. You can do this legally, you know.
posted by spitbull at 11:37 AM on February 16, 2012


Sorry I should use my words. I think the value of a single digital repository, available to anyone that has an internet connection, for free, of everything we've ever written is immeasurable. And it will never ever happen within the law, so I am ok with it happing outside the law.

It's too important.

Like right now, I'm waiting for a book from the library. There are 15 holds on the 25 copies that exist for the city of San Francisco. I mean, forget the philosophical argument for a second--this state of affairds offends me as a technologist.
posted by danny the boy at 11:38 AM on February 16, 2012 [7 favorites]


from the TorrentFreak link:

The legal team of the publishers estimated the revenue based on page impressions as well as estimated income from premium accounts, but this figure is laughable according to the ifile.it owner, which makes sense considering the site’s modest size.

I love how they make these estimates. There is no way to actually tell, but what percentage of these books would have actually been purchased if piracy didn't exist?

The owner further said they always try cooperate with publishers and that the site is still fully operational for registered users.

So wait, I'm confused. They report earlier that it's redirecting to Google Books, and now it just appears down by traffic. The admins "voluntarily" took the site down, but it's still "fully operational for registered users"? Is it down or not? And because IANAL, do injunctions mean the admins will not be prosecuted any further?

Between this, Megaupload getting nuked from orbit, and FileSonic and btjunkie walking away from the table, 2012 is looking for popular piracy sites what 2011 looked like for dictators. Not that it's going anywhere but further underground, mind.
posted by Chichibio at 11:39 AM on February 16, 2012


I think the value of a single digital repository, available to anyone that has an internet connection, for free, of everything we've ever written is immeasurable.

I totally agree. We have one right here in the US, it's called the Library of Congress. They buy a lot of books. They're also pioneers in digital preservation and archiving.
posted by Nelson at 11:43 AM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


The estimates of lost income is something like the cost of repainting the police car decals to eliminate the pig.
posted by Obscure Reference at 11:45 AM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Rather than merely hosting a handful of book files, they were allegedly hosting and providing links to illegal PDF files of more than 400,000 books, including works by Salman Rushdie and Jonathan Franzen

That's pretty disgusting. I can't believe anyone feels like they have the moral high ground when they're actively encouraging people to read Franzen.

*tap dances off stage, raising straw boater hat off head and wiggling eyebrows*
posted by Greg Nog at 11:49 AM on February 16, 2012 [9 favorites]


I won't deny that scoring a free copy of The Satanic Verses cheats Rushdie out of his fairly-earned cut. But what about out-of-print books? Hell, what about used book stores and libraries?

It's a fair question and one I wrestle with. Of course it has never been realistic for a publisher to expect to squeeze ever possible drop out of every copy. And there is some value in the secondary (non-full price paying) reader being turned onto the writer and maybe buying other stuff. How much this can be quantified it's too early to say at best and may be impossible. (With respect to facetious, my whiskers start to twitch anytime anyone refers to "self evident truths" in regards to hotly contested issues.)

At least with the Real Book from a library, there was an actual purchase, so the author (and publisher) is getting a cut. And these books do have a shelf life, so there is still a vague hope of an after sale if the thing is at all popular and new copy must replace the old broken one (might explain why modern book binding is so crappy). I've advocated before for US libraries to adopt the kickback per read model used in other countries, and in this age it seems absurd that they do not. Certainly with ebooks it could make better sense for libraries and publishers both - lower initial cost but extend kickbacks for length of copy right, say. Since the libraries didn't like the 26 reads and out model. Such a model might even help bring out of print / still in copyright books back into virtual print, which many of us (including authors and publishers) would welcome.

I'm also going to stand up for publishers here. They do serve a function, and not a trivial one. Not that they necessarily perform it all that well, but without them we face an even worse Gresham's law of publishing than we already have. (Just because you can type and upload doesn't mean your coming of age vampire novel is worth reading.) And if the mega bestsellers help them nurture along some of the also-rans, well, bully for them. Truman Capote used to say that he greatly appreciated James Michener because the latter's stuff enabled Random House to publish Capote (this before In Cold Blood came out).

So some kind of model that doesn't cut the author/publisher out of the deal entirely. Which this site did.
posted by IndigoJones at 11:50 AM on February 16, 2012


Like right now, I'm waiting for a book from the library. There are 15 holds on the 25 copies that exist for the city of San Francisco. I mean, forget the philosophical argument for a second--this state of affairds offends me as a technologist.

You know, you could just buy it.
posted by IndigoJones at 11:57 AM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


You know, you could just buy it.

Would you object if he bought a used copy?
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:00 PM on February 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


IndigoJones: "You know, you could just buy it."

I've never downloaded an illegal ebook, or any ebook--because I like books, and it gets me away from the screen. I've lived here for 10 years and just got my library card last week. Every other book I own, I purchased new.

I am borrowing this book because I would never otherwise buy it, and so I am willing to wait. But thanks for implying that you're morally superior than I am.
posted by danny the boy at 12:13 PM on February 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


You know, you could just buy it.

