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Arguing Book Piracy

Last week, I saw a lot of authors linking to “Free” Books Aren’t Free, a blog post by author Saundra Mitchell talking about the costs of book piracy.

Let me state up front that illegally downloading books is stealing.  If you’re doing it, at least have the guts to admit you’re committing theft instead of spouting off excuses.

That said, I disagree with some of Mitchell’s reasoning.  She argues:

If even HALF of those people who downloaded my book that week had bought it, I would have hit the New York Times Bestseller list. If the 800+ downloads a week of my book were only HALF converted into sales, I would earn out in one more month.

Yes, and if my dogs pooped gold, I could quit my day job.  But it ain’t going to happen.  Author Scott Nicholson guesses that 10,000 illegal downloads equates to maybe 5 lost sales.  I suspect he’s underestimating, and the true numbers are somewhere between his and Mitchell’s, but I don’t think there’s any way to say for certain.  I’m just not buying the argument that half of those downloaders would have actually bought Mitchell’s book (particularly since we’re talking about a hardcover.)

She goes on to say:

[M]y book is never going to be available in your $region, not for lack of trying. My foreign rights agent is a genius at what she does, and has actively tried to sell it everywhere- UK, AU, China, France, you name it, she tried to sell it there.  SHADOWED SUMMER will only be coming out in Italy, because that’s the only place there’s a market for it.

The implication being that piracy killed her chances at foreign sales?  I’m confused on this one.  Does the availability of a pirated English book really reduce demand for a Chinese edition of said book?  I suppose it’s possible … most countries are more multilingual than the U.S.  But it’s a stretch, and I’m not convinced.

[T]he sales figures on SHADOWED SUMMER had a seriously detrimental effect on my career. It took me almost two years to sell another book. I very nearly had to change my name and start over. And my second advance? Was exactly the same as the first because sales figures didn’t justify anything more.

The thing that makes me hesitate here is that piracy is an across-the-board problem.  Every commercially published author’s books end up on torrent sites.  Some authors are still doing quite well.  Others, not so much.  So does it make sense for struggling authors to blame book pirates for low sales when other authors are selling well despite said pirates?

Mitchell says a lot I agree with, too.  If you can’t afford books, go to the library.  Try to get review copies.  Or maybe if you can’t afford the books, you just don’t get them.  Wanting a book doesn’t give you the right to steal it.

I agree with her that, “People who illegally download books are more interested in their convenience than in supporting the authors they want to read.”

I’m NOT saying book piracy is harmless.  (To authors or to readers either, for that matter.  Laura Anne Gilman recently pointed out another example of a torrent site installing malware with downloads.)  Bottom line, it’s a dickish thing to do.

And it does hurt authors.  How much, I don’t know.  I suspect it will hurt us more in coming years, as electronic reading becomes more widespread and book scanning technology improves.  Lost productivity alone is a serious cost for authors who try to keep up with DMCA notifications to various sites.

It pisses me off when I find people illegally sharing my books online.  And I think it’s important to educate readers.  But I don’t think it helps our cause to distort or exaggerate the problem.

Discussion welcome and appreciated.  I expect some disagreement on this one, and as always, I reserve the right to change my mind.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Comments

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deborahblakehps
Jan. 18th, 2011 02:53 pm (UTC)
I agree with all of the above. Mind you, I don't have an e-reader, and probably won't for some time. But if you wouldn't go into a bookstore or a library and steal a book off the shelf (and by golly, I hope you wouldn't!), you shouldn't steal one online either. It is the same thing.

What most people don't seem to realize is that there are very few rich authors out there. (Not that it would be acceptable to steal from the ones who are. Still Wrong.) But most of the authors I know (and most of the publishers, and most of the bookstores, for that matter) are BARELY MAKING ANY MONEY as it is. Certainly not a lot when you look at the person-hours that are put into each book.

I don't buy every book I read new. I wish I could, but I can't. (I also don't have the shelf space...) I try to buy books by the authors I like personally, and any book I think I will read multiple times. Sometimes I buy used books...but at least someone paid for them at some point. I also lend books to friends (which means they aren't buying the book either), but if I'm lucky, they get hooked on the author and then go out and get the next one.

Stealing is bad karma. Stealing from authors is REALLY bad karma. Don't do it, dudes.
jimhines
Jan. 18th, 2011 03:03 pm (UTC)
"I agree with all of the above."

