Monday, March 29, 2010

Piracy: It's Real. And It's All Your Fault.

Piracy is a huge concern for authors and publishers now that ereaders are becoming more popular. But really, who is to blame? The reader stealing profits away from the publishing industry? The author who would rather lose untold amounts of money rather than risk his or her book being stolen? The publishers that will hold back an ebook thinking the obsessed masses will spend upwards of $30 to buy a hardcover edition rather than wait a few months for a cheaper ebook version?

This may be an unpopular opinion but I think it's your fault. Yes, you. It doesn't matter who you are, you are part of the problem. The system is broken and no one has any idea what they are doing. And it's hurting everyone.

The first thing people need to realize is that pirating ebooks isn't like pirating music. Everyone has access to pirated music. Use any file sharing program and every song imaginable is available for the taking. Ebooks, not so much. They're on the internet, sure, but most are only available to the elite few. It's hard to be a pirate. No, seriously. I went "undercover" and well, it's obvious I'm not one of the chosen.

It's possible that you could download every book ever written for free. If you know someone. Ebook pirates are crafty people. They've seen the drama of the music pirates and decided that secrecy is key. Want access to their secret websites? You need to be invited by a member. You can find members easily on chat boards, but you'll have to spend months posting before gaining their trust. It's seemed like too much trouble, so I tried another track.

I Googled my heart out before learning that I could download free ebooks through a bit torrent program. I Googled some more to learn how to use said program and how to find ebooks I could steal through the program. I then searched for books I already owned (because I was undercover and really had no desire to actually "steal" from anyone) and found most aren't available. I downloaded the few I could search out and uploaded them to my ereader. Yay, success!

Except, not really. Yes, I had successfully stolen a few books, but at what cost? I wasted untold hours searching for these books. And not for nothing, but the ebooks were virtually unreadable. They were scanned page by page by a pirate. Once again, this is nothing like music piracy where you pop a disc in, hit copy and viola, free music. Here you have crooked pages, cut off pages, too small font that can't be magnified, etc. Why bother? This is the big threat to the publishing industry? People who want something free this badly might as well just steal it off the shelf at the store and be done with it. The risk is greater, but so are the rewards (I guess.)

Authors - please just stop it. Really. People who are stealing your book are most likely doing it for the sake of stealing it. Chances are they weren't going to buy it anyway. If you are an author who chooses to not provide your book in an ebook version because you're afraid pirates will provide your content for free, well, they already are. I've read plenty of interviews with ebook pirates and the one thing they all say is that they won't spend the time copying a book that's already available. It's work. Once again, why bother?

Thousands of readers are more than willing to spend money on ebooks. By not providing a legal copy of your book, you are not receiving that money. Would you rather prevent the few from getting a copy of your book for free (and you are failing at that) rather than profit from those who legitimately want to buy your work? If so, you are only hurting yourself.

Publishers - We are well aware of what some of you are doing. We know some make the decision to hold ebooks back for months in order to get us to buy hardcovers. How is that working out for you? I'm not buying your expensive book. I can get your books from the library. For free. Legally. Or I'll wait until a paperback copy is released. I don't need the book immediately. I can wait. I would imagine most others can too. I would love to support the author and purchase a reasonably priced ebook, but you won't let me. That's your right and it's also your loss. Wouldn't you rather me spend $9.99 on a ebook on release day or have me get it from the library? How about pirate an ebook copy? Holding the ebook version back makes the pirates feel justified in their actions. No one should be giving the pirates any reason to feel righteous.

Readers - it's our fault too. Myself included. We know we want reasonably priced ebooks readily available. We know we need to speak up and make sure the publishing industry knows what we want and where we stand. How do we achieve our goals? We complain. To each other. Hmmm, that doesn't seem to be working. So the question is, what do we do?

I ask you: What can we do as readers to fix the system? How do we convince the publishing industry that there will always be pirates (look at the music industry) and that they don't matter in the long run? Am I completely wrong about this?


  1. i recently watched a documentary about the film industry (can't remember what it's called - stupid brain) and was struck by one of the comments one of the film distributors made. he basically said that the biggest group of people who pirate films are actually the group of people who spend the most money on watching films (and purchasing all the associated paraphenalia that go along with that) so really, what's the big deal. i can't help feeling that this must be similar to book readers - who would go to those great lenghts you mentioned? my answer is book lovers who are probably going to rant about how much they love the book (as we do if we do :-)) and help sales anyway.

  2. I don't like eBooks. (I know, I'm probably the only one.) It takes me a long time to catch on to new technology. I still love my VCR. Just kidding. Really, I prefer paper books, so I wouldn't steal eBooks because (1) stealing is wrong, and (2) I don't want them.

    That said, I do realize that someday paper books will go the way of the dinosaur. I don't think authors should refuse to release an eBook version because of the piracy risk. Naughty people will always be out there looking for something to steal for the sake of stealing. Heck, in the past I've seen "stripped" paper books for sale online, and those are considered stolen too, right?