Libraries are amazingly wonderful things. The "just buy the book" attitude towards libraries saddens me.
posted by aspo at 12:27 PM on February 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Sticherbeast: A used copy is a legal copy. It was originally purchased, meaning that the author received the amount of money they expected/required for its distribution. Under American copyright law the first sale doctrine specifically allows for the secondary distribution of legally made copies. Why is anyone conflating the sale of of legally acquired used books with a website that distributes copies illegally? The whole concept behind copyright law is that an author should be allowed to control the distribution and sale of their own work. The first sale doctrine (and library lending) are specifically included in the copyright act as limitations upon the author's rights because it is assumed that the author received the full requested value for that copy.

danny the boy: And why should a website that is violating copyright get a pass because they also distribute public domain books? Because its more important to contribute to the whole of human culture and knowledge? If that's your statement then you don't believe in the principles of copyright law or intellectual property. You are effectively saying that a library that includes every past work should be allowed to infringe modern works as much as it pleases? This is not a "benefit outweighs the loss" kind of thing. It's a "we justify our piracy based upon usefulness" kind of a thing. IndigoJones wasn't implying moral superiority, that person was just stating that if you require a book on demand, then then best course is to pay for it. This reflects the absolutely normal system of supply and demand. Its not as if this information is entirely withheld from you, you simply have to pay a premium to receive it when you want. You stated that the current system offends you. I guess because you feel that libraries should be able to instantly supply free books to you on demand in this modern age of technology. Once again, this entirely ignores the concept behind copyright law. That an author, as compensation for his contribution to the arts, gets to determine the distribution of the author's work. If you want some global library of Alexandria that gives everything away to anybody for free then you completely reject an intellectual property system and should say so instead of encouraging others to act outside the law. Convenience is not an argument, its an excuse.
posted by cyphill at 12:27 PM on February 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


As for ebooks. I love ebooks. I love having an ereader that's light and small and I can search the text of books and that remembers my place, etc etc. I don't even mind the drm much (although I do feel that used media sales are an important right even in the digital age, and I'm sad to see them going away.) What I mind is once I spend money on books I'm pretty much locked into that companies ereader system. Amazon is especially bad about this, but my understanding is even with epub readers, the drm locks you into the ereader in question, so if I buy a nook and lots of books at B&N, I can't go buy some other epub reader a few years down the line and read my books on that reader. Nope, it's nooks for all time unless I want to throw out that previous investment in books. That's just not acceptable.
posted by aspo at 12:32 PM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


cyphill: but with ebooks there is no right of first sale. You aren't buying a copy of the book, you are buying a limited license to read the book. It's bullshit. And, along with never expiring terms, it's one of those overreach things that is why many people no longer respect copyright. (Not why people pirate, but why they just don't respect the system.)
posted by aspo at 12:35 PM on February 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Why, why wasn't i even aware of the existence of library.nu ??
posted by vivelame at 12:54 PM on February 16, 2012


I'm not down with the hardcore war on piracy position, but I do detect a whole lot of hypocrisy in the "everything needs to be free" position, and that hypocrisy poisons the well of the more idealistic free culture movement.

It's not "Everything needs to be free" but "Information wants to be free". Also it isn't position; it is a statement of fact as true as entropy always increasing in a closed system.
posted by Mitheral at 12:59 PM on February 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


A used copy is a legal copy. It was originally purchased, meaning that the author received the amount of money they expected/required for its distribution. Under American copyright law the first sale doctrine specifically allows for the secondary distribution of legally made copies. Why is anyone conflating the sale of of legally acquired used books with a website that distributes copies illegally? The whole concept behind copyright law is that an author should be allowed to control the distribution and sale of their own work. The first sale doctrine (and library lending) are specifically included in the copyright act as limitations upon the author's rights because it is assumed that the author received the full requested value for that copy.

A concise legal answer, but it wasn't a legal question. This answer is nonresponsive to the actual question, let alone the underlying issues.

Technology has rocketed past copyright law and publishing models as they had stood. They can either reform or become Miss Havisham. The onus is on us as a society to figure out how to best adjust the model so as to mostly fairly compensate those responsible for making books, while also not pretending that books are limited to physical hard copies.

Outside of the law itself, which of course stands against library.nu, it's difficult to justify ethically why a used copy of an out-of-print book cannot be downloaded for a minimal cost, especially when the marginal utility of a physical copy is barely above, or even significantly below, that of an electronic copy. Legislators and publishers can tut-tut all they like, but they risk looking like an outdoor concert venue that is furious at all the naughty kids who can hear the acts through the fence.

What I mind is once I spend money on books I'm pretty much locked into that companies ereader system. Amazon is especially bad about this, but my understanding is even with epub readers, the drm locks you into the ereader in question, so if I buy a nook and lots of books at B&N, I can't go buy some other epub reader a few years down the line and read my books on that reader. Nope, it's nooks for all time unless I want to throw out that previous investment in books. That's just not acceptable.

Calibre.

Anecdote time: an extremely handsome friend of mine uses Sony's Reader Library, but they screwed up my friend's account for a few weeks. Hell, for months prior to that, their software wouldn't even work on my friend's newer Mac. My handsome friend was on the phone with them repeatedly, but they were always unhelpful. One day, my friend saw three books that he wanted to buy from Sony. He tried again to get it to work, but no dice. So, my handsome friend simply bought the books from Amazon's Kindle Store, thence to strip the DRM from the books with Calibre. My handsome friend, who is secretly a grumpy 85-year-old coot at heart, then sent Sony an email saying that they had blown their sales by not fixing their account system, and that he was going to use Amazon's store from now on. My friend has broken at least three licensing agreements by stripping the books of DRM, but my friend doesn't care, because the author got the money either way, and my friend isn't sharing those books. Against the letter of the law, most certainly, but difficult to sanely argue against from an ethical standpoint.
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:05 PM on February 16, 2012 [8 favorites]


I think people are missing what library.nu was actually used for, namely books where the threshold of legitimate acquisition was too high. We're not talking about downloading books that you could put on hold at the public library and have in sort order. We're talking about books Springer charges $200 you don't have for a book that the university library doesn't own and you need for longer than interlibrary loan will let you have it. Or for the all-too-common situation where you need a book and someone else has got it. Math books don't turn over as quickly as novels do at the public library and you're often largely reliant on libraries for them because of the cost. (If I was buying as many paperbacks as math books that I reference, I'd have to significantly adjust my budget.)

