Remember Napster? The music-sharing website that distributed music files to strangers over the internet for free? It operated for about two years until it was shut down by legal action. Napster users clearly violated the copyright laws and the courts put an end to the most serious music pirating scheme ever. Now, instead of pirates, Apple and Amazon sell emusic. They see the writing on the wall with ebooks, and are participating in the push for used ebooks. “An online used ebook market could affect the business of ebooks much in the same way that Amazon’s online used book market affected the print trade 13 years ago, the New York Times points out: ‘The price on the Internet for many used books these days is a penny.’”
Reminiscent of Napster, today a number of websites make the full texts of copyright protected books available free to download. Library Genesis and Bookos.org give away millions of ebooks and scientific articles. Like Napster, book pirates distribute the protected works without any digital protection. They have libraries of texts central to all academic disciplines, including manuscripts by several scholars in my department -- for free, and in text-searchable PDF format. Ebookoid.com has a similar free database and charges users up to $1 for other books, with a request form for users that don’t find what they want. Since most of the ebooks are absolutely free, and there is no advertising on the site, the motivation for these sites is not economic.