Legal Theft

     Amazon.com and Google are thieves.
     Vampires sucking authors’ blood.
     What they do has nothing to do with culture or intellectual freedom.
     Don’t let then tell you different.
     It’s theft, impure and not simple.
     Not that I do not profit from it, as a reader.
     I do.
     Though I suffer from it as an author.
     How do I know this and why do I say it?
     Several years ago, after a lifetime of poor decisions, I compounded my errors by deciding to write a book about Shakespeare.
     I know, I know … what could I possibly say?
     Just a few things, maybe …
     This quest led me to the used bookstores of New England, where I spent thousands of dollars buying the basic literature on Shakespeare.
     I also bought books online, using the services of Google and Amazon – those thieves.
     These Internet pirates helped me find books I needed, and wanted, and they helped me buy them from booksellers far away, at a decent price.
     However …
     There’s a new book out, called “Shakespeare’s Stationers: Studies in Cultural Biography,” a compilation of scholarly papers, edited by Marta Straznicky (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013 – $67.50.)
     Academic presses sell books at obscene prices.
     There’s no reason that book should cost $67.50.
     Actually, there is a reason: Penn Press wants to make its money back in the first 2 weeks, when most of the copies will be sold, to other universities’ libraries.
     That’s the average life span of a book in the United States – two weeks. The unsold copies are sent back to the publisher and pulped – dissolved in acid. Then some other nonsense is printed on the recycled pulp: “Zen for Cats.” Whatever.
     “Shakespeare’s Stationers” looked good to me, but I can’t pay $67.50 for a book. I’m just a poor shlub. An author.
     I can’t ask my English Department to buy it for me, then stick it in my office and hog it from students. I don’t have a department. I’m just a reporter.
     So, searching for a cheap copy of the book online, I found that Amazon had downloaded the whole thing and made 94 percent of it available for free.
     That’s theft.
     Amazon covered its fat, mangy, dishonest ass by omitting every 6th or 7th page from the free download, which I am reading.
     Come on, U.S. Supreme Court: That’s theft. That’s stealing.
     I’m aiding and abetting. Arrest me, and I’ll testify.
     I don’t need the whole book to rip off the authors.
     I can fill in every 7th page from what I know already.
     I could read every seventh page in a bookstore, if bookstores in Southern California stocked anything but born-again Christian pap, self-help crap and mysteries, which they don’t.
     I am by reading, for free, a $67.50 book that took many professors many years to write.
     And I’m not paying a dime for it.
     If I ever get my Shakespeare book published, it will be subjected to the same process of legal theft.
     Google and Amazon and their evil spawn will scan my book and offer it for free, minus a few pages, for anyone who wants to read it – with ads on the side, from which Amazon and Google will profit, but I won’t.
     That’s not intellectual freedom.
     That’s not culture.
     That’s the iron boot heel of capital on authors’ necks: in saecula saeculorum: world without end.

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