?

Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

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

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.
sixteenbynine
Jan. 18th, 2011 03:37 pm (UTC)
I suspect that's my book :D I tried to look at the whole picture, but at the same time I know people gotta eat. I'm also in an interesting position because I now review anime professionally, so I get sent a lot of stuff free. But at the same time, there's plenty of titles out there I'd just as soon buy (like "Sword of the Stranger", which I did pick up over the Christmas break). So I try to put as much of my money where my mouth is on this score, as it were.
jimhines
Jan. 18th, 2011 03:42 pm (UTC)
::Blink:: So it is. Sorry -- disconnect on author name vs. LJ handle.

I'm about 3/4 through, and am enjoying it. Thanks!
finnyb
Jan. 19th, 2011 03:17 am (UTC)
What book, if you don't mind my asking? (As an anime/manga fan, I'm curious.)
beckyh2112
Jan. 19th, 2011 03:27 am (UTC)
Mm, a fair amount of people I know view it as a different sort of piracy if there's legitimately no way to get the book/show/kumquats. Like, if you cannot find any place that will sell it to you, then it's acceptable to pirate but you should still go buy it if/when it does become available.

Profile

Snoopy
jimhines
Jim C. Hines
Website

Tags

Page Summary

Latest Month

November 2019
S M T W T F S
     12
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930
Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by Tiffany Chow