My one blog about ebook piracy (I promise)
The fact that copyrighted ebooks are available for illegal free download out there on the Internet probably isn’t news to anyone reading this. And it isn’t news to me either. These sites are places where an individual, who has bought one copy of a book, offers unlimited downloadable copies to anyone who wants them. They euphamistically call it “file-sharing.”
I’ve come across almost all of my books out there by now on different sites. I’ve seen on one site “102 downloads” of Life Lessons for which I earned not one cent in royalties. And now I recently came upon a new site full of illegal downloads of M/M books. As I cruised it to see which of mine were up there (none this time…yet) I realized just how disheartening this is.
Then I hit a thread on the site where an author complained, mildly and politely, about people illegally stealing her work. And I started to read the rebuttals she got. And my mind kind of boggled. I think a little steam came out of my ears. And I decided to blog about it here, just this once.
I really, really wanted to come to this author’s defense on the site. But there was clearly no point. It was old news, written months ago. The thread was into its fourth page of comments and no-one was doing anything but justifying themselves and calling her names. Calling her greedy and hostile for asking them to please pay her for her own copyrighted work.
So I’m going to pull out some of the comments ( “in italics”) from there, and write rebuttals. Just to get it off my chest. You don’t have to read on.
“Hypothetically, I could say: if an author doesn’t like the deal – don’t make it, and/or don’t do that for a living. That’s a simple choice too. Again, you and (the author) and others have one perspective, some of us have others. If you don’t like it or this site – feel free to not participate.”
Um… so the solution to not wanting your books stolen is to either ignore it or stop being an author altogether?
“there are some of us who use this site like a library. “
A lot of people compared it to a library. A library does not let you keep a copy of each book you read. A hundred people cannot be reading a library’s one copy of a book at one time. If there is a big demand they buy more copies.
“Here’s how I see it. If 400 people come here and download your book, it’s simple maths to see it as 400 x $5 = $2000 in lost sales. When put like that, it’s pretty painful. But, and it’s a big but, that’s assuming that all of those 400 people would have bought that book. The reality is that perhaps 30 people would have bought your book if given the chance to do so here. Where I’m going with this is perhaps you could talk to the admin of this site and see if there is a unique partnership that you can strike here. Perhaps the admins here could put an affiliate link on here where your book appears that sends sales to your site or to Amazon? That’s just one idea, I’m sure you could think of other ways to make this pay off for you.”
“Once I’ve read something I like, I end up going back and buying other things by that author. This is especially true of series type books, which happen to be my favorite”
This is a popular argument – that it is free advertising. Well, in the first place it’s not free – it costs us the lost royalties. In the second place I would be more optimistic if I didn’t see comments like this: “I loved Lynn Hagen’s Brac Pack #1 – do you have the rest?” “Sure! They’re great, aren’t they? I have numbers 2-7. Here’s the link…” That doesn’t sound like someone getting one taste and then buying from that author. Books 2-7 had almost as many downloads as book 1.
Aleks Voinov posted about a book of his that had less than 1000 copies worth of legal sales, but he has seen over 10,000 illegal downloads. Even if only a tenth of those people might have bought it, he has still lost more royalties on that book than he made. And he’s someone who has a lot of wonderful full-length free books out for readers to sample. Clearly that hasn’t been enough to get them to pay for his other published work.
“Back to the original issue, I’m sure people know uploading/downloading is illegal, but the majority don’t care. I get where you (authors) are coming from, but this is the generation that was raised on computers and downloading everything from music to film (I’m guessing this based on the numerous YA requests), so trying to convince them not to pirate is going to be very difficult. If lawsuit threats from the RIAA and anti-piracy ads from the MPAA before every film won’t stop them, I don’t think guilt trips, pleas, or well-reasoned logic will work. The only ‘solution’ is to work with the public and give them what they want.”
ie. You can’t fight it so give up and let us have it for free.
“I understand the point of veiw (sic)of the author that it is stealing but as a reader I have finite resourses (sic) and heavily use my local library, loaning and borrowing from friends and family, secondhand book store and ebay but I find it difficult to swallow the implication that by using these methods you regard me as a thief”
“I always believed/understood that once I purchased an item it then became my sole property. to put an item up for sale and then tell the buyer that they can not have it or use it is redunant (sic) and hypacritcal (sic). I do not share my library out of malisciousness (sic) or with the intent in offending or harming any one. I share the library that I have purchased with MY hard earned money out the spirit of my love of reading.”
You spent the money for one copy. You then gave copies of it to 143 people and didn’t have to lose your own original. Now 144 people own the book and the author received $3 for that.