I had a course where the professor had a habit of changing the book he was lecturing from regularly and only one book was assigned as the required text. So we'd play 'What's he lecturing from now?' and someone would go check it out from the library on 24 hour reserve and we'd have to all photocopy a couple pages at a time to refer to for homework. Then he started lecturing out of the library's only copy of one book! It so happened there was an atrociously-implemented electronic version available via the library, so we used that. But if it didn't exist, to library.nu we would have gone. No one needs that many basic complex analysis books. That's what this site got used for.
posted by hoyland at 1:12 PM on February 16, 2012 [7 favorites]


TL;DR: Legitimate or perfect, nope. Useful to users, yep. Harmful to content producers, yes but the impact is debatable. Missed and a void to be filled, surely.
posted by RolandOfEld at 1:18 PM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


We could cheerfully dismiss megaupload because frankly who needs Hollywood movies.

We cannot dismiss the death of library.nu so trivially because hoards of people all over the world depended upon access to technical material for innumerable reasons.

Any legitimacy the anti-piracy crowd ever claimed ended today with this assault on the basic human right to our shared cultural heritage. (via slashdot)
posted by jeffburdges at 1:33 PM on February 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


We're talking about books Springer charges $200 you don't have for a book that the university library doesn't own and you need for longer than interlibrary loan will let you have it.

You have no right to just download a book because you don't want pay for it and it's not in a library at your convenience. Seriously, what sort of world of entitlement does this come from? Should I go lift a liquor bottles off the shelf of my local store because the Scotch I like is too expensive? Should I just sneak in the back door of my local museum because "art wants to be free"?
posted by Nelson at 1:34 PM on February 16, 2012


aspo: You are absolutely right, it is ridiculous. That's why I will never pay for a license to an e-book (the same reason I never buy music through Spotify or legalNapster). But just because you don't like the contract doesn't give you recourse to break it. So we excuse piracy because people demand to be able to read their books in an e-format? Once again, convenience is an excuse, not an argument. I can't steal an electric car because Chrysler refuses to do anything other then lease it to me, regardless of how good I think it is for society.

Stitcherbeast: I believe you should probably reread my response to danny the boy. Copyright law already clearly recognizes that there is a distinction between physical copies of books and the expression they contain. This has been the case since pretty much forever. The very first time the first sale doctrine was addressed by the Supreme Court they recognized that the sale of plates used to create book did not include a transfer of the copyright. That's because copyright and physical copies are entirely distinct. This is the same whether that copy is digital or not. Explain to me why digital copies are different (other then the fact that they need to be reproduced in memory to be rendered readable). I think that current copyright law is ridiculous, but once again, that doesn't just excuse people to break the law for convenience. I never asserted that any person violates some ethical law if they download an out-of-print book. I don't decide what's ethical or not. Neither does the government. That's up for an individual to decide. Please do not read ethical judgments into my answers (especially incorrect ones). But please tell me, what are the limits on this? A poet self publishes in San Francisco and I can't get a copy, so I can pirate it? Who decides what is "out-of-print", who determines what is rare?

If everyone just sat still and actually thought about the implications of their incredibly far-reaching statements then we would be a lot better off in this thread. Seriously, you have a problem with academic publishers charging too much for textbooks? So does every single other person but the publisher. Don't like it? Start an academic publishing company. As UTunes has quickly made clear there are thousands of academics who wish to spread their publications at reduced prices or even free. MITOnline is another great example. There's obviously a huge market. So while people are sitting here complaining about how they can't get books on demand at a price that they arbitrarily determine UTunes is making a buttload of money solving the problem legally with cooperation from the authors. Google is busy going through libraries, determining what books are in demand and out-of-print and then getting the rights to place them online for cheap or free. And they too are making money hand over fist while providing people what they want on a (admittedly shaky) legal basis. Why do people feel they can just choose what they get for free?
posted by cyphill at 1:43 PM on February 16, 2012


Everyone relax. I didn't even know about this site and I've been able to *ahem* find virtually any book I want. Hundreds of megabites of books, dare I say gigs of books. There are other means, most notably a site called d

hey, there's a knock at the door. BRB!
posted by zardoz at 1:54 PM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, you know, there are two reasons why people pirate eBooks.

- They are expensive, especially in the UK where we have to pay VAT (20%) on the price, which isn't levied on print books. It was a bit of a shock to me as I usually buy books second-hand. I'm not arguing that writers shouldn't be paid, but just as it frustrated me that Beatles CDs never ever ever went below £16 when I was a teenager, it's curious that a lot of backlist stuff is full price.

- And the same reason that fuels a lot of music piracy - the stuff that people are willing to pay for isn't available. I have some dog-eared Penguin Modern Classics on my shelf - not in digital. Life, A User's Manual - which is both a classic and a hefty book to cart around - not in digital. The recent biography of Rin Tin Tin, which is getting excellent reviews in the press at the moment - not in digital. Heck, I'd love to replace a lot of my paperbacks with eBooks as I'm a renter and there's only so much space in my room and my handbag, but I can't. And this is the stuff that's still in paper print - there's a heck of a lot of out of print books out there which are unlikely to make digital any time soon.
posted by mippy at 2:05 PM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


But just because you don't like the contract doesn't give you recourse to break it.

