A recent edition of a newsletter I receive called Editor's Notes brought to my attention a petition which is circulating to stop Amazon's practice of allowing Kindle book buyers to receive a refund for books which they have purchased. I believe this is a dangerous petition which is detrimental to the very people who are striving to have it passed. Their viewpoint is extremely myopic and out of touch with today's reality.
This is an issue on which I've turned 180˚ … piracy and the whole topic of Intellectual Property. One of the best examples of how this applies to the real world today is in the position of Paulo Coelho who reports that because of piracy he has sold 12 million copies of his books in Russia that he would have never sold otherwise. See: http://paulocoelhoblog.com/2012/01/20/welcome-to-pirate-my-books/.
The petition explanation makes two gross errors: First it states that if anyone buys, then returns a book from Amazon, the author is "out of pocket" a certain amount of money. This is absolutely false. You can't lose something you never had. Yes, you have received less than you would have if the person kept the book. But you certainly are not poorer because you are in exactly the same position you were in before that potential buyer ever appeared on the scene.
Next, it compares the sale to going into a restaurant and eating a meal then asking for a refund after you have eaten it. In the case of the restaurant, the eater has physically used up the food and the owner of the restaurant is "poorer" because he cannot sell it again, eat it himself, or do anything else with the food which was consumed. In the case of the book, the author still has the ideas which he is free to use, to offer to others, or to modify in any way they wish, but also, as Coelho points out he is actually potentially richer because he may have gained a supporter who will advertise his work for free.
Amazon's policy is like having your books put out in millions of public libraries (which wouldn't have been possible without Amazon). I don't know if I'm typical, but I have borrowed books in a library and because I enjoyed the work of a certain author have subsequently purchased something from them. If I hadn't read that "free" book I might never have bought the thing I did. If you had a choice between having your own book in just a hand full of libraries, or millions of them, which would you choose?
I would suggest that even if you received nothing, and if your book were given free to everyone on the planet, you would still be better off when it came around to the next thing you write because you would have a certain number of recipients of your first book who would love to read whatever came next. Cohuelo gained 12 million of those, and that was just in one country.
An essay which really convinced me of the errors in current IP laws was written by Stephan Kinsella: Against Intellectual Property. I highly recommend this to anyone who has an interest in IP.