This post will surely get me into trouble, lol, but... here goes!
The world is changing, no doubt about it. I stumbled over a tweet this morning from a book lending site asking if someone had my book Kidnapped available for upload. Book lending sites are sort of legal, but I personally don't like them. I realize this sounds petty. People sometimes tell me I'm cheap for thinking they should pay 99 cents for a book instead of borrowing it for free. Some also wonder if I want to do away with all libraries. Of course not.
Here is my line of thinking. If a library buys say three copies of a book, three people at a time can borrow it. Say that the book is really popular, so someone will lend it as soon as it's returned to the library. Let's also assume each lender keeps the book for two weeks. That would mean that each copy is lent out to 26 people each year. The library has three copies, so during that year, 26x3=78 people will read it.
On a side-note, a big difference between traditional libraries and book-lending sites is that the former usually carry books from established authors. The latter carry everything, and some of the writers might never sell one single copy.
If an individual buys a paperback, likes the book, and lends it out to their friends, I'd estimate somewhere between 2 and 10 people reads that one copy during a year. They're not likely to stand on a street corner and hand out photo copies of it. Not a problem.
If people like the book they borrowed at the library, maybe they'll look for more books by the same author, and actually buy a paperback of their own.
E-books, on the other hand... Some of my e-books have become torrents. How many people download a torrent? Could be tens of thousands. How easy is it to have a torrent removed? Not very. Did the person who made the torrent buy his or her copy? Not likely.
The pricing and sales of e-books is completely different from traditional publishing. Many e-books cost 99 cents, and of that the author gets maybe 30 cents. (It depends on where and how it's published.) 30 cents, for something that might have taken years to craft.
With approximately 800,000 new books released in the US every year, the majority of self published/small press books sell between 200-300 copies during the book's lifetime.
That means, many authors will make a combined sum of 0.30x200=$60 over a period of maybe five years.
Some people might not have money to buy books, and for them, a book-lending site could be great. I understand that. Sometimes people approach me and say, "I'd love to read your book, but I can't afford to buy it." When that happens, I feel honored someone cares enough to tell me, and I gift a copy. Seriously though, we're talking about something that's cheaper than a cup of coffee. I bet a lot of people have more change rolling around on the floor of their car than the average e-book costs.
I had the same problem working as a musician. Playing an instrument requires talent, practice, and hard work. Musicians also invest in instruments and equipment. People still don't want to pay for it; they say, "You get to do something you love." Well, sure, I like music and I like to play the bass, but I don't always want to stay up at night. It's not fun to talk to drunk people while carrying heavy objects at three in the morning, or have people spill drinks over you.
Maybe I am petty for thinking people can pay 99 cents, or $2.99, or even $5.99 for a book. Still, try to get a plumber over to your house to fix the sink for free, or a mechanic to fix your car for free.
What do you think? I'd love to hear!