It's an asymmetrical power situation with an obvious and relatively safe, relatively harmless, and yet ethically dubious work around for or those getting shat upon. Those that hold the power keep pushing and pushing, honestly what do they expect? I'm not speaking for myself, I'm speaking about culture as a whole.
posted by aspo at 2:05 PM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also: is the provision of eBooks in libraries in the US nearly the same as print? How does it work - do they self-delete like those weird temporary DVDs of a few years back? It hasn't caught on here yet, and I'm too dyspraxic to not run up fines equal to or greater than the cost of the books I have on loan. I hope it does.
posted by mippy at 2:08 PM on February 16, 2012


IndigoJones: So some kind of model that doesn't cut the author/publisher out of the deal entirely. Which this site did.

Something like a "Spotify for books"? It exists, but hasn't really taken off from what I can tell.

I agree wholeheartedly that publishers serve a function, and it's absurd for anyone to think that these conglomerates would stand idly by while all their work gets served up at a free digital buffet. I just wish they would get their act together and do the digital thing right: simultaneous print/digital release dates, no DRM, scaled pricing which acknowledges that digital and print versions are not equivalent value, and an acceptance of an international standard like ePub. I know the last one is more about platforms (okay, mostly just Amazon) forcing publishers into their proprietary model, but the big boys already threw a shitfit about wholesale pricing and got their way. Why not make another fuss? Yes, there's always Calibre for which I'm eternally grateful, but I can't wait for the day when it's no longer necessary.

Yes, I reckon I'll be waiting a long time.
posted by Chichibio at 2:09 PM on February 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


You have no right to just download a book because you don't want pay for it and it's not in a library at your convenience. Seriously, what sort of world of entitlement does this come from? Should I go lift a liquor bottles off the shelf of my local store because the Scotch I like is too expensive? Should I just sneak in the back door of my local museum because "art wants to be free"?

That's not the position I'm advancing, which should have been evident from the comment. People go/went to library.nu as a last resort for books they can't otherwise get their hands on, usually because there isn't a library copy available and sometimes because they can't afford it. (It's worth nothing that access to research materials is an issue in some places. I seem to recall an AMS appeal asking for donations of books and journals to be sent to Uzbekistan to try and build up university libraries.)

I don't have a huge need for spuriously-acquired books, so I've been to library.nu (I think) once to have a poke around. But, for example, one book I reference fairly frequently I have as a slightly spurious PDF, acquired from where it's openly available on the author's website. (I have no idea if he's got permission for that or not. It's a scan of library copy in China. But there are a handful of math books where the author has insisted it to the publisher it be available for free.) Maybe at some point I'll track down a used copy since the PDF is kind of annoying (looking just now, there are a few reasonably priced copies available), but neither the author nor the publisher is going to see a dime of that.
posted by hoyland at 2:22 PM on February 16, 2012


I guess I'm an "information wants to be free" hardline radical. All information must be free. I mean "free" as in freedom, not "free" as in free beer. Freedom means responsibility. If you don't help to support the people who are producing the information you are being irresponsible and terrible. If you would deny information to someone for petty monetary reasons you're also irresponsible and terrible. We have a responsibility to human civilization, and that includes supporting information producers as well as contributing to overall human knowledge.
posted by fuq at 2:34 PM on February 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Copyright law already clearly recognizes that there is a distinction between physical copies of books and the expression they contain. This has been the case since pretty much forever. The very first time the first sale doctrine was addressed by the Supreme Court they recognized that the sale of plates used to create book did not include a transfer of the copyright. That's because copyright and physical copies are entirely distinct. This is the same whether that copy is digital or not. Explain to me why digital copies are different (other then the fact that they need to be reproduced in memory to be rendered readable).

I told you before that the legal response was irrelevant and nonresponsive, and it's still true. This answer is still irrelevant and nonresponsive. I did not ask, "hey, what's the current state of law about selling used books versus downloading illegitimate ebooks," because I know the answer to that just as much as you do.

I am concerned with the ethical concerns, and with how to best change the law and publishing models, going forward.

I think that current copyright law is ridiculous, but once again, that doesn't just excuse people to break the law for convenience. I never asserted that any person violates some ethical law if they download an out-of-print book.

Tut-tutting over breaking the law for convenience is about as sensible as it was during the "HOME TAPING IS KILLING MUSIC" era. The industry will best protect itself by adapting to technological advancements and the economic changes which ensue, and not by pleading with customers to keep their broken business model afloat. I am more than happy to use eMusic and the Kindle Store. I am very willing to play ball.

I don't decide what's ethical or not. Neither does the government. That's up for an individual to decide. Please do not read ethical judgments into my answers (especially incorrect ones). But please tell me, what are the limits on this? A poet self publishes in San Francisco and I can't get a copy, so I can pirate it? Who decides what is "out-of-print", who determines what is rare?

This is where it becomes much more difficult.

On the one hand, you have something like a random law student who suddenly needs a rare book on an obscure jurist. She can either pay $80 for a used copy which will not remunerate anyone actually involved in putting out the book, or she can wait weeks for the book to reach her library through ILL. Setting aside obedience to the law for its own sake, from a utilitarian point of view, it is extremely difficult to say that the student would be unethical to download the book for free, in this case.

On the other hand, you have your obscure poet whose limited run book sells out. I decide I want a copy, even though I didn't order one. I download it for free. Now there's no guarantee that I'll buy another copy if he re-releases it. Now let's say that there are a thousand people like me (he's a hell of a poet). Had everyone who wanted the book emailed the author instead of downloading the book for free, he might have been able to finagle a second run, or to have snagged a publishing deal from a small press which wouldn't mind a thousand sales. It is extremely difficult to say that I'd be ethically in the clear by just downloading that book for free.

