December 14th, 2008

I always hesitate to discuss epirating because:

a.) It sounds like I’m lecturing and I don’t want to sound that way. I want my blog to be fun and have pictures of cats and amusing anecdotes and contests and stuff.

b.) It advertises the fact you can do it and I imagine one or two passers-by are saying, “Hey, cool! I can get books for free!” and then stop reading my blog post and go off to steal from me or others.

c.) I don’t think the regular readers of my blog would ever dream of stealing from me and probably are angry on my behalf that anyone else would (because you guys are awesome!) and therefore I’m probably just preaching to the choir.

But a couple days ago a friend of mine sent me a link with dozens of my books posted for free for anyone to take. I found another this morning. There’s nothing new about this. I fight epirating every single day, but I’ve been noticing more and more of it as the economy worsens. I honestly simply do not have the time to fight all of them. I have deadlines, edits, and a family to take care of.

So it’s an issue for me right now and I feel like I need to clarify where I stand on this issue and what’s wrong with it. First, let me explain the problem with “sharing” ebooks.

Okay, so you buy a paperback copy of a book. You like it, so you give it to your friend, who gives it to their friend, who puts it up on paperback swap or something. That’s okay. That’s okay because it’s ONE copy of the book, purchased originally by someone who then had a right to do with it as she saw fit.

I have no problem with libraries or paperback swap or used bookstores. That book is only one book and can only change hands one pair at a time. Eventually the book is going to become tattered and fall apart. It has a limited lifespan.

The problem lies in someone buying (or stealing) an electronic copy of a book and then putting it up somewhere and saying, “Here, I’m sharing this with you.” Except, it’s not sharing, it’s publishing. Because copies are being made of that one ebook. Now there isn’t just ONE book anymore, there are five hundred books. Then some of those people go out and say, “I’m sharing this book with you,” and now there are four thousand new books from that one original copy. And that one original copy is never going to become tattered and need to be replaced. It’ll be bright and shiny forevermore.

See the difference? Ebooks multiply like indestructible tribble.

• You ARE breaking copyright when you copy an ebook and you end up with two or more copies.
• You ARE NOT breaking copyright by giving away your copy of a paperback book.
• You ARE breaking copyright by copying or scanning a paperback book.
• You ARE NOT breaking copyright by forwarding an ebook to a friend AND THEN DELETING THE ORIGINAL COPY. There’s still only one copy and that’s kosher.

My responses to all the excuses I’ve heard ebook pirates use:

But I would never have purchased the book in the first place.

Ah, okay. Then why do you want the book anyway?

I can’t afford to buy any books right now, so I have no choice but download them illegally.

Economic times are hard right now for everyone, but if I want a certain type of cosmetic and can’t afford it that doesn’t mean I go down to the drugstore and shoplift it. Why don’t you try a used bookstore or the library? You have options. I’m sorry you’re experiencing financial problems, that sucks, but it’s no excuse.

Authors are rich, they can take the hit!

Bwahahahahahaha. Ahem. No. 99% of authors cannot support themselves on their writing alone. We are NOT rich folk. We are poor folk who love what we do and want to be able to do more of it in the future, but we can only do that if people stop stealing our work.

I don’t believe in copyright. No one can own ideas.

That’s a very romantic notion. It’s true that you can’t copyright an idea, however you can copyright a work that springs from an idea. It takes time, effort and labor to produce a novel from an idea. That’s when the idea becomes a work and the creator of that work deserves compensation. Just like you deserve compensation for sitting eight hours a day in a cubicle doing data entry or whatever it is you do for a living.

Respect the author. Respect the work the author put in to create it. I wouldn’t walk into your employer’s payroll office and steal parts of your paycheck, so don’t steal mine.

But I didn’t know I was doing anything wrong.

Now you know. Please stop.

Why stop?

Stop because you obviously love to read and the more you steal from authors the more you hurt them. The more the authors are hurt, the less sales they make, the more shelf space they lose, and that ultimately means less variety in reading material for you.

Some midlist authors can be very injured by this. All it takes is a small decrease in their sales for their publishing house to cancel their contracts and then they’re out of a job – it’s you, the ebook pirate, who may be ultimately responsible for that. Already, the years 2009 and 2010 are going to see a hella lot of midlist authors knocked from their places in publishing because the economy is so bad. This is NOT helping them.

I do understand that many people are having financial difficulties right now. I know that it’s difficult sometimes to get to the library and when you do there are long waiting lists for books. So here’s what I will do for you.

I have two free stories I wrote for my newsletters subscribers. I will have my web site mistress upload them to my web site. You can download these two stories, forward them, copy them until you’re blind (although I wouldn’t advise that), tap dance on them if you want. They’re yours, gratis. Time willing, I plan to write more free stories.