Oh, come on. How am I supposed to argue with people if they just agree with me? Where's the fun in that? :-)

FWIW, I have absolutely no problem with people buying my books used. But there's a huge difference -- ethically, practically, and legally -- between buying a used book and downloading an illegal electronic copy. Used books are finite in number, and as you said, have been paid for at some point in the process.

Likewise with lending books. And I'm actually happy to see e-readers starting to build in some lending functionality.
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cainle_bean
Jan. 18th, 2011 02:53 pm (UTC)
My .02
I just recently had this discussion with a person I know. I can not understand the idea of downloading illegal copies. (but then I have no e-reader and do not go to sites on the computer where these are available)

I can understand exerpts or sample chapters. This gives me an idea of whether I would enjoy the author. To me, this is no worse than going to the bookstore and reading the back cover and maybe a few pages into it. (ok that is another rant there about people who sit in book stores reading the whole book, breaking the spine, or other annoyances)

There are tons of options for low cost, or free, books. The library, friends, thrift stores, and yard sales, all have free or discounted books.

I HATED the day the book people came to the store. Seeing all those books tossed in the recycler... Just a waste (oops tangent).

I know this person I was talking to was downloading books I owned and I know for a fact were in the library. We had started out discussing a new release that was only in hardback at that moment. I told her I was waiting for the paperback release. She was talking about how she would have to see where it was for free. I was taken aback. New release??? For free??? That seems wrong to me. How is the author supposed to make anything.

I am seeing where so many authors are working 2 full time jobs (writing and another one) since writing does not tend to pay enough to live off of. And here is this ... person... who cannot shell out $5 for a book when she is wasting cash on nothings? Just cause her priorities are off... grrr.

I actually budget for books. I have to. Both I and my husband are voracious readers. Our tastes do match in a few areas (fantasy), but he likes his alternative history books where I like mysteries. So we budget for our books.

I am not sure how discount bins, sales, etc would effect the author.
rosencrantz23
Jan. 18th, 2011 03:00 pm (UTC)
Re: My .02
discounted books still generate royalties, typically. Bargain bin copies -- the hardbacks for $5 and such -- do not.

That said, authors don't earn royalties on used book sales, either, nor library check-outs.

All three of these, however, do put the author's work in the hands of more readers who are then more likely to go out and buy copies of the book -- and future books -- generating royalties for the author in the long run.
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rosencrantz23
Jan. 18th, 2011 02:56 pm (UTC)
Ryk Spoor recently wrote on this subject in his LJ and makes some cogent points: http://seawasp.livejournal.com/255990.html

The biggest issue is that as you and he have pointed out, nearly 90% of downloaded copies would not have been bought in the first place, so crying "I've lost X sales!" is misleading in the extreme.

One thing worth noting there -- the more accessible (and affordable) the e-publisher makes their books, the less likely they will be downloaded and redistributed illegally. Compare how often you see books available on Baen's WebScription e-book service listed on filesharing sites, compared to say, Harry Potter, where Rowling and the publishers decided not to issue a digital text at all for fear of piracy.
rosencrantz23
Jan. 18th, 2011 02:57 pm (UTC)
in fact, I just noticed that Ryk's responding to the same Saundra Mitchell article you are.
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shalanna
Jan. 18th, 2011 03:17 pm (UTC)
A different viewpoint
Let me be the devil's advocate here--in other words, the one everyone piles on to beat me up.

I write to be read. I have no illusions about making money with it. If I could just get my books out there, they might find their audience. (Their audience, say agents and editors, is too small to bother with.) But putting my books on the Kindle for a couple of dollars is still self-publishing and is tarred with the brush of "must not be good enough to see print," so most people don't bother to take a look. In fact my work is NOT for everyone. It's for the old-fashioned reader who enjoys a good digression, who likes to learn something even while reading fiction, who doesn't mind a character-driven story that may not be slash-bang-boom. However, I do believe there IS an audience.

If I were to discover that my books were being downloaded by anyone at ALL, it would be cause for rejoicing. I would love to get some reviews from just about any reader who enjoyed the books or who thought the prose was fun to read. I don't care that I'm not making any money on it. If my books outlived me because they were being downloaded . . . well, then I would know that I had fulfilled my purpose in life. I couldn't carp about it.

