Pirated Ebooks Piss Authors Off, State “We Are Legion!”
Posted on April 16, 2012
I have this friend. She’s a fellow author. And if you say the word “pirate” around her, this former law enforcement officer’s trigger finger literally starts twitching. Then comes the rage. Ah, but the lovely G.A. Hauser has a reason for her reaction and it has to do with the sheer amount of money being stolen from her due to pirate torrent sites offering her eBooks for free. Writing for a smaller market already reduces the amount of royalties we can make–and believe me, we don’t make much–so this hurts when it happens. It’s happened to me and I’m not nearly as big a name as most. Our fight against pirate sites is also common knowledge between authors and our readers who interact with us in person or through social media. Imagine my surprise last week when someone posted this on my Facebook wall: “Well, since no one can police ‘piracy’ and you can download programs for secure downloading or use a proxy server, who is dumb enough to PAY for eBooks at all?”
As you might expect, this caused one hell of an uproar from my fellow authors who jumped in and gave this individual a piece of their mind. It’s more than just about policing and programs, though. There has to be a reason for it. Why would someone want to download pirated copies of books? Is it because the economy is still so bad? I figure if someone can afford a computer and Internet access, a Kindle or even an iPhone, then they can certainly afford $6.99 for one of our books. Yes, the majority of our work is much cheaper than the bigger publishing houses who are currently being sued for having raised prices. So if it’s not cost, is it because they can? The individual who posted on my wall provided the following:
“It’s (downloading from pirate sites) great for getting together a classical reference library which means more books on your laptop, for instance, than in any library you can access. And would I actually ever want to PAY to see what the fuss is about with Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series? I think not!”
Welcome to the public library that can also ORDER books for you. I highly doubt you’re going to run out and have to twiddle your thumbs while you wait for the next book to show up. That’s my first thought. Not only does it have access to all of your classical selections, especially if you can’t afford all the downloads, but it also allows you to look at thousands of books you wouldn’t spend money on first, Twilight included. And there are also used book stores. I know. I go to them. Pirate sites are the downside of eBooks, though. Never in a hundred years before I started publishing would I have guessed these things would come into being. I’m not fond of them, but I know other people are and they’re now a way of life I’ve accepted.
Oddly enough, I actually have an easier time understanding the pirating of music in some cases than books. Notice I said “in some cases.” I also didn’t say I did it. Here’s what I don’t like. I bought the Tron: Legacy soundtrack by Daft Punk, one of my favorite albums this past year. It’s brilliant! If I bought it on Amazon, which I did, I got an extra bonus track. If someone bought it on iTunes, they got a few bonus tracks not available anywhere else. And if you bought a version of it somewhere else, well…more bonus tracks not available anywhere else either. For crying out loud, just give me one damn version with all the tracks! Here’s another. I bought the special edition of Within Temptation’s The Unforgiving (meaning I paid more this CD than the standard release). Well, if you bought the Amazon MP3 album, there’s three bonus tracks not available on the special edition CD. And these aren’t the only ones. It’s not uncommon. Say it with me now, WTF?
Now watch as I bring it back around.
This to me is like writing Gaylias 2 and releasing it in paperback form, then offering an additional chapter if you buy the Kindle version and a different additional chapter if you buy it on Fictionwise. Do you see how annoying that would be? You want the book. You want the whole book and you don’t want to have to buy multiple copies of it to get it. In cases like this with music, I won’t go and illegally download the rest of the tracks from an album. However, if a friend has the iTunes version he or she paid for and I have the Amazon version I paid for, I’m not above sharing tracks we’re both missing.
Others figure if they have to put in that much effort, they’ll can just as easily download the complete album from a pirate site where, in the end, the artist gets hurt just as much as an author does. Not every music artist is rich. Not every author is rich.
So there we have it. Piracy = bad. Record companies not giving us complete albums = bad. Someone downloading pirated eBooks from a website = G.A. Hauser visiting you in your sleep and you DO NOT want that. Want to know why? Because some of us are starting to join her and if you think we don’t have creative ways of giving certain people nightmares, then you’ve obviously never messed with an author. We are legion.
I now open the floor to your comments and thoughts…
Kristoffer Gair (who formerly wrote under the pseudonym Kage Alan) is the Detroit-based author of Honor Unbound, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To My Sexual Orientation, Andy Stevenson Vs. The Lord Of The Loins, Gaylias: Operation Thunderspell, several short stories featured in anthologies (to be combined in a forthcoming book), the recently re-published novella Falling Awake, its sequel, Falling Awake II: Revenant and Falling Awake III: Requiem.
13 Responses to “Pirated Ebooks Piss Authors Off, State “We Are Legion!””
Sara York says:
April 16, 2012 at 7:48 am
Great post. Pirates suck.