“Most young adult books are read by exactly that, young adults. They consist of teenagers and college students, yes I am a grown adult but most of my friends don’t enjoy young adult books unless they are teachers. With that said, this catagory (sic) of people can’t afford to pay $10+ for books. I have no problem going to Amazon and buying a book that cost $5 but $10? That is a little steep when you don’t have a job …So when publishers, not authors, stop being so money hungry maybe people will stop “sharing” books. Are you telling me it is illegal to give my friend a copy of a book that I bought? I didn’t think so.”
There seems to be this misconception that authors are making big bucks and readers are poor. I have yet to earn anything close to poverty level or minimum wage for my writing. For many authors, especially in m/m romance which is a small field, trying to write full time is very difficult. Even Josh Lanyon offered a manuscript evaluation service to make ends meet, and that’s Josh Lanyon! We get no advances. The only payment we receive is from our royalties.
Books are wonderful, and it’s nice to buy the ones we really want, but no one can buy everything they would like to own. There are lots of free books out there already. More than anyone can read. Purchased books are a luxury item. I love Godiva chocolate and it’s very pricey. I would love to have it more often. But just because my funds are limited and it’s expensive, I don’t feel entitled to go out and just steal some. I have to settle for Hershey’s sometimes, or make the effort to find something that is good and not as expensive (and chocolate doesn’t come free anywhere, unfortunately. Special Forces does.)
As for being expensive, compare an ebook to the extra-large cup of fancy coffee you buy and consume in ten minutes. Which is the better value?
“You want to be entitled to your anger and your opinion, but you don’t want to afford the same courtesy to people who simply disagree with you. You get to “have a completely valid right to be angry” because you believe that your books are being stolen from you and that makes you angry. Well, whether you agree or not with their reasons, many of the posters have what are in their opinions valid reasons for feeling the way they do too. Yet, you because you believe (i) there is a violation and (ii) that violation is happening to you – that you are in the right…Have you ever driven a car and done ore then the speed limit? Have you ever worked at a job and taken a pen home from the office by mistake? Have you ever eaten a single grape in the grocery store before you paid for it – or fed your kid a single grape to keep him quiet before you checked out? Have you ever found something that doesn’t belong to you and not turned it in to the police station? The list of small, seemingly inconsequential crimes, could go on for a very long time – the point is, if you haven’t ever done anything like them, then report yourself to the Vatican for sainthood. Otherwise, remember that – and the phrase about people in glass houses throwing stones…”
Um… so if the author has ever had a speeding ticket, they have no right to complain about their work being stolen? I’d love to turn that argument on the writer if her wallet was stolen.
“I am not surprised to see a user say they wouldn’t give this thread another look. Good thing you both are authors and not attorneys because the author posts here are what I would call “non-responsive” in most instances and really only seem to be trying to incite and anger the users further…I would welcome you being at the end of your rope and having you not reply or participate again.”
Go away authors and stop complaining.
“People are starting to care too much about money. rudalve is right. what about the people that cant afford to buy the books but would love to read them. Because they love your words. And shouldn’t that make you just the tiniest bit happy. Because isn’t that why you write, not for the money, but for all those people that want to read what you wrote.”
I put out a lot of free stuff for people to read. I am delighted when people read it and enjoy it. I will undoubtedly publish more. If you are unwilling to pay for my professional work, go find those stories please.
“I am an unrepentant file sharer. I don’t think there is any argument that is going to change my viewpoint on that.
I have over a thousand files on this computer alone and it’s not my only computer…Whiny authors who want to pick at my morals do not entice me to spend five bucks on their product. There are so many other great books out there, I’m sure I can lead a long, happy and productive life without (your book).
Lesson to potential business people out there- do NOT insult your customer base. It is VERY bad customer service.”
How this person considers her/himself a valuable customer is beyond me.
OK, enough. I had to get that off my chest. There was a lot more like that. The sense of entitlement is scary.
There is one group I sympathize with: those who live in countries where some books may not be available legally at all. But if this applies to you, please email publishers, email Amazon, agitate for the work to be available legally. Email authors – they may prefer to send you one copy, rather than have you patronize sites that are downloading their books by the hundreds.
I’m not going to change the opinions of those who download. But I’d ask them to consider this:
For an author to be told not to complain when the number of illegal downloads exceeds the actual sales, to suggest that we should be flattered, is disheartening. If a writer you love brings out one book a year instead of four, remember that the demands of that second job, which he needs because the books don’t pay well enough, may be the reason. And if he throws in the towel, and starts writing just for family and friends, it may be because he’s sick of seeing his books stolen. Yes, as you so complacently say, writers will always write because they love it. But they may not have the time and they may not always publish. So if a favorite writer disappears from view, ask whether you may have played a role in that. And whether $5 really would have been too high a price to pay, to have seen the next book in that beloved series actually appear. And above all don’t kid yourself – it’s not borrowing and it’s not sharing, it’s stealing copies, it is illegal, and it is just plain wrong.