Notable Articles and The Future of the Book and The Millions Interview

Confessions of a Book Pirate

By posted at 6:32 am on January 25, 2010 271

coverFor several years, it seemed as though the book industry was getting a reprieve. As the music industry was ravaged by file sharing, and the film and TV industry were increasingly targeted by downloaders, book piracy was but a quaint cul de sac in the vast file sharing ecology. The tide, however, may be changing. Ereaders have become mainstream, making reading ebooks palatable to many more readers. Meanwhile, technology for scanning physical books and breaking the DRM on ebooks has continued to advance.

A recent study by Attributor, a firm that specializes in monitoring content online, came to some spectacular conclusions, including the headline claim that book piracy costs the industry nearly $3 billion, or over 10% of total revenue. Of all the conclusions in the Attributor study, this one seemed the most outlandish, and the study itself might be met with some skepticism since Attributor is in the business of charging companies to protect their content from the threat of piracy.

Nonetheless, the study, which monitored 913 titles on several popular file hosting sites, did point to a level of activity that suggested illegal downloading of books was becoming more than just a niche pastime. Even if the various extrapolations that led to the $3-billion figure are easy to poke holes in, Attributor still directly counted 3.2 million downloaded books.

For some, however, the study may inspire more questions than answers. Who are the people downloading these books? How are they doing it and where is it happening? And, perhaps most critical for the publishing industry, why are people deciding to download books and why now? I decided to find out, and after a few hours of searching – stalled by a number dead links and password protected sites – I found, on an online forum focused on sharing books via BitTorrent, someone willing to talk.

He lives in the Midwest, he’s in his mid-30s and is a computer programmer by trade. By some measures, he’s the publishing industry’s ideal customer, an avid reader who buys dozens of books a year and enthusiastically recommends his favorites to friends. But he’s also uploaded hundreds of books to file sharing sites and he’s downloaded thousands. We discussed his file sharing activity over the course of a weekend, via email, and in his answers lie a critical challenge facing the publishing industry: how to quash the emerging piracy threat without alienating their most enthusiastic customers. As is typical of anonymous online communities, he has a peculiar handle: “The Real Caterpillar.” This is what he told me:

The Millions: How active are you. How many books have you uploaded or downloaded?

The Real Caterpillar: In the past month, I have uploaded approximately 50 books to the torrent site where you contacted me. I am much less active then I once was. I used to scan many books, but in the past two years I have only done a few. Between 2002-2005 I created around 200 ebooks by scanning the physical copy, OCRing and proofing the output, and uploading them to USENET. I generally only upload content that I have scanned, with some exceptions. I have been out of the book scene for a while, concentrating on rare and out of print movies instead of books because it is much easier to rip a movie from VHS or DVD than to scan and proof a book.

I have downloaded a couple thousand ebooks via USENET and private torrent sites.

TM: Do you typically see scanned physical books or ebooks where the DRM has been broken?

coverTRC: Most of what I have seen is scanned physical books. Stephen King’s Under the Dome was the first DRM-broken book I downloaded knowingly.

TM: Why have you gone this route as opposed to using a library or buying books? Do you consider this “stealing” or is it a gray area?

TRC: I own around 1,600 physical books, maybe a third of which were bought new, the rest used. I buy many hardcovers in a given year and generally purchase more books than I end up reading, so I have not chosen to collect electronic books as opposed to paper books but in addition to them. My electronic library has about a 50% crossover with my physical library, so that I can read the book on my electronic reader, “loan” the book without endangering my physical copy, or eventually rid myself of the paper copy if it is a book I do not have strong feelings about.

I do not buy DRM’d ebooks that are priced at more than a few dollars, but would pay up to $10 for a clean file if it was a new release.

coverI do not pretend that uploading or downloading unpurchased electronic books is morally correct, but I do think it is more of a grey area than some of your readers may. Perhaps this will change as the Kindle and other e-ink readers make electronic books more convenient, but the Baen Free Library is an interesting experiment that proves that at least in that case, their business was actually enhanced by giving away their product free. That is probably not a business model that will work for everyone, but what is shows is that as a company they have their ear to the ground and are willing to think in new directions and take chances instead of putting their fingers in their ears, closing their eyes, and railing against their customers, as the
music industry is doing. The world is changing and business models have to change with it.

Three additional points:

1) With digital copies, what is “stolen” is not as clear as with physical copies. With physical copies, you can assign a cost to the physical product, and each unit costs x dollars to create. Therefore, if the product is stolen, it is easy to say that an object was stolen that was worth x dollars. With digital copies, it is more difficult to assign cost. The initial file costs x dollars to create, but you can make a million copies of that file for no cost. Therefore, it is hard to assign a specific value to a digital copy of a work except as it relates to lost sales.

2) Just because someone downloads a file, it does not mean they would have bought the product I think this is the key fact that many people in the music industry ignore – a download does not translate to a lost sale. I own hundreds of paper copies of books I have e-copies of, many of which were bought after downloading the e-copy. In other cases I have downloaded books I would never have purchased, simply because they were recommended or sounded interesting.

3) Just because someone downloads a file, it doesn’t mean they will read it. I realize that buying a book doesn’t mean someone is going to read it either, but clicking a link and paying $10-$30 is very different – many more people will download a book and not read it than buy a book and not read it.

In truth, I think it is clear that morally, the act of pirating a product is, in fact, the moral equivalent of stealing… although that nagging question of what the person who has been stolen from is missing still lingers. Realistically and financially, however, I feel the impact of e-piracy is overrated, at least in terms of ebooks.

TM: How easy is it to go online and find a book you’re looking for? How long does it take to download and how much technical expertise is required?

TRC: I have specific tastes, so it is usually not very easy to find specifically what I am looking for. The dearth of material I was interested in is what prompted me to scan in the past, in order to share some of my favorite, less popular authors with as many people as possible. It does not take much time to download once something you want has been found, however, and little technical experience is required.

Since books are generally very small files, they can be downloaded in minutes. You can then convert the file using one of many applications, for instance Mobipocket Creator, to PRC or another format that works with your reader. You can then plug your Kindle into your computer and copy the file over. The entire process typically takes 5-10 minutes.

BitTorrent technology is easy to install and use, and just about anyone can install the basic software needed and begin downloading their first torrent in less than an hour. However, discovering and gaining access to private torrent sites (invite only) can take a lot of time – and of course, that is where the good stuff is. Public sites (no account needed) and semi-private sites (sites that require an account, but usually have open enrollment) have a limited selection, but are easily accessible and anyone with basic computer skills can find and download very popular novels.

Usenet is an older technology, and is considered a safer place to pirate files. For older users like me who were around at the beginning of the internet it seems very simple, but to newer computer users it may seem unnecessarily complex, and more expensive because you need an account separate from your regular internet connection to access it.

TM: Once you’ve downloaded a book, what format is it in and how do you read it? On you computer? Printed out?

TRC: My preferred format for distribution is RTF because it holds metadata such as italics, boldfaces, and special characters that TXT does not, is easily converted to other formats using Word, cannot contain a virus, and is an open format that will be readable forever. Other popular formats are DOC, HTML, PDF, LIT (Microsoft Reader), PRC (Palm), MOBI (Palm), CBR (rar’d image files) – and there is a new format with each new reader that is released. Most formats can be converted to your preferred format with enough ingenuity or the
correct software.

To read, I convert to PRC and load the books onto my Kindle. Before I got that, I read on my Palm or laptop.

TM: How long does it take you to scan a physical book?

TRC: The scanning process takes about 1 hour per 100 scans. Mass market paperbacks can be scanned two pages at a time flat on the scanner bed, while large trades and hardcovers usually need to be scanned one page at a time. I’m sure that some of the more hardcore scanners disassemble the book and run it through an automatic feeder or something, but I prefer the manual approach because I’d like to save the book, and don’t want to invest in the tools. Usually I can scan a book while watching a movie or two.

Once scanned, the output needs to be OCR’d – this is a fairly quick process using a tool like ABBYY FineReader.

The final step is the longest and most grueling. I’ve spent anywhere from 5 to 40 hours proofing the OCR output, depending on the size of the book and the quality of type in the original. This can be done in your OCR tool side-by-side with the scan of the original image or separately in your final output type (RTF, DOC, HTML, etc.). If there are few errors on the first few pages of text my preference is to proof in RTF, otherwise I do the proof within Finereader itself.

TM: What types of books do you look for? What is generally available? Is any fiction or popular non-fiction available?

TRC: I restrict my downloads to books I will likely read – this includes some popular novels, literary novels, and general non-fiction such as humor, biography, science, sociology, etc. Unlike DVD rips, the newest releases are not typically available two weeks before the product is released, if at all. I’m assuming that this is due to the smaller devoted audience books have, as well as the increased difficulty of sharing a book.

TM: Do you have a sense of where these books are coming from and who is putting them online?

TRC: I assume they are primarily produced by individuals like me – bibliophiles who want to share their favorite books with others. They likely own hundreds of books, and when asked what their favorite book is look at you like you are crazy before rattling of 10-15 authors, and then emailing you later with several more. The next time you see them, they have a bag of 5-10 books for you to borrow.

I’m sure that there are others – the compulsive collectors who download and re-share without ever reading one, the habitual pirates who want to be the first to upload a new release, and people with some other weird agenda that only they understand.

TM: Is it your sense that a lot of people are out there looking to get books this way? Or is it just a tiny group?

TRC: I would say that there is a small unaffiliated “group” of people responsible for sourcing the material.

Also, keep in mind that everything I’m saying applies mostly to fiction and general-interest non-fiction.

Textbook, programming and technical manuals are all over the place and its very easy to obtain almost anything you want. I assume there are more sources for that material, and that their high price is a larger factor in people deciding to pirate them. Similarly, there are many communities creating comic, graphic novel and magazine content of whom I am only vaguely aware.

TM: Do you worry at all about getting in trouble for scanning and uploading ebooks?

TRC: A little, but the books I do are typically not bestsellers and are rarely new. I figure I have a bit of a buffer if trouble comes down because the Stephen King or Nora Roberts or “whoever the latest bestseller is” scanners would be the ones to get hit first. I’ve done a lot of out-of-print stuff, and when it is not out of print it’s books by authors like John Barth – someone who no longer sells very well, I imagine.

I’ve debated doing some newer authors and books, but I would need to protect myself better and resolve the moral dilemma of actually causing noticeable financial harm to the author whose work I love enough to spend so much time working on getting a nice e-copy if I were to do so.

TM: What changes in the ebook industry would inspire you to stop participating in ebook file sharing?

TRC: This is a tough question. I guess if every book was available in electronic format with no DRM for reasonable prices ($10 max for new/bestseller/omnibus, scaling downwards for popularity and value) it just wouldn’t be worth the time, effort, and risk to find, download, convert and load the book when the same thing could be accomplished with a single click on your Kindle. Even in this situation, I would probably still grab a book if I stumbled across the file and thought it might interest me – or if I wanted to check it out before buying a paper copy.

I was impressed by the Indie filmmakers of the movie “Ink” – when their movie leaked before the DVD was released, they put a donation button on their site doubleedgefilms.com. I donated even though I haven’t watched the movie yet, just because of their thoughtfulness and sincerity. This didn’t seem to work for King’s “The Plant“, but I think that had a lot to do with the lack of reading technology at the time. I would like to see the experiment tried again by someone like Eggers or Murakami – someone with a very devoted fanbase.

Perhaps if readers were more confident that the majority of the money went to the author, people would feel more guilty about depriving the author of payment. I think most of the filesharing community feels that the record industry is a vestigal organ that will slowly fall off and die – I don’t know to what extent that feeling would extend to publishing houses since they are to some extent a different animal. In the end, I think that regular people will never feel very guilty “stealing” from a faceless corporation, or to a lesser extent, a multi-millionaire like King.

One thing that will definitely not change anyone’s mind or inspire them to stop are polemics from people like Mark Helprin and Harlan Ellison – attitudes like that ensure that all of their works are available online all of the time.

[Image credit: Patrick Feller]





Share this article

More from the Millions

271 Responses to “Confessions of a Book Pirate”

  1. Pop Loser – Confessions of a Book Pirate
    at 11:44 am on January 25, 2010

    [...] Confessions of a book pirate. [via] He lives in the Midwest, he’s in his mid-30s and is a computer programmer by trade. By some measures, he’s the publishing industry’s ideal customer, an avid reader who buys dozens of books a year and enthusiastically recommends his favorites to friends. But he’s also uploaded hundreds of books to file sharing sites and he’s downloaded thousands. possiblyrelated.★ Publishers Losing Billions Publishers are losing nearly $1-trillion every year because of libraries! Hilarious! [via] Hot on the heels of the story in…★ Star Trek Torrents One list Star Trek did top – most illegally downloaded movies of the year. [via] … [...]

  2. Bookdwarf » Monday Links
    at 2:24 pm on January 25, 2010

    [...] The Millions has posted the Confessions of a Book Pirate. [...]

  3. a writer’s notes » Something for nothing
    at 2:47 pm on January 25, 2010

    [...] The Millions converses with an online book pirate: I do not pretend that uploading or downloading unpurchased electronic books is morally correct, but I do think it is more of a grey area than some of your readers may. . . . [...]

  4. NBCC Awards & Other Links of This Nature
    at 3:29 pm on January 25, 2010

    [...] The Millions, Max Magee  interviews a “book pirate.” “One thing that will definitely not change anyone’s mind or inspire [pirates] to stop are [...]

  5. otto
    at 4:16 pm on January 25, 2010

    I’m a thief, but ‘Hey!, I don’t like big nameless corporations’, so it’s cool, right? I understand that what I do is morally wrong, but ‘Hey, i like and buy books!’, so it’s cool, right?
    I wonder how he’d feel if it were his own work that someone else was ripping off? different I’d bet, and not as cool.

  6. The Daily Square – Ruby Don’t Take Your Love To Town Edition | Booksquare
    at 7:30 pm on January 25, 2010

    [...] The Millions: Confessions of a Book PirateReally eye-opening interview/discussion with an admitted file uploader. Gets into the why question. This is a must-read! [...]

  7. Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff
    at 7:37 pm on January 25, 2010

    Alas, when the big nameless corporations who own our publishers lose money, they take it from the individual writer’s revenue stream. They don’t count the books you’ve downloaded free as sales and we don’t get those added to our “numbers,” so ultimately, it’s our pockets and our careers as writers that are being affected by big nameless piracy.

    Some of us choose to give away some of our work, but don’t you think perhaps it should be our choice?

  8. Lal
    at 8:17 pm on January 25, 2010

    “Therefore, it is hard to assign a specific value to a digital copy of a work except as it relates to lost sales.”

    Well, that is the point, isn’t it? Lost sales will be factored in by publishers and ultimately will mean either less author’s royalties or worse paid proof-readers, translators and other professionals involved in the publishing process.

    And by the way, I think Harlan Ellison, for all his bombastic antics, has a very valid point when he stands by the writer’s right to make a decent living out of his work. To say that this means all his works will be available online sounds like an ugly threat to me.

  9. Almanacco del Giorno – 25 Jan. 2010 « Almanacco Americano
    at 10:40 pm on January 25, 2010

    [...] The Millions – Confessions of a Book Pirate [...]

  10. Future is Now
    at 2:37 am on January 26, 2010

    “I think most of the filesharing community feels that the record industry is a vestigal organ that will slowly fall off and die – I don’t know to what extent that feeling would extend to publishing houses since they are to some extent a different animal. ”

    I think you’re on the right track but they’re almost the exact same animal. Independent production in all fields is the future. Goodbye record industry, publishing, movie studios – dinaours will die…

    Publish your own book, charge less, make more!

  11. FrancisT
    at 10:20 am on January 26, 2010

    I should note that Baen does a lot more with ebooks than just the free library and other giveaways such as the CDs in selected first edition HBs. It also sells (almost?) all its ebooks directly – with no Amazon cut and no DRM – at a price of between $4 and $6 . Furthermore my understanding is that it manages to do that and pay authors a higher royalty rate than they normally get for paper books.

    The result of this is that there are in fact very few “booklegged” Baen books on the internet and lots of social pressure in the booklegging circles to not distribute unauthorized versions of Baen books. Baen also allows all would-be readers to chance to sample the first 25% or so of all books for free figuring that if you haven’t been hooked by then, then they haven’t lost a sale. On the other hand of you did like what you’ve read it is very easy (all too easy my bank balance says) to buy the rest of the book. This approach also applies to eARCs which are sold at a premium price of $15 each and yet seem to thrive without notable booklegging. Compare this approach to say, Harper Collins who plan to delay ebook editions until some time after the HB edition has been released.

    Baen is a private company and doesn’t release figures but my understanding is that Baen is thriving in a market where many publishers are struggling. I suspect affordable DRM-free ebooks, which Baen has been offering for some 10 years now, are one of the reasons why.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    at 10:52 am on January 26, 2010

    You, sir, should be burned at the stake.

  13. Mea culpa
    at 11:20 am on January 26, 2010

    I have downloaded pirated e-books. I really wanted the book (checked the local libraries) but didn’t want to pay the $45 for the new book. I gave a couple of thousand paid books in my library and I prefer to read in paper form, but for some non- fiction instructional books i’m willing to read onscreen and save money. I know this is stealing. No excuses. If the price was $10 i would buy all my books, but with limited budget I buy one per month and beg, borrow or steal the others.

  14. JannaS
    at 11:32 am on January 26, 2010

    The pirate says: “In truth, I think it is clear that morally, the act of pirating a product is, in fact, the moral equivalent of stealing… although that nagging question of what the person who has been stolen from is missing still lingers. Realistically and financially, however, I feel the impact of e-piracy is overrated, at least in terms of ebooks.”

    The key issue here is who has been stolen from–it’s the author, stupid! When you pirate a book, sure you’re depriving those big publishing companies of their money, but you’re also making it harder for an author to support herself. If she has to make money in ways other than writing because her work’s been stolen, then that’s the end of her career. The writer loses, the reader loses and that’s the end of it.

    The thief’s right when he says that piracy is the moral equivalent of stealing, but he’s too busy justifying Takin’ Down the Man to remember that when art is stolen, it’s stolen from its creator. He’s a thief, what he’s doing is illegal, he’s a weasel for attempting to justify his crime, and he should accept the consequences of being a criminal.

  15. Confessions Of A Book Pirate « memoirs on a rainy day
    at 12:42 pm on January 26, 2010

    [...] , technology Leave a Comment Tags: asides, books, piracy, social, technology The Millions has an interview with a book pirate. I found it interesting, but the questions, as well as the answers just skimmed the surface of this [...]

  16. What can we learn from a book pirate? | Brad’s Reader
    at 1:21 pm on January 26, 2010

    [...] for us, we can get some answers from the blog The Millions. They posted a fascinating article Confessions of a book pirate where they interview a book pirate, who of course stayed anonymous. What he says is fascinating and [...]

  17. EdmundS
    at 1:59 pm on January 26, 2010

    “if every book was available in electronic format with no DRM for reasonable prices ($10 max for new/bestseller/omnibus, scaling downwards for popularity and value) it just wouldn’t be worth the time, effort, and risk to find, download, convert and load the book when the same thing could be accomplished with a single click on your Kindle.”

    I seem to have gotten a different impression about the pirate than most so far. Yes, he’s stealing, and he seems pretty aware of that fact, but if you’re interested in stopping book piracy it’s worth understanding why. DRM didn’t work for the music industry and I can’t imagine that it will work for E-books any better. If I buy a digital product, it has to provide the same amount of quality as the physical copy – for CDs this was the ability to share songs “the old fashioned way” and for books the ability to loan it out without hassle to an interested friend.

    Books will always (or at least for the foreseeable future) have devotes like me who buy them because they can’t stand reading anything other than a physical copy, but this group will shrink. Publishers need to give e-book buyers a fair, DRM-free deal to insure that books don’t join music as something younger generations consider free.

  18. Duiker
    at 2:00 pm on January 26, 2010

    A message to writers with an established fan base. Don’t hand over ebook rights to your publishers. Upload your books to your fan sites and ask for donations with a suggested donations of $5. I promise you, your fans will donate. All the money will go in your pocket. Some fans may even donate more then your suggested price knowing that the money is going to you. I’ll stop downloading books when publishers stop ripping off writers.

  19. SonomaLass
    at 2:02 pm on January 26, 2010

    “Just because someone downloads a file, it does not mean they would have bought the product I think this is the key fact that many people in the music industry ignore – a download does not translate to a lost sale.”

    THIS! And also, THIS:

    “if every book was available in electronic format with no DRM for reasonable prices ($10 max for new/bestseller/omnibus, scaling downwards for popularity and value) it just wouldn’t be worth the time, effort, and risk to find, download, convert and load the book when the same thing could be accomplished with a single click”

  20. Mike
    at 2:39 pm on January 26, 2010

    I have no idea where commenters are coming up with this idea that the interviewee wants to “take down the man” as that’s a perspective that is not raised. The gist of his point, if you believe he has one and isn’t just elaborating on his day-to-day book habit, is that he is willing to buy books. A reasonable product, distributed reasonably, at a reasonable price.

    If the product was DRM-free and priced at $10 — not a ridiculously low price, and he’s actually willing to put a dollar amount on this — then he’d be purchasing these books. For lesser-read authors, he’d be contributing money to back catalog sales for titles that are out of print.

    Instead of finger-pointing and gnashing teeth about how he’s trying to justify what supposed evil he’s done, why not concentrate on how the publishing industry could adjust to make him a loyal customer? Writers and publishers sound more like scorned lovers than vendors of a product.

  21. Confessions of a Book Pirate « Going Global
    at 3:04 pm on January 26, 2010

    [...] across this on a random jaunt through cyberspace. The term ‘Book Pirate’ conjures up images of [...]

  22. August
    at 3:04 pm on January 26, 2010

    I’d be interested in knowing how this guy (and the commenters) think profit sharing for an ebook breaks down, and why $10 works out as a reasonable price for one.

    For a house to release an ebook, there’s still development costs; editors, proofreaders, book designers (yes, the interior of a book–a good book, at any rate–is still designed, not just covers), IT staff to maintain servers and websites and so on, just to scratch the surface, all of whom need to be paid before the author gets their cut. At small houses that only put out a handful books a year, that maybe amounts to two or three people and the odd outside contractor. And even after the author’s cut gets factored in, they still have to pay off their advance before they start getting paid. Going digital cuts out a big part of the overhead, but not all of it, and not the bits that are ultimately most important for creating a book.

    Now you may think that authors should cut out the middle men all together, no editors or proofreaders or marketers and do all that work themselves. And a few can, actually, and bully for them. But the set of skills that allow you to sit alone in a room for a year or two with nothing for company but a laptop and imaginary people talking in your head is not always, nor indeed usually, the set of skills that allow you to glad-hand and relentlessly self-promote. This is not going to magically change because a handful of middle class digital trinkets suddenly become popular. And then there’s the editors; if you think most writers are capable editors of their own work, allow me to point you to the train wreck that Anne Rice has become.

    Now there’s arguments, and pretty good ones, about how writer/editor/publisher relationships can and should change so that everyone is justly compensated for their work, and those are worth taking a look at. But to say that you know the true, reasonable value for their work just because Amazon has started using digital books as a loss-leader to get you to buy more plastic toys is absurd; even if it does settle somewhere around ten dollars, that’s a bad, bad reason for it to do so.

    Things will change. Things need to change. But let’s not kid ourselves; just as writers, with the exception of a handful of outliers, get the royal shaft in the current system, writers will continue to get the shaft (again, except for a handful of well-adapted outliers) in this magical new system, just for different reasons.

  23. Jackie Barbosa
    at 3:54 pm on January 26, 2010

    I’ve heard this “If only books were cheap and DRM-free, I wouldn’t pirate them” saw before. It doesn’t wash with me. Why not? Because ebooks that come from the publisher with no DRM and at prices far below the interviewee’s $10 are among the most pirated ones out there.

    At this point, I’ve issues take-down orders for every one of my five non-DRM, digital-only ebooks. To date, I haven’t gotten a Google alert indicating that my one, NY-published title, which would have DRM in its digital form, is available on a torrent site. That doesn’t mean it’s not out there, of course, but the point is, most people aren’t pirating solely or even primarily to strip the annoying/intrusive DRM. Maybe that’s the interviewee’s motivation–I’m not casting aspersions on his honesty–but in the scheme of things, I think it’s at best a minor factor in book piracy.