I also do not believe that thieves (and, yes, the people who d/l music and video and books on those sites are stealing! No question about it) would actually buy the books anyway. If they steal them to trade . . . well, it could still mean that some 14-year-old girl would run across my dark YA urban fantasy and might be entranced by it. (I have fond memories of reading bad books during adolescence, so this COULD happen!) It might mean that some mystery buff who likes a cozy similar to Anne George's or Donna Andrews' series would run across my mysteries and like them. This is the point in my writing them. So I can't really say that I think anyone's losing money when those bittorrents take place. (Again, they'll steal whatever . . . they wouldn't BUY the stuff, but just get a thrill out of stealing it. Or they don't have any concept of intellectual property, which is fairly likely.)

People will say, "I can't afford to write if the work doesn't sell." But . . . writing doesn't cost much money. You don't need fancy equipment--just a pen or pencil and the backs of envelopes (the great Gettysburg Address was written that way, they say). It costs nothing but time, and you have free time when you would otherwise be watching the tube or whatever. So I can't see how someone can't afford to write a series of books that they love. I write books that are the type I would like to read if I could find them. You (the royal "you," not YOU personally) should be writing books that you love. Then it will be a labor of love, even if you don't make any money.

The short version is that I envy those whose work is so popular that it is thought worthwhile to have out on those sites. Unpopular stuff doesn't last long on those sites. So . . . if your work is loved, can you not take some pleasure in that? Don't worry so much about the pennies. It is my impression that most midlist authors make more money doing speaking engagements and teaching classes (where they also hand-sell copies of their printed books) than they do in royalties, anyway. I could, of course, be wrong. (It happened once before, in 1981.)

*bracing for the pile-on of angry everybodies*
jimhines
Jan. 18th, 2011 03:26 pm (UTC)
Re: A different viewpoint
How can you pile on to someone who uses Hobbes for an LJ icon? Hobbes is pretty much pile-on proof.

I actually just replied to something similar over on DW. I'm not completely convinced that torrent downloads do much to build an audience, and even if it does, it's building an audience among people who don't want to pay for my work.

I understand what you mean about wanting to be read, and that's important, no question. But getting paid is important too. Partly it's that whole "wanting to pay my mortgage" thing, but also the money that comes in to me *and to my publisher* is what we use to produce and publicize the books. Especially in my publisher's case, this is how they get the money to advertise and promote and get me read by more people.

Writing doesn't cost a lot of money, necessarily. (I spent about two grand on writing-related expenses last year, but a lot of that could be cut down if I had to.) It does cost time, though.

"So . . . if your work is loved, can you not take some pleasure in that? Don't worry so much about the pennies."

I do take pleasure in knowing my work is loved. I also take pleasure in being able to keep my house. The writing is the reason for the latter. A lot of us do this as a job. It's a significant part -- if not the sole part -- of our income. See here for more info on my own writing budget.
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sinboy
Jan. 18th, 2011 03:19 pm (UTC)
Hmm, Malware in piratable books. I wonder if you could do that on purpose. Just release it to the public, and wait.
jimhines
Jan. 18th, 2011 03:21 pm (UTC)
I suspect you could, though I'm not sure on the technical details. I imagine there could be some backlash against the author/publisher. Not sure how that would play out. "Hey, you did this mean thing to me while I was trying to steal your books!"
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sixteenbynine
Jan. 18th, 2011 03:24 pm (UTC)
On a parallel note, I've talked to a couple of manga and anime distributors in the U.S., and they have cited a few titles which they feel no longer has any commercial potential due to fansubs or fan-translations. I don't know if they're right -- that the market for a given title is completely killed by that -- but there is a lot of noise on both sides of this issue. I do think the process for licensing a title in another territory needs to be streamlined, but from what I understand about such things that's a little like wishing for ponies. The number of people involved and the thicket of permissions and rights that have to be negotiated is daunting, so it's no surprise it takes a long time and sometimes never goes through at all.
jimhines
Jan. 18th, 2011 03:31 pm (UTC)
I'm reading a novel right now that deals with anime fandom and fansubbing and such, and actually defends the fansubbing process, but explains that there's an honor system to stop doing so once licensed copies come out. Which is interesting, because in another part of the book, the characters go off on how other forms of piracy are so bad.

I agree with you that the territorial issues are incredibly frustrating, and I would love to see that simplified and sped up, for books and anime and the rest. I understand why some of these hurdles are there, but still.
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michaeldthomas
Jan. 18th, 2011 03:27 pm (UTC)
I personally believe that about 65% of made-up statistics are inaccurate. ;-)

When I think about illegal download numbers, I think about being giddy at the library. Have you ever walked out of a library with a ginormous pile of books? I know I have. I get excited and I grab everything, even things that I'm only vaguely interested in. I then manage to read a couple and return a bunch unread.