But then again, if I like that poet enough, there's every possibility that I'll buy a book just for the sake of having that book, especially if there's something unique about that pressing. For example, I recently bought a book from Dexter Sinister, even though all of its constituent parts are freely available as PDFs. Why? Because I could, because I like Dexter Sinister, because the book itself was well-made, and so on. The poet could also anthologize that old collection into a new collection, as Thomas Ligotti does with his short stories, absorbing old, small-press collections into new ones. A forward-thinking small press could combine both strategies, turning each release into a discrete work of art which is worth the purchase price.

As for how the law could handle this, the idea of giving authors kickbacks from how often their material is checked out from the library is an appealing one, although it may be a hard sell for my fellow Americans. I look forward to reading new suggestions to best balance everyone's needs.
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:56 PM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm not an information-for-free radical, but I have a lot more sympathy for book pirates ever since the authors groups made it very clear that nothing like the Google Books arrangement was ever going to happen.

I want to buy books. I do buy a lot of books. I can't buy your book because of "geographical" restrictions? Some grotesque middleman like Elsevier needs to make a huge percentage return on an academic book one of my friends wrote for free? Or, because the author is dead and no one knows who should be paid?

Google tried to solve these problems, and for their pains the unions and the publishers spat in their face. There was never a serious counter proposal on the table from any of the writers unions. We get weasel words from the publishers, particularly the highly-profitable academic ones.

Fuck'em. Gimme my eyepatch.
posted by bonehead at 2:57 PM on February 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


.

Farewell old friend.
posted by scalefree at 3:25 PM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sticherbeast: Once again you have read too much into my comment and not enough of its actual substance. The point of my comments are that the law has already developed provisions that specifically deal with your issues. You can assert as often as you want that you are asking questions and I'm not answering them. I'm pretty sure that you aren't even asking questions, nor are you even interested in my answers. You wrote "The onus is on us as a society to figure out how to best adjust the model so as to mostly fairly compensate those responsible for making books, while also not pretending that books are limited to physical hard copies." To which I correctly replied that WE ALREADY RECOGNIZE THAT BOOKS ARE NOT LIMITED TO HARD COPIES. We've already worked out a model where people are compensated when their expression is infringed regardless of the medium because copyright doesn't depend on medium at all. You appear to propose a system where people can get whatever knowledge they want. If they are poor or unable to get it legally then god bless 'em they are allowed to get it however they want. This is a plainly unworkable premise. Expression has value. Concrete value. Whether its a science textbook or a Stephen King novel. It has value because some person expended effort into its creation, and others are willing the compensate that person for their work. Let me make something absolutely clear to you. NOTHING is stopping a person from writing their own books and giving them away for free. NOTHING is stopping someone from writing academic texts and giving them away for free. NO COPYRIGHT LAW PROTECTS IDEAS, just the expression of that idea.

If I want to write the best book ever and never distribute it, or distribute it in only ways I please that's my prerogative because I'm the person that put the effort in. Who are you to say that my work must be distributed freely to any person who wants it? Since when do people have a god given right to other people's expression?

And why the bullshit about tut-tutting? Seriously, stop trying to read your own judgments into my comments. First of all home taping was legal, so I'm not sure why you are bizarrely conflating my comments with those. Second, I've been that poor student trying to get information through ILL, and you know what they do if you need it quickly? They photocopy the relevant section and send it to you through your email. In fact, copying by libraries (and for academic fair use) is EXPRESSLY PERMITTED BY COPYRIGHT LAW. Recording a mix tape from your cds? Yeah that's legal. Taking information from a textbook, writing your own version and distributing it for free? That's legal too. Want to create a series of up to date science books to distribute around the world for free? Go ahead. No one's stopping you. You can even use other people's books for the information. I never said piracy was destroying the publishing industry, the movie industry or any industry.

You can keep handwaving about the ethics of piracy and get no where because there's no point in talking about it. It's just not an ethical issue. You want an ethical determination? Fine. Library.nu was acting unethically. You know why I feel that way? Because plenty of companies are releasing out-of-print and rare books for low costs and making sure that they do so legally and with compensation to the author, exactly as I described in my earlier comment. So go ahead and dismiss valid points about how all the things you demand are already being supplied and throw out the copyright system. It's not like you understand it anyway.

(Also, as an aside. If I remember correctly the Google Books deal was thrown out by a judge because it gave Google Books a judicially created monopoly to reproduce books at a pre-determined price. It was not a good deal for anyone but Google)
posted by cyphill at 3:29 PM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


In this case, what pirates take away from all of us is the basic economic incentive that which would encourage other entrepreneurs to provide commercial access to such works. In other words, as long as Napster exists, there is no incentive to develop services like iTunes, Amazon Kindle, etc. etc. etc.

Please rethink your definition of "all of us." All of us would be happy as clams. Apple and Amazon, perhaps only slightly less so; they do make quite a lot of money selling actual tangible things, after all
posted by Sys Rq at 3:33 PM on February 16, 2012


We've already worked out a model where people are compensated when their expression is infringed regardless of the medium because copyright doesn't depend on medium at all.

No, WE didn't work out a model. Publication companies worked out a model and in doing so attempted to severely limit the current use while at the same time providing a service that by it's very nature should provide more benefits, not less. That's the kind of behavior that makes people work around a system. If people feel they are being disrespected, they disrespect right back.
posted by aspo at 3:37 PM on February 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Admittedly, I didn't write the constitution. But I'm also pretty sure that the publishing industry didn't write it either. As Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8 of the Constitution reads:
To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.
posted by cyphill at 3:44 PM on February 16, 2012


What does limited mean?
posted by aspo at 3:48 PM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh right, it means "forever." I forgot.
posted by aspo at 3:49 PM on February 16, 2012 [8 favorites]


The Google books deal was a bad deal in many respects, no argument there. What it did do, however, and what the unions and the publishers have no intention of ever doing is a) fixing the horrible licencing messes that are geographic and use rights and b) fixing the orphan works problem.