  24. FrancisT
    at 4:07 pm on January 26, 2010

    @August at 3:04 pm on January 26, 2010

    I’d be interested in knowing how this guy (and the commenters) think profit sharing for an ebook breaks down, and why $10 works out as a reasonable price for one.

    I think $10 is a reasonable price because I buy most of my ebooks from Baen at about half that price. In fact I consider $10 to be at the upper end of acceptable

  25. Jackie Barbosa
    at 4:17 pm on January 26, 2010

    And then there’s the editors; if you think most writers are capable editors of their own work, allow me to point you to the train wreck that Anne Rice has become.

    OMG, thank you! Best comment so far.

    I’m really baffled by the persistent notion that because there’s no physical object, an ebook is somehow worth LESS than a paper book. Yes, they cost slightly less to produce, but really, only slightly. The hard cost of printing a paperback is surprisingly low and gets smaller the larger the initial print run. In most cases, I doubt the actual cost of paper, printing, and binding for the average trade paperback is somewhere in the neighborhood of $1 per copy, with mass-market paperback being even cheaper. Everything else that goes into the production of that book also goes into the production of the digital book–the author’s time and effort, the editor’s time and effort, the cover artist’s, etc. etc.

    The value of a book is NOT the paper it’s printed on. If a book has any monetary value at all, it rests of the words it contains, not the format in which it’s delivered. Maybe ebooks should cost slightly less than a paperback because the cost of paper and printing has been eliminate, but only slightly less. Not half as much. Certainly not nothing, which is what pirates appear to be willing to pay.

  26. August
    at 4:45 pm on January 26, 2010

    @FrancisT at 4:07 pm on January 26, 2010

    I think $10 is a reasonable price because I buy most of my ebooks from Baen at about half that price.

    That doesn’t really answer my question about how you think the profit sharing might break down (by which I mean how much the author gets, the designer, the editor, the publisher, etc).

    In addition, much of Baen’s digital offerings (not all, of course, but a lot) comes from a backlist where the editorial and other production costs were paid for years ago through sales of physical books. I’m not trying to call folks out, I genuinely want to know how you think the dollars get distributed from a $10 (or even $4 or $6) sale so that everybody actually gets to earn a living.

  27. jim
    at 6:21 pm on January 26, 2010

    Why should the consumer have to worry about who makes a living? All that was asked in the interview was what would inspire him to stop downloading books, and it looks like he threw out some guideline numbers that he considered reasonable as a consumer.

    If the industry cannot meet those numbers, it has to either disregard what he is saying in terms of price points or slim down. I’m certain the guy did not do any research when he threw the number out.

  28. Jayu
    at 6:38 pm on January 26, 2010

    The pirate rationalizes that people steal because they [they rationalize] that they are stealing from a large corporation rather than individual authors.

    The royalties to the actual author, in many publishing avenues, is now higher than that to the publisher/printer. Does anyone care to bet about whether the theft will decrease?

    The interviewee admits he is a criminal and a thief. It is outrageous that there is not criminal prosecution of people like him. The Justice Dept. has the resources to nail people like him, yet is doing nothing.

  29. Scath
    at 6:39 pm on January 26, 2010

    As an independent author/publisher, I’ve been following the whole ebook piracy saga with much interest.

    I don’t considered a pirated copy to be a lost sale, because as was mentioned above, a lot of people who download books have no intention of paying for something they know where to get for free.

    However, I also agree that the cover prices of books have been steadily increasing over the last couple of decades, and that has had a major effect on my ability to purchase books as a reader.

    They’re just too damn expensive to buy many of in any given year any longer.

    Even so, the remark made above in the comments about “I’ll stop downloading books when publishers stop shafting authors”?

    Allow me to play Devil’s Advocate:

    You’re contributing to the shafting of authors, because traditional publishers likely view pirated copies as a loss to their bottom line, and want to make that money up somewhere.

    You’re contributing to higher prices, because again, they want to make that loss up somewhere.

    The lack of availability in digital format mentioned as one reason people download books is a good point.

    However, because book piracy IS growing and IS a hot topic, publishers AND authors are reluctant to put titles out in a format that makes it even easier for those books to be pirated.

    So piracy basically contributes to lack of digital availability, higher ebook cover prices and authors getting shafted over their share of ebook profits.

    /end Devil’s Advocate

    I’m not too worried about ebook piracy. I’m not a well-known author, I don’t depend solely on my writing to put food on the table, clothe my kids, pay my bills, etc.

    I used to worry about it, because everyone was freaking out about it, but after some thought, I decided the worry was just getting in the way of writing, and if I kept worrying, I might end up quitting.

    So I don’t worry about it. =)

    Now, a break down on a $10 cover price? I can’t give you an idea for traditional publishing, but I can give you an idea of independent:

    $10 title listed at Amazon.

    Amazon currently receives 65% of that, or $6.50. I’d receive 35%, or $3.50.

    Out of that, 15% of the cover price goes to my editior (whom I’m very lucky to have worked such a deal out with!). So I would receive a whopping $2.00 in royalties for each sale of a $10 title.

    But I do my own cover art and formatting for digital release, so I don’t have those expenses to cover. Other independents/small publishers might have those expenses.

    $10 title listed at Amazon by an author I publish.

    Amazon receives same cut as above ($6.50).

    Now, I decided to have my authors select the percentages, so out of that $3.50 received as our share of the sale, I might receive as much as 25%, or 88 cents, for cover creation, editing, formatting and submission, plus marketing/promotion.

    The author would receive $2.62 per sale of it.

    I should note that none of our titles are priced that high. We’re sharing out with distribution outlets with titles priced from 99 cents to $5.25 currently.

    None of us are making bucket loads of money, though we all have sales.

  30. Dale DePriest
    at 7:29 pm on January 26, 2010

    I noticed one question that was not asked. He said if the price was cheap enough he would buy the eBook but he would still, I bet, “loan” it to as many of his friends he thought might want one. That was the reason he said he made eBooks from scans in the first place and I saw no notion that the behavior would change. Thus he thinks $10 is a fair price, loaned to 10 friends and the author gets a piece of $1.

    I was at CES and was talking to one of the workers who liked to read. He thought paperbacks were too high at $7.95 so he just stole them because he couldn’t afford to feed his reading habit. This is the way of the world these days.

    Moral stealing doesn’t even mean anything when you have no morals in the first place. The worker did mention he didn’t steal on the job because he needs his job. Too much risk. No risk, no problem.

  31. Edd
    at 7:39 pm on January 26, 2010

    The music industry lost my dollar a long time ago, with their attempts to stifle digital music until they were sure they had squeezed every last penny out of physical sales.

    With eBooks – I’m already frustrated with competing standards, some ridiculous DRM methods, and high prices – sometimes outstripping the physical cost and often not beating it by much.

    Charge me £3/$5 for the unrestricted file, you’ve got yourself a deal, but charge me $12 and tell me what I can and can’t do with my file – then you’ve got yourself a pirate.

    I could not wait for Stephen King’s Under the Dome. He’s an author whose got many tens of ££s from me over the year, plus many library rentals and second-hand purchases. But when I was told the Under the Dome e-book was out three months after the paperback version and would cost $20… Well, I went and got it in under 10 minutes online, and read it at leisure on my phone.

    Treat us like customers, you got yourself a purchase. I’m off to check out Baen!

  32. Adam C.
    at 7:57 pm on January 26, 2010

    I haven’t pirated any books, but… I don’t understand the high moral dudgeon. The pirate concedes that he is stealing the books, so how is indignation going to solve anything? The reality is that the prices on e-books are too high for many readers, and some of them are willing to steal rather than pay.

    One reality is that books have increased in price much more rapidly than inflation. Forty or so years ago, when I was a kid, you could buy paperbacks for a few bucks. Now they are perhaps 400% of that price — often more, since many books are now sold in the trade paper format. How important is piracy vs. the pricing of the goods?

    And we live in a world with many more alternatives. Now I can see vast numbers of movies whenever I feel like, play video games, surf the web… if books don’t compete more effectively, they will become an increasingly niche player. But book publishers are still trying to approach things the same way, and are trying to price e-books to support their existing infrastructure. Like newspaper publishers of a decade ago…

    The good news is that the situation is not likely to decline as quickly as it did for newpapers or record companies. But that may just delay recognition of the problem.

  33. Hank
    at 8:07 pm on January 26, 2010

    My grandpa used to pay a nickel for a soda. Look at ‘em now.

  34. links for 2010-01-26 « Your Friendly Neighbourhood Librarian
    at 8:09 pm on January 26, 2010

    [...] The Millions: Confessions of a Book Pirate (tags: magister) [...]

  35. Lic
    at 8:16 pm on January 26, 2010

    So many people missing the point.

    1. If it isn’t worth more than $10 to someone, then they are just not going to buy it. It doesn’t matter what it costs to produce. Book prices keep going up, book value does not.

    2. DRM lowers the value of a digital good to a consumer by limiting what they can do with it. DRM gives no added value to a consumer.

    3. If they can download it for free, with no DRM they will. Its cheaper, more useful, and often easier to get and use. Right or wrong, this is the real world. Free is out there you cannot stop it.

    4. Downloading isn’t stealing, it is copying. It may or may not be right, but it does not match the definition of stealing. Nothing is taken, only copied. Are the following stealing? What is the difference, the artist makes no money either way? There are differences, but you know what they really are?
    • Borrowing a friends copy of a book.
    • Reading an article on a website.
    • Photographing a painting.
    • Buying a sculpture from anyone other than the original artist.

    If I make a chair, I do not get paid every time somone sits in it, or every time someone sells it. Why should writers keep getting paid for work they already did? If you think they should (and I actually do) you need to be able to explain why.

  36. taf
    at 8:29 pm on January 26, 2010

    “None of us are making bucket loads of money, though we all have sales.” Scath

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J._K._Rowling

    I bet you won’t have any trouble finding a Potter book to download.

    Don’t blame lack of sales/profit on downloads.

  37. Desde este otro lado » La tinta electrónica no se moja
    at 8:37 pm on January 26, 2010

    [...] contrario, lo disfrutarán otros ojos). Y hace un rato estaba leyendo por encima mi Google Reader y he visto este interesante artículo compartido por @eduo y no puedo dejar de reproducirlo aquí, ya que contiene tres puntos que me [...]

  38. Justus
    at 8:41 pm on January 26, 2010

    “For a house to release an ebook, there’s still development costs; editors, proofreaders, book designers (yes, the interior of a book–a good book, at any rate–is still designed, not just covers)”

    I’m curious if the person who wrote this has read many ebooks. I bought a Kindle about a month ago. Since then I have purchased 3 ebooks from Amazon. Each one of those three has been returned for a refund because it is clear that no proofreading or book design was done on the ebook. And these weren’t fly-by-night publishers. These were the largest publishers on the planet and the books were top shelf stuff (one even a Pulitzer Prize winner).

    When I buy an ebook from Amazon that is $1.60 cheaper than the paperback I expect that price difference to come from savings on printing, warehousing, and delivery. BookFinder tells me that the average book costs about $2.83 to print. So I’m apparently not even getting the full savings of that on my purchases.

  39. Jackie Barbosa
    at 9:06 pm on January 26, 2010

    “Downloading isn’t stealing, it is copying. It may or may not be right, but it does not match the definition of stealing. Nothing is taken, only copied.”

    I find it interesting that only one of the items you listed as “not illegal” involves actual copying. Loaning a print book to a friend does not create an additional copy of it. A photograph of a painting will never be mistaken for the original painting nor would you be able to resell it as if it WERE the painting. Buying a sculpture from its current owner doesn’t create an additional copy of the sculpture.

    Only the website reading example actually works as an analog, and it’s not a great one since most websites are free to read anyway.

    The one good analog you didn’t mention is photocopying an entire book. And guess what? That’s illegal.

  40. The Great Geek Manual » Geek Media Round-Up: January 26, 2010
    at 10:40 pm on January 26, 2010

    [...] Millions offers Confessions of a Book Pirate. “In truth, I think it is clear that morally, the act of pirating a product is, in fact, the [...]

  41. Alex Bowles
    at 11:44 pm on January 26, 2010

    In his answers lie a critical challenge facing the publishing industry: how to quash the emerging piracy threat without alienating their most enthusiastic customers.

    I respectfully submit that anyone who thinks of customers as thieves and threats to be quashed has not taken the challenge they face at all seriously. That, in itself, is a serious threat to the rest of us.

    Make no mistake, publishers are facing unprecedented challenges. But that doesn’t justify the extremity of their responses. As Lawrence Lessig has observed, “in a physical world, the architecture of copyright law regulates a small set of the possible uses of a copyrighted work. In the digital world, the architecture means the law regulates everything.”

    By way of analogy, consider the Exxon Valdez. Before it crashed, copyright law was like the oil it contained – a valuable resource that was restricted to a very small geographical area, and safely separated from the waterways used for its transport. The twin developments of digital media and open networks were like the reef it collided with. Suddenly, a desirable payload turned into a toxic mess that permeated everything, spreading death and liability in equal measure.

    Before you dismiss that analogy as over-the-top, take a moment to familiarize yourself with the legislative wish list of major publishers. It necessitates the creation of a system for electronic surveillance and punishment so far reaching that would take Stalin’s breath away. For a taste of the capacities systems like these can offer, consider the highly centralized internet and telephone controls built for Iran’s Revolutionary Guard – systems which are now being used to hunt down and murder dissidents and their family members alike.

    No one doubts the importance of allowing artists to operate on a professional basis. But very few artists (and none worth the name) would justify the creation of police state infrastructure to ensure they get paid properly. If nothing else, those with brains to match their talents realize that the gains would be short-lived, at best.

    So before you add the fire of moral condemnation to file-sharers, consider who – exactly – these arguments support, and ask yourself if they’ve done all they can or should to protect the cultural environment in which we all live. (Hint: they haven’t done anything.) Meanwhile, the Internet has demonstrated the potential to be the single most important driver of human progress since Gutenberg’s invention spawned mass literacy in the first place.

    This is why we should all step back for a moment, and consider three of Gutenberg’s (rough) contemporaries, Copernicus, Galileo, and Kepler. Between them, they transformed our understanding of the solar system. The observations, models, and laws they produced enabled astonishing advances in science, cartography, navigation, and (by extension) exploration, commerce, and the development of modern nation states – all of which were accelerated by explosive growth in the book supply, and a growing number of readers. At the same time, their contributions to humanity posed a direct threat to established religious orders that had mistakenly conflated a flawed idea about cosmology into self-serving justifications for their legislative authority.

    Today, we face a similar problem with our concept of intellectual property. Like medieval astrologers stubbornly trying to force fit a faulty metaphysical construct into observable (but contradictory) reality, today’s IP lobbies are trying to protect their established positions by simply denying that anything fundamental has changed in the world, then proceeding logically (yet blindly) from there.

    Like drunken captains with no sense of the underwater landscape, they have no idea how close they’re coming to doing horrific damage to the cultural environment. If something as slippery and sticky as copyright law threatens to coat everything that lives and breathes, then look out. Also, change course. Ah, but that’s lost on these ‘captains’ of industry. They continue to insist that everything revolve around a concept of ‘property’ that is as unfounded as it is dated.

    Of course, deep down, they know they’re wrong. Nobody who truly felt as though he were on the side of the angels would feel compelled to negotiate secret treaties shielded from all Congressional oversight due to laughably phony ‘national security concerns’ (ACTA is supposed to be an anti-counterfeiting treaty, remember?)

    Seriously, our friend the diligent reader should be the least of anyone’s concerns. So please, hold your fire. Or at the very least, refrain from aiming it at individuals – unless they’re busy subverting the same democracies they’re sworn to defend. If that’s you concern, I suggest you start with Joe Biden.

  42. Scath
    at 11:56 pm on January 26, 2010

    taf: “Don’t blame lack of sales/profit on downloads.”

    I don’t, nor did I mean to give that impression. =)

    I blame lack of profit on the sales we do have on the distribution channels that want a gigantic percentage of the cover price in return for mostly automated work listing the titles.

    Amazon is increasing the publisher/author split to 70% come June, so that’s going to be a nice change for us, since 55% of our sales are through Amazon and that will be double what our royalties have been there.

    We’ve tried to be sensible about our ebook pricing, which works to produce sales, but when you have distribution channels taking 50 -65% of 99 cents to $5.25, it pretty much sucks for the authors’ earnings.

    We’re stuck using distribution channels readers know to go to when looking for books/ebooks, and there are thousands of us trying to get our titles out in front of the readers who’ll want to read them.

    So we’re also stuck with whatever those channels decide to offer by way of splits, and it’s a crowded market.

  43. Sharina
    at 12:00 am on January 27, 2010

    >> Downloading isn’t stealing, it is copying.

    Don’t fool yourself! As an author, I can tell him that it is legally stealing, because I own the copyright. The publisher pays me to ‘borrow’ my stories but the copyright stays with me. These pirates pay me nothing. They steal.

    And the one who loses most from downloading is not a big corporation, but the author. If not enough copies of a book are sold, not only will the author be out of pocket but the publisher won’t publish the author’s next book. Thieves conveniently forget what exactly they’re stealing.

    People seem to think all novelists make a fortune. Don’t I wish. Stephen King does but 90% or more of authors don’t. We make a living like all those poor souls who ‘have to’ steal because they can’t afford to buy.

    By working ten-hour days, 6 days a week, I make a decent living, not a rich one. I don’t steal anything to do that. But then, I have a disabled daughter who is partly dependent on what I can make as well as myself to feed, so I’m well motivated to work hard.

    You thieves who take my work without payment are not only stealing from me, but from my daughter and other authors’ dependants, too. How you sleep at night, I don’t know!

    Thieves, I cry! Stealing not from the rich, but from ordinary workers.

  44. BOOK TUESDAY: ALL THAT IS FIT TO PRINT « El Cuzcatleco 2.0
    at 12:13 am on January 27, 2010

    [...] on January 27, 2010 1. Get to know a book pirate: ‘The Real Caterpillar’ exposes his methods, why ‘e-piracy’ isn’t stealing, and how to occupy your time while you [...]

  45. Scath
    at 12:52 am on January 27, 2010

    Lic: “Downloading isn’t stealing, it is copying. It may or may not be right, but it does not match the definition of stealing. Nothing is taken, only copied.”

    Actually, it’s illegal distribution and copyright infringement, if my understanding is correct.

    Whether it’s actual ‘stealing’ or not, it’s considered by law to be illegal.

    Loaning a physical book to a friend isn’t stealing – because of the First Sale doctrine on physical objects, once you purchase a print book, it’s yours to do whatever you want with.

    But ebooks aren’t physical books, they’re digital files. You can’t ‘loan’ a digital file, you have to copy it to make it available to that friend.

    A physical book is gone from your possession until your friend returns it. An ebook file is still in your possession and your friend has a full copy as well – which is distribution without permission of the copyright holder, thus illegal by law.

    Authors/publishers have long accepted that a print book is out of their control once that first sale is made.

    But ebooks are the proverbial horse of a different color. Both readers and many authors/publishers want to pretend they aren’t. That they’re just a more convenient form of books.

    Which they are; but with that convenience of less cost to produce, collect and store also comes the convenience for those who decide to illegally distribute them for whatever reason they have.

    It’s not surprising authors and publishers get so angry when they learn their books are being downloaded for free, and see each download as a financial loss.

    DRM isn’t the solution. Consumers complain it implies they’re all criminals, and writers that do use it are trying to protect their work and ability to earn an income.

    Scanning books or putting them on file sharing downloads also isn’t the solution.

    Both are just causing a widening division between authors and readers.

    I wish there was an easy solution, but there’s just not at this time.

  46. links for 2010-01-26 - Nerdcore
    at 1:04 am on January 27, 2010

    [...] The Millions: Confessions of a Book Pirate (tags: Copyright Books ereader ebooks) [...]

  47. Confessioni di un pirata « Il blog di Mario Mattioli
    at 3:14 am on January 27, 2010

    [...] di un pirata 2010 gennaio 27 by Mario Mattioli Ho appena letto una bella intervista ad un “pirata” di [...]

  48. John
    at 4:07 am on January 27, 2010

    How about doing what Manning Publications did with a recent purchase; add a unique ‘code sheet’ in the book, ask for 3 random entries from it and, if not previously used, allow the person who bought the hard copy to download a *personalised* (ie their email address is embedded in various places throughout) electronic copy.

    Most books that I want to read in an electronic form I’ve already bought the dead tree version of!

    All credit to Baen and their authors though. Fantastic library, bought many more books they’ve published as a result.

  49. Curt
    at 5:28 am on January 27, 2010

    “I’d be interested in knowing how this guy (and the commenters) think profit sharing for an ebook breaks down, and why $10 works out as a reasonable price for one.”

    I don’t see any reason why anyone other than the author and the retailer would get a percentage. Editing, layout, proofreading should IMHO be “work for hire” one off payments, paid for by the author with some form of loan or the proceeds of previous work (like any other profession) if you want high visibility, feel free to pay Amazon, if you are happy to promote yourself, run your own website with a paypal link. Sure this isn’t the way it works _now_ but copyright laws to encourage the production of valuable works _not_ to support what is currently known as the “publishing industry”

  50. Kirjapiraatin tunnustukset « Riippumaton asiantuntija
    at 6:57 am on January 27, 2010

    [...] tammikuu 27, 2010 · Aihe: kirjasto &#183 Tagged e-aineisto, e-kirja, harrastus, kirja, piraatti, piratismi Tsekatkaa Kirjapiraatin tunnustukset. [...]

  51. Scath
    at 9:37 am on January 27, 2010

    Curt, you can promote yourself by a variety of free methods (e.g. social networking sites) until you’re blue in the face, and never manage to draw the traffic some place like Amazon receives on an hourly basis.

    The average reader isn’t going to spend hours surfing from author’s site to author’s site. They’re going to go to Amazon, B&N, etc. and spend that time browsing books.

    Or they’ll hit a download site, download a bunch of books, which they can pick through at their leisure later – and no one earns a penny, author or distributor.

  52. Patrick
    at 10:20 am on January 27, 2010

    Scath,
    I would argue that not much browsing happens online, not in the traditional sense of the word. I’m sure Amazon sells a fair number of titles off its “Other customers who purchased Going Rogue also bought this” function, but my educated guess would be that roughly 90% of all online purchases have been decided on before the customer even fires up the web browser. They go to Amazon, BN, or Indiebound or wherever looking for a specific book, and they buy it.

    Your point about self-promotion stands, though. And it’s only going to get harder the more authors get savvy to the web (there are still many who view that as someone else’s job). The big question right now isn’t one of delivery or even, despite all the arguing here and elsewhere, of protection, the question is one of discovery. How do we find the books we decide to read, and how might that change if we continue to see erosion in brick-and-mortar retail (which I think we will).

  53. Jeff
    at 10:24 am on January 27, 2010

    Maybe I’m not the traditional “pirate,” but I download books that are out of print or are so rare as to be unaffordable.

    Current copyright law is ridiculous to the point of being immoral. Author’s lifetime makes sense, author’s lifetime + 14 years was reasonable, but now it’s almost in perpetuity, so nothing reaches the public domain. Why should an author’s grandchildren be able to profit from something they didn’t create? And since both political parties receive massive donations from media there is no way this will ever change to benefit consumers or culture.

    News flash to distribution channels: Your traditional business model is dying, thanks to the internet. Others have figured out how to make it work so you can too.

    No wonder people are infringing.

  54. A Voice
    at 11:02 am on January 27, 2010

    Someone said: Editing, layout, proofreading should IMHO be “work for hire” one off payments, paid for by the author with some form of loan or the proceeds of previous work

    In reference to the comment above…there are very few authors who can pay an editor what a good editor is worth. Truth is, nowadays, a book with flaws gets publicly ripped for even the smallest errors. That boils down to the fact that the author will pay dearly to even consider having a successful release after such an incident.
    Most editors do, as you said ‘work for hire’…they receive a percentage of the publisher’s profit from the book they edited because most authors can’t afford to hire an editor. On top of that, word has it that trusting a house that doesn’t provide in-house editors is never a wise business decision.
    You try getting a loan to pay an editor…I promise you, it’s is a surefire way to get laughed out of the bank if your name isn’t in the top 10 list of well-known authors.