When things are free, you grab. If there's a price, suddenly you start becoming more discriminating. I truly believe that the vast majority of book downloads are by people who would never bother buying the book. They just get excited because it's there and "free.".

I'm not saying this isn't going to change. One day, most people with an ounce of privilege will own a reader. I can also see other factors pushing them to more illegal downloads (textbook pricing comes to mind).

Authors and publishers need to be wary, but it isn't time for the panic button yet.
sixteenbynine
Jan. 18th, 2011 03:33 pm (UTC)
I love my local library system to death. We have a very good one, so I count my blessings on that score, and I use it exhaustively. That said, I still set aside money for the things I know I want -- there's books not available in the system which I'd like to read sooner rather than later, and only a few of them are offered via Kindle or other such mechanisms.

I agree, tentatively, with the idea that people grab when something is offered for free, especially if it has a modicum of interest. I know people who have tried to give away their books and had no takers -- and I suspect that was because nobody knew him. Give away books by someone who's famous and you're giving away easy access to something (or someone) that has a pedigree.
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tinylegacies
Jan. 18th, 2011 03:44 pm (UTC)
The only time I have ever downloaded illegal copies of e-books is when I already own the book in hard copy and didn't want to have to buy it again and I think I've only done that like 3 times.

I agree with you about Mitchell's statistics being skewed though. I don't think even 50% of the people who illegally download a book would buy it. They just wouldn't read it. Or maybe they'd borrow it from a friend who recommended it.
funwithrage
Jan. 18th, 2011 03:54 pm (UTC)
Yeah, this. I'll download stuff that I already own and don't have with me right then, because I am Instant Gratification Girl. (And most of the time, I'd still pay $5 for a copy if it was online somewhere, just like I'd probably pick it up if I was at a used bookstore.) My not-so-legal downloads have also been stuff where I'd absolutely buy an electronic version, but...it's not online, and I'm not going to get out to the store and--in the case of certain RPG supplements--tote fifty-seven hardcovers to every game and so on.

Which is not a shining moral example of anything, but probably a pretty good indication of how a lot of not-so-shiny people think.
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blood_of_winter
Jan. 18th, 2011 03:46 pm (UTC)
I think it's a sad state of affairs when people feel entitled to take another person's work for free. Money aside, it's just the ethics of the whole thing - dl'ing books, movies, music etc for free illegally.

Im not a numbers person but Im sure, statistically speaking, the number of people who DL media illegally and the number of those same people who would go into a grocery story, fill their baskets and leave without paying is probably pretty minute. What amazes me is that people just dont understand this. I hear the argument that they shouldnt have to give their hard-earned money to media moguls who have too much money anyway or that it doesnt hurt anyone or any number of excuses.

But again, money aside, that isnt the point. It's the type of society we are creating (and creating for our children) that it's ok to take something if there's no (or barely any) chance of repercussions and that's what it comes down to - how many of these people would actually steal if there was any chance of real consequences?
thesfreader
Jan. 18th, 2011 03:54 pm (UTC)
I don't agree on your vocabulary
While I don't condone in the least downloading a non-free (as in beer) ebook without paying, I object (do with it what you wish ;-) ) to naming it "stealing" (even if it's better than the "pirate" one).
When someone steals something, it's NOT available to it's original owner anymore, which is not the case when someone wrongfully "downloads" it. In French law its considered a distinct "act" : its conterfeiting (making an unauthorized copy).
I'm otherwise quite on line with the rest of your comment ...
barbarienne
Jan. 18th, 2011 04:00 pm (UTC)
Re: I don't agree on your vocabulary
Do you consider plagiarism stealing?

If not, then you don't get to participate in this discussion anymore until you have an ethics chip installed.
Re: I don't agree on your vocabulary - jimhines - Jan. 18th, 2011 04:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: I don't agree on your vocabulary - barbarienne - Jan. 18th, 2011 04:22 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: I don't agree on your vocabulary - thesfreader - Jan. 18th, 2011 04:31 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: I don't agree on your vocabulary - thesfreader - Jan. 18th, 2011 04:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: I don't agree on your vocabulary - shalanna - Jan. 18th, 2011 09:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: I don't agree on your vocabulary - thesfreader - Jan. 18th, 2011 04:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: I don't agree on your vocabulary - barbarienne - Jan. 19th, 2011 04:14 pm (UTC) - Expand
barbarienne
Jan. 18th, 2011 03:59 pm (UTC)
Laura Anne Gilman recently pointed out another example of a torrent site installing malware with downloads.