  3. Oh. Well, call me naive. I didn't even know that was a problem! I'm with Diana - I don't use an eReader. If I did, I certainly wouldn't go "stealing" material. I don't do it with songs, either. I pay for every single one. Why? Because it will be just my luck that I go and download a pirated song (or eBook) and I get caught and **I'm** the one they make an example of! LOL. It's just not worth it.

  4. Jen, I give you full credit for opening up this very controversial topic. It is a bigger problem than many people think.

    However, I just wanted to tell you that it is ridiculously easy to source pirated eBooks. You don't need a torrent, you just need the right site. Finding the right site is a lot easier than your investigations revealed. While I pay for my books, I personally know a lot of people that obtain all their books from file sharing sites. People that have downloaded 3,000+ ebooks. It definitely is a problem.

  5. I'm going to admit something.

    I used to steal ebooks.
    (I know, I know, I'm a horrible, horrible person)
    About a year ago, I started getting into books again. After I read the Twilight saga, I was left book less and hungry. Hungry for more books. And I had no way to get more, or so I thought.
    I don't remember exactly how it happened. I don't remember when I stumbled across this neat concept of new, cool, awesome books that I'd actually like being available to me, all I want, for free online. All I know is that I found out about them, and I found a message board dedicated to nothing but these cool ebooks. So I signed up, and was amazed to be able to request just about any book and have someone send me a link to the ebook. Sure, there was some that they didnt always have right away, but there were others (i.e. Before I Fall) that were floating around almost six months before the publication date (FYI I never actually ended up reading Before I Fall. By the time that was leaked, I had already started to realize my bad ways)
    It may sound naive, but those first few months, I honestly had no idea what I was doing was wrong. I mean I knew stealing movies and music is wrong but these were books, it was different. At least, thats what I let myself believe.
    I never realised the problem while I was still stealing. I couldn't steal the forest through the trees.
    My eyes hurt. They felt like they were shriveling up. Thats when I started checking books out from the library. I hadnt known I even had one in my city. (My city is about 3 miles long and consists of two nieghborhoods, a winn dixie a walgreens and a golf club(though were surronded on all sides by bigger citys so the movies and stuff are only 2 mins away and the beach is 45 mins away so its not like im deprived)) But they did, it was right by the city hall (I didn't know we had one of those either). And when I went in for the first time I was shocked. It was really small and the YA section was even smaller, but there was stuff alot of awesome books. I checked out 9 books that day. Once I realized how much more I liked reading real books, I started to withdraw from the message board. About a month later I came across the book blogging world, and started to see that real people write these books and need to make a living off the sales. I was right when I thought ebooks were different then music. It was, it was still stealing, but the people I was stealing from were way more poor then the rockstars that illegal music downloads steal from. So I finally pulled out of that world all the way, and havent stole books in months, and I'm actually happier this way. Plus, my eyes can't thank me enough. The only thing I dont regret is my love of reading started because of stealing ebooks, and those same authors I stole from during those few months now have a paying loyal customer.

  6. I don't have an e reader and I prefer paper books..but every one book I have bought ..yes I do know that this is out there and found out about this with Midnight Sun by Meyer but as authors or pubs..its a tough now a days with all these technology.

    Buyer beware with all things...

  7. This is a great topic. I love how you went undercover to get the dirt!

    I agree with you - if authors/publishers refuse to make electronic versions of their books because they think people will steal them, it's obviously already happening! Yes, it would probably make it easier to pirate it, but you'll be making up for it by gaining money from the honest people who actually pay for their books.

    from Une Parole

  8. I was able to find the HP books very easily, but the format is TERRIBLE! I just want to be able to buy the eBooks legally. Not only for moral reasons, but for the higher quality as well.

    Do the publishers and authors really think they are stopping piracy? To be honest, I now buy more books than I used to. I no longer wait to get something ordered in to the library. I just download the eBook. I'm willing to pay the $5 bucks to read it right away.

    And Mandy, I know what you mean. I would think that many (or some) people think of stealing eBooks as being the same as borrowing from the library. You don't pay for either to read the book :/

  9. I wish I had some brilliant insight to offer, but I don't. I agree there's a problem, and I think you're right that everyone's to blame. It'll be interesting to see how it all shakes out. It's taken the music industry years to reach the uneasy balance we're in now.

  10. I don't like e-books very much and I prefer to wait for a less expensive version in paperback. Here in Italy most of the people don't use e-readers. When I asked my friends if they read e-books, only 1 out of 12 answered me yes. And most of the books published in Italy have not an e-book version. Maybe we will have this problem in the future, when more e-books will be available.

  11. I don't like Ebooks eaither though my mom is trying to get me to get an ereader for getting text books

    I prefer holding the book in my hands, the smell, the feel of the pages, etc compared to ebooks Xp