  55. Aleksandr Voinov
    at 11:08 am on January 27, 2010

    Many of those points are perfectly valid – what has hardly been covered, though, is the emotional imapct of epiracy on the writer. We all have “google alerts” set up to track reviews and launched across etailers. Now, every day, we get alerts telling us our books are up on any number of torrent tracker sites.

    There are people talking about “how much they love author X, do you have their next release – can you email me the file offlist?” So, great, we see these people “love” us so much they deprive us of payment for the books they “love so much”.

    What it does is kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. Authors spend so much time closing down torrents and often fighting legal battles in addition to that, that, comes the time to write, they are emotionally and spiritually exhausted. Writing in itself is a leap of faith.

    For me, personally, when I come home after my rent-paying job, I have to sit down do write, and motivate myself to do it. Now, imagine the first thing I see when I check my emaiol account is another alert that some community on the internet that says they are my “fans” has “shared” my latest work. Checking my royalty statement, I see that those few hundred downloads have just made sure that my sales for that month are significantly less (read: less sales/revenue). So I sit down in front of my computer, and the sense of defeat and violation (writing is supposed to be a safe space, right?) undermines my joy of writing.

    Quite literally, every day, I face the decision wether to sit down and write or, you know, meet friends, hang out in front of the TV or do absolutely nothing (maybe exercise). Pirates, alerts I’m being pirated, and the self-entitled attitude of those “fans” in those pirating communities that seriously believe that I should write and put everything out there for free because I somehow owe it to them and that putting more than 15 years of hard work of learning how to write is worth quite literally nothing – those things destroy my motivation to sit down, and religiously write.

    We writers are on the internet, too. We see those discussions, and most of us are terrified to speak up and thus become targets.

    Some fans those people are.

    (BTW, I firmly believe that the vast majority of people have a sense of morality and actually like to support “their” artists)

  56. Lic
    at 11:15 am on January 27, 2010

    Scath: “Whether it’s actual ’stealing’ or not, it’s considered by law to be illegal.”
    My point was merely that calling it stealing is incorrect. Most consumers know this and learn to ignore such hyperbole. RIAA is vilified not because downloading is legal, but because many people see it as little worse than making a mix tape for a friend. They see there is no real scarcity, copying music is easy and cheap, and won’t pretend there is.

    Remember, Copyright is something we give authors to encourage them. A gift from the people, not some inalienable right.

    Copyright Is An Exception To The Public Domain
    http://techdirt.com/articles/20100125/0539377890.shtml

  57. Scath
    at 11:22 am on January 27, 2010

    Patrick, I agree. ‘Browsing’ doesn’t mean exactly the same thing anymore. =)

    Aleksandr Voinov raises an excellent point, and I must admit, even though I haven’t had but one instance of something resembling piracy with my titles, I’m currently arguing with myself over continuing to write and publish ebooks, to stop ebooking and concentrate solely on producing print books, or to just throw in the damn towel, turn it all into free web fiction and hope people might toss a dollar here or there into my tip jar.

    Or buy a print or some other merchandise related to the stories in appreciation for the entertainment.

    After all, I’m not going to stop writing. I have to write. I enjoy writing. I just don’t enjoy all the headaches that go along with it once the writing process is finished.

  58. Lic
    at 11:29 am on January 27, 2010

    Aleksandr Voinov: “Many of those points are perfectly valid – what has hardly been covered, though, is the emotional imapct of epiracy on the writer.”

    You are selling the wrong thing. The text of your book is not scarce, it is easily copied. Consumers know this and dont see much added benefit from a legally purchased copy. Give your fans a reason to buy. Use the book as a way to attract more fans, fans who can buy things from you, things they can’t get for free. Like it or not your books are free to anyone who want’s to look. I am not arguing the morality, simply the reality. The era of being able to make tons of money by copying the easily copyable is fading fast.

    Take comfort and pride that people like your work and want to read it and share it. Use that attention to sell them something they see value in purchasing.

  59. Aleksandr Voinov
    at 11:32 am on January 27, 2010

    @Scath: Same models I’ve been looking at. Donating, subscription, pray and hope for the best. At the moment, I’m doing a combination of all of them – produce print books, sell ebooks, pass the donation hat around, and never, ever, not possibly, quit my day job if I want healthcare and a pension (I’m 34, soon 35, I kinda like the idea of possibly, one day, owning my own house and writing will definitely not get me there. It’s secondary income at best, or, right now, pocket change and a way to feed MY book habit).

    But I’ve seen my fellow writers get demotivatd, throw the towel, and I know writers who have 2-3 hours every day to write (because we’re corporate drones in addition to pilots of flights of fancy) and they spend one hour of that to fight piracy. ONE THIRD of their total writing time, every day, goes to protecting their assets.

    The damage of that… the way pirates PREVENT the books they are just dying to download – is potentially enormous.

    Because – newsflash, we’re not just automated typewriters, we are people that have feelings, and we must be very disciplined to finish a book at all. Getting constantly b*tchslapped by what we can only assume are “our biggest fans” – that’s really pretty hard to stomach. One of my writer friends called it “date rape” – you think they love you, but all they do is bend you over and laugh at you while they do it.

  60. Aleksandr Voinov
    at 11:36 am on January 27, 2010

    @Lic: I got nothing else. I’m not physically attractive enough to sell sex or “dinner with the author”, I have no design skills for merchandise, and I can’t travel globally to hold readings (I read so fast and am so nervous we both wouldn’t enjoy this). Should I sell Aleksandr Voinov T-shirts? “Test of Faith” mugs? Maybe pens and notebooks with a logo?

    Where’s that “alternative revenue stream you speak of”? I’m not Bono or Angelina Jolie. People don’t pay me because I’m famous. I’m just a writer, making up stories. I’m not even very good at marketing. And I have 3.5 hours a day to write, provided I don’t hit the gym to lift weights.

  61. Scath
    at 11:37 am on January 27, 2010

    Lic: “Remember, Copyright is something we give authors to encourage them. A gift from the people, not some inalienable right.”

    And I could argue that authors give the ‘gift’ of their writing by making it available to people, even if for a fee. =)

    In the comments there, someone said to not forget that copyright law was written to make certain creators earned from their creations while alive.

    Perhaps I’m wrong, but I thought copyright protection was making certain the creator retained control of his/her creation.

    Even so, whether it’s an inalienable right or not, apparently many thought creators deserved to the right to control/earn income from their creations.

    To some, it may now appear that people are just as determined to wrest that control and ability away.

    Matters like book piracy only enforce that opinion for them.

  62. Aleksandr Voinov
    at 11:41 am on January 27, 2010

    I’m happy to cede my copyrights IF you bring back the system of patronage that kept our forebears fed. Let’s see, one gay banker could probably afford to keep me as his house author and pay me a living wage.

    I better not alienate my hypothethical gay banker, though, so I’ll very likely only write the books that he wants, exactly the way he wants them, and only for him (no mass distribution). It worked for Michelangelo!

    Hmmm. Not really a winning model, or is it (add sarcasm emoticon).

  63. Scath
    at 12:08 pm on January 27, 2010

    Aleksandr – I’m testing them. I have a web fiction section, a subscription section, published ebooks at various distribution channels and have had POD books available.

    In my experience thus far, the ebooks earn some minor compensation for all the hours I spend working at this gig. Admittedly, my subscription and web fiction sections are relatively recent additions, so more time is required to see how those work out.

    As I mentioned, I haven’t had any true instances of piracy of my ebooks – as far as I currently know.

    I did have someone use the title of one of my ebooks, along with other authors’ titles, to entice downloaders into downloading a virus.

    I want people to read my stories, but I don’t feel that it should be at the expense of my being able to earn that tiny bit of compensation in return for all the time I spend writing and preparing them, or money spent for the items needed to present them as professionally as possible, given my current skill level and knowledge.

    How will I handle it if one or more of my titles is pirated?

    I don’t know. I’ve considered ignoring it, or quietly sending a take down notice and not publicly mentioning it.

    After all, attempting to defend your creation is apparently politically incorrect now.

  64. Aleksandr Voinov
    at 12:16 pm on January 27, 2010

    @Scath: I’m with you there, and, from one colleague to the other, best of luck. And, no, I want to earn money from my writing. I put up 2.5 years worth of writing free on my website, plus some pieces I wrote for the hell of it – but if writing wasn’t commercially viable at all for me, I might just share my writing with a few friends. I’d be the kind of writer who would produce 20 POD copies and give them to friends on birthdays and for Christmas.

    I guess I’m still too ambitious, curious, and entrepreneurial to throw in the towel. Also, there are many readers I met who love what I do and who are happy to pay for what I’m doing (and I adore them in returnf or it), and I honestly don’t want to take my books away from these people just to spite those people who feel entitled to my work. They are not, quite simply put.

  65. Hank
    at 12:32 pm on January 27, 2010

    “You are selling the wrong thing. The text of your book is not scarce, it is easily copied. Consumers know this and dont see much added benefit from a legally purchased copy. Give your fans a reason to buy.”

    1) The text may not be scarce, but most of the price of a book does not go to scarcity; it goes toward labor. Labor ought to be paid for.

    2) “Consumers” are not a monolithic group. I very much see a benefit from a legally purchased copy.

    3) Good writing is, in itself, reason to buy.

  66. Lic
    at 1:16 pm on January 27, 2010

    Hank: “1) The text may not be scarce, but most of the price of a book does not go to scarcity; it goes toward labor. Labor ought to be paid for.”

    Not how economics works. Just because you put effort into it, that does not mean some one should pay you. That is the mindset of homeless people washing your car windows weather you want them to or not. (not intended as a dig, just a quick analogy) Economics works on scarcity and demand. You need some of both.

    “2) “Consumers” are not a monolithic group. I very much see a benefit from a legally purchased copy.”

    I didn’t mean to imply they were. You might see a benefit, many don’t.

    “3) Good writing is, in itself, reason to buy.”
    For you, but not for everyone. A reason to read certainly.

    Scath: “I got nothing else. I’m not physically attractive enough to sell sex or “dinner with the author”, ”
    Physically attractive? I never thought of Asimov as attractive, but I sure would have loved to sit down and talk with him. There are more ways to make money than your strawman suggestions.

    Aleksandr Voinov: “I’m happy to cede my copyrights IF you bring back the system of patronag:e that kept our forebears fed.”
    It’s still around, no one is stopping you from looking for a patron. It worked for a long time.

    I’m not really trying to argue what I believe is right or wrong, just what is current reality.

  67. Scath
    at 1:44 pm on January 27, 2010

    Lic, both of those quotes were Aleksandr’s, not mine. =)

    Yes, now we have the opportunity and venues to interact on a regular basis with our readers.

    I’ve jumped into Twitter, met readers and other authors. Talked to them, not just tried to push my ebooks down their throats.

    I’ve been myself, in other words. Seems to have worked to a point.

    I’d say that was probably why I sold three times the number of ebooks in 2009 than I did in 2008. =)

  68. Esther Mitchell
    at 1:49 pm on January 27, 2010

    I’m an author of (predominantly) e-books. And I won’t be shy. Last year, I made a whopping $25 in royalties. Why? No, it wasn’t all due to piracy. But I’d wager that entire $25, plus some, that at least 50% of the problem was piracy. As more piracy sites went up, and e-book piracy became more prevalent, my royalties dropped from around $500 a year to *blinks* $25?? Coincidence? Well, you do the math and see if you still think so.

    For those of you arguing that authors should just put our books out there for free and consider ourselves lucky you’re all reading them, you’re so missing the point. Look at it this way: Say you create Widget 1, and put it up for sale. Then someone comes along, says “Oh, I like that, but I don’t want to pay for it” so they simply TAKE Widget 1, and then make their own copies and distribute them (for free) to 20 of their closest friends, what do you think that will do to your business revenue for the year? You’d consider that to be thievery, no doubt. Well, you’re still “taking” something when you download a book from a torrent site. You didn’t pay the author in any way, shape, or form, and they are the “craftsman” of this particular brand of widget. And when you upload to one of those sites, you are, in effect, giving away free copies of something you haven’t paid for the right to give away (unless you’re giving away your only, purchased copy, and erasing it from your hard drive, and let’s face it, you’re not).

    This is a lesson in economics. Yes, I believe that the price on books can be palpably absurd. I’m not arguing that point. But I, as the author, don’t set those prices. All I see are my small %s that make up the royalties. And I don’t see those if people are stealing the books, rather than buying them. You want a free copy? Come along to one of my contests and EARN one, by simply participating… It’s not difficult, and you’ve put in a little time, instead of money. If you’ve got time to surf a torrent site looking for my books, you’ve got time to come and hang out online with me – the result’s the same for you (a free book), and yet you’ve shown you actually DO support me, rather than just SAYING it.

    There is no justification for copyright infringement. Believe me, authors are held to the same (and higher) standards in that regard. I remember the recent media coverage of the Cassie Edwards copyright infringement case, where she supposedly “borrowed” directly from non-fiction texts. People were up in arms about her use of small amounts of information taken verbatim from the non-fiction texts… I imagine some of those irate people were simultaneously sitting in front of a piracy site, downloading entire books. And I know enough about copyright law to know that YES, it is copyright infringement to download a work without proper compensation to the author, or at least the author’s permission. And NO, it is not a “gift” from the reader to the author – it actually IS a right, under the law. That’s WHY it’s written law. It’s not implied. It’s not hinted at. It’s not just a rumor. It’s written law in the USA, and violation of it can end up with you in court. Ask Cassie Edwards.

    I don’t mind giving away a few free books, here and there. I’m all for encouraging reading, and I’m usually happy to help out a reader who approaches me openly and says “Hey, I really want to read your book, but I can’t afford it right now.” I can be quite creative about coming up with ways to help them get a copy for a reduced amount, or even for free, if I happen to have extra copies available. I’m even likely to autograph a physical copy on CD-ROM and send off, at my own expense. But I DO mind when someone takes something without asking. It’s a lot like breaking into my house and stealing the family silver. It’s going to leave me violated and angry. I have a right to those emotions when someone steals from me – the same way I’m sure all of those pirates would be angry if someone stole their computers or e-book readers… So, my point is this: If you want a book but can’t afford it, try approaching the AUTHOR first. If they can help you out, I’m sure most will. We don’t want to alienate readers – but we DO want to be respected, same as everyone else, and theft is a sure sign of disrespect.

  69. My Response to E-Book Pirates: Walk the Plank! « Into The Night
    at 1:57 pm on January 27, 2010

    [...] My Response to E-Book Pirates: Walk the Plank! Found this article on the web… And my blood pressure went up! Here’s the link (authors, beware… it’s liable to raise your blood pressure, too!): http://www.themillions.com/2010/01/confessions-of-a-book-pirate.html/ [...]

  70. Andrew Porter
    at 2:01 pm on January 27, 2010

    I am the original publisher of THE BOOK OF ELLISON, via my Algol Press in 1978. It is long since out of print. Despite Harlan Ellison claiming that the book was done without his permission, this is not correct—and I still have the cancelled royalty checks to him to prove it. Although I’ve approached Ellison about reprinting it, he refuses to allow this. As far as I know, it’s not available on line.

  71. Pari Noskin Taichert
    at 2:37 pm on January 27, 2010

    Why is it okay to steal from me for your own pleasure?

    I’m a writer and have worked like hell to get published. Every time someone steals one of my books through “piracy,” he or she takes away from ME. Directly from a real person with real financial needs.

    Would these people enjoy it if I walked into their homes and took something they’d worked very hard on simply because it was inconvenient to pay — or I just didn’t want to?

    Why is creativity in our society so horrendously undervalued that others think they can just lift it . . . no regrets, no remorse, no conscience?

    I don’t get any of the justifications. They all seem like a slap in the face to those of us who provide entertainment.

  72. Hank
    at 2:44 pm on January 27, 2010

    “Not how economics works. Just because you put effort into it, that does not mean some one should pay you. That is the mindset of homeless people washing your car windows weather you want them to or not. (not intended as a dig, just a quick analogy) Economics works on scarcity and demand. You need some of both.”

    Indeed, and there is demand for books, as far as I can tell. The fact that there are people illegally copying and distributing them proves there is demand. What it also means is that those people who are pirating books don’t care at all about the labor that went into the creation of those pieces. Tell me — how many great works of literature do you think were made for free?

  73. Alex Bowles
    at 2:45 pm on January 27, 2010

    It seems like writers need an entirely new sort of agent. Not one who will represent them in negotiations with publishers, but one who will engage directly with their audiences. Call it a publication agent.

    On the one hand, these people (or groups) would know the writers intimately – well enough to understand their material and circumstantial needs, and to speak on their behalf wherever and whenever their works are being discussed online. In the process, they’d need to know, understand, and be trusted by these audiences well enough to formulate a successful pitch for patronage. In other words, they’d need to secure advances.

    In all likelihood, these agents would do so by filling a curatorial role – working with enough authors to identify compelling organizing patterns, and involved with enough readers to understand how to present a collection of new work in terms that are deeply interesting in and of themselves. In other words – terms that enable audiences to take the risks of patronage by knowing that at least some of what they commission will be excellent, while the rest can afford to be exploratory, experimental, or just plain disappointing.

    I was serious about what I said above – about publishers not respecting the cultural environment. I realize that this is hard to recognize for people who feel they’re getting the shaft, but I assure you, the attitude of aggressive entitlement you’ve all seen (and from which, you’ve no doubt recoiled) masks a deeper sense of fear, pain, and anxiety that is caused by some truly toxic conduct on the part of historically, culturally, and politically ignorant IP lobbies who are striving not to maintain traditional measures of balance in response to epoch-defining change, but to obliterate them entirely – transforming not just work, but ideas and knowledge themselves into commodified property.

    In other words, for all the concerns about ‘fans’ who don’t pay killing the source of their delight, there’s an equal – and perhaps stronger sense – that the current approach to developing a framework for intellectual property in the 21st Century is on a suicidally dangerous course. And believe me, fans have plenty of justified contempt for artists so short sighted that they fail to see the creation of a police-state surveillance and enforcement structure as a major threat to everyone including artists themselves. To put it bluntly, some of that backlash you experience may be unjustified, but not all of it.

    Assuming you do recognize the nature of the situation, anger should have turned to ambivalence. “Okay” you concede, “we live in a very gray and shifting world, but if this new breed of fan is not the enemy of the craft, their actions are hardly those of friends”.

    I agree. So work from there. And recognize that doing so will – again – demand a new type of agent; one who doesn’t struggle to conceal their ambivalence about the New Fans, and can – instead – expand their numbers to the point where they can actually sustain the work itself.

    I know it’s been heavily criticized, but Kevin Kelly’s theory of 1,000 True Fans produced two excellent insights. The first is that the artists need a surprisingly limited number of supporters at any given time. The second (and this is the source of the criticism) is that maintaining this base is a full time job. Obviously, this theory won’t work for the artist who simply wants to work.

    But given a publication agent who could represent, say, ten artists (carefully curated for their ability to define an interesting portfolio), then the concept gains value. Ideally, you take the best aspects of publishers, editors, and agents from the analog world, blend them together, and drop all the baggage that made each of them a chore under the old paradigm.

    The only request is that authors realize these new agents are also playing imaginative and creative roles – and that the people filling them should be regarded as neither servants nor masters, but as equals.

    Indeed, their own interest may be in ideas themselves, with the work they do may include a measure of direct expression for which they’re seeking harmonious and complementary developments.

    There will be problems with the model, no doubt. But that’s life. As long as good work is being done by people who can deliver it on a professional basis to audiences that are free from coercion, then truly liberal culture can survive and flourish.

    In the meantime, recognize that the old system is falling apart, and no longer has the capacity to serve anyone the way it once did. Nevertheless, it’s clinging to life in an increasingly toxic fashion. So do yourselves, your audiences, and society a favor, and abandon your old expectations and allegiances. Make yourselves available to a new sort, and come to a collective decision about who the new agents should be.

    Just don’t be too demanding, least you discover that those with a more liberal attitude have engaged the better people and that they’re now winning the audiences (and cultivating the patronage) that you’re only dreaming about. Understand, too, the fundamentally entrepreneurial nature of this effort (for all involved), and remember the entrepreneurs absolute first rule: don’t die.

  74. Mark Gisleson
    at 2:46 pm on January 27, 2010

    It doesn’t sound like you spend much time at private torrent sites. Of the ones that I frequent that host book torrents, a substantial number of the books are medical textbooks, computer books, or involve role playing games.

    You just don’t see NY Times Bestseller list books in real time, not at the music filesharing sites. What you see are books that the readers are most likely compelled to own, either because of their assigned college readings, work profession, or gaming hobbies.

    As a writer and as an early internet adopter, I have mixed feelings about piracy but at the end of the day the damage done to our society by copyright abuse clearly outweighs the lost revenue from piracy.

    I mean, is it a good thing when medical school students can’t afford textbooks?

  75. Scath
    at 2:59 pm on January 27, 2010

    It’s very confusing for authors (really any creative types).

    On one hand, we’re told we have the right, by law, to undertake protection of our works.

    But any attempt to do so results in our getting ripped to shreds, even by the same people who will say they want to see their favorite authors fairly compensated for their work.

    Let’s face reality: there ARE bad apples out there. There are people willing to take someone else’s work, sell it for their own profit or, under the banner of this or that reason, make it available to others for free.

    If you don’t make an attempt to protect your creations from those bad apples, you can end up getting the short end of the stick if you pursue them legally.

    Use any form of DRM in an attempt to protect your work from those bad apples, and then everyone will rush to tell you that you’re a dick and accusing them of being criminals.

    So a lot of us DON’T use any form of DRM, which leaves us wide open for our work to end up in the hands of those bad apples.

    Readers get what they want: DRM free ebooks that some will pay for, and some won’t because they’ll be downloading them off those file sharing networks.

    If you create something, by law, you’re entitled to control its distribution and to attempt to earn something for it.

    All types of people agree that that is true. Yet it seems putting that into practice has become terribly wrong for any creative type to attempt.

    And when did it become the norm for people to expect to get something the instant they decide they want it?

    When I want something, if I don’t have the money, I save for it and buy it when I do. If I can’t manage to save for it, then I do without it.

    Doesn’t matter what it is, or how bad I want it.

    I’ve literally waited years to get a software upgrade, for example. I’m positive I could’ve downloaded it in less than ten minutes from some file sharing network for free 24 hours after it was released, but I didn’t.

    I waited, saved and managed to catch it on sale at the right time, and bought it then because I had the money to. And that’s an over $100 example, not a $5 or $20 (e)book.

    I’m not mentioning that to go all ‘morally superior’ on anyone.

    It’s just the way I was raised: You want something, you work for it and earn it.

  76. A. Victoria Mixon, Editor » Blog Archive » Surfing the e-book wave
    at 3:48 pm on January 27, 2010

    [...] lest we get too cocky about freebies, try these confessions of a book pirate on for size. Piracy: it’s not just for e-books anymore. Maybe this guy’s never heard of [...]

  77. Alex Bowles
    at 5:20 pm on January 27, 2010

    If you create something, by law, you’re entitled to control its distribution and to attempt to earn something for it.

    Yes and no. Yes, you have limited rights. No you’re not (and never have been) entitled to absolute control.

    Even before copyright expires, people are legally entitled to make unauthorized and uncompensated use of your work in a limited range of circumstances collectively known as ‘fair use’ applications. Control is also limited by what’s known as the First-sale Doctrine. And of course, copyrights expire. That’s not true of tangible property deeds.

    The point is that much of the anger expressed on this board is not based in fact, but in ignorance. That’s not to say that very real wrongs aren’t taking place – only that rectifying those violations will demand a far better grasp of the actual violation.

    In the process, those on the creative side will have to conclude that tangible and intellectual property are fundamentally different things. To continue confusing them, and using examples drawn from one sphere to condemn conduct in another, only makes the person leveling the charges seem ridiculous.