April 16, 2012 at 10:31 am
And not even well.
April 16, 2012 at 9:32 am
Remember back in the day when the music industry had to redefine itself, in part because of piracy and in part because of customer demand?
At first, I thought the proliferation of book pirate sites was similar and possibly linked to the ever increasing prices of ebooks as the big publishers and start up e-publishers started raising prices.
This seems to be a much more insidious problem than economics. There is a sense of entitlement, a thought that because I CAN download this book without paying for it, I’m not really doing anything illegal or immoral. It’s on the Internet, after all. I can almost see the accompanying shoulder shrug.
How do I know it’s not about the money? I am an indie author…which means I pay for it all, the cover art, the editing, marketing, my groceries and rent….yet I have made it a point to keep my book prices as low as possible because I want people to be able to afford my books. Every one of my books is available for $3.99 or less. Two of my best-selling books are only .99.
And yes…thank you for asking–I know you saw it coming…even the books under a buck have been pirated. Really? People who can afford a computer and Internet would steal 35¢ from me?
I suppose the person who steals from an author must try to justify it somehow, but please don’t try to tell me it’s about the money.
Dorien Grey says:
April 16, 2012 at 9:48 am
Mercy me, Miss Scarlet, I don’t know nothin’ about birthin’ babies or piracy, but I think you hit it on the head when you suggested that people pirate books and music because they can. These are the same people who let independent book stores which have supported us for years go under to save three cents buying from Amazon or a chain.
We do not live in a pretty world.
April 16, 2012 at 10:24 am
I said it on your post, and I’ll say it here: Being that the fine for knowingly downloading, or trading for free, books without paying for them can result in a $250,000 fine for copyright violation, is it worth losing one’s house and everything in their possession to avoid paying $.99-$3.99 for my books? I don’t think so. If you want my books that badly, pay for them and keep your home.
April 16, 2012 at 10:30 am
And you say it so well! It’s definitely worth reading again. =)
Janice Seagraves says:
April 16, 2012 at 6:35 pm
Indeed, like I tell my daughter, just because you can doesn’t mean you should.
Patricia Logan says:
April 16, 2012 at 7:19 pm
I love you, babe. Keep fighting for the punishment of the illegaldownloads. Nor would I, ever cross, the elite, the fighting, GA. She is small but she is heavily armed, which I was warned against fighting, when I met her last June, as if I would ever fight, when I was just too busy cleaning my pants… TMI, I know, but, in truth, the woman is my steadfast defender of morality when it comes from the pirating community. Your guest, on your blog, last week should be harmed, but, we, passive authors that we are, would not. We can bloviate instead….
April 23, 2012 at 12:24 pm
Why, if you have no problem with someone checking out and reading books from a lending library, would you have a problem with someone checking out and reading a virtual copy of a book ?
Theres no material difference to you, the author. In either case, whether someone reads a book from a library, or a book that someone has purchased and scanned into a computer, you are not making money beyond the initial sale, but are propagating the ideas you’ve devised in your works to people who are interested and may continue to seek them out.
A person reading a book from the library is paying just as much to you as someone reading one they’ve downloaded: nothing. Public libraries exist because a lot of people think that information should be freely accessible to improve the sum of human knowledge and hopefully change the world for the better.
Someone downloading your book is no more stealing than someone checking one out from the library. To count every download as a loss is as foolish as counting every checkout of a book from a library is a loss. The arts are about patronage anyway, in the end. Not everyone who is interested by a work can support it, but those that do enable those who couldn’t to enjoy it.
April 23, 2012 at 1:47 pm
Here’s the thing. I didn’t quite know how to respond right away because anything I said would be done out of anger. I don’t want that. Instead, I opened it up to some author/writer/reader friends and asked for their input, which I’ll copy and paste bits of below:
“Oh really? How often does he walk into a movie theatre and see a film for free, just because it’s the arts? Or go into a fine restaurant where they practice the culinary arts and say cook for me for free. We don’t have patrons anymore, in case you hadn’t noticed, and we work for a living, like everyone else. You can’t justify thievery by saying you have a right to our art, cause you don’t. You’ve missed the essential point of piracy – it’s still stealing – no matter how much you try to make it sound like it’s not.”
“The difference between borrowing a book from a library and pirating one is ownership. I return my library books and that is that. If I download a pirated copy, I own it then. Owning something I did not pay for is theft. Period.”
