My friend Eric Mack, a technology guru who blogs on everything from eProductivity to Spiritual Life at his blog Eric Mack Online, has recently encountered a dilemma that's near and dear to my heart: what is one's true right to convert media they own to a more desirable format?
Eric's concern, as evidenced by his recent post, is that in some way it may be unethical to "rip" your analogue books to digital form for reading on, say, a Tablet PC or a PDA. This isn't an issue for me at present because I don't own a Tablet and my PDA took a turn for the worse a few months back (2 years of hard use and they never fail to go into the crapper). But if I did have a Tablet or PDA, I think I would be completely justified in "ripping" my books to digital form. We just shouldn't have to pay for the same content twice- period. In a perfect world, we'd be sent a free digital version of everything we bought analogue: We already paid money for the content, after all.
So it's time for my ruling: Eric is fully within his rights when he converts his analogue books to digital form because he's already paid for the content- and if anyone ever thought otherwise I'd take the lead in creating an Eric Mack Legal Defense Fund. Further, I think he's justified in distributing a file to someone who owns an analogue copy of the book- everyone shouldn't have to spend 6 hours hunched over a scanner when they already paid $90 each for 'Business Law'.
(And that brings me to the issue of textbook prices: when I was in college, I felt like I was robbing the author every time I paid only $117 for a marketing textbook: they should really charge more so students are no longer forced to feel like they're taking advantage of the industry. So I resolve, hear and now, that if I ever go back to school, I'm going to start a grassroots campaign to drive the price of textbooks to those of Ferraris and beach houses, where they belong.)
Of course the whole debate brings me back to my original problem: why can't I buy the books and movies I want in a digital form to begin with? All I want is the movie A Passage to India on my next PDA. Isn't anybody listening? Ahh, the woes of being an early adopter.