TUEBL or not TUEBLE? That is the Question

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TUEBL – The Ultimate Ebook Library, is a site dedicated to serving up ebooks for free to anyone and everyone. The site exists because its founder, Travis McCrea (Captain of the US Pirate Party and Chief Admin Officer of Pirate Party International), took a radical step to create this library without waiting for any third party approval. (Is it really that radical by now tho? Really?)

While Stanford and Harvard have been collaborating to build the Digital Public Library of America since 2010, they have many hurdles to cross and hoops to jump through as they intend to respect outdated copyright laws, despite apparently sharing the sentiments that non-profit access to content is a necessary resource (I highly recommend reading that last link).

Based in Canada, TUEBL is not subject to US laws of the land and apparently complies with international treaties. Although these restrictions have required a great deal of planning for the DPLA, which is still in the planning phase at the time of this writing, TUEBL has been steady offering direct access to ebooks since 2011.

A couple of significant factors set TUEBL apart from pirate sites and traditional content distributors. One of them is that advertising income from the site goes to literacy-basedcharities. Perhaps more relevant is the effort TUEBL has put forth to support the original authors of works that are being shared over the internet. For each title found at TUEBL, you will see a link to buy the book via Amazon.com or an audio book through Audible.com.

The decision to add these “buy online” buttons was perhaps based on the success which some authors, such as Neil Gaiman and Paulo Coelho, have attributed in part to file-sharing. The decision may also have been influenced by studies that show pirates buying content more often than their non-file-sharing peers.

Recently, the site has been receiving a lot of attention, in part due to the outrage of a particular author, Dakota Cassidy, during a heated discussion she began with Travis via facebook. I couldn’t help but jump into the discussion (who can resist a classic internet argument?) and witnessed a great deal of preconceived misnomers like the belief that copyright infringement is the same as theft, a file shared is the same as negative retail value (the money lost fallacy) and mostly a bunch of frustrated personal attacks toward Travis.

One point made was that file-sharing is not an “us vs them” issue. This is not meant to vilify Dakota, but to showcase a misguided belief system that many people still struggle to let go of. I understand where writers like her are coming from. If you genuinely believed you were being stolen from, you would probably be upset as well. This is where much of the disagreement surrounding TUEBL comes from. Not to mention that once most people begin to publicly argue a point it is very difficult to accept evidence against one’s argument without a sense of “losing face”.

Fortunately, the rest of us don’t need to wait around much longer for status-quo to change. It’s already changing. As a sort of hybrid between authorized distributor and pirate, TUEBL is a happy medium in a world where all content is subject to piracy, but did not previously offer a direct vehicle for generating sales. This could very well become the next trend for online content distribution as big players such as BitTorrent Inc. begin offering ways to help content creators earn income from sharing their work and as more content creators begin to embrace such opportunities.

BTW, my answer is TUEBLE.

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