A Journey into the Darknet

Darknet - colloquial term for websites where one might find pirated contentReposted with permission from the authorOk, so I have been a pretty staunch supporter of the legal purchase of ebooks, with or without DRM. I can see the reasoning from both sides and even understand why a company might see DRM as necessary. The publishing execs have pet koalas and such to feed too and the idea of hard working writers sitting on a corner with a cardboard sign reading "Will tell stories for ink" just makes me sad. Sure, I remove the DRM on my ebooks, but it's for the sole purpose of being able to convert books to a format that my reader can use, I figure that if I paid for the book then I should be allowed to read that book on whatever device I choose. I am not depriving anyone of their hard earned dough.

The point that I am trying to make here, is that while I have been a supporter of the removal of DRM I have been a quiet opponent of the use of the darknet and questionable sites for the downloading of ebooks. I use various search engines to find the cheapest price for available ebooks as well as coupons and I pay for them. I have never downloaded an ebook in a questionable manner...until recently.

While searching for a copy of my all time favorite book, Bringing Out the Dead, in ANY format at ANY price ANYWHERE I stumbled upon a torrent site that not only had a copy, but a well formatted copy. Now I have been on the lookout for this book in ebook format for a long time. I own a hardback copy of the book and used to own a paperback copy of the book. I even paid to see the movie in theaters when it first came out. The author's second book bombed, so I figured the chances of his original masterpiece being released in ebook format were slim. I have supported the author quite a bit and felt zero guilt about the idea of downloading the ebook for free, so I gritted my teeth and downloaded the book. Nothing bad happened. My computer didn't explode in a rash of viral programs, the FBI did not bang down my door, and I had a good copy of a book that I love.

A little twinkle came to my eye and I began searching for other books which were not available and had little to no chance of being released as ebooks. I found heaps of old and out of print books just begging to be downloaded and loved again. Some had poor formatting, some had near perfect formatting, all of them free.

Before I knew it I was like a heroin addict looking to get right; downloading books off of some back alley darknet site that were outrageously priced in the real world (but available in most ebook formats), grabbing books that were reasonably priced (but a part of a large series), etc. I told myself that it was because I am a poor wage slave trying to make it through my second go at school after abandoning my previous career, I told myself that it was to make up for all of the times I grinned and bent over for the publishing company and the on line distributors, I told myself lots of pleasant stories before I realized that I had begun to download books that I didn't even care that much about.

I had gone mad with the notion of freely available ebooks--my eyes were wide, drool ran down the side of my face, and my hands began to shake. I can say that if it weren't for the lack of foresight and concern of the publishing industry it would have never even happened, but it does not change the fact that the draw of free books was greater than my moral compass was able to process.

I have more or less recovered from my descent into the darknets, I can easily see why people are so drawn to this. It seems to me that the publishing industry and on line retailers are creating their own worst nightmares: legions of computer literate folks foaming at the mouths, who are unwilling to play by the currently established rules. If the industry does not start to actually listen to its consumers then I have a feeling that lots of Little Johnnys will be innocently wandering around on line when they too decide that they are tired of waiting for that obscure Cat in the Hat book (the one where he does meth and ends up selling the kids for a quick fix) to come out in an ebook format and end up finding their way to some sleazy darknet alley on line...

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