Originally Posted by igorsk
"Free" might mean different things. If "free" means "direct HTTP link on the first page of google results" and "legit" means "one obscure shop with a DRM PDF for $30" then of course not many people will see a reason to use the legal option. But if "free" means "badly OCR'ed TXT with missing pages on an IRC fserv that's online only on weekends" and "legit" means "$5 in multiple formats with no DRM" the situation changes quite a bit. The young people you mention usually have a lot of free time and can afford to spend it hunting down various things they can get for free. Most people don't want the hassle - if they can get what they need for a reasonable price, they'll gladly pay it.
Absolutely. I said as much about the quality issue in my post. That is the current state of choices. However, as I went on to say in the second paragraph, when the market grows beyond the current community, people may start just stripping DRM and uploading good quality books. When you can get the same quality free or for $5, many may pick free. We see it all the time with music. You can buy a song for $1 or less. These days, you can likely even get it without DRM. You can get the same quality track for free and lots of people take advantage of that. If they're willing to screw their favorite musicians to save a buck, I'm betting some of them will be willing to do the same to an author for five.