If you email me and tell me flat out that you’re in bad, bad financial shape and you absolutely cannot afford to buy one of my books, not even used, I’ll try and find a used copy for you. I have done this in the past for people and I will do it again. However, I am not wealthy myself so if I’m deluged with requests, I won’t be able to honor them all. But if you are genuinely in very bad financial straits, I’ll do my best to help you out.

Check my blog often. I give away books for free all the time. My own books and those of my friends. I don’t know how many brand spanking new books I’ve given away this year, but it must be close to a hundred.

I love ebooks. I am a huge proponent of them and I am against DRM. (Hey, I’m about to buy an ebook reader and I don’t want any extra hassle either.) I just wish people would be more responsible in their decision making and think about how their choices affect the artists they profess to enjoy.

I don’t think that we can get people to stop breaking copyright and sharing files on the Internet by appealing to their sense of right and wrong. The Lure of the Free is far too powerful. I only hope the publishing industry (already taking some very serious hits) can respond to the problem in a more effective manner than the music industry did.

16 comments to “Epirating”

  1. Keep up the good fight, my friend.

    Remember this phrase: Napster! Bad!

    It’s the same thing. Which means you’re in the company of one Lars from Metallica. He may not have taken on Napster the right way, but we can learn from his mistakes. (And heck, you’re in the company of one of the world’s biggest rock stars! One who has always been very nice to me. That’s not something to get down about, now is it??)

    Keep up the good fight.

    (btw, bookmarks and postcards arrived! Thanks!)

  2. Hrm, yes. If only I was a millionaire and a household name like Lars. LOL. I find myself at a slight disadvantage compared to him.

  3. Hi Anya:

    I am truly sorry to hear about the piracy of your or any other author’s books. I guess I have my head in the sand or am buck stupid because I had no idea this kind of theft was going on.

    From a personal perspective, my e-book library is mine, I don’t share or copy (would never of thought doing such a thing). The paperbacks I can part with go to Goodwill for folks who cannot afford books to read. I do tend to be a hoarder of my books and keep most of them though.

    All I can say is, excellent post and I hope folks who frequent your blog take notice.

    Best Regards

  4. I agree… I have loads of ebooks and I do share — by lending my e-reader to my sister so she can read them – and then she gives it back to me. I paid for them and I don’t think someone should have them for free. It frustrates me when I see illegal free books.

  5. Thanks, Lea!

    I really doubt those who frequent my blog on a regular basis are epirates. 🙂 That’s why I hesitated to write anything about the issue here.

    I’m “preaching to the choir,” as it were.

    But I feel better having my stance outlined. 🙂

  6. Marnie — Yes. 🙂 And that’s totally kosher.

    It frustrates me too. Erm…frustrates might not be the right word. 😉

  7. Ebook piracy sucks!

  8. I’m sorry to hear about this. As you’ve said, the economy is slumming and it will inevitably affect everything. You are doing all that you can, so rest assured in that and keep your head up.


  9. Anya~
    I am sorry to hear that this happening and I do not understand how people cannot realize that this illegal.
    I am glad that you took the time to post this and hopefully someone who is guilty of this will read this and pause and think about what they are doing.

  10. being a designer in the crochet world this is a issue near and dear, we get it all the time with photo coping and things like that. its amazing what people think is true and is not…. and amazing what people do with published works. HUge hugs and belive me I feel your pain on this subject!!!

  11. Thanks, guys. This is a really disheartening thing for authors. 🙁

  12. I guess I am one of those strange people who when told you can’t do something because its illegal or wrong I just don’t do it. I’m afraid the minute I do someone will be knocking on my door.

    I do like your explanation of the passing on. 1 copy becomes 4 which becomes 16 and so on. Maybe if more people saw it broken down that way they might understand better. But then you will always get the tards who do what they want.

    Good luck!!!

  13. I understand where you’re coming from and I would never pirate an e-book, but I have trouble justifying spending $5.00 on something that isn’t tangible and never will be.

    But that’s just my opinion. Someday, I’ll probably have a kindle. or some type of e-reader

  14. Hey Anya! Great post. It is very timely. I just put up an article by another author on BBB about this very topic. I hope you don’t mind me sharing the link here. I also added a link to your post in the article to send people here to read your thoughts.

    Keep up the great work!


  15. Thanks, all. 🙂

    Virginia — Your comment made me think a bit. It’s interesting because I don’t think of ebooks that way, but i can see (now that you mentioned it) that someone might perceive them that way.

    I guess when buy a book, print or ebook, I feel like I’m paying for the fantasy of it–the escape of the story that the author provides. So, really, I never feel like I’m buying anything “tangible”. I’m buying a little movie for my mind. A dream. 😉

    Very interesting!

    Rachel — Oh, of course not. I’m glad you see this topic coming up more and more. I think education is key.

  16. You know, I wouldn’t have even thought to do something like that. Just thinking about it seems like the wrong thing to do. Most poeple should be able to see this is not right and if, they are like me and this is actually the first time ever even hearing about this practise going on they are now in the know about how bad a thing this is to do and pass that knowledge along to all their friends. 🙂