“A remarkable number of people apparently think libraries are bad, because they provide information for free, rather than forcing people to pay. In response to the Covid-19 crisis, the Internet Archive created the National Emergency Library, a repository of e-books that people can check out virtually, rather than visiting a library and checking out a book in person.
Most people were delighted by this creative and selfless effort of a charity to make books available to people who rely on libraries. After all, not everyone can afford to just buy everything they want to read on Amazon. While an e-book is no substitute for the real thing, something is better than nothing, and a lot of people trapped at home could benefit from increased access to reading material.
But publishers didn’t see it that way. On the contrary, they freaked out, and encouraged their allies to do the same. Among other things, the Authors Guild and its members took to Twitter to complain that the Internet Archive was essentially stealing their paycheck, by enabling people to read books for free, rather than paying for them.
As I’ve previously argued, their complaint is pure landlordism. Authors – or rather, publishers – want to collect their rents and are mad that some people might not pay. Ironically, they don’t even identify any actual lost sales, just the potential….”