Originally Posted by balok
I just think that there shouldn't be a sense of moral obligation in a situation where a book is clearly distributed as a free book. I suppose I do think less of someone who would give money to a publisher for a free book that was only made free in the hope of making more money on non-free book sales. To claim that there exists a moral obligation in this context supposes that Baen is making their books available for free with the implicit condition that we should buy them if we like them. But there is no such condition, neither implicit nor explicit. That's why it's called the Free Library.
By the way, let me point out that the sense of corresponding moral obligation that arises from a gift is a well-known sales technique. A car salesman will offer you a small gift, like movie tickets, and the small feeling that you should compensate him may be just enough to push you to buy a car, since you're in the market for one.
Another thought comes to mind, since you're talking about moral obligations. I give a certain amount of money to humanitarian organizations every month. This I do out of moral obligation, because I feel I have the obligation to help those in need. However, when it comes to for-profit companies, such as Baen publishing, I would question my priorities if I felt the same moral obligation. You mentioned the word "greed," and seem to have accorded it a very broad meaning, so let me ask you this: Who is more greedy, the person who requires something in return for the money he gives freely, such as a book, or the person who gives freely expecting nothing in return, as one would with a charitable organization? And since I'm getting carried away here, let me ask you another question: When you take a friend out for dinner, do you expect him to take you out some other time in return? Would you consider him greedy if he didn't take you out?
Many good points. Personally I don't feel any moral obligation to pay an author if a friend lends me one of his books, or if I sign out one of his books from the library, and I don't view free downloads any differently. The end result is that if I like the author I will support them in the future, and if I don't...well, I don't. The book was free, and I don't feel bad about it. I gave the author a shot, and that's probably more than I could say if the initial book hadn't been free.
If you read the post on the main page of the Baen Free Library it is made clear by Eric Flint why the Library exists, and he doesn't even remotely hint that you should feel obligated to do anything. Free books are free. If you really want to show your support, how about recommending the author to all your friends?