Here is a moral dilemma that I’ve not seen discussed before — maybe surprisingly, since it’s one that I imagine lots of us have run into. However I think through this, it leads me to a stupid conclusion. Can anyone help me to see what mistake I’m making?
I’ve enjoyed Terry Pratchett’s books pretty much since the start, so over the years I’ve accumulated a complete set of paperbacks.
I’ve had a Kindle for several years (actually I’m on my third), and now do the huge majority of my reading on it. So I acquired a set of Pratchett e-books via a torrent site, and have a selection on my Kindle. (That’s why I was able to read Maskerade on a flight yesterday.) It seems to me that this has to be morally fine; indeed several publishers now give you the ebook for free when you buy a physical one.
We have accumulated lots of crud in our home over the years and want to get rid of things we no longer need. Now that I have all my Pratchetts in e-book form, I don’t need the paperbacks, so we can reclaim the space they take up.
It’s stupid to waste good books, so I should clearly give them to a local library, or school, or charity shop that can get them into the hands of eager young readers — right?
But if I do that, then the situation we’re in is equivalent to if I’d just pirated the books in the first place. That is, the paperbacks have been paid for and are being user, and I have e-books that I didn’t pay for.
So does that mean that I need to keep the physical books, so that I own them as a sort of licence for the corresponding e-books? Does it mean I’m mandated to lock them up in trunk somewhere, taking up space and benefitting no-one?
Of, if I don’t have to actually keep the books morally, but am free to reclaim the space in the house, does that mean that I ought to destroy them — burn them, maybe? — in order to prevent other people from benefitting from them?
And how on earth did we get into the situation where burning books in order to prevent people from reading them looks like a morally coherent thing to do?
Help me out, people! Which step in this chain of reasoning is broken?