No, nobody’s saying anyone should stop reading.
There are many ways to get free books.
Thousands of books that are out of copyright, their authors dead and unable to be hurt. Jane Austen, William Thackeray, Anthony Trollope, to name three I love. If you like horror, there’s Dracula and Carmilla.
If you like fantasy, I really recommend George MacDonald Fraser’s ‘The Princess and the Goblin.’ http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/34339
There’s fanfiction. Tons of great fanfiction out there for free.
There are discounted ebooks, and sometimes ebooks given away for free, for certain periods of time, to look out for.
Used books are much cheaper than new—and used books are different from piracy, as it’s a copy that was bought by someone, who then could do whatever they will with that one copy. I am not sure of your situation, but in some places books are set out on stoops to be taken away, books available on lending systems in bars and coffee shops, books available outside used bookshops with tip jars. Many authors and book blogs offer free copies, and you can enter as many of those draws as you want.
There are online book borrowing chains, like http://bookmooch.com/ - if people can afford postage, that’s a great way to get books.
There are many, many authors who write free things you can read legally. They write things for free, hoping that readers might want to buy some of their stuff that’s for sale—but also just wanting to share their writing, and hoping people enjoy.
Seanan McGuire’s shorts, many of which are free:
Also short stories on her livejournal: http://seanan-mcguire.livejournal.com/351126.html
Short stories by Kelley Armstrong, who has also written a lot:
Ilona Andrews, whose books I love:
I myself have written huge amounts of free stuff online myself. Feel free to read it! Please make yourself free of it and enjoy.
The Turn of the Story: http://sarahtales.livejournal.com/209287.html
For those who say they want to try before they buy—there are lots of ways to try out a writer without piracy.
And there are authors who are going to say: yes, okay to piracy. Neil Gaiman apparently is one. Cory Doctorow is another famous example, and provides free copies of his own work. (Men’s work is always valued more than women’s work, and I would be surprised if more people didn’t come back and buy a guy’s book after they got it for free, because the guy ‘deserved’ it—so I am not surprised by seeing more guy authors having a more relaxed attitude. Similarly, I doubt all that many guys have been scolded and told they should feel lucky that anyone’s paying attention to them if they are against book piracy.)
It sucks not being able to have the specific book you want, of course. Yesterday I was having a tantrum on twitter because I want Courtney Milan’s The Heiress Effect, and my ereader store (Sony) doesn’t have it yet. I want it! But I can’t have it. Same thing happened with A Kiss For Midwinter—eventually it came in, and I bought it. I want it, and I want it now—and I can’t have it now. That sucks. But I don’t intend to punish Courtney Milan for that. I will wait, and buy it when I can.
It sucks to be in a country where you can’t buy books. I wish there was a system in place to make regional ebooks a thing of the past—I hope it’s something that will happen in the future.
It sucks to not have enough money to buy a book. (Though there are different versions of ‘I can’t afford.’ I admit, it stings and is horrible to be told ‘I couldn’t afford your book’ by someone who means ‘I wished to spend the money on something else instead, like this fancy belt, and have BOTH things, and I didn’t care about the effect it had on anyone but me.’ It’s quite different to ‘It’s the choice between your book and dinner’—of course dinner should win.)
I don’t like piracy, but I understand there are reasons to pirate—but I also think that it should be borne in mind that piracy can hurt authors, and that authors are people. It can hurt libraries, which hurts people who are very badly off. It can hurt bookshops, which hurts people’s chances of discovering new books to love, or a love for books at all. It can hurt readers, if a favourite author’s books aren’t published anymore and they never get to read new books from them.
I think that it’s good to remind people of that, so they can consider if they do really need to pirate books.
And if they feel that they truly don’t have another way to get the books and the books would be a huge comfort to them, I think it’s good to know that piracy hurts authors so later, if people are in a different position, they can remember to buy the books. (Worth noting: remember that authors who don’t sell are often let go by their old publishers and have to (if they’re lucky), find new ones, so buy the newer books by the new publishers if you can.)
Remember, too, that piracy affects libraries, and libraries are vitally important to people who cannot afford luxury items like computers and ereaders—who are in a worse position than most.
I know that I am lucky: lucky to have the job I have, for however long it lasts, and lucky in that while I been in the position where I skipped a meal in order to buy a book, I am no longer in that position, and have never been in a position where I would have had to skip several meals: where I was facing real privation.
I know this stuff is complicated.
And I know it sucks. But I think there should be awareness that authors are people, and people who are harmed, and dropped by their publishers, and also emotionally upset, by this stuff.
Quoting Seanan McGuire again (sorry Seanan! It’s been a Seanan-With-Seanan-On-Top Day!)
‘It is absolutely complicated… That’s also why it was “please don’t pirate,” not “if you pirate you are scum and I hate you and you can never never never be a true fan, ever.”
Part of the problem for me, as a creator, is that the more we-as-people become distanced from the work—the more the work is viewed as this amorphous “thing” that just sprung into being without human intervention, but which pays THE MAN in royalties when you buy it—the easier it is to not stop and think “okay, did I love this enough to pay for it? Did I love this enough to pay for something else by the same person?” And that’s part of why we keep talking about it. We need to remain part of the conversation, with our mortgages and our hungry cats, or we’re in even more trouble than we already are.’