    Others have equated copyright infringement with theft. For the record, there are massive differences between stealing a book from their homes, and downloading a copy online. For one, their privacy remains intact, as does their sense of security in their person and possessions. For another, they still have the book. And finally, there’s no recognized harm done by simply reading the work. After all, I could legally borrow the same book from a friend or the library, and we’d end up in the exact same situation. I’ve read their work, they didn’t get paid, they have no claim to get paid, and that’s the end of it.

    However, there’s no legally sanctioned channel for me to break into a house and simply take things – under any circumstances. And even if I returned the book, the sense of physical security would remain compromised. My freedom to borrow the book from a public library does not grant permission to take it from any private collection. The book, in fact, is irrelevant. When it comes to physical possessions, it’s people’s physical privacy that’s at stake.

    Accordingly, there’s an entirely independent layer of harm involved when someone violates tangible property rights. That extra layer is the difference between a felony crime and a civil dispute. For someone to ignore that distinction (which is really a matter of disregarding the law) at the same time they’re claiming protection under the law only makes them look ridiculous.

    “Fine”, you say, “but isn’t violating the terms of a state-sanctioned monopoly morally wrong?”

    Probably, but not certainly. And when it is, it’s its own special class of wrong. For the same reason I can’t refer to assault as murder, I can’t refer to copyright violations as theft – no matter how upsetting I may find the matter.

    “But I’ve been deprived of income!” Ok, but not everything that deprives you of income is – therefore – theft. Just consider my choice to borrow a book from a friend or the library, or to buy it second hand and avoid triggering a royalty payment. All these choices give me unrestricted access to your work and deprive you of income, yet none of them make me a criminal. Again, deprivation alone does not equal stealing.

    “Ah-ha!” you say, “but if it’s unauthorized deprivation, then it’s theft!”

    Um, no. It’s a copyright violation. Which is a matter of civil dispute. Which, by definition, isn’t criminal. You can call it theft if you like. You can also say that it burns you up, and is therefore arson. You can say it hits you where it hurts, making it assault. You can even say it kills your motivation, and is therefore murder. But you’re a writer, for god’s sake. You understand that specific words have specific meaning. You understand that doing any of this before a court of law only makes you look like a moron, or worse – illiterate.

    Commercial piracy may rise to the level of criminal, as can the creation of systems to facilitate unauthorized duplication and access. But that’s very different from what The Real Caterpillar’ is doing. Unless a court would pursue him on actual criminal counts, it’s best not to call him a thief – unless you want to defend yourself against a suit for slander.

    “Well maybe it isn’t stealing per se, but it’s still wrong”.

    Not necessarily. It’s worth remembering that the Constitutional allowance for the grant of copyright is not based on any principle of natural law or human right. Rather, it is a conditional clause based on the assumption that the costs of the monopoly it imposes (always a bad thing) are – in this very limited case – acceptable, since the benefits derived for creators and society alike vastly outweigh the price.

    However, no evidence for this assumption is provided, beyond the intuitive assumption that this must be the case. But this same intuitive view is the one that anchored the concept of a terracentric universe throughout Antiquity, and into the Renaissance.

    In other words, if a modern day Galileo were to demonstrate that this basic assumption is wrong, and that the costs of the monopoly don’t outweigh the benefits, and – indeed – discourage the ‘useful arts and sciences’, then the entire edifice of copyright law would come under suspicion. In fact, this is already happening.

    Though we’re unlikely to discover that the assumption about the monopoly’s value is entirely wrong, there’s more than enough evidence to show that it’s far from right. Why? Because when it was developed, it was naturally limited to a very small set of circumstances, and a very limited set of behaviors. But following society’s irreversible adoption of the internet, copyright law suddenly pertained to virtually every transaction we make. Looking only at the economic, social, health, and cultural benefits of the internet – all of which could be wiped out by a strict interpretation of copyright law – it’s safe to say that the costs do not justify the grant of now astonishingly intrusive and far-reaching monopoly power that copyright provides.

    Consequently, copyright law – and the underlying concepts of intellectual property that inform this law – must be rewritten for the internet age. That’s non-debatable, non-negotiable, and non-avoidable. It also hasn’t happened.

    As a result, we’re living in an interregnum. The old order has ceased to have any real effect except to keep the new order from emerging. Those of us struggling to get by are caught in a world where rules are temporary at best, of limited effect, and unlikely to sustain old enterprises or new.

    It’s a bad situation – that I don’t deny. And I don’t think it’s a sustainable one either. But we’re not going to resolve it through asinine assertions to unlimited rights over our creations, absolute rights to arbitrary royalty streams, furious and misplaced accusations of moral turpitude among those most likley to offer support, and total disregard for the technical, economic, and political realities that have come to define our world.

    Instead, we need to recognize that the world changes – suddenly, at times – and that we need to change with it. We also need to recognize copyright law for what it is – a legal monopoly with its authority firmly limited by the costs it imposes, and further limited the Constitutional demand that the benefit of paying these costs accrue to creative individuals and free society alike.

    Fail any of these tests, and the law itself ends up as legitimate as one saying black people must ride in the back of the bus, and can’t sit on the same park benches as white people.

    But that’s our seat, the white lady told Rosa Parks…

  78. Nick
    at 5:26 pm on January 27, 2010

    I have a particular dislike of DRM – if I purchase a legal version of something why should I be prevented from subsequently selling it on as second hand should I wish to?
    In addition once I have purchased one format of a book why should I have to pay again to purchase another? I have already paid for the intellectual content.
    With music why is it that I can buy a CD and rip it to my hard drive for my own use – but cannot do the same in reverse from a legally downloaded MP3 file to CD.
    I contend that I have purchased the right to read or listen to the work in question and fail to see why I should have restrictions placed on my further use of the work in question – I can sell a book or a CD (or as I often do donate them to my local hospital) why should I not be able to do the same with downloaded product?

  79. an author
    at 5:53 pm on January 27, 2010

    The bottom line is, writers will begin to drop out when their royalties don’t make writing worthwhile. It could be your favorite author, Mr. or Mrs. Pirater. When you visit their website to learn that no more is coming because there’s no point, you may wish you had forked over that five bucks.

  80. occasional fish » Wednesday various
    at 6:35 pm on January 27, 2010

    [...] a fascinating article on confessions of a book pirate: TM: Do you have a sense of where these books are coming from and who is putting them [...]

  81. bwahaha
    at 6:39 pm on January 27, 2010

    Ebook downloading is less like music downloading…many people who read books aren’t tech-savvy. And those who are likely don’t bother with sites like bittorrent. Books are still being bought. Ever visit a Barnes and Noble? It ain’t deserted. So calm down…yeesh. You can really tell who the authors are in this commentary. I find it funny that anyone would actually get riled up about any of this. Some of you small time authors who don’t have any popular works (and therefore are taking offense indirectly) don’t have anything to worry about…nobody wants to read your junk anyways. lol. Sorry to be harsh but, well, you wanted reality….you got it. I think I’ll go download some books and visit the bookstore also. But then, I could also go visit the local state-affiliated book pirates (aka libraries).

  82. Scath
    at 6:46 pm on January 27, 2010

    an author: “The bottom line is, writers will begin to drop out when their royalties don’t make writing worthwhile.”

    You’re right.

    Nick:

    Why do you think you should have access to something in all its different formats for a single price? If you purchase a DVD in the US, and then move to Australia, do you expect it to be replaced with the required format there for free?

    Alex:
    Ultimate control has never been possible, and I’m sure everyone realizes that. =)

    I’ve said more than once that books and ebooks are apples and oranges; two similar but different critters.

    Yes, new copyright law/guidelines concerning what’s a creator’s right and a consumer’s right is concerning digital goods has to be written.

    But who is going to write? And who will be consulted in the preparation of writing it?

    Will I or other independent authors be consulted? Will any small presses be consulted? Doubtful. It’ll be the big publishers and consumer advocacy groups.

    Won’t matter anyway. Any new copyright law will end up being flouted and debated as just as unfair as the current one and this whole mess over digital rights will continue on.

    Piracy will continue. Authors will continue earning pittances, if indeed, they have any venues left to actually try to earn through.

    I hope I’m around long enough to seen how it ultimately all shakes out. =)

  83. Scath
    at 6:55 pm on January 27, 2010

    bwahaha: “Some of you small time authors who don’t have any popular works (and therefore are taking offense indirectly) don’t have anything to worry about…nobody wants to read your junk anyways.”

    Nice name. =)

    I’m a small time author, but I’m not taking offense. I’m just really fascinated by the whole matter.

    I stated above that piracy hasn’t directly affected me, that I don’t depend on my writing to pay my bills or feed my kids. I’ve also stated that I wouldn’t consider pirated copies of my ebooks as lost sales or income.

    But I do read both sides of the issue, meaning readers’ and authors’ opinions about it all, and as a writer, I would like to earn my pennies per sale without worrying that the ability to do so is going to be snatched completely away.

    I think there’s valid points on both. Today I just happen to be more verbal about the authors’ side, since the article gave the side of the ‘book pirate’. =)

    My opinion about ebooks changes with each new twist and turn. A year ago, I was one of the authors who would scream about being robbed if I’d found one of my titles on a file sharing network.

    Today? Naw, not really. I’m learning as I go. I think that’s a pretty good approach to the matter. =)

  84. Fish
    at 6:55 pm on January 27, 2010

    I’m a bit puzzled here at the attitudes of some of the authors in the comments. I understand your livelihood is at stake here but while I assume you’re all very lovely people and wonderful writers, but from some of the comments here I’d be loath to pick up one of your books for fear of angering you by lending it to a friend!

    Everyone argues that piracy is killing the music industry when studies have shown that it has very little negative effect. Many people who download an mp3 do so because it is incredibly convenient–or because they want to give the album or song a listen-through before they commit $15 for the whole thing. It’s not as if albums aren’t stuffed full of filler with the odd hit, and sometimes the only good song is the song they’ve got on single… Which is discouraging. Things like the iTunes store and Youtube are making it easier to discover the product before you buy it–I’ve picked up my fair share of physical copies or real official digital downloads after finding something super catchy online, even just to stream it on YouTube or hear it in another video. Especially independent artists, who put up really fun videos or sample content and generally show a great, friendly, “I’m the kind of person you want to hand over ridiculous gobs of money to!” vibe.

    Have many of you actually downloaded a pirated ebook? I’ve known people who have–one person in particular downloaded an ebook from a lesser-known author to test the waters, because they were uncertain whether they’d like his writing style enough to commit to the whole book (at $14 a pop, too). They flipped through a few chapters, found the concept even more interesting than the summary described, but the OCR was terrible. It had barely been proofed, weird symbols ahoy, words jumbled, sentences missing, and entire parts were rendered unreadable. It was a poor quality product, because someone had carelessly produced it to get it up there. It was overall somewhat readable, but just barely. So you know what this associate of mine did? He perused the book long enough to know he had a good feel of the author’s writing, and wanted to commit to it. So he did. He bought the whole series, legitimately. (An interesting thing about this? He told me later that the person who scanned and OCR’d the book had followed the cover page with one that essentially stated, “PLEASE SUPPORT THE AUTHOR, they’re AWESOME. Go out, buy the real books, tell your friends how great this series is, and here’s the author’s Paypal address, shoot them some donation love if you appreciate their work, even if it’s just $5!”)

    There are a number of people out there making a living wage by adapting to the new ecosystem wherein they don’t glare suspiciously at file sharing, but embrace it. Corey Doctorow seems to be one of the most relevant to the written world–his stories are free, his books are as well, but you can still buy them (and many do!). He has fans that promote his work and support his ability to continue writing, and he has other things on his plate, too. He seems to be making a good run of it, and somehow all of his work is still freely available for download. Heck, I’d shoot the guy a couple bucks just for being decent about it and embracing the new paradigm.

    For music, Jonathan Coulton is your guy. He once said something along the lines of “I feed the machine music, it spits out money, I don’t worry too much about the internals.” He has a lot of fans who love his work, who will see him perform, who follow what he does. He has a lot of his stuff available online for free and people seem to be happy to give him money, because he’s the kind of likeable, friendly-seeming guy from all he does on the internet, and he doesn’t get his panties in a bunch about people who share music. He makes it very easy to get his material for free, makes it very, very easy to buy it, and encourages people to spread the word. He’s the kind of artist you want to tell your friends about. Have you seen the number of fan movies for some of his songs? Hoo boy.

    There are other authors, few and far between, who make a full living–perhaps not the most comfortable one–writing serial stories online for donations. People give to those to see the story continue, they give because they like what they see, and heck, maybe they give because they think the author is a decent person and know their money is going straight to that person, and not to eighteen different sets of grabby hands along the way.

    Webcomic authors, too–they put their content up online for free, and make money through merch and ads and their fans donating. Somehow these people are doing a fair job of living off their work, but it’s not for everyone.

    There’s even been a few filmmakers who distributed their work through traditional “pirate” channels or out for free and asked for donations–and they’ve made a killing. Joss Whedon is an atypical example of that–his Dr. Horrible’s Singalong Blog has made back more than it cost him to produce, and it was originally up on the internet for free, and is very easy to get! But most fans or people who suggest it will go out and buy the DVD, or the soundtrack, or make merchandise (Whedon doesn’t merch out his own franchises) and promote his work to their friends, because they love it, and it’s so easy to find and show to them–and then those new people buy it, and spread the love even further. They buy it on iTunes, they show it to their friends on YouTube or Hulu… They’re Whedon’s biggest asset, and his attitude on file sharing is essentially “eh, it’s unavoidable”, and somehow he’s making money off it.

    The theme of the above? People who are out to do this because they’re passionate about it, because they love what they do, and it shows. They want to share their work with the world–and getting paid for it is a side effect. These are people I want to support. I want to give these people my money, to help them.

    The thing is, and I think Alex was talking about it earlier, there’s a lot of “new” system going on here, where file sharing is a big part of the ecosystem of content distribution, whether businesses like it or not. Anyone who downloads an ebook of a real book instead of buying it is probably one of two categories of people:
    — Someone who was never, ever going to buy it in the first place, so you never would’ve got a cent from them anyway. A lot of these people don’t do anything with your book but read it and delete it, so you’re not losing money off other sales, either!
    — Someone who is likely to already own the book (and thus don’t want to fork over another $15 for a digital copy to preserve their physical copy from harm), or who intends to own the book if they get a taste of it, and you’d gain a sale from that–or a donation, if you left that option open… Who knows?

    People don’t want to be told what they can or cannot do with downloaded material, including books. If the DRM on the book is inconvenient, they’ll go and get the book elsewhere, even if they don’t pay for it that way–even if they were fully willing to spend the money! If the buying process is a pain in the butt (too.. much… clicking…) or the final product is sub-par, they’ll probably go get it elsewhere! When you run up against these products, you get the feeling that money comes first and foremost–and that you’re just a cog in the machine. You’re not a fan, you’re a dollar sign. No, you can’t do this, because it doesn’t give us more money. You can’t do that, because dog forbid our bottom line will suffer. It gets discouraging–even if you want to share with your friends, or tell them how awesome something is, or encourage them to read a couple of chapters, and all DRM wants to do is stand in your way… It’s frustrating, especially when if you would’ve had the physical copy, you can do so much more with it, especially when it comes to promoting authors or musicians you love!

    Now this makes me sound like a pro-pirate or someone who doesn’t support the idea of a writer getting appropriate compensation for their work… I’m not. For all the comments in this thread you’d think the odd download was killing people–perhaps it’s time to adapt? Perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate why you’re writing in the first place, if someone downloading a badly-OCR’d, hardly-proofed copy of your book is rankling so?

  85. Fish
    at 7:07 pm on January 27, 2010

    >>If you purchase a DVD in the US, and then move to Australia, do you expect it to be replaced with the required format there for free?

    While I am not the person to which this comment was directed, assuming you purchased the DVD in the US, and moved to Australia, you would also tow along your DVD player, which would be region-encoded appropriately, so you’d probably just need a generic adapter for weird plug compatibility issues and your DVD would play just dandy–or you could rip it onto your computer and stream it to your TV through there, or re-burn it to a new disc that might play to your new DVD player. You have options.

    If you buy a physical book and then want to read it on another device, you are stuck–even if they offered an ebook for a couple of dollars on top of the physical book price (either bundled during sale with a code, or afterwards you can get the ebook for a small cost), more people would probably be happier with it. As it stands, if you want the physical copy and an ebook, you need to buy the text twice at full cost, which is irritating.

    Although, frankly, don’t get me started on regions on DVDs… Goodness. If I could get a DVD that I could guarantee 100% would work on any player I put it in, regardless of whether I was in England, or the States, or in South America, I would be happy. (However, for all intensive purposes, South America seems to have an intriguing abundance of “region free” DVD players that will play just about anything, and offer their DVDs in a number of different regions, too.)

  86. Book Piracy from the Pirate's point of view | Writers, Like Me
    at 7:47 pm on January 27, 2010

    [...] subjects, including book piracy, a crime that affects many people I know.  In Monday’s The Millions column, C. Max Magee tracked down a confessed book pirate and probed the why and hows of [...]

  87. Eddie
    at 9:26 pm on January 27, 2010

    >>He bought the whole series, legitimately. (An interesting thing about this? He told me later that the person who scanned and OCR’d the book had followed the cover page with one that essentially stated, “PLEASE SUPPORT THE AUTHOR, they’re AWESOME. Go out, buy the real books, tell your friends how great this series is, and here’s the author’s Paypal address, shoot them some donation love if you appreciate their work, even if it’s just $5!”)

    This is a frequent refrain in NFO (description) files contained in pirated software. I myself see it all the time. I’ve never gone out and bought a piece of software after obtaining a perfectly workable pirated copy. I just stick with the pirated copy.

  88. Dreidl
    at 10:07 pm on January 27, 2010

    But very few of Mark Helprin’s books actually _are_ available to pirates!

    … or so I’ve heard from my pirate friends.

  89. Scath
    at 10:29 pm on January 27, 2010

    Fish:
    Thank you. I imagine that would get pretty expensive to ship a whole houseload of electronics and furniture from one country to another (I’d personally sell all the big stuff and buy new once I got there!). =)

    I think I have seen talk of bundling ebooks with print (a coupon code like you mentioned). Haven’t seen anything saying someone’s actually done it yet. Don’t think I’d count on the traditional publishers doing it on a regular basis.

    You know, since they think ebooks should be priced just a few dollars cheaper than hard backs. =)

    But maybe that will happen.

    You know, if it’s a matter of switching reading devices, choose to buy your ebooks from a site that offers more than one format (such as Smashwords). Then you can download the one you need, whenever you need to, after one purchase.

    Eddie: “I’ve never gone out and bought a piece of software after obtaining a perfectly workable pirated copy. I just stick with the pirated copy.”

    If you can get it for free, why pay? That’s the argument I’ve used before in discussions about book piracy, LOL.

    I’m sure there are a *few* people who might download from a file sharing network, then later go drop a few bucks to the author/creator, or even become a fan and start collecting their books.

    I’m just as sure the majority ignore such exhortations to do so when it comes to pirated items.

  90. Emily St. John Mandel
    at 10:43 pm on January 27, 2010

    A quote: “The theme of the above? People who are out to do this because they’re passionate about it, because they love what they do, and it shows. They want to share their work with the world–and getting paid for it is a side effect. These are people I want to support. I want to give these people my money, to help them.”

    I’ve heard the “you should write because you love to write, so it shouldn’t bother you when people steal your intellectual property” argument a few times over the past few months, and to be honest, I don’t entirely understand it. Because the thing is, I don’t think very many of the novelists I know are in this for the money. We DO write because we love to write; very few of us can live on our writing alone, so most of us struggle to balance writing with our jobs and our families and our marriages; our commitment to our work often drives us to the edges of society (we work as temps, we live in poverty, etc.) — and the idea that people feel entitled to take our intellectual property without paying us, simply because we love what we do, is somewhat baffling to me.

    To understand how strange this argument sounds to many writers, try applying it to a different field:

    “I practice law because I love to practice law, and if someone wants to pay me for it, that’s nice, but it’s just a side effect.”

    “I’m an insurance broker because I believe in insurance, so if I don’t get paid for my work, well, that’s okay.”

    “I really love being an administrative assistant, so if I don’t mind it when I don’t get paid.”

    I love to write, but I’d like to be paid for my work, just the same as anyone else. It just seems fair to me. Writers aren’t trying to wring every possible cent out of the reading public; we’re just trying to pay the rent and keep the lights on here.

  91. Justus
    at 11:04 pm on January 27, 2010

    “While I am not the person to which this comment was directed, assuming you purchased the DVD in the US, and moved to Australia, you would also tow along your DVD player”

    I have moved from the US to Australia and know a dozen or so people who have done likewise.

    Not a single one shipped their DVD player from the US. All of them have, however, brought along DVDs.

  92. Scath
    at 12:13 am on January 28, 2010

    Justus: That’s what I was thinking. =)

    Alex: You mentioned the First Sale Doctrine.

    Here’s a quote on it:

    “The first-sale doctrine is a limitation on copyright that was recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1908 (see Bobbs-Merrill Co. v. Straus) and subsequently codified in the Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. § 109.

    The doctrine allows the purchaser to transfer (i.e., sell or give away) a particular lawfully made copy of the copyrighted work without permission once it has been obtained.

    This means that the copyright holder’s rights to control the change of ownership of a particular copy end once that copy is sold, as long as no additional copies are made.”

    Let me point out that last line: “As long as no additional copies are made.”

    Please explain how you can share/loan digital goods of any sort without making a copy of them.

    You can’t, and there’s the whole crux of the matter, along with the fact that ebooks ARE NOT books.

    They are similar to books, in that they are meant to be read, but they are not physical books.

    They are digital, in formats that is practically impossible to loan or share without making copies of them.

    If you do make copies of them, then you are breaking the law. You’re either infringing copyright by copying a work in its entirety and distributing it for free (assuming the work is still under copyright, and that’s really the sort of works we’re speaking of, right?).

    Or, you’re illegally distributing the work by copying it in its entirety and charging for those copies (like what goes on at eBay, Etsy and other sites on a regular basis).

    The First Sale Doctrine cannot be liberally applied to ebooks because of that. You can’t give away/transfer your legally purchased rights to an ebook, because the only way you can is to make a copy of it to give to someone else.

    *Unless*, as was brought up by a lady whom I’ve been discussing book piracy with for a couple of months now, you purchase ebooks, download them directly onto a flash drive, and then sell the flash drive without ever removing the ebooks from it or making copies of them prior to doing so to keep for yourself.

    Then, yeah, the First Sale Doctrine would cover that. You’d no longer have the ebook files in your physical possession. Would have transferred them and your legally purchased rights to them to whomever bought the flash drive.

    Seriously, who is going to go through keeping a steady supply of flash drives to download their ebook purchases onto so they can then resale them once they’ve read them, assuming they decide they’re not going to keep them?

    Especially if they’re using an ereader and the convenience of something like Amazon’s Whispernet to download their purchases directly to their Kindle?

    Copyright and First Sales Doctrine, much simplified, read that authors can seek legal recourse if unauthorized full copies of their works are made.

    Authors of course therefore feel entitled to receive payment for ALL full copies of their ebooks, or print books, that are copied in their entirety and distributed without the author’s permission.

    That is why they yell about being robbed of earnings when they discover their work(s) have been scanned or uploaded to file sharing networks.

    Readers expect to be able to do what they like with a physical copy of a book once they’ve purchased it. And they of course should. They bought it, it’s theirs.

    But it’s been a part of that same law that gives them the right to do that, that they cannot make copies of it.

    Technology’s a wonderful thing. Except, you know, when it causes two groups that are dependent on each other to become enemies.

  93. Gunns
    at 4:32 am on January 28, 2010

    A disclaimer,
    I am a writer, mostly short genre fiction, and make about two and a half percent of my total income from writing. We ( I write with my wife) have managed to keep this up for the past four years, and we only submit to markets that pay pro rates for our genre.

    Aside from that I collect fiction and attend conventions. In Science Fiction, the “Golden Globe” equivalent award, is the “Hugo”, and they (there are several award categories) are selected by the membership of the world convention at the “end” of that publishing year.

