Chuck Wendig has asked authors to address the issue of piracy today, so I'm in. I did a pretty awesome job of that a couple of weeks ago, if I do say so myself, but that was really about a guy running a site where people pirate books who was trying to pretend that wasn't what he was doing.
Many people are doing a good job of talking about big issues: we're real people with real (o, all too real) bills to pay, art should have some value, and writers can't make money from appearances and merch.
I'd like to address a couple of other issues.
1.) Some people, even Chuck Wendig, assert that pirating is not the same thing as stealing because you're not taking away the original. The idea being that if you pirate a book, the original file still exists, whereas if you steal a physical book off the shelves, that copy of the book is gone.
I mean, okay, but this feels like an ethical tapdance to me. If someone asks you to pay for something and you take it without paying, that's stealing. Perhaps the analogy of a subway ride is better than the physical book analogy. You jump your fare at the subway station, you're probably not (except at extraordinarily busy times) preventing any paying customer from riding on the same train; but you are getting the benefit of the infrastructure maintenance, the conductor's salary, and the power it takes to run the train without paying for any of those things. You can present an argument to the transit police that your actions aren't the same as stealing becuase the train runs regardless. See how they respond to that.
2.)ebook pricing is out of whack. This is absolutely true. Let's look at my own worst-selling book, Long Way Back. Last time I checked, this (excellent) book, published in 2005, has sold fewer than 2,500 copies. And yet, as I write this, Random House is selling a Kindle edition for $9.99. It's like they're trying not to sell it. And yet this doesn't mean you should steal it. And, in fact, you'll never convince publishers to be more rational about their ebook pricing if you steal. If they start to notice (or, anyway, care about) the fact that books priced at 5 bucks are moving a lot more than books priced at 10, perhaps they'll change their policy. If you're not voting with your dollars on the issue of ebook pricing, nobody's listening.
3.)There is an awesome source of free books already. It's called the library. Yes, they have ebooks. Talk to them. Read for free without stealing! Why not?