We nee a mandatory, compulsory licencing scheme. One end-use licence, no bullshit, for everyone in the world. If a book is offered for sale, it should always be for sale (not that I'm not talking about setting prices, just availability). If the publisher can't do that then someone else should be allowed to, required to even.

Make buying a book easier than piracy. Build that bookshop in the cloud. Amazon has tried, Google has tried, Apple has tried. The publishers are the bad guys here: they seem to want to make buying books as difficult as possible, with many of the writers' unions cheering them on.
posted by bonehead at 3:50 PM on February 16, 2012


There are no ebooks available for sale for the vast majority of books searchable through library.nu, meaning you needed such sites if you wish to transport any significant quantity of technical books.

I own enough mathematics, programming, and physics books that I cannot reasonably know their value, but certainly more than $5000 worth, probably less than $10k though. I have also moved country roughly every six months for the past six year, all these books get ordered to my parent's house where they quietly remain untouched. I certainly use university libraries whenever I want the printed book, but usually I grab a copy off library.nu first.
posted by jeffburdges at 4:18 PM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


There isn't afaik much financial "incentive" to write research level textbooks because academic publishers like Springer pay authors very little, even while change a couple hundred bucks. Your tax dollars already paid the academic authors however, either through government grants or general research subsidy, the publishers are nothing but parasites.

As a rule, academics write textbooks when (a) their subject requires a book rather than a series of journal article, (b) they're learning the material themselves, or (c) they've a crazy new idea about teaching the material. Academics then publish said books in respectable sounding academic series owned by evil academic publishers.
posted by jeffburdges at 4:19 PM on February 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Just fyi, if you only read fiction books, then you actually don't care much about linrary.nu, they were mostly for serious books. And mostly for people trying to actually do something interesting but technical with their lives. If you want only fiction, you're better off torrenting a fiction collection that matches your personal interests, like the 161 meg "1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die" from thepiratebay.se.
posted by jeffburdges at 4:32 PM on February 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Library.nu, and its predecessors, was why I bought a kindle, and another, and another, and two whole bookshelves. I bought more books since I started pirating than I ever did prior to having a kindle. So, as a dollar saving measure, the kindle was a bust, but it was worth it. On Library.nu there were so many obscure and wonderful tomes that you would never come across outside of a well funded university library, and they were all too expensive to risk buying at their current used prices. Instead, I downloaded them, read them, then bought them, and read them again with my pencil and note-cards handy.

It will be missed. Fortunately, I now have access again to Link+. But I worry the California library budget cut will take that bridge out next.
posted by TwelveTwo at 4:46 PM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


This site was incomparable for academic resources... it was really remarkable when I was looking for some random book in the Yale Agrarian Studies series, and it was checked out of the UBC library, but available online. Madness.
posted by mek at 4:48 PM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


And there is a massive forest of books that aren't in the public domain but are out of print. Libary.nu covered that forest well, and there was a feeling you got when you found a book there, some book you read about in a footnote-- I don't know how to capture it in prose. This sensation of discovering a book, rare and obscure, from a small university press from the seventies, available on there, sure, it had only been downloaded three times, but just knowing that it was uploaded by someone out there who thought all should have access to it, that sensation was a quiet beauty,-- I did not feel alone in my studies. It was precisely the opposite feeling one has after opening a book from the library, recognizing immediately that it has never been opened once in all its years. The book was lonely. On library.nu, there were footsteps in the desert, there were other flowers placed on those graves.
posted by TwelveTwo at 5:00 PM on February 16, 2012 [9 favorites]


You can assert as often as you want that you are asking questions and I'm not answering them. I'm pretty sure that you aren't even asking questions, nor are you even interested in my answers.

Unclench, friend. Unclench.

Your answers are about the current state of the law, with which I am already very, very, very familiar. My questions are about new solutions going forward to best balance new technological and economic realities. I have never suggested anything about eliminating copyright law. If your answer is that we should literally not ever change our current copyright regime and/or publishing models, then I urge you to consider why most professionals reject your answer of never-changing, especially when those professionals actually work in those fields.

To which I correctly replied that WE ALREADY RECOGNIZE THAT BOOKS ARE NOT LIMITED TO HARD COPIES. We've already worked out a model where people are compensated when their expression is infringed regardless of the medium because copyright doesn't depend on medium at all.

Current publishing models are still stuck in the understanding that the e-publishing world ought to function as a mirror to the physical book world. Things are moving away from that, but not terribly quickly. Some authors are finding it advantageous to leak their own work; others determine that this would not work for them. Many ebook distributors (and ebook reader manufacturers) use DRM or proprietary formats; others do not; some consumers break these restrictions willy-nilly, rendering these restrictions toothless, or at least reducing them to a purely dignitary function.

Some small presses can be more flexible with their changes. re:press is an example of an organization that is balancing appropriate remuneration with physical copies on-demand and well-assembled ebook editions, with some books available for free for academic use, but with others not available. Their model can't work for everyone, but they are finding solutions which work for them.

You appear to propose a system where people can get whatever knowledge they want. If they are poor or unable to get it legally then god bless 'em they are allowed to get it however they want.

You are thoroughly mistaken. This is a complete and total misunderstanding of what I was saying. I would not have walked through why it would be unethical to pirate the self-published poet's book if I felt this way.

If I want to write the best book ever and never distribute it, or distribute it in only ways I please that's my prerogative because I'm the person that put the effort in. Who are you to say that my work must be distributed freely to any person who wants it? Since when do people have a god given right to other people's expression?