    The last time I went to “Worldcon” I truly tried to make an informed selection for the awards, there were 37,000 qualifying works. The market is not just obscure, it is absolutely opaque. There is a market for almost any thing, but the problem is letting that market know you exist.

    The best example of letting the market know you exist, is Mr. Eric Flint, in a series of articles He has clearly described the fair use view of publishing. the articles are available here at, http://www.baens-universe.com/authors/Eric_Flint and in particular in this one titled “Spillage” http://www.baens-universe.com/articles/salvos8

    In a like manner if any one wants some of my stuff I will just give it to them. Friends and fans who support you are worth more than the royalties of a pirate copy, they represent future sales from them and their friends.

    Regards,
    Gunns
    (weird I know, it is really short for Gunnarsson )

  94. Andie
    at 5:58 am on January 28, 2010

    I am a published author of around 50 ebooks – all romance novels. Each and every one of them has been pirated. What has it done to me? Diminished my back catalogue which I have worked 16-18 hour days 7 days a week to develop over the last three years.
    It’s 2.41am here and I just came off edits from my new book.
    Somebody alerted me about this blog and it makes me want to scream.
    I work like a friggin’ dog here and many months I see big fat ZEROS next to my most popular books thanks to torrents that bundle my series books together like they are free gifts to the whole world.
    Thanks to morons like this blogger (who, by the way, in penning this detailed and informative piece, just gave thieving types all the useful tools with which to rob me) I am yet again having to explain that just because I write for a living doesn’t mean I choose to be poor.
    As for the cost of my books? From $1.50 to $5.00.
    I don’t consider that highway robbery but I need my measley 40% of sales to pay my bills just like everybody else. Let’s not discuss the minimal payments I get from Amazon and ARE and fictionwise…then I will jump off the ledge.
    If I want a haircut or any other type of service, I expect to pay. I don’t expect the hairdresser to give me a free trim first to see how I like his work. What kind of crap is the “oh I need to see if I like it” nonsense?
    That is called JUSTIFICATION.
    I tell you what else piracy does. It means people tampering with my work and trying to break it down into other formats that cause those weird symbols in the text you often read.
    Anyone who has ever seen a pirated movie or a borrowed screener will tell you they have glitches. It’s distracting and – a reminder that it is wrong. I saw a borrowed screener of a movie the other night at a friend’s house. I appreciated not paying $15 to see the movie (Avatar), but it jumped, got stuck…and it had German subtitles instead of English for when the Na’vi spoke. That was pretty funny. No idea where he got the movie…but anyway…
    I see people whining on message boards about the same glitches in pirated books. Missing pages, blank pages etc.
    Pay the buck and a half an author needs and actually read the book. I’ve been to pirate sites to file takedown notices and have seen the message boards. Why should I feel good that they’re taking my books and uploading them for thousands of people who admit they don’t read them but love collecting ebooks?
    It’s like telling somebody whose home has been burgled that they should feel good that thieves admired their good taste enough to steal their stuff.
    It is the exact same thing.

  95. The Metering of the Printed Word - Idea of the Day Blog - NYTimes.com
    at 6:38 am on January 28, 2010

    [...] Confessions of an Online Book Pirate – C. Max Magee, The Millions [...]

  96. Lic
    at 7:04 am on January 28, 2010

    Hank: “Indeed, and there is demand for books, as far as I can tell. The fact that there are people illegally copying and distributing them proves there is demand. What it also means is that those people who are pirating books don’t care at all about the labor that went into the creation of those pieces. Tell me — how many great works of literature do you think were made for free?”

    Demand is not the issue. There is no scarcity. Right or wrong text, music, and movies can all be copied easily and for free. Everyone can see this and those who still pay do so because they want to be nice, or it’s easier to just buy a copy. For many downloading is easier, or at least worth the hassle.

    Again, economics does not work on the principle “I put labor into this so pay me”. Economics works on supply and demand. If people want your product, enough to pay and cant get the same thing elsewhere cheaper, they will buy from you. If they can get the same thing elsewhere for free, they will. The key concept is Marginal Cost. As the Marginal Cost (the cost to produce one more of an item) approaches zero, purchase price will also approach zero. It may take a good deal of time effort and money to make the first copy of a movie, but the marginal cost is basically $0. No value judgments here, just economics. Pretty basic economics at that.

    Oh and a lot of “great works of literature” were either made for free, or without any sort of copyright protection. Often those creators were able to use the success of their creations and parlay that into financing success, but not always. Being an artist, author, musician, or similar does not preclude you from the realities of economics or the need to be a good businessman.

    Rant and rave all you want, your monopoly on your work is over. You can stop producing and sulk, or you can accept reality and find a way to make it work for you. It won’t be easy, but it can be done.

  97. Greg
    at 7:33 am on January 28, 2010

    Authors are like musicians. Some are rock-stars and get paid tons of money for their work because they are popular and people like their work. Some are concert pianists; very good at what they do, spent years in school/practice, are less popular as a whole than the rock-star but are paid to show us their exceptional talent. Some, however, are piano bar pianists who get paid from their tip jar, are the least popular and have another job for their primary income. The piano bar pianist doesn’t expect to get paid per song as much as the rock-star. He has not the popularity nor the fan-base to expect that kind of money.

    Maybe all of you authors should start realizing that you might not be the rock-star just because some people like your work. You might not be the concert pianist either, even though you consider yourself talented or spent years in school. You might just be the lowly piano bar guy. People like your work for a drink or two, but they don’t rave about it to their friends. People aren’t willing to buy it either. Your work might not be worth what you think it is worth.

    Today, as ever, every artist has to beat the odds. Their popularity and skill must outweigh the piracy and royalty percentages stacked against them. If they don’t, either keep struggling at it and hope to make the big time or find a new profession. Just because you fashion yourself and author/artist does not entitle you to a good income or any income at all.

  98. Scath
    at 8:31 am on January 28, 2010

    Lic: “Right or wrong text, music, and movies can all be copied easily and for free. *Everyone can see this and those who still pay do so because they want to be nice, or it’s easier to just buy a copy.* For many downloading is easier, or at least worth the hassle.”

    Uh, no. People pay because that’s how it works.

    You go to a store, pick up a book, or groceries, or whatever…and you pay, because if you don’t, you’re a thief/shoplifter, they call the police on you and you go to jail.

    Thinking it’s fine to take without paying isn’t ‘okay’ just because it’s easier or ‘less hassle’ for someone.

    I can assure you, that ebook downloaded wasn’t at all hassle-free for the author to write.

    I think a few of you need to step back on this ‘you authors seem to think you’re the most awesome people’ line of thinking.

    Regardless of the product, we are producing something.

    Produce something, place a value on it and put it out for people to have the choice to buy or to move one…you expect to get paid if someone decides your item is just what they wanted or needed.

    Doesn’t matter if you’re an author, a farmer, an inventor, or what have you.

    When you look at it like that, instead of through ‘trying to justify everything’ glasses, it’s pretty obvious why some of the authors above have come to say “You’re stealing from me by downloading my books instead of purchasing lawfully made copies.”

  99. Edwood
    at 8:46 am on January 28, 2010

    The world has changed, people fundamentally have not.
    If its obtainable for free, people will get it for free and damn the moral cost. Factor it in as one of the many costs of the digital revolution and move on.

    The end.

  100. anne
    at 8:51 am on January 28, 2010

    Could somebody please fix how this conversation is threaded so that the last two-thirds of the page of comments are no longer unreadable because the columns are so narrow? Thanks.

  101. Johanna
    at 9:10 am on January 28, 2010

    One thing publishers should be aware of is that there are a lot of people who are not enamored of the book as a physical object. Every time I’ve moved I’ve had to cull my library down to the books I didn’t want to live without. Books are heavy, take up a lot of space, collect dust, and, eventually, fall to pieces. I’d be much happier if I’d been able to buy them as electronic files I could keep or discard easily. Personally, I’ve spent the past few years scanning my essential library, proofing the files, and giving away the books. I know this is illegal, but since I keep them for my personal use and don’t upload them to websites, I doubt anyone will come after me. I will not be able to take a couple of rooms full of books to my retirement home, but I want to have my favorites with me.

  102. Scath
    at 9:17 am on January 28, 2010

    Nutshell summation:

    It is against the law to copy someone else’s creation in its entirety and then distribute those copies without the permission of the creator/copyright holder if the work in question is still under copyright.

    Just because the advent of the world wide web has made sharing so simple and hassle-free, that doesn’t negate the above.

    The world may have changed, but as of yet, the laws governing the above have not.

    If book piracy weren’t wrong, no one would talking about it.

    Trying to justify doing something illegal by any reason whatsoever doesn’t make it right.

    Until the law is changed to allow people to copy someone else’s work in its entirety and do what they wish with it without requiring any permission from the creator – if that ever happens – then it remains wrong to do it.

    I’ve enjoyed the discussion. =)

  103. Hercule
    at 9:30 am on January 28, 2010

    Scath: ‘Trying to justify doing something illegal by any reason whatsoever doesn’t make it right.’

    This obviously isn’t true. As an example: in Apartheid-era South Africa, the government could issue ‘banning orders’ against members of political organisations which they had outlawed (including the Communist Party and the ANC, the liberation party which is now in power in South Africa). ‘Banning’ involved various restrictions on a person including the fact that they were restricted to a certain city (chosen by the government), to leave that city you had to seek written permission from the government (which they could and would deny on a whim). The chosen city might be where you worked (lots of black South Africans from rural areas moved to cities to work), so without written permission you couldn’t go and visit your family in the country! Many people would break their banning orders and if caught faced going to prison. It seems clear to me that that law is unjust, and someone who breaks their banning order, while they are performing a criminal act, is not breaking any moral law, as they should be allowed to go where they please.

    The point being that just because a law exists, it doesn’t make the law right, and doesn’t mean it is wrong to break that law. If someone doesn’t believe that breaking a law is wrong then they have the right to break that law (and obviously the authorities have the right to prosecute them for that action).

    Just because it is illegal to copy and distribute books under our legal system, doesn’t necessarily make it wrong. The two are distinct.

  104. Thursday Links: Apple’s iPad Underwhelms | Dear Author: Romance Novel Reviews, Industry News, and Commentary
    at 10:48 am on January 28, 2010

    [...] Millions has an interview with a book pirate. He buys a lot of books, uploads a lot of books, and downloads a lot of books. He knows its wrong [...]

  105. Esther Mitchell
    at 11:05 am on January 28, 2010

    For those of you who keep going on about authors “crying sour grapes” about piracy, I still think you’re missing the point.

    Like many authors, I don’t have a problem with free copies. I don’t have a problem with the sale of a used paperback book at a used bookstore, or a remaindered book at a regular bookstore, or library books. What I have a problem with is people making copies of my e-book and giving it away WITHOUT MY PERMISSION. If you go into any library or Kinkos, they have signs telling you that photocopying copyrighted material is illegal, and not permissible. Hmm… wonder why THAT is??

    In the spirit of Eric Flint (who I happen to think is halfway to a great idea), I don’t have a problem with “test drives” – But if you really aren’t sure about whether you want to read a book or not, have you ever tried using the web to, instead of download a pirated, illegal copy, maybe try finding the author’s website? Most of us have them, these days. And most of us post an e-mail address there to contact. And most of us (at least in the e-book industry) are often willing to part with either a partial or full FREE copy of a book for someone interested in finding out if they like our work or not. The difference is, this is coming FROM THE AUTHOR, and is therefore totally legal and above-board.

    I’m all for “Fair Use”… But the key word here is “Fair”… You’re saying that it should be only “fair” for you to download a book for free, just because you want to. But fair works both ways. How is it fair to the author if you’re giving away free copies of something YOU didn’t create? A good author will typically try to get you a copy of a book… Most of us run contests and other ways for you to get a book at extreme discounts or for free. I’ve personally given away hundreds of copies of my books over the years – paid the publisher for them out of my own pocket to give away to readers. I love doing book signings at used book stores, where people can bring me a “well-loved” copy of a backlist book (or even a newer release) to sign. To me, that’s fair. It was purchased by someone, originally, who read it and loved it, and when they couldn’t house it anymore, they passed it on to someone else to read and love. It’s not the giving away of a book that I oppose… It’s someone making copies of my book that they’re neither paying for nor asking permission of either me or the publisher to make that I have a problem with.

  106. PopeJamal
    at 11:22 am on January 28, 2010

    I’ll make you a deal: You, Mr. Author/Publisher, go back to Congress and get some of these ridiculous laws revoked that extend copyrights to ridiculous lengths like 100+ years after the authors death, and I’ll start feeling bad for all the “lost” revenue from book piracy.

    Disney, and friends have done far more to damage your (reasonable) ability to make money than any number of book pirates ever can.

  107. Scath
    at 11:26 am on January 28, 2010

    Hercule: You enticed me back into the discussion. =)

    In my personal opinion, comparing book piracy to apartheid is over the top.

    Obviously a law, or a set of laws, that restricts a person’s movements based solely on the color of skin or political affiliation is morally wrong and should be abolished.

    A law, or set of laws, put into place to give protection to the creator of something and offer the opportunity for that creator to see some financial gain from his/her creation isn’t morally wrong.

    It’s commonsense.

    If people create, and consistently, *completely* have their creations removed from their control, losing the opportunity to gain something from having created them, the urge to create will begin to dull and may possibly die completely out.

    The amazing contributions via music, literature, technology that we so enjoy on a daily basis could end.

    And we, as a society, would stagnate.

    Obviously, that’s a very dark view of the future, and unlikely to occur with humans having the behaviors they do. If such did happen, it wouldn’t for a very long time.

  108. Scath
    at 11:46 am on January 28, 2010

    PopeJamal:

    Authors don’t have the money to get Congress to do that. Only Big Business does. =)

    Personally, I’d be thrilled to know that all of my writing was added to public domain upon my death or shortly thereafter. That would be pretty awesome of a feat for someone who writes what’s basically ‘light’ entertainment. =)

    I love my kids; I’m sure I’ll love my grandkids, but they need to earn their own money, not be pushing 40, 50, 60 year old ‘fluff’ fiction of mine to try to earn it.

    They want to earn from writing, they need to write their own stories (my 11 year old daughter already does!).

    Esther:

    Readers are going to miss authors’ points because we keep missing their points.

    First Sale Doctrine has allowed them to do what they wish with physical books, except for copying/distributing copies.

    Now here is this new form of book, and typically the only way to do what they are used to doing with physical books (loaning, sharing, reselling) is by copying it.

    They resent the limitation and the implication that wanting to continue the same behaviors (spreading the love of reading by sharing/loaning/passing books on) will now labels them as ‘thieves’.

    I’m only applying that to readers. It obviously doesn’t apply to all book pirates. Some just do it because they can, or because they think everything should be free, or don’t like a particular author, or whatever.

    When it comes to backlist/rare books, book piracy actually makes sense. If there’s only two copies of a book, yet 200 people would love to be able to read it, sharing it, even by scanning and uploading to a file sharing network, makes that possible.

    Of course, those rare books’ copyright owners are probably deceased, so that’s sort of outside of the matter.

    But I do agree about the sampling. Most distribution sites have even up to the first 50% of an ebook available for free reading.

    Authors offer freebies, do giveaways, etc. etc. etc.

    You don’t even have to hunt down the author’s site to find those. You can sample at Amazon, etc.

    I did hear the complaint when I mentioned that most authors offer free ebooks/shorts that readers don’t want those.

    Why? Because we tend to be a little less concerned with polishing them, so they aren’t the same quality as the works we produce for sale.

  109. Hercule
    at 12:09 pm on January 28, 2010

    Scath: ‘In my personal opinion, comparing book piracy to apartheid is over the top.’

    I wasn’t comparing apartheid and book piracy, I was just giving an example to try and demonstrate that ‘illegal’ is not the same as ‘wrong’.

    I am aware that apartheid and book piracy are very different things.

    Is it ‘right’ for someone to disregard the laws surrounding copyright? That depends on the person’s opinion of whether the law is just. If they don’t believe in the law then they’re not wrong to break it.

  110. Lic
    at 12:42 pm on January 28, 2010

    Scath: “Uh, no. People pay because that’s how it works. You go to a store, pick up a book, or groceries, or whatever…and you pay, because if you don’t, you’re a thief/shoplifter, they call the police on you and you go to jail.”

    “Thinking it’s fine to take without paying isn’t ‘okay’ just because it’s easier or ‘less hassle’ for someone.”

    Again ignoring the point. I never said it was OK, I never said this is the way it should be. This is the way it IS. Like it or not.

    And again, nothing was taken, only copied. Calling it theft is incorrect. I am not talking morals, simply definitions, copyright infringement is not the same thing as theft. You lose credibility when you claim it is. RIAA tried that, no one believed them.

    “I can assure you, that ebook downloaded wasn’t at all hassle-free for the author to write.”

    Sorry, but that doesn’t factor into the equation. Demand and Supply. If supply is infinite, and with any computer file it is, price approaches $0.

    Consider however bottled water. Water is essentially free from any tap, but people will gladly pay for it in a bottle. What is really being sold is the bottle, and in some cases the service of filtering the water. It’s convenient or safer, so people pay. I’ve got an Internet tap that gives out free ebooks, what bottle are you offering? The printed book was a good bottle, but is being replaced.

    Economics. Not right or wrong, not legality or morality. Those are separate issues.

  111. Scath
    at 12:51 pm on January 28, 2010

    Hercule:

    And it was a great example. =)

    I guess the point I’m trying to make up there is that not believing in a law still doesn’t make it right to break it, *depending* on your reasons for not believing in that particular law.

    If you don’t believe in copyright because you think all creative people don’t deserve any protection concerning their creations, or shouldn’t be allowed to see any gain from those creations, well, that may be your right to believe, but that still doesn’t mean you’re not wrong to break it.

    And by ‘you’, I don’t mean you in particular. =)

    If you don’t believe in copyright law because you think all forms of expression should be freely shared so that everyone can enjoy the beauty together and peace will finally fall over the planet in a warm, fuzzy blanket, then in that case, I couldn’t quite bring myself to say you were in the wrong.

    Technically, yes; but you’d get a pass from me because your heart was in the right place. =)

    If you don’t believe in a law because it’s a morally repugnant one aimed at stripping away a person’s basic human rights to live, move freely about, earn a living, be safe from persecution, well…

    I’d be right there with you breaking that kind of law.

    I think that’s something to consider there: persecution.

    The book piracy situation isn’t *just* about money (which I still say pirated books aren’t lost income, because I’m betting 99.9% of those who download them just flat have no intention of buying when they can get them without having to pay). You’re not losing what you weren’t going to get in the first place.

    Authors are feeling persecuted because they want to protect their creations, are told that they have certain rights and obligations to, and yet are attacked when they attempt to do so.

    We (humans) are told that we have the right to pursue earning a living in any legal manner we wish.

    Readers are feeling persecuted because they want to continue familiar behaviors that they’ve enjoyed prior to the emergence of ebooks, and like I said up there, because of the different format, they are labeled thieves because the only simple way of doing that is to make a full copy and distribute it.

    Meanwhile, book pirates don’t feel persecuted at all, but just go on about their merry way.

  112. Emma
    at 12:54 pm on January 28, 2010

    The pirate is a programmer. What if everyone started stealing his software? Why pay for what you can get for free, right? He works for a name-less, face-less huge corporation, right?

  113. Scath
    at 1:10 pm on January 28, 2010

    Lic: I didn’t say that you, in particular, said that it was okay to do. =)

    There are a lot of people who can’t separate the idea of phsyical/digital goods.

    They’re goods. They’re products. You sell them, you buy them.

    So that example I gave above about shoplifting is how some people view something like piracy.

    They don’t think ‘you copied it’.

    They think ‘you took it’ or ‘you stole it’.

    While I’m aware of the distinction (my understanding further clarified by you, thanks), your average person who doesn’t really spend any time looking into the legal wording of laws in these types of situations is going to go with the simplest explanation/example.

    It’s not a matter of trying to build or undermine anyone’s credibility that may be taking part in a discussion.

    The new author, or even the well-established author who hasn’t had to worry about copyright problems for years, is going to do exactly as some of the authors in these comments have done.

    They’re going to yell ‘Thief!’

    Correct or incorrect, yelling it certainly brings a lot of attention to bear on the situation, doesn’t it?

    Adds drama. Stirs people up. Gets it spread all over the internet. Builds an ‘us vs. them’ sideshow.

    Completely muddies the situation so that newcomers to it receive confusing information.

  114. Alex Tolley
    at 1:13 pm on January 28, 2010

    So who is hurt if you substitute pirated books for used books? Clearly both the author and publisher are not benefiting from the sale of used books. Neither are they hurt for books that are old and out of print, with no intention of doing reprints.

    My sense is that Google’s book scanning is going to meet most people’s needs. Free to read excerpts and costs a few bucks to buy a complete copy. Buying a POD would be even nicer for a lot of us, and I suspect this pirate too.

  115. Scath
    at 1:21 pm on January 28, 2010

    Alex: Good question.

    Answer? No one can really give you an honest one.

    Authors/publishers are going to say that they are, because a digital file can be copied into infinity and has no set ‘shelf life’.

    Print books can be damaged, destroyed, wear out, fall apart eventually. Maybe not for years, decades or even centuries, but they can.

    Ebooks can’t; so there you get the authors/publishers saying they’ll be the ones hurt.

  116. Alex Bowles
    at 1:38 pm on January 28, 2010

    Here’s an interesting question. How many people saying ‘we should get paid for our work’ actually mean ‘we should earn royalties from our work’?

    If there’s no difference in your mind, then we may be close to the heart of the debate. After all, nearly everyone who works gets paid, but very few get royalties. For the vast majority, there’s no additional money due to them each and every-time one of their work products gets put in use. Do I have to send GE a penny every time I run my dishwasher? Do I have to send a monthly sofa fee to the company that designed my furniture. Do I get paid above and beyond my salary and maybe a bonus at Christmas?

    Of course not. And that’s the rub. Most people see royalties as the exception, not the rule. And if you want to claim that “I should get paid for my work, just like everybody else” then understand – you’re appealing to the rule, not the exception. “Oh, you say, but I also want the exception”. Right, and now you sound like your demanding to have your cake and eat it.

    Consider your demand from the perspective of the audience. If you start by asking “should a successful novelist get paid for his work?” most people say “yes, of course”. If you ask “is it right for him to not simply get paid, but to command royalties?” most people would agree that’s what the law allows, but that there are probably other ways of paying him as well, even if those aren’t clear right now. If you say that enforcing the current law will – suddenly – open them to a broad range of intrusive and dangerous privacy invasions, will they still say royalties are justified? Probably not. Instead, they will say it’s time to figure out a better and more socially-acceptable way to get this done.

    What if the novelist (or his publisher) refuses, and says that royalty payments are the only kind they’ll accept, and that, moreover, they don’t give a damn about the social costs of enforcing their rights in this new situation, that they are not going to change and anyone who defies them is a criminal.

    This is where most sane people say “Okay, forget it – you guys are just a bunch of jerks (to put it mildly), and we’re not interested in having this conversation any more. We’re all dealing with serious change, and we don’t have the time or patience for your exceptionalism.”

    What if publishers respond by pressuring lawmakers to demand that the internet be transformed into a giant surveillance network that gives private companies the right to police every transaction that people make, and punish them severely for refusing to accept their now ridiculous assertion that no other payment aside from royalties is acceptable?

    You’re likley to start a civil war, that’s what. You may even win. But if you do, it will probably be the end of democracy, and with it, the end of your artistic freedom.

    If you feel you have a god-given right to extract royalties, and are willing to subvert the freedom of all your fellow citizens to enforce that right, then you deserve to be squeezed out. With any luck, you’re already feeling the pinch.

    However, if you’re willing to concede that what truly matters is simply making a respectable living wage, and not how that wage is paid, then you’re on the side of the angels, and are likley to find a far stronger measure of support from audiences who are basically decent, and are busy asking themselves the same thing – but shutting down very swiftly in the face of legal terrorism as practiced by major IP lobbies (and yes, fining an unemployed mother two million dollars for downloading a two dozen songs, and saying you’re doing so ‘to send a message’ is, in nearly everyone’s eyes, pure terrorism).

