it is a pretty fundamentally stupid thing
Seriously? There's maybe you and five other people that think that on the face of this planet. I'm fairly certain that ensuring that the astronauts had proper playback codecs was not on the list of priorities at NASA. I'd quite frankly be upset if it *was*, given that the only reason that they had an extra day was that the unforseen thunderstorm made landing impossible, and it's impossible to reliably predict *those* weeks in advance. To dedicate resources to seeing to petty details such as video playback software would be the epitome of waste and inefficiency that you are decrying. The astronauts should absolutely not be wasting time and money watching movies in space (of course, unless it's in a situation like this one where there is no more scheduled work left to be done).
Granted, maybe NASA wasn't once the wonder it once was, but that was only because of the Cold War, after the Russians and Sputnik scared the crap out of everybody this side of the Pacific. The only reason the politicians were willing to allow NASA to spend the money to send a man to the moon was so we could beat the Soviets there. But NASA has still done some pretty amazing things since. I couldn't count on one hand the number of probes and rovers they've sent to places like Mars and Jupiter, and most of those have *way* outlived their expected useful lifespan. They've been way more successful than expected. Contrast this with the Beagle 2, which was completely lost before it even had the chance to do anything even remotely useful (It was British, by the way).
If you bought the book used, who would get the money? Not the author. Not the publisher. The individual selling the book would be the only one who would benefit from you buying a used copy. The author would receive no compensation, therefore the argument of Russel Davis that you mentioned does not apply. By his reasoning, buying a used copy would be just as much âoetheftâ as downloading the book off the internet. Think about that one for a moment. Granted, if you had downloaded the book instead of buying it from the author or the publisher, that might be a different story, as you are not actively supporting the author so they can produce more works. However, in this instance, you have actively searched for the book in a form that you can use, and have been turned down by the publisher. They have no intention of making any more profit from the book and have abandoned all claims of interest in the matter.
Information wants to be unlimited and free. It is stubborn, neolithic individuals like the publisher you mentioned above that are impeding the spread of universal knowledge, knowledge that would often possibly result in the general betterment of mankind. Download the copy of the book, and then perhaps send a few dollars to the author along with a note explaining what you did and why. Be sure to thank her for writing such a great book, and encourage more to write more like it. There’s nothing more you can do.