-->How can one tell I'm a writer? Because my first reaction to this was "Oh, that is brilliant. I wonder if it's a publisher doing it on purpose?"

I suddenly feel an urge to write about noble-but-ruthless protagonists who are the sort to poison wells if it will force the townspeople to buy their water from the only clean source in town, conveniently owned and operated by those protags...
jimhines
Jan. 18th, 2011 04:04 pm (UTC)
sinboy had a similar thought, upstream :-)
(no subject) - marydell - Jan. 18th, 2011 04:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - barbarienne - Jan. 18th, 2011 04:23 pm (UTC) - Expand
ankewehner
Jan. 18th, 2011 04:09 pm (UTC)
“People who illegally download books are more interested in their convenience than in supporting the authors they want to read.”

Hm, yes... but... Speaking as someone who spent hours trying to find a website* that sold Mermaid's Madness in epub format, the process of which included signing up to two shops to be told only AFTER giving them my credit card information that they wouldn't sell it to me: Some people would LIKE to pay for legal ebooks to support the author, but find that it's made rather difficult by the market that's fractured by geographic restrictions as well as different formats/platforms.

Mind, people should just buy the paperback instead, but, going by the experience of the music industry, if downloads are simple, priced fairly, and with not too many strings on the lines of DRM and proprietary software attached, most people pay rather than pirate.

On another note, not only "how many downloads equal a lost sale?" is something that's impossible to know for certain. So is "how many sales resulted from people reading an illegal download, liking the book, and deciding to buy either that book, or other books by the same author?"

*I might have found one now. Kobobooks is based in Canada. They'd apparently let me buy The Stepsister Scheme and Red Hood's Revenge, but their site for Mermaid's Madness shows only a "we don't sell this title in Germany" note. Mind, I do appreciate such a clear note, after the problems mentioned above. I went and asked if the one book or the two had their regional info set incorrectly...
jimhines
Jan. 18th, 2011 04:12 pm (UTC)
That's a fair point, and the regional restrictions on e-books frustrate the hell out of me. I can kind of understand why they're in place, but at the same time, I want readers to be able to find and buy my stuff, you know? And that does get much more complicated once you get beyond U.S./North American borders.

And getting to a single universal e-book format would be a dream come true.

All that aside, thank you. I appreciate the work you did to track the books down, and I'm very sorry you had to jump through so many hoops to get there.
(no subject) - barbarienne - Jan. 18th, 2011 04:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
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martyn44
Jan. 18th, 2011 04:19 pm (UTC)
Okay, so in common law countries it isn't stealing per se, it is fraudulent conversion. Still wrong.

It is a complex problem, ranging all the way from people who don't understand that what they are doing is wrong, through people who do know its wrong but think they have the right anyway, through to philosophies that don't have such a concept as 'copywrite'. If you think writers are losing out to piracy (as they are) go ask Mr Jobs and Mr Gates how many billions they are losing. Go ask Mr Lucas. Go ask the games producers. Go ask Michael Jackson's accountants. There are large areas of the world where the pirated has entirely driven out the proper and you can't buy the real thing even if you want to, even if the gangsters allow you. It is a continuum.

The trouble is that the kids who believe 'I can therefore I will because the rules don't apply to anyone as special as me, dude' grow up and become investment bankers.
teriegarrison
Jan. 18th, 2011 04:22 pm (UTC)
Something interesting happened over the past few days in another author's online forum. An avid reader posted a message saying that the Kindle e-book cost twice as much as the paperback, but they only read e-books now. So they shamefacedly admitted that they downloaded an illegal copy of the e-book and now felt guilty. Wondered how they could pay back the author. Someone suggested the person buy a paperback and donate it to the library, which the person immediately agreed to do and wondered why they hadn't thought of it themself. (God, I love saying that non-word!)

Anyway, I too am totally against illegal downloads, but when someone decides to 'fess up and made good, it's fantastic. This person started with a wrong, but ended up with what I think is a fair enuf way to right it. I think education and positive reinforcement can really help for people who do eventually 'get it' that it's wrong.
angelabenedetti
Jan. 18th, 2011 04:26 pm (UTC)
I'm with you on that -- the idea that if 10,000 people downloaded a torrented e-book, 5000 of them would've paid for a new copy if the torrent hadn't been available is just ludicrous. (Particularly in the case of a hardcover; sorry, she's smoking something expensive.) It's wishful thinking, maybe. A deliberate lie told in order to bolster one's argument about the evils of piracy, maybe. But whether she's fooling herself or just hoping to fool others, it's nowhere near accurate.