    So take a deep breath, and step back, and decide what you really want.

    Not sure how to do that? Take this test: If someone said “I’ll pay you $100,000 if you spend a year writing a book, and give you another $50,000 when you’re done”, would that be acceptable?

    Would you mind if, with some clever marketing and savvy promotion, this buyer got others to pay him a million dollars for the story? Would you be satisfied with what you had, or would you demand more?

    More importantly, would you demand more while offering nothing else in return? Or would you say you want a portion of that windfall, but are happy to provide another work in exchange (written, obviously, at a rate higher than $100k / year)?

    If you say ‘no, I’m entitled to a piece of that first million’ then you are part of the problem. Because even though you say that you simply want to get paid for your work, in reality, you want more – much more. Really, you want to continue extracting wealth from those who pay you to do the work long after the work itself is complete. In other words, you want a royalty. And you won’t be satisfied until you get one. And you probably don’t give a damn about how much damage you do to the cultural environment as you set about extracting it.

    That’s bad. It’s also typical of monopolists. Which is why monopolies are generally illegal. Remember that. You’ve been given a very special exception to an otherwise iron-clad rule, and you’ve been given that exception on the explicit condition that you don’t abuse it to the detriment of society.

    If you abuse that power, then it can – and will – be taken away. Yes, the culture may suffer in the process. But for the same reason we endure fevers to defeat viruses, we will tolerate the setback, knowing that culture – like life itself – will grow back.

    Let’s face it; the law was never what prevented individuals from copying and circulating works. Physical barriers were far higher. Those same barriers kept monopolistic instincts from coming into direct or prolonged contact with the public, limiting the law’s operation to a small and easily regulated set of publishers. For a while, our normal intolerance of monopolies could be suspended, and the culture could develop in peace.

    But now that the physical barrier has cracked, and individuals are having to contend directly with what was always on the other side, the special exception that allowed for this monopoly is no longer so special. The lion is out of the cage and is now mauling humans in the street (which is exactly what we expect from lions).

    Needless to say, this isn’t going to end well for the lion. If you’re counting on the lion for a paycheck, you better get it soon.

    If you want to write, then write. If you can establish (or join) a financially satisfactory exchange, even better. If you want to extract monopoly rent from everyone who reads your work, do that too. Just know that people are going to be increasingly intolerant of this demand. If it’s monopoly power or nothing, fine. Quit. You won’t be missed.

    Personally, my interests is in developing frameworks that will thrill audiences and attract the best talent I can afford – and to do this with only the most limited reliance on copyright protection. Specifically, to guard against the encroachments of other, already established monopolists (fire against fire, and all that). Entrepreneurs who use their freedom to copy to open new markets should be encouraged by me, not taxed. And audiences will never be asked to pay more than what they’ve willing to give freely. If I offer something that can be easily duplicated, stored, and circulated, then I shouldn’t expect much, if anything. That’s just reality. Instead, I should try to increase this circulation in a way that allow me to set a suitable price at some other place in the ecosystem – one that’s mutually acceptable to buyer and seller alike.

    None of this exists. Not yet, anyway. But when it does, I can’t see having too many jobs for Royalists.

  117. kirsten saell
    at 2:04 pm on January 28, 2010

    I write ebooks. I read ebooks. They’re my first choice for format. Whenever I stumble across a thread about piracy, I see a lot of misinformation as to things like cost/DRM/motivation for piracy, etc. Allow me to chime in with:

    1) ebooks are cheaper to produce and distribute than print: you have to factor in not just the cost of print/paper/binding–there is shipping, warehousing, staff to handle and ship those books, and the *enormous* cost of returns. The only justification from publishers that I will personally accept as to why an ebook is not priced 20-50% less than the cheapest physical copy is *that the author earns a higher royalty on them*. And even if the author is paid a significantly higher percentage on those ebooks, they can still cost less than print. Profit margins on print are minuscule. On ebooks, they only increase with every copy legally sold.

    My (DRM-free) ebooks (available for repeated download in multiple formats for for one price) are priced at less than half what the print versions cost, and earn me twice as much per copy in dollars and cents. So any claim that downloading an illegal copy is only taking pennies out of my pocket is patently untrue. Any assertion that people only pirate because the books are priced too high is patently untrue. Any assertion that people only pirate because they hate DRM is patently untrue. Any assertion that format restrictions are why people pirate is patently untrue. My books are pirated. Sometimes more often than they are legally purchased.

    2) Bwahaha!’s assertion that I am not a rock-star is immaterial. I am, apparently, loved like a rock star by some readers. You know the ones–“OMG, I read Kirsten Saell’s first, and I can’t wait to read the rest of them! Does anyone have them? Please email me offlist!” Followed by a cloyingly enthusiastic, “Thank you thank you, I love her stuff!” All the more irksome considering I write a specific niche that is much sought after by a small number of readers who are underserved by writers and publishers. I’m already not going to be made rich writing this stuff, and having readers who constantly bemoan that “no one publishes what I want to read!! :(” consuming my books without paying for them…well, that’s like going to the polls, marking your ballot, then ripping it up and throwing it in the trash. You want more material produced that you like? Be a demographic worth courting. That means remunerating authors and publishers who put out content you want to read!

    3) the author donation button is not going to solve anything. Yes, it might put dollars in my pocket, but it won’t put another contract in my hands. There’s a lot of work that goes into an ebook after it’s written, work that I don’t have the skill or inclination to do myself. Editing, cover art, formatting, distribution, promotion, these are services my publisher provides–at a cost to them. If they don’t get a return on their investment, they will no longer be inclined to invest in my work. Why would they?

    5) not every author thinks emailing a copy of a book you loved to a friend is a sin on par with anally violating nuns while sacrificing newborn babies. I’ve emailed a book I loved to a friend. I’ve had a friend do the same for me. I’ve recommended that readers leery of the cost of an ereader find likeminded readers to share an account to spread the cost of their books between them. But there’s a huge difference between sharing an ebook between friends and family, and making it available for free to several thousand of your closest buddies. Not every download may result in a sale lost, but some of them do. And when illegal downloads result in squees of how much a given reader loves my work and can’t wait for the next one to go up, I just shake my head and wonder at the logic behind it.

    4) the “New World of Free Free Free”‘s real name is “Crapland”. Ever been to literotica looking for something worth reading? Ever read slush for a publisher? Ever spent any time reading self-published books? 95% of the crap people write is just that–crap. A small percentage of it is salvageable crap, but it’s still crap. Publishers are gatekeepers. When I buy a published book, yes, there may be a 50% chance that *I’ll* think it’s crap, but at least I know before I invest my time and money into it, that it’s been vetted by two or more sets of eyes that don’t belong to the author’s mother or bff. *Someone* out there, someone with money to lose, looked at it and said, “I don’t think this is crap.”

    When the new world order begins, that 50% will turn into 95%. Except that now authors who used to write well enough to earn money will have to go back to stocking shelves at the grocery store, and will either write less or not at all. So now, of the books “published”, 99% of them will be, well, crap. Yay for the new world order!

    I’m not in this business to get rich (if I was, I’d be writing something completely different), but I’m not in it out of a sense of charity, either. If my work is worth something to readers, they should pay for it. $4.50 for a novel that has them drooling in anticipation of the next one shouldn’t be too much to ask, right? If it is, well, they’re just going to have to wait that much longer for it. Or not get it at all when my publisher declines to offer a contract on my next submission because I’ve already lost them enough money…

  118. atsiko
    at 2:08 pm on January 28, 2010

    On the issues of “reality”:

    Why is it that the author must deal with the reality that suits you best? The truth is, there are two realities involved here:

    The first “reality” is:
    If people can pirate they will and the author just needs to accept it. That’s a reality that has no adverse effects on the you/the reader/a pirate.

    But how about this “reality”:
    Many e-books are crap and they cost a lot and they have DRM and they come out later. Well, that’s a reality that affects you, so of course something must be done to overturn it! *snort*

    Anyone who pirates has no excuse to complain about the second reality.

    If you didn’t pirate, then DRM wouldn’t be a problem, publishers would be able to get the benefits of e-books and so would readers, e-book releases would come out earlier because the financial risk would be less, and e-books would be edited better because that would encourage people to buy them, which is what the publisher wants.

    “Oh, but other people would still pirate, and that’s how it is, so I might as well do it myself.” Have some responsibility for your own actions. You aren’t pirating because the conditions for legal purchase are so terrible. You’re pirating because you saw someone else do it and it’s not fair if they get more value for less money than you did.

    It’s a simple issue: The person who created the work said “don’t” and you decided “do” anyway, and that puts you in the wrong. It’s got nothing to do with the law, or the actions of big corporations.

  119. Scath
    at 2:21 pm on January 28, 2010

    Alex:

    You, my friend, are awesome. =)

    I want to get paid for my work.

    In fact, I’ve been paid for an image that part of the requirement of receiving payment was that I place it in the public domain. I was totally okay with doing that.

    I’ve tried to word the copyright section of my ebooks in a way that allows legal purchasers to then share it with friends and family if they want to.

    Unfortunately, not all distribution outlets are okay with authors doing that sort of thing so I had to remove that to continue distributing them.

    A year ago, no, I wouldn’t have been okay with someone buying an ebook, then giving their mom or best friend a copy.

    I’d have screamed bloody murder, LOL.

    But I’ve talked to some intelligent people and tried to learn more since then, so something like that -sharing- doesn’t bother me.

    Even so, I *would* send a take down notice if my ebooks showed up on a file sharing network.

    Not because I think it’s causing a loss of sales/damaging my income, but because I have the obligation to protect my copyright, not just the granted right to.

    If you don’t take action to protect it, you can lose it.

    What if someone snatches a copy of an author’s work off a file sharing network, then simply makes a few changes to character names, and publishes the book as their own?

    That has happened (the act, not that the plaguerizer got the original from a file sharing network).

    I *would* take action against someone making copies and selling them on eBay.

    If you want to make money from my ebooks, well, there’s affiliate programs. Can’t guarantee you will make money, but you might. =)

    But you buy a copy, hey, yeah, I’m good with you giving a copy to your mom, your best friend, or your co-worker buddy.

    Maybe they’ll come visit my site, drop a few comments.

    After all, I don’t consider money the only form of payment. =)

  120. A Writer
    at 3:46 pm on January 28, 2010

    You’re a thief, Bucky. Most writers don’t make a living at what they write, especially those who are published by small, ROYALTY-ONLY presses.

    Every book that’s downloaded is a theft of anywhere from 25 cents to $1 from the person who wrote that book.

    Most of us would make more money if we worked at a McDonald’s.

    This is my wish for you: May you lose $3 for every $1 you steal from us. Call it a curse or a blessing… you need to learn to respect the work of others.

  121. Angelia Sparrow
    at 3:47 pm on January 28, 2010

    I’m coming at this as a writer and reader of e-books. I made about $2500 writing last year. If I had been paid for every pirated copy, it would be closer to $3500 (yes, I kept tabs). I know, impossible pipe-dream.

    1) Cost of ebooks. My publishers’ (yes, plural) e-books tend to cost between $1.29 and $8. And every damn one of them gets pirated. People WILL steal a $1.29 short story, where the author has donated all royalties to charity, and the publisher is matching them (for about $1/copy going to the charity) I don’t know who you’re buying or where you’re getting it, but the prices you’re citing seem outlandish.

    2) Paid vs. Royalties. I work for flat fee because a lot of anthologies pay a flat fee. This is fine. If one of our publishers came up and said “We want the next Brooks & Sparrow novel. We’ll pay you $10,000 now and another $5000 on delivery, but no royalties,” Naomi and I would JUMP on it. As it stands, royalties ARE how we get paid for our work. The reader buys a book. The bookstore/distributor site gets a cut. The publisher gets a cut, our editor gets a cut and we get a cut. When the book goes out of print in 3-5 years and we get the rights back, we can do as we please from there.

    3) I have no problem with you letting your friend or your mom or your husband read a copy of my book. (although when I loaded my mom’s new e-reader, she only got my stuff, Project Gutenburg and things that had been offered free by publishers) But don’t slap my newest out there for 500 of your closest acquaintences. When we’ve only sold 350 copies, this just makes us wonder if it’s worth writing any more. 850 copies. We got paid for 350 of them. How is this not discouraging?

  122. Day Two, Non-Apple News - Bits Blog - NYTimes.com
    at 5:35 pm on January 28, 2010

    [...] Millions, an online magazine, has a great story entitled “Confessions of a Book Pirate.” In it, C. Max Magee interviews an anonymous [...]

  123. atsiko
    at 6:56 pm on January 28, 2010

    I think a lot of people here are having trouble understanding the concept of division of labor/specialization. That’s how civilization works.

    I do one thing and someone else does another and then we trade the products of that labor. But if you steal my labor, I have to find labor that provides enough in trade to support me, labor that you cannot steal, and that means less of the type of labor that gives you the books you want to read.

    You can tell me to self-publish, get another job, etc, but what you’re doing is unbalancing the division of labor in favor of yourself, and that imbalance cannot survive for very long.

    Information has _gained_ value since we entered the information economy. Information has no physical material to place value in, so the value is in the rights to that information. It’s not about whether you can copy the medium free or not; that’s what you’re buying when you buy a book. You’re paying for a (limited) right to that information, and when you give a copy away on a file-sharing site, you are giving away a right that does not belong to you.

    That is the “theft” going on here, and if you want to trying to play with semantics to make yourself feel better, that just shows how pathetic you are.

  124. meandi09
    at 8:50 pm on January 28, 2010

    “I was going to pay for it if it was like 10 dollars” whatever if your going to steal your going to steal whether it be a dollar or ten so please lets not whine
    People don’t seem to understand what this does to the authors. The publisher then see they only have this amount of sales when in fact the number is much greater, in turn they are not so quick to pick up more books by said author. That means your fav. author is suddenly out of work . No more stories. People have got to understand this is their job and you are taking it away from them. How they put food on their table and you can justify that you knew it was wrong but you did it anyway. What a world we live in!!!!

  125. Interview with a Book Pirate | Stylus Tutors
    at 8:53 pm on January 28, 2010

    [...] his blog The Millions, C. Max Magee has posted a conversation with a confessed book pirate — someone who uploads and downloads books illegally via the internet.  While some of the [...]

  126. Alex Bowles
    at 12:14 am on January 29, 2010

    @Scath,

    Though it’s probably not exactly what you’re after, you may be interested in Creative Commons. It’s a licensing arrangement that gives people more freedom than the standard ‘all rights reserved’, while stopping short of the totally unrestricted nature of work int he public domain.

    Also, don’t worry about needing to assert your copyright privileges in order to keep them. That’s an important factor with trademark law, but not copyright law, which is very different. In fact, many people interested in copyright reform think it would be a good idea if you did have to regularly assert your claim (via, perhaps, an online registry). No such provisions exist, which has given rise to the orphan works issue.

    I know this is cold comfort, but the one valuable aspect of being pirated is that it provides publishers cleat evidence that people want to read your work. Since you really can’t stop it (and won’t loose your basic rights for allowing it to happen) the best approach may simply be tracking it as carefully as you can, then using the data to demonstrate that you have a dedicated and growing audience to publishers who may be in a position to offer advances, promotion, quality production, and so on.

    Publishers – as you must already know – are famously risk adverse. Being able to clearly demonstrate sustained interest from pirates means they don’t have to take such a risk at all. They can already gauge who will buy, and how to market to them. Pirates may not pay, but if they provide you with validation that you can sell to people for whom risk is uncomfortable, then you may be able to turn this phenomena to your advantage.

    That, by the way, is where clout in media trades is increasingly appearing. If you can attract, grow, and deliver an audience, then you’ve demonstrated that you’re worth investing in.

    Just an idea. Hope it helps.

  127. AC2
    at 1:52 am on January 29, 2010

    Got here from NYT and it seems all that has to be said has been covered in the comments!!

    I’m not an author or in the publishing industry. Though I do have enough books at home that my wife has forbidden me to get any more unless I first donate some that I have to a library/ school as we are out of storage space for new books.

    So now I mostly borrow from a local library and read, though their selection is pretty poor :-(. Which brings me to whether I would download and read a book. Well I’ve only downloaded ONE fiction book so far and found it an absolute pain to read onscreen, would have preferred the print edn any day.

    Though I have downloaded a few other items for the reasons below
    – Technical books, most are just too steeply priced and not easily available offline (I’m not in the US/ UK). Plus I never need to read them at a stretch so its OK to read onscreen
    – Comics, anyone have the first Spiderman comic readily available in print? And at what price? Ditto Asterix… And how long back have these been first published and should we be paying for anything more than the cost of printing for new copies? So though they are an absolute pain to read onscreen I still stick to them

    For some of the above there are digital copies for sale on say Amazon, but you do know that Amazon/ Kindle is available only in a few geographies? And when they removed ‘1984’ from peoples devices without their consent (hey that’s stealing isn’t it) it was pretty much guaranteed than DRM’d and controlled devices are not acceptable.

    Which brings us to Copyright and the ridiculous copyright laws (at least in the US) based on which Amazon pulled back the books. Is it fair that more than 20 yrs after a book is first published and the author has died you still need to pay much more than the simple cost of printing + distributing to buy the book?

    For the $10 argument. I’m sure people here understand value chain engineering? Your customer wants x at price y, you have two options
    a. Work your value chain to meet that price/ requirement else he will go elsewhere.
    b. Or you go elsewhere and find new customer who can take what you can currently deliver.

    There is a 3rd option, make it illegal for your customer to go elsewhere, but we all know how well that’s working.

  128. Hercule
    at 4:51 am on January 29, 2010

    kirsten saell: “When the new world order begins, that 50% will turn into 95%. Except that now authors who used to write well enough to earn money will have to go back to stocking shelves at the grocery store, and will either write less or not at all. So now, of the books “published”, 99% of them will be, well, crap. Yay for the new world order! ”

    You could say the same of websites, 99%, probably more like 99.99% of websites are crap, they’re vanity blogs, they’re inane discussion sites, they’re abandoned ventures, they’re pictures of someone’s cat; it’s an utter, utter wasteland out there.

    And yet somehow I don’t spend 99% of my time on these terrible websites. Somehow I manage to find good sites, sites I like, sites that are new, sites that are cutting edge, sites that make me happy, sites that make my life easier. And somehow all this works without an ‘internet publisher’ to vet these sites for me. How does it all work then? The answer’s obvious, and should be obvious for books too; recommendations, word of mouth, the media, academia, the useful websites I already know about.

    The idea that the public would be lost and adrift without publishers here choosing what we should read (something which in itself seems like a bad idea) is ridiculous. There would be book clubs, book discussion boards, book ranking sites, author websites, the media would recommend books (are book reviewers suddenly going to vanish over night?), academics will search out and write about ‘good’ books.

    If copyright law was repealed tomorrow, and from here on books were essentially given away for free on the internet, don’t worry about ‘publishing’, just make the stuff available, then I sincerely doubt I’d have any trouble finding things to read, and wouldn’t be at all surprised if the selection actually improved. And repealing copyright wouldn’t suddenly mean nothing was created any more, creation would carry on regardless. There are others ways to make money from your creations, as discussed to death above.

  129. Aleksandr Voinov
    at 7:12 am on January 29, 2010

    Hercule: What do you suggest we do to make money as writers if we give the books away? Concrete examples please.

  130. horace1983
    at 7:23 am on January 29, 2010

    Just thought I’d weigh in as a journalist whose industry is facing many of the same problems as publishing.
    It’s funny for me to feel an affinity with Rupert Murdoch, but there you go. The fact is, people who provide what has come to be known as ‘content’ need to pay their bills. Trust me, most writers don’t get paid much for their efforts. But they should be able to afford to live. You want good investigative reporting? People ain’t gonna do it for free, in their own time. You want enriching works of literature? Writers have to eat and drink just like their readers.
    All this drivel about economics – which sounds like it came straight out of ‘My First Economics Textbook’ – makes me want to scream. Yes, scarcity and demand are important. But – and here’s where I differ from Murdoch – the market shouldn’t be allowed to entirely dictate how we live our lives.
    Perhaps people here disapprove of things like the minimum wage. An idea that people’s labour is worth something intrinsically; that it’s worth more than the value the market puts on it. I’m often surprised by the degree of selfishness in the online ‘community’.
    You want writers to adapt? Well, welcome to the age of celebrity ‘authors’ who’ve never read a book in their lives (in the UK Jordan is a good example; Lauren Conrad would be one in the US, I suppose). Enjoy the self-publicising blowhards who can master marketing but know zilch about writing.
    We are responsible for the world we create. It’s easy to be a realist – we all discovered a knowing, cynical view of the world when we were teens. Living for free is cheap and lazy. The society we are creating will share those characteristics. Shouldn’t we think about what we want a little harder?

  131. Tj
    at 7:40 am on January 29, 2010

    I prefer hard copy of books but I have scanned out-of-print ones. For example I scanned an out-of-print book which was listed on Alibris for nearly $1000, although the copyright was still in force. However I haven’t uploaded it to the web. I feel that publishers who let books go out of print lose the right to complain when their books are e-pirated. Authors who have a problem with this have an issue with the publisher, not the readers who are going out of their way to obtain the book.

  132. Hypocrite Slayer
    at 8:27 am on January 29, 2010

    If you steal books, you’re stealing from the writer. And most writers barely get by. So if you steal books, people will have to stop writing them. Is that so terribly hard to understand?

    You wouldn’t do your job for free, why do you think someone else would? The typical writer makes a huge financial *sacrifice* to write books.

    Sure, some of what a publisher does is obsolete, bookstores are obsolete. Books should and will become cheaper as a result — it’s already happening, e.g., Kindle books are only $9. But this isn’t the recording industry, which screws its musicians out of their royalties. Writers and editors can’t make money off of touring the way bands do. They’re entirely dependent on their tiny sliver of the cover price.

    As to the guy who thinks all content will bypass Hollywood and the recording industry, who does he think will make the goddamn TV shows he watches? What does he think it takes to make a show, some drooling kid with a home movie camera? It costs well over a million dollars per episode to make a run-of-the-mill action/adventure series.

    Let’s face it, piracy is nothing more than greed. The pirates are no better than the record industry and worse than publishers, who give their writers advances and a cut.

  133. kirsten saell
    at 12:41 pm on January 29, 2010

    You wouldn’t do your job for free, why do you think someone else would? The typical writer makes a huge financial *sacrifice* to write books.

    Oh yes. Every moment I spend writing is a moment I’m not earning money some other, more reliable way, or spending time with my kids, or washing dishes, or cutting the grass. And if you want to talk about minimum wage, most authors (those of us who are not Nora Roberts or Dan Brown or even, say, Brent Weeks) earn far below that on our writing.

    As for Hercule’s assertion that free books would be like free websites…most websites/blogs are exercises in ego, filled with typoes and inanity. Free books will be the same. The best writers (and I’m not talking Nora Roberts or Dan Brown, but the large body of talented midlist authors who make a modest living with or without a day job to subsidize it) will likely abandon the game. It earns them no money, and they don’t have the luxury of the millions they’ve already earned in the industry, or the recognition that would make it possible for them to monetize their books in other ways. And I don’t know if he’s ever tried to read an unedited manuscript, but my editor could tell him some horror stories of manuscripts covered in the digital equivalent of red pen, written by talented, published authors. When books are free, editors will no longer exist.

    Alternate revenue streams aside (because frankly, no one is going to pay to hear me read hot girl-girl sex scenes in my high-pitched, nasal voice, or pay good money for a coffee mug with my name on it–even if I had the time to pursue those revenue streams while still devoting time to, you know, writing), an author is not like a band. We write the words, but the performance of what we’ve written happens entirely in the reader’s head. The book itself is the product we offer.

    I’ve never written fanfic. I’ve never been a member of a free fiction community like literotica. I’ve posted free stories on my site, but not out of a sense of charity–to give potential readers a taste of what I write so they’ll have an idea of what they’re paying for before they slap down money on one of my books. I’ve been writing for decades, but never publicly posted a word of my writing until I started earning, because I’m not in this for self-validation or the warm fuzzies I get from “ZOMG, you are teh awesome!” I don’t want my ego stroked. I want a career.