I never said, implied, or meant any such thing. Have you considered reading before writing? I said, repeatedly, in English, that we need to balance technological and economic changes with strategies to best remunerate the appropriate parties. That is both different from and incompatible with the idea that everyone should get everything they want all the time.

First of all home taping was legal, so I'm not sure why you are bizarrely conflating my comments with those.

You should read up on things. Home taping was not explicitly legal, until it was. Hence the famous, and famously-mocked, slogan from the British Phonographic Industry, HOME TAPING IS KILLING MUSIC: AND IT'S ILLEGAL. That is why I explicitly referenced that program, because the recording industry had wanted to shame people into not home taping, and the recording industry as well wanted to remind people that it was, in their opinion, illegal.

Had people responded to this program's ridiculousness simply by quoting the current law and regarding changes to it as the churlish demands of whiny fools, the law never would have evolved to the point where home taping would have been recognized as the perfectly legal non-threat that it was.

Second, I've been that poor student trying to get information through ILL, and you know what they do if you need it quickly? They photocopy the relevant section and send it to you through your email. In fact, copying by libraries (and for academic fair use) is EXPRESSLY PERMITTED BY COPYRIGHT LAW.

I have been that poor law student, and alas, that did not happen. Library.nu wasn't in the picture for that situation anyhow. I just had to commute an extra three hours a day to visit a physical book. It was, needless to say, awesome.

Your caps lock appears to have broken for the last part of the last sentence there; I suggest tapping it again with your typing wand.

Admittedly, I didn't write the constitution. But I'm also pretty sure that the publishing industry didn't write it either. As Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8 of the Constitution reads:
To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.

Yes, quite. And isn't it interesting how copyright law in this country has constantly evolved to meet the changing demands and opportunities created by evolving technology and economic realities?
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:23 PM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


This isn't an ethical question. In a competitive market, unit prices will approach the cost of producing one more unit. I learned that from my pirated .pdf copy of Mankiw. What's the price of producing one more copy of an ebook? If the answer doesn't allow for sustainable creation of new books, it's not a matter of finding a new business model, but a new social model--like, say, increased public funding of arts and science production. We know library.nu is technically possible, so now we need to figure out how to make it socially possible.
posted by wwwwwhatt at 5:35 PM on February 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


What I mind is once I spend money on books I'm pretty much locked into that companies ereader system. Amazon is especially bad about this, but my understanding is even with epub readers, the drm locks you into the ereader in question, so if I buy a nook and lots of books at B&N, I can't go buy some other epub reader a few years down the line and read my books on that reader. Nope, it's nooks for all time unless I want to throw out that previous investment in books. That's just not acceptable.

Fortunately, most ebook sellers, with the notable exceptions of apple and amazon, have standardised on adobe's ADEPT DRM or some minor variant thereof; you generally can download the book into adobe digital editions as an epub, and then connect and 'authorise' any other digital editions capable ebook reader to copy the book to (I think up to 6 authorised devices is standard). The nook, kobo and sony ereaders are fairly cross-compatible in this regard, and most other e-book stores I've come across in the UK (such as google books and waterstones) also use this method for distribution. Libraries too have pretty much standardised on this.

A surprising number of ebooks are available as straight epubs with no DRM though, especially smaller indie authors, which is nice.

Amazon of course use their own format based on the venerable mobipocket nee palm reader format plus custom drm, that's only readable on kindles/kindle apps; ditto with apple and their fairplay drm wrapper for epubs in ibooks. Both will of course let you import DRM free mobi/epub respectively (as will all the physical other e-readers I'm aware of) though both are now switching to new custom formats; KF8 for amazon and their kindle fire, and apples ibooks 2 thingie for ipad textbooks.

That all said - it's absolutely trivial to strip the DRM off current ebooks for free that you've bought - which is fairly obvious, given you need to be able to read the thing on a low powered non-internet connected device in plaintext. In the UK I'm entirely within my rights to strip DRM in order to transcode the books to read on another device. I've just finished doing this with my kindle library (again, a surprising amount weren't DRM'd at all), and dumping them all into calibre in order to convert to epub (I've just bought my wife a kobo touch to replace her ailing kindle 3, and will be getting a kobo touch for myself shortly).

It's just as easy to go the other way, and convert those adobe digital editions books into a drm-free epub that you can store and read on whatever platform you like, converting to mobi if you want to read on a kindle. My dad figured out how to do this on his own without prompting so he could have the same book on his ipad and kindle, it's that simple. (hint - apprentice alf).

Still. The approach publishers have taken to libraries; 26 reads before it needs to be replaced? Really? and their willful destruction of fair use and first sale rights, in addition to just stopping me lending the damn things to my family/friends, in addition to charging a hefty premium over the paperback version for older books before VAT gets added on isn't exactly endearing me to their side of the debate. Perhaps if they didn't treat their actual customers like fricking thieves and stopped gouging quite so damn hard on ebook prices people might be a bit more sympathetic.

Which is why I largely only buy ebooks from indies, including places like baen books, who aren't so actively hostile to people wanting to buy their stuff.
posted by ArkhanJG at 6:42 PM on February 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


I feel so conflicted about pirated books. I am a librarian, I loved library.nu and learned so much from the books I got there I could not get anywhere else. Open access e-journals saved me thousands while getting my Masters. And I struggle everyday with DRM and proprietary issues that stop me from accessing e-books I have legally paid for. (As noted above, I have also bought a book, been unable to open it and ended up downloading a pirated copy) But I also have friends that produce music, reference books, chapbooks and novels that can't make money after spending years on their endeavors. "Information wants to be free" is the mantra I keep hearing but people are unable to produce media if they have to spend all their time at their day jobs. And if someone has brought something of value to the world shouldn't they be compensated for it? Do we move back to a patronage system? Who will be the patrons and what topics will be the recipients of their largesse; in Canada, arts funding my the government has declined significantly in the past twenty years.

