Over at The Millions, there's some great journalism going on — an interview with a book pirate called "The Real Caterpillar." One of the most interesting sections is at the end:
Perhaps if readers were more confident that the majority of the money went to the author, people would feel more guilty about depriving the author of payment. I think most of the filesharing community feels that the record industry is a vestigal organ that will slowly fall off and die – I don’t know to what extent that feeling would extend to publishing houses since they are to some extent a different animal. In the end, I think that regular people will never feel very guilty “stealing” from a faceless corporation, or to a lesser extent, a multi-millionaire like King.
It's an excellent point — will the publishing industry die off in a manner similar to the recording industry? And since the publishing industry has largely given up its role of editing (shuttled to agents) and promotion (forced upon the writer), wouldn't it make more sense to take the Radiohead-Rainbows approach and have the author put up a $3 donation button on the site?
It'd be roughly three times the money for the author, who gets a pittance of about $1 per book sold, and cheap enough for pirates to buy rather than do all the work of digital scanning.