    Strip authors of the ability to earn anything for providing the product we create, and I, among others, I’m certain, will simply stop providing it.

  134. Hercule
    at 1:03 pm on January 29, 2010

    Aleksandr Voinov: “What do you suggest we do to make money as writers if we give the books away? Concrete examples please.”

    OK, some ideas. Bear in mind that I can’t predict the future, so I don’t know what opportunities would be available in a ‘post copyright society’, obviously consumers’ behaviours would be different in some ways, but what those will be I don’t know.

    1) Get a day job. Presumably you enjoy writing so do it for the fun of it. (possibly supplement your income with some of the below).
    2) Give your books a suggested donation amount. Users can donate that amount, more or less as they see fit.
    3) Appeal to your readers to pay you a monthly stipend ‘if you like Voinov books, please consider setting up a standing order for $1 per month to help support my future writing’.
    4) Write a novel (or at least the first chapter of a novel), keep the novel private but release the first chapter into the wild, set up an account and release the novel only after $X has been put into the account, or after Y months have passed.
    5) Grants may be available from governments/institutions.
    6) Syndicate your work (a la Charles Dickens) so each week/month the next chapter is published in a magazine. May not be practical in current environment but maybe would be ‘post copyright’.
    7) Sell merchandise.
    8) Sell film rights.
    9) Use your reputation to be paid to speak at conferences.
    10) Use your reputation to be paid to advise other authors.

    Some of the above would obviously depend on having a reputation/having had some success.

    I imagine you can come up with great reasons why these won’t work for you. In which case, if a ‘post copyright’ future ever arrives, you’re probably not destined to make a living from your writing. So you either write because you enjoy it, or you stop writing if you don’t. I don’t mean to sound harsh or critical, but it seems that this is the direction the world is moving in.

  135. Hercule
    at 1:23 pm on January 29, 2010

    kirsten saell: “Every moment I spend writing is a moment I’m not earning money some other, more reliable way, or spending time with my kids, or washing dishes, or cutting the grass.”

    So? It’s your choice what you do with your own time. No one’s forcing you to spend time writing. If you have other things you’d rather be doing then go and do them.

    kirsten saell: “my editor could tell him some horror stories of manuscripts covered in the digital equivalent of red pen, written by talented, published authors. When books are free, editors will no longer exist.”

    Income from the sale of a book needn’t be an author’s only source of income from their writing, so they may still be able to afford to pay an editor. Alternatively release your book in whatever state of mess you like and then if someone wants to spend time editing it for free then they can. Wikipedia would suggest that people are happy to edit things for free.

    I might also suggest that authors might learn to do their own editing. What’s their excuse for these ‘horror stories’?

    kirsten saell: “I want a career.”

    Your industry is undergoing a change. It may be that at some point you won’t be able to have a career (in the sense of making an income from charging $X per book) from writing. At that point it’s up to you what you do – write because you like to write, find another way of making an income from it, or stop writing.

  136. kirsten saell
    at 2:57 pm on January 29, 2010

    1) Get a day job. Most published authors have one, whether it’s going out and working, or being a stay at home mom.
    2) Give your books a suggested donation amount. I agree, that may work. But it still doesn’t address the problem of “published” books that have not benefitted from professional editing, which costs money up front. If I wanted to invest hundred or thousands of dollars to purchase professional editing and self-publish my books, I’d be doing that already.
    3) Appeal to your readers to pay you a monthly stipend ‘if you like Voinov books, please consider setting up a standing order for $1 per month to help support my future writing’. I agree, that also may work, but it depends on readers *not* feeling entitled to be entertained for nothing, a sentiment that is being eroded every single day.
    4) Write a novel (or at least the first chapter of a novel), keep the novel private but release the first chapter into the wild, set up an account and release the novel only after $X has been put into the account, or after Y months have passed. Again, that might work, but with the above qualifier. If the problem is that people don’t want to pay to read, then they won’t pay.
    5) Grants may be available from governments/institutions. Governments usually give grants because they expect to earn their money back in income, payroll and sales taxes. No income means no taxes means no grants…
    6) Syndicate your work (a la Charles Dickens) so each week/month the next chapter is published in a magazine. May not be practical in current environment but maybe would be ‘post copyright’. What magazine? You mean the ones that don’t pay for content because they have to turn around and give it away for free?
    7) Sell merchandise. In a world without copyright, the guy down the street could sell a coffee mug with my book cover on it and pay me squat–and he may do a better job of it than me, since I have neither coffee mug design skills, nor merchandising experience. Besides, if my publisher thought there was any money at all in Gil and Lianon action figures or Kirsten Saell t-shirts, you can bet your ass they’d be exploiting that.
    8 ) Sell film rights. What film rights? We’re talking about a post-copyright world. In a post-copyright world, any production company could lift my story point by point, turn it into a movie, and not pay me a dime.
    9) Use your reputation to be paid to speak at conferences. Who’s putting on these conferences? Writers’ organizations are paid by member dues which are largely paid out of author royalties–or in the hope of future royalties. Who’s going to pay to be a member of an organization for a career that doesn’t provide a remotely reliable income? Besides, I’ll be too busy with my day job, and that doesn’t pay me enough to afford the plane tickets.
    10) Use your reputation to be paid to advise other authors. Why would anyone pay for advice regarding something that can’t earn them money. Unless they want advice on designing coffee mugs or t-shirts, or how to get a day job…

    Just sayin’.

    And say what you will about the industry changing, there will be some who see the change as “good”, and others who do not. Anyone who knows me will realize I’m an advocate for readers–especially in the realm of ebooks, which both can and should be priced much lower than print, and should *always* have TTS enabled.

    The problem with removing the money from the equation is that most of the talent tends to go elsewhere. And even if the talent stays, tapping away at their keyboards between 12 hour shifts at the plastic fork factory, production slows down and production values plummet. I wonder how long my hairdresser would hold onto her job if people only had to pay her if they felt like it? I mean, getting a haircut and not paying isn’t actually stealing, right? So then I’m stuck having my daughter cut my hair, and believe me, no one with eyes wants that.

    There are writers who see their writing as a joyful hobby and don’t care if they ever earn a dime from it, and that’s fine. Just like my aunt who spends hours every day knitting doilies and giving them away to friends and family. If my career is doomed to become nothing more than a joyful hobby, I’ll be sharing my work with family and friends. I don’t owe anyone else a piece of me, thanks.

    No one wants to work for nothing, even if they like their jobs.

  137. atsiko
    at 3:00 pm on January 29, 2010

    Hercule, you’re missing the point. How do writers get well known? (Which seems to be your method for monetizing their work) They get published and someone with a great deal more experience than the writer will ever be able to rack up gets their work published and distributed. So anything that relies on a platform to generate revenue is a non-start for a new author. There’s just no way around that. Well, for fiction at least. Non-fiction’s already a different ballgame.
    The excuse for those “horror stories” is that the writer is too close to the work to see everything clearly. It requires another perspective, and that perspective is generally provided by editors. It’s also gotten from first/beta readers and such, but the combination of skills that makes an editor so effective is hard to acquire outside of the environment that professional editors work in, which will be gone if publishing companies close up.
    The kind of editing done on Wikipedia is very different from the kind of editing done by an editor at a publishing house.
    Further, nobody wants to copyedit a novel length work of fiction in their free time. There’s a reason copyeditors get a good salary. Go on any writing site on the net and ask how many people would be willing to revise a novel they have never read, written by someone they have never met, which is posted gateless on the web. I’ll be shocked if you get three.
    Getting a day job: Do you have a full time job and a day job? I doubt it. Sure, I could work three shifts throwing in part time work where available while leaving my kids home alone, but I doubt you’ll find anyone who wants to be in that position.
    Film rights: Not that common, doesn’t pay all that much for most people, requires a large and dedicated fanbase, often tortues a book beyond recognition, and is generally unstable income that cannot reliably support a writer and their family.
    Grants: I don’t even know what to say to that. Grants for what? Certainly not an unknown piece of fiction from a never-written a book author. And as for being enough to live on? Hah!
    Now, the stipend/donation method is the one reasonable thing you’ve thrown out in this whole discussion. It’s been used as supplementary income rather effectively for several authors. The problem with using it as a primary revenue stream is that there’s a significant time investment before the work pays off. Why do you think publishers pay advances?
    Merchandise: that’s a crock. The people who read literature just aren’t big into merchandise. A TV show? Maybe. A game, sure. A standalone story about a child wizard that ain’t HP? Not so much. And for mainstream authors? Even less.
    Syndication is another possibility, but given the way the market is right now, it’s not all that viable. People bitch enough about only having one book in the trilogy. One chapter of the book just won’t cut it. Beyond that, you’d still have to write the whole book first, otherwise it would be riddled with plot and continuity errors that most dedicated readers are not going to stand for. How well do you think “The Bluest Eye” would do syndicated? Not good, Syndication works with episodic or suspense works, not most novels.
    Reputation: Ain’t got one in fiction until you’ve sold a lot. Publishers grant a new author a built-in rep because readers know they’ll be above a certain level.

    The tl;dr version is that it’s easy to poke holes in the current system, but not a single person yet has come up with a workable replacement.

  138. Illinois Press Book Blog » Book Piracy
    at 3:05 pm on January 29, 2010

    [...] Link to the article/interview. [...]

  139. Basic
    at 4:24 pm on January 29, 2010

    This is so simple. The consumer has only one right. He can choose to buy, or not to buy. If he is unhappy with the price, he can choose not to buy. He has no other moral option. If he chooses to steal, there is no moral justification for it. Many of the above discussions regarding the thief’s “justifcations” are absurd. There is no justification. This is a black and white matter. Don’t try to get along with thieves or understand them or dissuade them. That’s their mothers’ job. Prosecute them.

  140. RegVictor
    at 5:15 pm on January 29, 2010

    One of the commentators above wrote, “Everyone argues that piracy is killing the music industry when studies have shown that it has very little negative effect.”

    Several musician friends find that most of the ‘recordings’ are now quickly bootlegged and circulated for free. So, no, they can’t send their kids to college on the payout from their profession. They can’t pay their mortgages, their instruments, the recording time, and so on. Can they play in clubs? Sometimes, but many of these aren’t doing so well when people stay at home listening to an overload of too much music. while the cost of making music has gone down, the time spent on the day job and in the problem of not being able to meet up with other musicians in the club takes its toll. That said, their music can circulate worldwide and I suppose they could access other such music from all around the world.

    However, there is something to be said about both used books and electronic books. I have a library of maybe 8000 or 9000 books, I’d have to say about two thirds of them came from used bookstores. That’s an awful lot of books in which neither the author nor the publisher got any money. Living in New York a few years ago, I was also able to purchase a lot of review copies and remainders. Shouldn’t there have been a way in which the publishers and authors have gotten some revenue from all of this? It would’ve been nice.

    Digital books like digital recordings of all kinds of new uses. While the “Kindle” sales people think of you reading on one of their expensive tablets, I might take what I have and convert it to an audio book (TextAloud with a good voice, say, NeoSpeech’s), research and cut and paste in unusual ways. as a confession, just as I might download music that I actually own because it’s easier, so there might be virtues in downloading electronic versions texts that I actually own. I was reading Walter Benjamin’s “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” and ironically it was simply easier to download a copy to put on my telephone than to scan it myself from my own copy – and who even knows about the legality of scanning from books one’s own for one’s own personal use?

    But yes there are some real problems on the horizons for authors. I wanted to get access to a book that had been long *out of print* and was unavailable from any of my local libraries. I suppose in the past might have done without. however this time I finally downloaded one of those archives with some 15,000 books (in a single file). Yes, they do exist. So now I could read that one book, but what am I to do with the other 14,999?

    Finally one interesting aspect about this increased availability of electronic books is this worldwide circulation. I’m already hearing of a number of stories about parts of Africa and Asia where textbooks and just interesting books for that matter are hard to come by. These are readers who want to learn, who want to contribute to global development, to their own societies, to their families, to learn themselves.. It is an outreach to some of these peoples that has been encouraging certain universities such as MIT to provide lectures for free online. Given the amount of disinformation, sexism, and cultural control around the world, what can be said about providing such ideas, text, text books, and so forth to otherwise isolated people and schools?

    As a writer, publishers barely do much anymore, and given the somewhat academic nature of my interests, I gain little revenue from my work. It’s hard to say what the longer term will bring. These days I’m expected to do a lot of the proofreading, text editing myself or to hire people myself. As with music, there is always the prospect that something will take off and become more profitable, but one can’t necessarily expect this to happen. It does seem that within the next few centuries our institutions of knowledge will be greatly transformed. In a way that the digital incunabula has just begun. It involves more than developing new hypertext standards such as might be expected looking at the first incunabula period, with its introduction of page numbers, footnotes, indices, standard fonts, and so on. That is what librarians and media historians are taught to look at. But a particularly interesting aspect of this period had to had to do with the issues of copyright, with the control of information.

    It is not surprising that the early modern period is associated with the rise of the author since we need something like an author to control the copyright. However if we have looked much at the politics of authorship or the nature of deconstruction, we find any creative work both incorporates and backgrounds a great deal of creative work and collaboration. Paintings by the great masters turn out to have been collaborative affairs, and movies by the current masters turn out to also be quite collaborative. So how do we find our audience and get paid for our hard labor while at the same time promoting global development? It’s hard to say but clearly many of the institutional arrangements currently in place ( including universities with their need to constantly raise money, and their students who may not even be that interested in learning), many of these institutional arrangements no longer work.

  141. RegVictor
    at 5:35 pm on January 29, 2010

    Black and White? above I read, “This is so simple. The consumer has only one right. He can choose to buy, or not to buy. If he is unhappy with the price, he can choose not to buy. He has no other moral option. If he chooses to steal, there is no moral justification for it. Many of the above discussions regarding the thief’s “justifcations” are absurd. There is no justification. This is a black and white matter. Don’t try to get along with thieves or understand them or dissuade them. That’s their mothers’ job. Prosecute them.”

    I hope my own submission has shown that this can be a lot more complicated. It is interesting that artists and researchers have now become simply “consumers” in this person’s worldview. As I said, many of the articles and books that I would like to read or work with are out of print or unavailable, it’s not like I’m a consumer can simply go to Amazon and say, please send me that copy of “Walter Liebenthal, The Chao Lun: The Treatises of Seng-Chao,” a fabulous collection on the coming of Madhyamika philosophy to China, with implications for those interested in the study of entangled logic (including Derrida or Godel). The first edition of 1000 (of which I have a copy), was mostly destroyed during the Chinese revolution. if I could get a copy online should I? It seems that a second edition was attempted but nothing is easily available, and certainly no library near me has a copy, even in a “Research I” university town. if my house burned down what would I do? And if another scholar wants to see some portion of this what should I do?

    and if I am a poor person in a rural isolated village of some part of Africa or South America or Asia or even North America, did make sense if I wanted to better myself, even if I don’t have very much money, even if I can barely find the money to eat, to download a book of calculus or statistics as a way to improve my education and better myself and improve the life for my family, my village, and even my country? These days, there seems to be a political agenda for those who are ready to see things in “black and white.” In truth, things rarely are black-and-white.

  142. jim
    at 8:41 pm on January 29, 2010

    I looked up Walter Liebenthal and I am fascinated – thanks for mentioning it.

    Most of the authors who have posted in this thread are barely iterate and have everything to worry about. Their comments are not well thought out and it is evident that they barely read the article. I can only assume that their other writings are similarly uninteresting and derivative. Almost none of the comments are reactions to the interview, but reactionary statements that would fit comfortably under any copyright-related article on the internet.

  143. Weekend Reads | Ditchwalk
    at 2:11 am on January 30, 2010

    [...] Confessions of a Book Pirate [...]

  144. Hercule
    at 8:43 am on January 30, 2010

    @ kirsten saell and atsiko:

    You both make good responses to my suggestions. I wouldn’t disagree with you that some of them won’t work for all authors, or that some of them would be unlikely to work at all. And you’re right, it is easy to poke holes in the current (broken) system. But I think my point is that that system is changing, and in twenty years time could be very different. The world doesn’t have to present a ‘workable replacement’ to authors before it changes; for better or worse, it’s just going to change. You (the authors) are the ones who have to work out how you’re going to adapt to that system. I’m not even saying that a future system would be better, maybe you’re correct that the quality and quantity of literature available to me would be worse. I suspect it wouldn’t be, but I can’t know that.

    Some other points: It seems to me that you’re stuck on two ideas, that a creator’s income must come from the $X purchase price of the product (as decided by the creator), and that if someone can get a (e)book for nothing, that no one wil compensate the author for it.

    I agree with neither of these things. On the first point there have been numerous creators who have released or will release their work for free (Radiohead have, Michael Moore apparently will with his next film, increasingly technical books have a free version (O’Reilly are doing this now — http://programming-scala.labs.oreilly.com/index.html)). And there are various opinions about whether creators make more or less through doing this. The point being though, that a creator can be paid for what they are doing, even when they are giving something away for free.

    As a personal example for the second point, there is an author named Bruce Eckel (www.bruceeckel.com/) who writes books about software languages and makes the entire texts available online for free at the same time as or before they are published. After reading each of his C++ volumes 1 and 2 books and his Java books online, I bought paper copies of them. I didn’t need to do this, I have no problem with reading on a PC/laptop, I did it because I felt like rewarding the author and because I’m keen for him to keep writing. I don’t even really want the physical books (they’re taking up valuable shelf space and I rarely look at the non-electronic copies), if there’d been an option of just donating to him half the cover price of the book and not getting a paper copy I’d’ve probably done that. He has stated that his income is now greater than when he didn’t give his books away (and remember that he’s in a very competitive inductry, there are hundreds of similar Java books).

    I think that you underestimate human goodness, while obviously not everyone who reads a book available to them for fee, some will feel that they should recompense the author in some way. While you may see improvements in technology as having made it esier for people to ‘steal’ from you, it may also make it easier for the ‘good’ people to pay you for your work. Our bank accounts will become more integrated into our technology, so in time it will be possible to include a link at the end of your ebook which with one click someone will be able to donate an amount of their choosing straight to the author (in a similar way to how the iPhone app store works – it’s wildly successful because buying an app is a one click process, people don’t have to go through the hassle of a bespoke payment method for each app they buy; clicking around to find the payment option, finding their credit card, entering all their details etc.).

    Some things which I would have donated money to recently, had there been a simple way to do so:

    1) Nelson Mandela’s autobiography. I bought a copy of this in a second hand book store ( = no money going to the author). 2D barcode technology is available (http://asiajin.com/blog/2008/02/18/could-2d-barcode-power-mobile-phone-in-us/) and had there been one in the back of the book, I could have taken a picture of it with my phone which would have opened the ‘payments’ program on my phone and allowed me to quickly and easily donate $10 to Nelson Mandela. (even better there would have been a few: donate to Mandela, donate to ghost writer, donate to editor, donate to a South African children’s charity (as Mandela doesn’t really need the money…)).

    2) A 2007 NY Times article (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/28/magazine/28nutritionism.t.html) which I very much enjoyed. The thing with this article is that it’s completely non-trivial for me to actually give any money to either the author, or to the NY Times. I don’t want a NY Times subscription (I’m not in the US), I don’t want to click on the adverts (I’m not interested in going on a cruise). If there were a ‘payments’ link which would with one or two clicks let me donate $1 to the NY Times and $1 to the author, I’d do it without thinking.

    Technology will make these things possible (they already are really, just not in widespread use), and will provide consumers with the ability to pay creators on their own terms. There’s no telling whether that will be a positive or negative thing, but I prefer to think it will be positive.

  145. M.L. Bushman
    at 9:45 am on January 30, 2010

    With all due respect to everyone, in reading through these comments, one could come away with the idea that there are more dishonest than honest readers in the world. I would hope this is not the case. Perhaps I’m fooling myself, and it’s a pleasant delusion to think that the number of honest intelligent people who read and are willing to part with a fair price for the privilege far outweighs the number of dishonest people who would steal anyone’s work if given half a chance.

    As comments here have pointed out, writers in a lot of cases have only a limited amount of time each to day to ply their craft. Why they would waste a third of their time chasing down pirates that amount to only a fraction of the honest consumers out there is beyond me. Unless chasing pirates is merely another form of procrastination, of which more writers than not are guilty…being an author myself, I know how tempting procrastination can be.

    As for my work, I’m betting on the people, the readers, the honest folk out there who still believe I ought to get a little something for my effort in entertaining them. I made a decision a long time to leave worry over piracy to others who seem to think pirates constitute the majority, or would, if no one did anything about them.

    I have to have faith, you see, that the world my daughter is growing up to be a part of is, and will remain, honest by and large, or I don’t know how I could continue to write, or find any sort of peace after I’m dead and gone.

  146. Industry News: 1/30/10 | RWA-WF
    at 10:40 am on January 30, 2010

    [...] interview of a book pirate isn’t going to make authors happy. Titled “Confessions of a Book Pirate,” a [...]

  147. Links from Delicious « thegimmick.com
    at 11:38 am on January 30, 2010

    [...] Confessions of a Book Pirate [...]

  148. DCA
    at 11:55 am on January 30, 2010

    What I’d like to see is a conversation about downloading ebook copies of books physically bought. For examplee, I recently bought Frank Beddor’s Archenemy for full price but would love to read it on my ereader. I went to see the price of the electronic file and could not believe it was $14.99. This was how much I paid for the paper book! This is ridiculous for a price for this.

    The argument with DVD/CDs in the past was that if you legally purchased a disk then you should be permitted to make a single electronic copy for your OWN use/archival/etc… As for this Beddor book, I am not about to buy a scanner, break the spine and spend hours editing post-ocr to read this.

    I just want to read the book I already own on my ereader.

    I’ve seen some movies now will add the electronic version when you buy it; I bet books could do this. Sure charge me a few bucks more for it if you want but it’s better than being illegal or not bothering to support authors.

  149. kirsten saell
    at 1:42 pm on January 30, 2010

    What I’d like to see is a conversation about downloading ebook copies of books physically bought. For examplee, I recently bought Frank Beddor’s Archenemy for full price but would love to read it on my ereader. I went to see the price of the electronic file and could not believe it was $14.99. This was how much I paid for the paper book! This is ridiculous for a price for this.

    Frankly, this kind of thing infuriates me. I prefer to read ebooks, especially since I bought a Sony. I live in a teeny tiny town in the middle of nowhere, and the only selection of available print books is the rack at the grocery store. I adore being able to buy a book–almost any book–from the comfort of my home while in a housecoat and yesterday’s makeup, and be reading it within minutes.

    But that ebook had damn well better be less than $10, and honestly, if it’s more than 6 bucks, I have to think long and hard about whether I want it bad enough to pay. By choosing ebooks, I’ve given up my right to resell my book when I’m done with it, or gift it to the church across the street (not that they’d be interested in the girl-on-girl(-on-guy) smut I tend to read, lol), or trade it for something I haven’t read. Ebooks not only can be priced less than print, they SHOULD be, and publisher’s who think $15 (or $25, holy crap) for an ebook is fair have clearly been smoking some powerful shit.

    My publisher earns most of its money through ebook sales. Print is a break-even undertaking for them on most titles. And somehow they manage to price their digital offerings from $2.50-$6.50, pay authors 30-40% royalty on list, and still make a profit. Any large publisher that would have you believe they need to list an ebook for more than $10 (while usually paying print-equivalent royalties to authors) is selling you a line of bullshit.

    Add in DRM, limited format choice, geographic restrictions, disabling of TTS, and delayed ebook releases, and it’s clear they’re screwing the entire business beyond recognition.

    I’m a writer, but I’m also a reader. I can’t even tell you how frustrating it is when publishers go out of their way to ensure that the most attractive and readily available way for a reader to get their hands on the book they want is through a pirate site. The product is better than identical–often the same quality, but without the headache of DRM–it’s available anywhere in the world, despite antiquated geographic rights restrictions, and the price of $0 can’t be beat.