Libraries are a huge cash cow for publishers because they HAVE buy legal copies (which are then often stripped of their DRM and released into the wild by patrons) but libraries are under attack because "information is free"; all those books, music, and movies they buy are free for the taking on the internet. So the relevancy of libraries are questioned. And of course, most of the people that talk about how everything is available on the internet are coming from a privileged position of having computers and an internet connection. Because smartphones can't always download books, and library computers generally do not allow you to download pirated books, and free wifi cafe's tend not to last in lower socio-economic neighbourhoods. "Free' information still has a cost.

I was speaking with the Head Librarian of the Toronto Public Library last week (often called the biggest and busiest library system in the world) and the issue of e-books and working with publishers is a game-changer that the major libraries recognise but with so many stakeholders it is hard to see a fair way of balancing everyone's needs. (And instead of having a time to work with other groups on a solution she is spending her time justifying the Public Library's existence eto City Council and balancing the needs of her unionised workers who are negotiating their contract in the face of these funding pressures.
posted by saucysault at 6:51 PM on February 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


"Information wants to be free" is the mantra I keep hearing but people are unable to produce media if they have to spend all their time at their day jobs.

It's a phrase that is ridiculously misused and taken out of context.

From the almighty Wikipedia:
The iconic phrase is attributed to Stewart Brand.[1] who, in the late 1960s, founded the Whole Earth Catalog and argued that technology could be liberating rather than oppressing.[2] The earliest recorded occurrence of the expression was at the first Hackers' Conference in 1984. Brand told Steve Wozniak:[3]

"On the one hand information wants to be expensive, because it's so valuable. The right information in the right place just changes your life. On the other hand, information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time. So you have these two fighting against each other.[4]"


It's not about information wanting a damn thing, and it's not an actual argument against being able to charge for access to intellectual property. It's just a metaphor for the ease of copying and distribution of information in the digital age.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:11 PM on February 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


I am always entertained to see Inter Library Loan bandied about as if it were some magic cure all that can get you everything you want 100% of the time, for free and for as long as you want it, quickly. You need a copy of "The Impossium of Livertatus"? and only one copy exists, in an archive in Fiji? Here, let me hop on my magic library jet and get it for you. It's free of course, we do all of this out of love. Politicians and school administrators love us and give us buckets of money so we can provide these services all of the time with no thought of budgetary restraints.

It is so tiring to hear people who are demanding that pirating be stopped BECAUSE EVERYTHING'S AVAILABLE AT THE LIBRARY, turn around and vote down a bond issue to fund that same library. the magic gravy train of library funding done dried up years ago, all of that magic you're seeing is Librarians, staff, and volunteers doing their best with what little we're given. Libraries are closing all over the place, and I blame you. Yes, I meant you specifically, not that mouse in your pocket. So, put up, or shut up. And if one student got some help through a pirated text book, I say hooray!
posted by evilDoug at 10:02 PM on February 16, 2012 [7 favorites]


Dear content producers,
Please find a way to earn a living so that you can keep producing. But please don't make it so your one time single work is locked away behind the paywall for your life plus your kids and grandkids. I've had enough of that shit. It is really hard to be sympathetic with struggling authors complaining about ebook piracy when the copyright laws are so unreasonable.
Keep up the great work,
posted by bystander at 11:04 PM on February 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's not about information wanting a damn thing, and it's not an actual argument against being able to charge for access to intellectual property. It's just a metaphor for the ease of copying and distribution of information in the digital age.

I always mentally insert the "behaves like" into these kind of phrases to remind myself that they're metaphors.

Information (behaves like it) wants to be free
Water (behaves like it) wants to flow downhill
Genes (behave like they) want to make more copies of themselves
posted by primer_dimer at 11:51 PM on February 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


I borrowed a book from a friend, which he had purchased secondhand. At least three people enjoyed the work, but only one paid for it. It's like we other two went out, found the author, and beat him to death with our bare hands.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 12:25 AM on February 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


I always mentally insert the "behaves like" into these kind of phrases to remind myself that they're metaphors.

I'm totally going to do that from now on
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 2:43 AM on February 17, 2012


I've just learned about 4chan's /sci/ via this amusing thread.
posted by jeffburdges at 4:34 AM on February 17, 2012


Library Patrons Buy Books They Borrow, Study Says. This probably extends to pirated books, too.
posted by stbalbach at 7:59 AM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Everyone talking about libraries needs to remember that if they weren't already a fundamental and ancient institution there's no way they would be permitted in the current legal climate. Honestly, once SOPA II: Electric Boogaloo passes and music and movie piracy is stopped forever, I expect to see libraries and secondhand bookstores slowly squeezed out of existence.
posted by Zozo at 8:17 AM on February 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


It is still gone! Aaagggghhhh
posted by TwelveTwo at 12:51 PM on February 21, 2012


gen.lib.rus.ec/ is throwing a 404 error. I hope that one didn't get taken down too.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 12:52 PM on February 21, 2012


gen.lib.rus.ec/ is throwing a 404 error. I hope that one didn't get taken down too.

Well, it *was* publicly posted on a major website seen by thousands of assorted people every day.
posted by fuq at 6:54 PM on February 21, 2012


So, what you are saying is: it was an inside job.
posted by TwelveTwo at 3:39 PM on February 22, 2012


Canadian Universities Agree To Email Monitoring For Copyright Agency
(I'd wanted to make a post about this one, but I won't find the time)
posted by jeffburdges at 7:45 AM on February 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


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