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Oatmeal, McGuire, and Entitlement

I like The Oatmeal, and I’ve seen a lot of people pointing to this comic, often with a comment like, “This is why people pirate!”

I see two things in this comic. The first is an excellent point: people want to be able to buy and download things when they come out. More and more people watch and read things online, and it’s incredibly frustrating when that option isn’t available. In this example, I think HBO is probably making a mistake by not selling Game of Thrones to people who want to watch it.

The second thing in this comic, however, feels like pure entitlement. HBO has made a business decision to only offer the show for download to HBO subscribers. I think that’s a bad business decision, but does the fact that the show is not available RIGHT THIS SECOND mean people have the right to say, “Oh well, I tried. Time to go swipe it off a torrent site!”

My next book is going to be released as a hardcover, which means it will cost about $25. I totally understand that not everyone will want to pay $25 for a book, and I’m happy that a year later, you should be able to buy it for $8 as a paperback. But if you want a copy of that book for $8, you have to wait. You don’t get to say, “I want it now!” and just swipe it off a bookstore shelf.

DRM is annoying. Businesses that don’t make their products available to users who want to buy them is frustrating as hell. But the entitlement thing is a problem too.

Case in point: Seanan McGuire’s latest book went on sale early at Amazon … in print format. The e-book edition won’t be available until the on-sale date. As a result, readers and so-called fans have been heaping abuse on her because … well, because they might have to wait a whole two weeks to buy the e-book:

People who have to wait for their electronic books are not being denied anything; they’re doing what was supposed to happen in the first place. This has not stopped the exciting emails from rolling in. They mostly stopped after the first day, but on that first day, I was called…

…a bitch.
…a whore.
…a cunt.

Because that sense of entitlement, the idea that I WANT IT RIGHT NOW!!!, is so powerful that these people felt justified in attacking and threatening the author, then running out to pirate all of her books. The author who, incidentally, has no control over this situation!

Naturally, since Seanan is female, the abuse is even harsher and significantly sexualized. Because women, like books and TV shows, are possessions, right? And we’re entitled to say or do whatever we like to them.

What the f*** is wrong with people?

I get being frustrated when you really want to watch/read something and you can’t. It frustrates the hell out of me when publishers limit availability or cripple a file’s usability. And I know perfectly well that people will choose to pirate files when they can’t easily buy them.

But for God’s sake, get a spine and own that choice. Don’t pretend the evil publisher made you do it. Take responsibility for the fact that you couldn’t bother to wait two weeks for Seanan’s book to be available legally, or that you didn’t want to subscribe to HBO and didn’t want to wait for them to make the show available through other outlets.

I don’t really get worked up about piracy these days. I have more important (to me) things to care about. And I get that it’s a more complicated issue than a lot of people want to admit.

But the entitlement thing pisses me off, especially when that attitude leads to such vicious attacks on my friends.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.


Feb. 23rd, 2012 10:19 pm (UTC)
The HBO/Game of Thrones thing makes me crazy, especially because a huge part of the target market for "Game of Thrones" is, uh, technical types (i.e. nerds), who quite often do not have TV service at all. (They use the internet for that.) I know so many people who had money in hand--plenty of it--and were ready to buy access to watch "Game of Thrones" off the internet and were frustrated and angry to learn that HBO wouldn't sell it to them unless they bought TV service. HBO must have lost tons of sales. I'm not saying HBO's decision justified piracy, but it sure was bad business.

That said, what's happening to Seanan is unspeakably ugly. How can someone who considers themself a fan treat an author that way? It's disgusting.
Feb. 23rd, 2012 10:27 pm (UTC)
I don't have TV service at all! So I...pre-ordered the DVDs. Which were available on Amazon for pre-order before the series even finished airing, I believe. Not having TV service has, if anything, made me much more accustomed to just waiting for things to hit DVD before I watch them, and thus even less understanding of the "must have it now, therefore, must pirate!" angle. I am a big girl. I am capable of waiting a few months to see a thing that has been released.
Feb. 23rd, 2012 10:48 pm (UTC)
Honestly, HBO would probably love (with hearts and flowers and everything) to sell HBOGo directly to subscribers, say for $20 or $25 per month, but the cable companies would absolutely flip their shit. That's the issue, and that's why the situation is complicated for me. There are a lot of competing interests going on with cable television - a part of me would love a la carte programming to be available online, but I also know that less-popular cable channels, particularly those catering toward niche audiences, would have significantly less chance of succeeding in such a system, which is pretty bad, IMO.

(And, for the record, I would probably pay up to $30 per month *just* for HBO Go. HBO's shows are literally the only things I make plans to watch on TV, the rest is just background noise.)
Feb. 23rd, 2012 11:05 pm (UTC)
I don't actually disagree with you here. I don't know all of the details, but from what I've seen, HBO's approach cost them sales and a fair amount of goodwill. And they're certainly not the only one to have caused that reaction...
Feb. 24th, 2012 01:29 am (UTC)
I'm one of those people. I wrote HBO and told them that I would be happy to buy episodes through Amazon or iTunes and I was even willing to wait a a week after initial airing to do so, or even after the initial airing of the whole series. No go. So, my options became: buy the television service at $120 a month; wait nearly a year for the DVDs, or go over to someone else's apartment to watch the show.

I chose option three :) That did cost me pizza but I feel it was worth it, plus, it was good pizza.

Absolutely, HBO got money through my friend's TV/HBO service, but instead of getting that money PLUS my money, they just got my friend's.

So not a great decision on HBO's part, no.
Feb. 24th, 2012 02:05 pm (UTC)
You know, this reminds me of something that's been bothering me for a while, but is kind of tangential to the topic at hand: ESPN3. (Yeah, I know, what's a nerd doing talking about sports, right? I love soccer, what can I say?)

I follow the German Bundesliga. I support Hertha BSC. (I also support the German national team.) ESPN shows a few matches each weekend on ESPN3.

I have my internet through Time Warner Cable. I don't get cable, though. I could watch ESPN3 ... if I had ESPN in my cable package. I'd probably be willing to pay a reasonable sum (to TWC or Hulu or someone), say $5-10/mo, to be able to watch legal, high-quality live streams of every game. That would help support the Liga (because of TV licensing fees, etc), and, to a much smaller extent, my club. A lot of fans I know via twitter who live in the US have said the same. Yet we all go to the pirate livestreaming sites (with horrible quality, lag, and, unsurprisingly, takedowns for copyright violation).

Our only options are to pay for a full cable package or to pay for a full satellite package, which, let's be honest, I'm not going to do for *one* channel that I watch 2 hours a week. I'd pay for the ability to watch just the Bundesliga (with a summer international competition option for the World Cup or Euro competitions), but no one offers that.


Jim C. Hines


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