A little note in advance: I’m about to rant. I may rant at some length. I’m ranting about something other people have ranted about, as well. So be warned.
So here’s what happened. Wednesday, the New York Times ran an article about the Kindle and how many Kindle owners are now buying more books than they used to. The end of the article contained the following paragraphs:
Ms. Englin has linked her Kindle to the Amazon account of some nearby friends, allowing all of them to read books like “The Lost Symbol” at the same time — while paying for them only once.
“I read much more, I tend to read faster for some reason, and I read a greater variety of things,” said Ms. Englin, adding that this is nearly the same as lending a physical book to friends. “We haven’t really looked closely at Amazon’s terms of service. But I do suspect we are breaking the rules.”
Now. I read the original NYT article because it was linked to in Publisher’s marketplace, in the daily emails I get from them. I saw that last paragraph and, I admit, had a twinge. A moment of “Hey, that doesn’t seem quite right.” But then almost immediately after I thought two things:
1. That this was clearly just a couple of friends sharing books
2. That this is in essence no different from, say, a group of friends with low incomes or little disposable cash, who pool their money and buy books together to share. I did this a few times as a teen; mostly for hardcovers, but sometimes to get three books instead of one or whatever.
And that was basically it. I closed the article and went about my day.
Too bad some other authors didn’t do the same. I’m not going to name any names here. You can find them if you really want. But a few other authors also saw that article, either through PM like I did or because they get the Times or whatever. Those authors went on Twitter and began what I can only describe as a witch hunt, a name-and-shame campaign where they not only scolded Ms. Englin and called her a thief, but actually listed her Twitter identity in their tweets–her Twitter identity, which appears to be her professional identity, as her Twitter seems to be used almost exclusively for business (she’s in marketing or consulting or something like that).
No, I’m not kidding. These people actually felt perfectly justified in naming and publicly scolding this woman, and in encouraging others to retweet their rants and join in berating her as well, in public, in front of her friends, family, clients, and potential clients.