Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Great, Sketchy eBook Archive

I'm going to make a leap of faith and say this massive collection of free pdf eBooks is completely legit. I'm also going to lock my windows to keep the leprechauns from beating the tooth fairy to those molars under the pillow. But hey, if this is piracy, this is Blackbeard caliber work. A near limitless collection of business books, programming resources, comic books, and more. So get them while they last...or take a moral stand...whatever. As they always say, piracy is the highest form of flattery.

17 comments:

neilornstein said...

You have an absolutely wonderful site.

But, it seems more likely that this site is dodgy than not. Is it right (however you want to define that word) for you to be encouraging people to go down this particular road?

Wynn Williamson said...

Neil, thanks for the complement!

You raise a fair point about listing "dodgy sites". Pretty much every resource I list here is free and, in most cases, completely legit.

That being said, throughout my entire grade school through university education, there were always some copyright infringing materials in the classroom. Whether photocopies or videotapes of copyrighted materials, I had many teachers that broke the rules a bit in order to educate.

So while I generally try to list exemplary quality free materials, the focus of this site is learning for free on the web, and I think it's a mistake to complete disregard that gray area, which is nothing new to education.

chromatic said...

Would you feel differently if part of your livelihood came from writing books such as these?

Would you feel differently if you wrote books such as these to help fund volunteer work writing free documentation and free software?

Wynn Williamson said...

chromatic - yes, I can certainly appreciate how someone dependent on such profits for their livelihood might feel different.

However, looking at the bigger picture, I think that a situation has basically arisen where materials are available either (1) for free but illegal or (2) for sale, but at a ridiculously high cost.

So what am I to do? One would say I should be honest and pay. That might be easy if I have a huge exposable income, but what if I don't? One thing is stealing bread, but stealing a series of zeros and ones seems quite different.

Furthermore - and this largely drove me to create this blog - pricing doesn't seem to correspond with quality. A completely free and open physics textbook can be just as good as a $150 textbook. New musicians release highly original material for free while rehashed corporate rock sells for $20 a record (with DRIM).

Sure, there may be less example of excellent free examples, and it's easy to point out these extremities, just a few examples make me less convinced that "being honest" and paying full price is really a matter of integrity. Rather, it seems like the voice of an established consumer goods system that is having a hard time adapting to new technology which essentially removes the physical substance of the product.

I think that right now piracy is playing a major role to spurn development of culture. I also think it is helping to offset the balance between the developed and developing world. And I also think that piracy is creating a generation who isn't viewing culture as a product.

Charles Ives believed that all artists should have day jobs. I don't know if I believe that - I like the idea that you can create materials like these and make an honest living. I think what we are really observing is an unbalance market getting settled.

Anonymous said...

yeah i agre but its still stealing

Wynn Williamson said...

not going to argue with that.

chromatic said...

You can buy any of my books new for less than $20. You can buy them used for substantially less. Considering the amount of work that I put into them and the amount of entertainment and productive information you can extract from them, it is difficult for me to call that a "ridiculously high cost".

By my estimate of the value of my time, learning one thing that saves an hour of my time effectively pays for the book.

Of course, by the actual remuneration to time invested ratio, I would make more money with a minimum-wage job than from writing. You might call me somewhat jaded to the argument that books are too expensive.

(By the way, I don't use the terms "stealing" or "piracy". This is merely copyright infringement.)

Wynn Williamson said...

chromatic - that's a fair argument. And I think that if I could get the books from the library or an ad-supported web service, I'd be very happy. And TV shows get broadcast here in Europe months later. Why should I wait when I can download them now for free? I think this a big problem - copyright infringement is not only cheaper, but easier. And often it's the only option.

What do you think of the freeload press textbook model of ads in textbooks? Maybe this isn't the right answer for all cases, but it is an interesting solution.

Steve Foerster said...

A few points.

Copyright is a state entitlement of monopoly of a particular form of speech. As such it's a form of censorship, and what you all call "piracy" is a form of civil disobedience that stands up to that censorship. Many file sharers may have embraced counter-cultural rhetoric, but the reality is that they aren't pirates any more than Rosa Parks was a hijacker.

Some people inevitably talk about the "time" they put into creating materials. Sorry guys, but the Labor Theory of Value that underpins that argument was discredited by economists 140 years ago; the hours put into making something have nothing to do with their value in a marketplace. As an extreme but illustrative example, if I spend a lot of time looking at pictures of pretty girls on the Internet should I demand to be compensated?

The lawyers have done a good job muddying the issue by referring to ideas as "intellectual property", but ideas can't logically be property in the way that physical items can because they can be "given away" without their being lost to their originator. There's not the same scarcity issue. Treating it that way may have been easier before the Internet came on the scene, but now we have it, and you're not going to be able to put that toothpaste back in the tube.

Put simply, it's time that content creators stopped whining about the technology-driven world in which they find themselves and started revising their business models to be reality-compliant. And yes, I too am a content creator and know of which I speak.

Peace out.

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Anonymous said...

I will probably be hunted down,
But I completely agree with you. Knowledge should be free. I think this also applies to e-books and courses, if they weren't so expensive more customers would come. I for one can not afford university. So the only resources I have access to are free stuff online. Nonetheless, several people are hypercritical without realizing it.

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jette said...

I think knowledge should be free. On the other hand, I also think authors have a right to eat...
There is a dilemma here - however, when I hear people justifying and giving reasons why something is ok, then the person is trying to really convince himself..
I don't think knowledge "taken" can be of real benefit to you, but knowledge given can. So lets get authors to release basic knowledge as freeware and make it possible for people to donate? To me it seems the best of two worlds..

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