That said, people who post and download copyrighted books on the torrents are thieves, period. There are libraries (many of which loan e-books these days) and there are used bookstores and there are garage sales and friend-of-the-library sales. If you want reading material, there's more available free or incredibly cheap than anyone could ever read in a lifetime of trying. There's no excuse for stealing e-books, period.

Someone on a torrent site was looking for one of my books back when, asking (as they do) if anyone had a copy to "share." No one did. It was my first ever publication and didn't sell very well, so -- alas! -- none of the thieves had come across a copy to post. The person who'd made the request finally admitted, with much textual snarking and snickering, that they might actually have to buy a copy, and wasn't that hilarious? Yes, everyone else on the message thread agreed, with much laughter, that the idea of paying money for an e-book was indeed hilarious, something only a complete idiot would do if there were any other option at all. Shortly thereafter, the person who'd made the request did indeed have a copy to "share" with all their little thieving buddies. So I got the royalty from one sale and however many people got free downloads. It was nowhere near 50%.

Note also that in many book torrent communities, the point often isn't to get books that you want to read. Some people do, of course; you see requests for the newest Chris Author book, with many declarations of how Chris Author is the requestors Very Favorite Writer! and how eager he or she is to read the latest. These aren't people who want to try a new author (as is often asserted by pirate apologists), nor do they care enough about their Very Favorite Writer to either pay money for the book or wait for it to show up at a library.

But just as often it's more of a community-building thing. People who belong to pirate communities get status by uploading books, and if they were originally print books, they get more status for uploading high-quality, cleaned-up scans. People who download them are often just collecting; they'll download thousands of books per year, more than anyone could ever read. It's more about how many you've got, like collecting Pokemon cards. (Which you don't pay for.) Buying a book would be completely outside the framework of the activity that binds the community, except for the relatively tiny percentage who buy paper books to scan.

The idea that if we shut all the torrent sites down, all these people -- or even half these people -- would pay the new-book price for all the books they currently download is ridiculous. And again, hardcover? Get serious. [sigh]

The problem isn't the lost revenue; that's very small. The problem is that they're stealing, and it's wrong, and it's not fair to all the honest people who do pay for e-books. I value all my readers who buy my books very much, and it makes me angry to think of these selfish, snarky little thieves laughing at them and talking about how stupid they are for actually paying money for books.

All that said, I have much less of a problem with someone reading one of my e-books and thinking, "Hey, I'll bet my friend Mary would love this!" and sending Mary a copy, along with a recommendation. Yes, it's still illegal copying, and I'm sure my publisher would disapprove strongly. But that kind of one-to-one recommendation has a much higher chance of getting me a new fan who'll start buying my books, much like when I loan a favorite paper book to a friend with an enthusiastic recommendation. Scale does matter.

Angie
angelabenedetti
Jan. 18th, 2011 04:27 pm (UTC)
And as a footnote, I realize no one cares what I think about this, but I object strongly to the use of the word "sharing" for what the pirates do. Sharing is taught as a good thing, a virtue. Little kids are badgered into sharing their cookies or their toys, and told that it's a nice thing to do for a friend. You're a Good Person if you share.

But what makes sharing a virtue is that you're depriving yourself of something for someone else's benefit. If you let your friend work your train set, you can't play with it yourself while they're doing it. If you share half your cookies with your friend, you can't eat those cookies yourself. It's a nice thing to do, a virtue, because you're giving up something you'd like to have to make someone else happy.

Making someone a copy of an electronic file is not sharing. You can make ten thousand copies of that file without depriving yourself of a single thing. There's nothing virtuous about sharing when you're not giving anything up. It's no particular favor, and isn't at all admirable.

By calling it "sharing" the pirates make what they're doing sound good and right and friendly. Sharing is admirable, it's virtuous, it's something good friends do. Sharing is covered in sparkles and rainbows -- Sesame Street and Barney told us so! Something Big Bird and Barney approve of can't possibly be wrong or bad, right?

Passing out stolen copies of something you're still keeping for yourself isn't sharing, isn't virtuous, and isn't admirable. It's just a compounded theft, and Big Bird would not approve. :/

Angie
(no subject) - harper_knight - Jan. 18th, 2011 11:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
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