“There is a fallacy in the logic. Libraries were established to provide “free access to books,” but with very real limits. They have the physical scarcity limits- obviously a library can only lend out as many physical copies as they own. New releases frequently have waiting lists of several dozens of patrons, who must wait months sometimes until it is their turn with the new bestseller. This increases the chance that a patron may just go ahead and choose to purchase the book, rather than wait. Or at least pressure the library to purchase more copies. Either way, the number of copies in circulation is exactly equal to the number of copies purchased. This is NOT the case with e-piracy; circulation can be increased more or less infinitely without the author seeing anything back from it.
Even my library has limits to the number of e-book copies it has of books, and again one copy per loan…everyone else has to wait or purchase their own.”
The list goes on for a bit, but I know you’re not stupid. I also know that even you realize downloading is illegal and wrong. The only reason I can even think of you to have posted your comment was to get the ire of those who have been pirated by trying to legitimize it. Kinda worked. We just edited out the bad language.
Sara York says:
April 23, 2012 at 1:56 pm
Jim, you obviously have no idea how money works. When you take something with out paying for it you are cheating the person who produced it. Someone pays for the books at the library. Have you ever head of taxes and fines. It may be a concept you don’t understand. Patrons of the arts don’t exist anymore, at least not for authors. You might get a few people who support art museums, but not the artist. When you send me a check to support me and my family for the next year then I will give you my books for free. Until that time, you are stealing.
April 23, 2012 at 4:16 pm
Wow, so many replies.
If it were possible would all of you really want to restrict access to your works to the point that they’re accessible to relatively few people ?
Here’s a though excercise. Imagine all the people who have downloaded pirated copies of your works were unable to read them and only those who purchased it were able to do so. You would’ve sold the same amount of copies, but had less readership. Sure, in the real world, there are people who must have something and will purchase what they’re unable to download, but these people would’ve likely bought your book anyway.
That you won’t see a penny from people who don’t like your work enough to pay for isn’t the issue it seems. Whether they read a paragraph at a book store and put it down, read the entire book at a library, or pirate it, the fact is that they aren’t buying it and making your work unavailable in any of these contexts wouldn’t change that, except by excluding those that find your works in these places and DO buy them!
Sure, not everyone who reads your work will buy it, just like not everyone who listens to a song(whether on the radio or pirated) will purchase that song. You aren’t losing money from people who wouldn’t pay for your work anyway, whether thats teenagers, library-goers, penny-pinchers, or whomever. You are, though, gaining a fanbase who will talk about your work. The buzz created by such an audience does reach people who will purchase your book. I’m not the only person of this mindset. For example a Spanish judge determined the outcome of a case by the same logic: http://torrentfreak.com/piracy-may-boost-sales-111102/
There are artists, whether in music, literature, and even television/film who’ve embraced the realities of a digital age and worked with those realities instead of wasting their effort trying to wrestle with a challenge as fluid as water in motion.
Artists have released albums for free download, authors like Neil Gaiman have put up their works for fre and comic book artist Steve Lieber was fortunate to have his graphic novel pirated on an internet forum of comic enthusiasts.His sales skyrocketed; many of those who pirated the work (and would likely never have seen it had it not been pirated) decided to purchase it. That is fandom, the modern patronage.
I’ve personally downloaded a band’s album which they freely offered online and rapidly found them my new favorite, purchasing every album they’ve made, attending three of their concerts (every one they’ve had in my area), and encouraging all of my friends to listen to them. I would’ve never heard this bands songs and become a fan because the very fact that their music was available globally, for free, is what catapulted them to popularity. They were relatively unheard of, except in their region, until that point.
I’ve read authors works for free and enjoyed them so much that I’ve purchased every book they’ve written. As a matter of fact, I don’t think I’ve EVER purchased a book from an author I hadn’t read before without first reading that book, at least partially, for free !
Is it that hard to believe that there are people who embrace the ability to read or listen to something instantly, for free, but still support artists who they like ?
I’m not writing this to draw your ire or be a jerk, I’m writing it because I honestly feel that your mindset about electronic duplication of media is getting in your way.
Julie Hayes says:
April 23, 2012 at 5:02 pm
Who is to say that access is restricted to a relatively few people? You cannot know that, you’re postulating. If by relatively few people, you mean those who legally purchased a copy of the book, then sure.
Imagine this, Jim, if you will. You go to work, you work hard, you do your job. Payday comes and your boss says Jim, you have no check, weren’t you working because it’s what you chose to do? Did you really expect recompense?
Yes, we expect to be paid for our writing, whether you like it or not.
And you’re still not addressing the major point – piracy is theft, no matter how you dress it up or try to confuse the issue with what ifs. It’s still stealing. For better, for worse.
And by the way, reading a book partially for free – that’s not downloading it or stealing it. You can do that through various sites.
I’m sorry that instant gratification seems to be your strong suit. Adults wait and pay for what they want.