Thoughts On Theft

For the sake of argument, let's all agree that stealing is wrong.

Only thing is, what exactly is stealing?

A simple definition would be taking something that's not yours, right? I guess. But think about this:

You walk into a bookstore, pull the Hint Fiction anthology off the shelf (or any other book), hide it in your jacket (for the sake of argument let's assume you're wearing a jacket. why? I don't know, maybe it's cold outside or raining. just go along with it, okay? sheesh), and then walk right out of the store.

So that would be stealing, yes? You took a physical item that did not belong to you and left the store without paying. Okay then. What about this:

You walk into a bookstore, pull the Hint Fiction anthology off the shelf, and begin reading it from front to back. It wouldn't take you very long, which is why I'm using it as an example. But if you'd like, say it's a comic book or some other book that's short enough to read in an hour or two. You read the entire thing, place it back on the shelf, and walk out of the store.

Now was that stealing?

Obviously nothing physical was stolen from the bookstore. What was stolen was the experience of the book. If that makes sense. Listen, I'm not saying that necessarily is stealing, but with the recent hoopla about e-book readers and how writers are going to have their books stolen (blah blah blah) it made me realize that a book or story isn't so much an object as it is an experience. If someone wants to go into the bookstore and read the entire anthology, that's fine by me. Nothing I can do about it anyway. Sort of like people loaning books from the library ... only the books at the library have been previously purchased. Anyway, do you see what I mean? I think when people start realizing that a book isn't an object but an experience, they'll start to understand there's nothing scary or wrong with e-book readers.

Except, you know, that hackers are eventually going to steal all our books and make them free to everyone in the world and we will all die penniless and alone. I guess that is kind of scary, huh?