    I do believe there are honest people out there. I have a blind friend who buys ebooks, then hunts the same books down on pirate sites because she needs the TTS that’s been disabled on the legal copy, and publishers would have her pay through the nose for an audiobook (if there is one), wait for some charity to decide the book she wants to read is “worthy” of rendering in voice or braille (which ain’t going to happen when what you like to read is heavy on erotic content), or do without. Personally, if she wanted to bypass the legal purchase, I wouldn’t blame her. If the publisher wants to let her twist in the wind, I’m fine with her returning the favor. But she’s honest and doesn’t want to deprive authors she loves of income from their books, and that does make me feel good.

    I’d like to believe, like M.L. Bushman, that people are basically honest. Unfortunately, I know that’s becoming a less sound assumption every day. The number of people who go back into the store to pay for that bag of potatoes they forgot they had on the bottom rack of their cart are few and far between.

    I don’t go pirate hunting anymore. The first time I discovered one of my (cheap, DRM-free, multi-format, TTS enabled) ebooks had been downloaded more times off one site than it had been legally purchased since its release, I decided there were things I don’t need to look at. Too freaking depressing, even if I tell myself less than half of them will actually bother reading it. The world is changing. People have a bigger sense of entitlement than ever–not just in the area of entertainment media. Which is why I don’t have a heck of a lot of faith in Hercule’s prediction that readers will feel compelled to pay me out of the goodness of their hearts.

    It’s a scary future, for sure.

  150. RegVictor
    at 2:14 pm on January 30, 2010

    Thanks you Jim.
    I couldn’t help but think some more about Basic’s comment about the problem being ‘black and white.’ We seem to live in an era where some Americans are quite quick to denounce a re-thinking of health care provision in their country as prelude to to socialism, with socialism conceived vaguely as some sort of command-and-control tyranny manifested through a bureaucratic hierarchy ( the irony being that this sounds so much like the health bureaucracy what we already have). But where else do we see such “socialism?” One answer is in our libraries. Think of that: place where *everyday people* can borrow books and other media, paid for primarily by grants and taxation, or in the case of some private university libraries, some tuition money as well!

    I wonder how many people here have been to a public library or who have taken their children to a public library? These nefarious institutions must be among the worst of socialist pandering institutions, where everyday people can get access to books that they might not otherwise have been able to afford or find, access to movies and magazines and cds. One can imagine that certain capitalists argue that libraries will put booksellers out of business, just as a public care option might put private insurers out of business!

    The yes and no perspective of ‘either you buy a book or you don’t’ fails to address such possibilities as libraries. In some ways the concept of “pirating a book” is interconnected with this issue of libraries. Should we eliminate all libraries as a way to promote competition in the intellectual marketplace? If people want old books and old magazines and old movies, shouldn’t they be willing to pay for them in the open marketplace and as they pay for them wouldn’t that bring down the price of such items, and promote their general availability in society? If someone wants an old work of Chinese philosophy or a Portuguese Cookbook, they should pay for it so that the market will reward those creators of these works or their estate.

    Shouldn’t we close down all libraries, and let the market decide what’s valuable and toward those who provide those works? shouldn’t we close down the libraries at Oxford, Harvard, the New York public Library, the Bibliothèque nationale de France, the British Library, and of course that Library of Congress, to allow the market to work? Shouldn’t we close down all libraries in all universities and associated with all municipalities, states, and nations? If not, why not? Think of that: in Washington, the poor Barnes & Noble or Borders has to compete with the government subsidized Library of Congress. Anyone who takes the ‘public option’ of the public library is taking money away from hardworking corporations.

    Likewise, those of you who are willing to buy books at “used bookstores” (!) are already engaged in a practice that denies the author and the publisher compensation for the privilege of reading and engaging their creative labor. Shouldn’t this also changed? If you are an author who finds one of his or her books at such a ‘piracy mart,’ these used book stores, shouldn’t you call the police and close them down? Just because your book was sold once doesn’t mean that it should then be used to allow others to profit from your work without your participation or remuneration! If only socialists support libraries, only thieves can support “used book stores.” You say that if you buy a car, then you can resell it without paying the original maker? Bah, we should put all these horrid used booksellers in jail or at least take away all the profits they have ever made for their larcenous behavior! Black and white, that is the nature of truth.

    Personally, I believe that we need think about developing global libraries, and I think we see a yearning for knowledge and self-betterment around the world. (For that statement I had better write with a pseudonym). As I stated above I have some fairly rare books which in a different world I would be willing to share with scholars who could use them because I think they’re important, and I would like their author’s to get some remuneration and acclaim. I would like to craft new ways to make even everyday books available to the poor people of the planet in the same way that we make books and other such media available to people through libraries.

    Who would be one of the worst of those terrible socialists who promoted public libraries? Andrew Carnegie of course, the self-made entrepreneur who founded what would become US steel, and to set up libraries across the United States, a traitor to his class. Think of the importance that access to libraries have had to see creative life of the United States, even to the sense of self-reliance, to the development of new ideas and new products, to the widening of horizons in the development of a new sense of self worth. Can those benefits ever outweigh the black and white principles of the free market? Doubtful.

    In a way where you have to develop this concept of the global library and find ways to address paying authors and creators for their work properly. It’ll have to be part of this emerging model of intellectual property. institutions like netlibrary are beginning to develop this idea, but I am still amazed at how expensive articles from, say JSTOR when someone independent of institution is trying to do basic research. $30 to access a single article in a Springer-Verlag website that you may or may not even mean. I am sure that most of the $30 goes to the original researcher that produced that article, or to the software upkeep.

    Yet things could be different, and those of us with vision could create a global library framework, something a bit different from Project Gutenberg, and even update the resale market. In California and some other places, artists can actually have some rights to their pieces even if the have been sold – residual or resale royalties. These in turn can trace back at least to the droit de suite originating in France around 1900 where stories of impoverished artists and their heirs led to new ways of capturing the income made from their work.

    Consider another situation. While not everyone is aware of this, in buying a work of “fine art” in the US and many other places, one actually does not actually own the reproduction rights. So even if you buy an expensive piece of art which has been hanging on your walls for 20 years as you have been writing, and you now want to use it in a book cover now that you have finished that novel, you don’t actually have the right to reproduce it, except within certain contexts of fair use – that right * remains with the artist * or their heirs. Even though you bought the piece. There are the historically connected contexts to, for example, musical intellectual property. As most of you must know, it is the writer of the song not the musician playing who gets the broadcast royalties ( when a radio program plays Jimi Hendrix doing “All Along the Watchtower,” it is the Bob Dylan estate that gets the royalties.

    Simply put, intellectual property systems evolve, are different from material property rights where things are not copied/transferred/resold as easily. Simply to promote a draconian ‘black or white’ will be to drive the flow in new ways, not all of which will help the creative producers (and production is still generally a collective – who were your teachers?). Otherwise, are you ready to join me in closing down these public option libraries and the piratical used bookstores?

  151. atsiko
    at 2:30 pm on January 30, 2010

    You’ve missed my point entirely. Libraries and used bookstores are wonderful institutions. I’ve used both. They are quite different from digital piracy because they involve one single copy of a book, make no new copies, and the people who use them contain an infinitely larger percent of people who also buy new books than e-piracy sites do. Further, they contain a huge amount of out-of-print and public domain works, which no one is going to be getting to even be _able_ to buy. Piracy runs mostly to new books in print and protected by copyright, and it allows an infinite number of people to not pay for the book. Mostly people who are _never_ going to pay for the book.

    Also, from your post: “paid for primarily by grants and taxation” The first two words there are key.

    And, for the record, I support public healthcare.

  152. kirsten saell
    at 4:23 pm on January 30, 2010

    Agreed, Atsiko. A print copy of my first book is making the rounds of the hockey moms in town, and though I’d certainly be happier if they all bought their own copy and put a few more dollars in my pocket, I at least know they can’t all read it at one time, can’t simultaneously share it with every boy and his dog across Canada, the US and overseas, and that eventually that copy will wear out and have to be repurchased–or no longer be shared–if the owner feels it’s a keeper.

    I buy used books. Used books do not deny authors and publishers compensation for their work. They were paid for that copy, no other copies were made, and when that book falls apart, someone will have to pay to replace it with a new one (if it’s available). Authors who resent the used book market annoy me to no end, both as a reader and a writer. It’s quite seldom I will lay down top dollar for an author I’ve never tried before, but I’ll buy a used copy, or borrow from a friend, and when I decide I like that author, I’ll purchase new from that point on. Used books and libraries support literacy, encourage readers to try new authors and genres and their impact on new book sales is finite.

    The impact of piracy on book sales is potentially infinite. The reality is, all it takes is for one person to purchase a legal copy of my ebook (putting about $2 in my pocket), then upload it, and every single person in the world who wanted to read it could do so without any more money coming to me or my publisher. And they can do it for virtually zero effort, virtually zero risk and virtually zero cost. This isn’t like the old days of bootlegged movies that had to be filmed in-theater without getting caught, then copied onto VHS tapes at considerable time and expense, then sold on the street by actual physical human beings who risked arrest and prosecution. This isn’t a case of someone photocopying a book page by page, stapling it together and selling it (or giving it away) out of the trunk of their car. $4.50 and a few clicks, and you can make that book available to every single person with an internet connection at almost no personal risk at all. And think you’re a hero for doing it.

    Piracy has always been a problem, but it’s become so easy to do now, so low-risk and cost-neutral, that it’s no wonder authors are scared witless.

  153. warsystems » Confessions of a Book Pirate
    at 6:05 pm on January 30, 2010

    [...] The Millions: Confessions of a Book Pirate Do you have a sense of where these books are coming from and who is putting them online? [...]

  154. My media week 31/01/10 « Molivam42’s Weblog
    at 6:11 pm on January 30, 2010

    [...] For several years, it seemed as though the book industry was getting a reprieve. As the music industry was ravaged by file sharing, and the film and TV industry were increasingly targeted by downloaders, book piracy was but a quaint cul de sac in the vast file sharing ecology. The tide, however, may be changing. Ereaders have become mainstream, making reading ebooks palatable to many more readers. Meanwhile, technology for scanning physical books and breaking the DRM on ebooks has continued to advance. Here is the article: Confessions of a Book Pirate. [...]

  155. WintermuteTO
    at 6:40 am on January 31, 2010

    What if the author is is no longer in the physical realm? Is there a royalty clearinghouse in the hereafter? What if the book is out of print and the publishing company no longer exists?

  156. James
    at 12:04 pm on January 31, 2010

    DRM on ebooks is pointless – you can put an ebook reader on a scanner and OCR the perfectly rendered text.

  157. Rochelle Weber
    at 1:02 pm on January 31, 2010

    Not all of the books people are ripping off come from large publishing companies. I write e-books and I don’t know any millionaires among the publishers or authors with whom I chat when trying to market my books. I certainly have not made enough money to get off of disability, and as another author stated, when you rip my book, I get no credit or royalties for a sale for that copy.

    Yes, as a fairly new author, I do give away copies of my books, but I have to pay my publisher for those copies. I get about ten copies for promotional purposes, but the copies I gave to my family and friends were copies I paid for. So those of us in the e-book industry do, indeed, suffer when you rip us off. We do not have the disposable income of Steven king or the profit margin of Baen Books. We try to find pirate sites and take them down, but they pop up again elsewhere. It is extremely frustrating for those of us in the industry. We’re not all faceless corporate giants.

  158. Suramya’s Blog » Books & Piracy. Yes, this is another post about it
    at 3:50 pm on January 31, 2010

    [...] couple of days ago I saw this article called Confessions of a Book Pirate. Check it out, its a really good read on what makes a book pirate [...]

  159. Reality Check
    at 6:25 pm on January 31, 2010

    Let’s be truthful here. We need to understand and see across the fence to both sides, at least in terms of e-books.

    An e-book author (one published with an e-book house, not a print house) usually does not receive an advance. If they do, it is a very small advance (probably about half of what you make a week at a brick and mortar job). An e-book author is paid a specific percentage from the sell of a book. Considering most books I’ve written sell for an average of $5, I’m earning pennies on the dollar. If there is an advance, then the author must pay back that advance from royalties earned before seeing any profit. In other words, if you’re advanced $50, they will take the first $50 you earn. From whatever money is left after that, we pay for website upkeep, advertising, giveaways, etc. If we make any more than that, and we haven’t been hospitalized from the shock, the money is put into the household or, if we’re lucky, into a retirement fund. To be honest I’m lucky if I have .50 left from a royalty payment, so household or retirement funds rarely see my earnings.

    The basic point is, e-book authors are paid per sale. We are not all Nora Roberts or Stephen King. We don’t make hundreds of thousands of dollars in advances. We only earn when you buy. That means we only earn if we get a fan who purchases a copy. We are not a big corporation spitting out volumes of paper and grubbing up money in our greedy hands. We count on readers, people like you, to help to support us by purchasing our work and allowing us to have royalties. Yes, we writers are dependent on you. Just you. Without you we couldn’t earn spit. Without you reading and enjoying we wouldn’t have the joy of knowing our work is appreciated by someone. We need you.

    As a reader, I can understand the frustration of looking at a high priced book (when did it all get so out of control) and turning to cheaper alternatives. I frequent my local used book store. The librarians know me by sight and even call me at home to let me know when one of the often obscure books I have requested has come in. These are all great ways to read an authors work without doing anything that might be considered illegal. Would I love to read the latest and greatest by Stephen King? Heck yes! But I give it about three to six months, then call the used book store. It’s usually there at a significantly reduced price.

    As a reader, I try to keep in mind that the author needs me, yes, but that I also need the author. I’m a book addict. I need my producers and dealers to keep pumping out the good stuff. If I undermine the faith the author is putting in me, then eventually the author is going to say “never mind”. Sure, they’ll still write. As a writer I know I can’t seem to stop. However, their production will slow to a crawl, and instead of a release once a year I’ll be lucky to see something once every two years. I know this because, as a writer, I’ve experienced it myself.

    As a customer I don’t like DRM. I don’t agree with it. Frankly, all it does is keep people who honestly purchased something from making legal back-up copies when they need to. It takes hackers all of thirty minutes to create a hack to cut through the DRM. You’re only hurting the legal customer with this, imho.

    Copyright law is a fact of life, and at its heart is a good law. I don’t stand with allowing copyright to go into perpetuity, though. There does need to be a legal, set amount of years that a copyright is in place. After that these things should be in the public domain because by that time the creator is either earning more money from other projects, has invested his money (hopefully) wisely, and/or has passed away. No need for copyright to go on for two hundred years. That’s crazy.

    But I don’t like illegal downloading, either. As a writer, it feels like someone has walked into my place of work and ripped a paycheck right out of my hands…with half the people outside cheering him/her on. I don’t write to be rich. That would be ludicrous. I do, however, have the right to earn royalties on something I’ve spent a year or more creating. You’ve trusted that consumer to purchase your book, enjoy it, and tell people about it. They break that trust when they post it up where literally millions of people can grab it without bothering to pay, thus depriving you of royalties. I dare say if you’ve ever had a job where you came up with a terrific idea that the boss(es) loved, but another co-worker took credit for it and spread the idea around without giving you credit, you were (or would be) extremely upset. It was your idea, your shining moment, and it was taken from you. And what if that bonus went to the co-worker’s check and not your own because of it? Wouldn’t you be even more upset?

    Do I mind if you make one copy of my book as a back-up? No, I don’t. But if you put up a copy for thousands more to download, that’s along the lines of taking a paperback and making thousands of copies on a Xerox, then standing on the street corner and giving those copies away. Sure, you own one copy, but it’s not the copy you legally own that you’re handing out.

    You say you want to sample my work before shelling out $5? I totally understand that. I’ve sat in bookstores and read a chapter or two of a book before I decided if I like the author or not. That’s why I have several free reads on my website, a free newsletter published quarterly and sent via e-mail which has on-going and short stories in it, plus I have contests where I give away copies of my e-books. These should give you an excellent idea of what my work is like and whether you want to spend your money or not. I’ve even been known to give a copy of one of my books to a reader who e-mails asking about a specific book they can’t find. These are all excellent alternatives to pirating my little e-book.

    What we have to do is have open, honest discussions. No justification on either end. We, as writers, want to give you, the consumers, what you want. We, the consumers, want to enjoy what you, the writers, have created. Taking a book and putting it up and saying, “I’m sharing” is justifying, especially with an e-book author. Putting too many restrictions on e-books that hamper a consumer from using their property (and one copy of an e-book should be the customer’s property once it’s paid for) will only cause harm. There has to be a middle ground, where authors can earn and customers enjoy.

  160. kirsten saell
    at 6:50 pm on January 31, 2010

    There really does need to be a middle ground.

    Me, my books have earned me some money. After four releases since early 2008, I’ve earned in royalties what I could have expected to receive in decent advance on a two-book deal from a small traditional press–and I have the added comfort of knowing my books will only go out of print if they stop selling entirely. Every release sees a bump in sales for my backlist, so the effect is cumulative. If an author published through a big NY house is the hare, I’m hoping to be the tortoise.

    But it’s still not going to ever be a ton of money.

    I agree that NY publishers clinging to DRM, restricting TTS, and engaging in some pretty freaking insane overpricing (because even they don’t know how much ebooks cost to produce–the cost of ebooks is rolled into the P&L for the print version, but no one is going to believe an ebook costs the same to produce as a hardback, ffs) punish honest consumers for obeying the law and doing the right thing. NY publishers have mishandled ebooks from the get-go–both with consumers and authors (who make pretty pathetic royalties on them. 20% of net? You’ve got to be kidding me). They’ve managed to shaft authors, piss off readers (sell a book with no cover image or back cover blurb? How hard is it to put the damn cover in there?) and stymie the growth of a sector of the industry that could be earning them huge profits if they’d only let it.

    But my publisher does none of these things. They pay me fairly, they charge customers a reasonable price, and they don’t hamper their products with DRM. They don’t saddle their ebooks with geographic restrictions, they keep them “in print” and legally available to readers indefinitely, and TTS is enabled on every single title. They’ve done everything right, and their books are still pirated. And for those books, from those publishers, there is no justification for pirating. None at all.

    The only “justification” I’ll accept is “I want to you to work for nothing for my benefit.” It’s a kick in the ass, but hey, at least it’s honest…

  161. Motivation Monday | Solelyfictional
    at 5:21 am on February 1, 2010

    [...] Stacy Boyd linked to two interesting article on Piracy recently, Confessions of a Book Pirate, and an article about Amazon’s supposed exclusive deal with Coelho that talks about his own [...]

  162. Scath
    at 2:32 pm on February 1, 2010

    Rochelle Weber:

    Wait. Your publisher is making you pay for copies of *your* ebooks?

    You have got to be kidding me.

    There is absolutely no reason in the world for a digital publisher to charge his/her authors for copies of their own ebooks.

    If your publisher is charging you for those, you need to dump him/her. That’s ridiculous.

    Alex Bowles: RE: Creative Commons

    Yeah, not exactly…but close. ;)

    I suppose I’ll have to just come up with a succintly worded copyright statement of my own that covers usage allowed. I hate trying to write that sort of thing. =(

    I should note, I have no desire nor intention of ever being anything other than an independent author.

    Traditional publishing isn’t for me, for several reasons.

  163. Friday Links: Lady Gaga, iPads, and Super Bowl Ads, oh my! | Inside the Nerdery
    at 3:48 pm on February 1, 2010

    [...] Confessions of a Book Pirate. [...]

  164. Some Links About Ebooks
    at 7:51 pm on February 1, 2010

    [...] The Confessions of a Book Pirate piece at The Millions has spawned over 150 comments.  Many of them are well worth your time.  Others are sub-literate.  The two sides of the debate seem to be “ebooks aren’t worth much so why should I pay” with “you’re stealing my books!”  It’s a lot of fun to sift through all that noise. [...]

  165. Angela
    at 12:27 am on February 2, 2010

    I haven’t read all the comments above, so I apologize if others have already made similar remarks. I have just recently become a book pirate – very recently, less than a week. I have downloaded several dozen books, read parts of about half of them so far, and then purchased ebook copies of 4 of those. The rest I didn’t like and deleted from my PC. I have uploaded none of them for copying by others, and have no intention of doing so at this point. Those 4 ebooks I bought were from authors I had never even heard of before finding and downloading their books online. I am not a big-name author reader, but read obscure genres that will never be carried by my small town library, or those that lend to it – I know, I’ve looked.

    I would never, ever, ever have gambled on purchasing any of the ebooks I pirated, sight unseen, because I have been badly burned in the past by so much writing that is absolute dreck. When only 1 in 10 ebooks one purchases are quality writing, one quickly stops taking the risk, particularly with new authors. Like I mentioned above, I only read parts of most of what I downloaded, because it only took a chapter or so to realize what I was reading was crap in most cases. Small presses have brought a few really great writers to the forefront of my genres, but they have also introduced many more really poor ones. The problem being, of course, that I can’t tell which is which before I give the publisher my $6 or $7 dollars. So pre-piracy I had gotten to where I purchased maybe 2 ebooks a month, and only then at the recommendation of trusted friends. Now I have purchased 4 in less than a week, because I was able to assure myself of a quality read thanks to checking out pirated copies first. To authors who say their royalties have fallen way off with the rise in piracy, I say maybe a big part of that is that you are not a good writer. You used to get money from people taking a chance on you, and now that many readers don’t have to roll the dice, you don’t get that windfall anymore.

    So, I have given money to 4 authors that I never would have without piracy, and know that number will increase. I will continue to take advantage of the opportunity to read before I buy for as long as I can. I will continue to give my financial support to talented writers as I find them, but will not feel guilty that I am no longer wasting money on those who write drivel.

  166. Scath
    at 10:08 am on February 2, 2010

    Angela:

    Just a question: have you checked out authors’ web sites to see if they have freebies posted or available for download?

    Did it occur to you to do that?

    Not judging, just curious. Freebies are pretty standard fare on authors’ sites, and I’m wondering about the effectiveness of offering them. :)

  167. RegVictor
    at 12:23 pm on February 2, 2010

    We now have three competing major DRM systems, and the public domain. Apple’s new iPad has a proprietary system different from Amazon’s kindle, and many library’s Acrobat Digital Editions. I am amazed that if I download a public domain title such as Whitman’s Song of Myself, I may or may not be able to put it on one of these new proprietary reading devices. Amazon says that it doesn’t want to confuse the ‘consumer’ but sometimes the consumer is often perplexed by the corporate offerings.

    Suppose I want an early version of that poem, perhaps to contrast it with a later version. The different editions are clear enough on the public domain sites, but what about the new proprietary sites? The “Kindle version” http://www.amazon.com/Song-of-Myself-ebook/dp/B002ZFGJYY (lists at $ 2.99 but Amazon/Kindle has a deal at $1.99) turns out *not* to be any known edition, but an edition compiled with variations chosen by Stephen Mitchell. Sure you can start reading ‘Song of Myself’ in a minute after paying to $1.99, or you can simply download the version for free in less, and know what version you have (I did so, and sent a reading copy to my phone via mobireader, and made a audiobook version of it as well, which I also sent to my phone).

    As we read the Amazon/Kindle corporation is still refusing to sell any MacMillan Books (eg. MacMillan, Farrar Straus Giroux, W.H Freeman, Bedford St. Martins, Picador, Palgrave, Henry Holt, Tor/Forge, Faber & Faber, etc.) although an announced settlement has already been announced. Macmillan’s idea is to put the ebook high enough (e.g., $US 14.99 for a new ebook) so that it doesn’t undermine the traditional paper book trade and its traditional profit margins (no offense implied). Amazon wants to keep the price low enough to pay for its investment in its proprietary reader system. Both have their models as to how to keep themselves solvent long term. Business week is reporting today that other corp. publishers like Pearson Plc’s Penguin, Bertelsmann AG’s Random House, News Corp.’s HarperCollins, CBS Corp.’s Simon & Schuster, Hachette Book Group are pushing to raise their prices: Amazon’s stock dropped 5.2% on Feb 1st, and much larger amount since the beginning of the year. And apparently Kindle buyers are starting to think they got ripped off, according to some websites, since they thought paying the larger price of the device up from would allow them to get access to e-books at a much more reasonable price. “But if E-books cost as much as the hard copy I buy at Costco then no thank you,” writes one blogger.

    While some sites report that the publishers feel good about raising their prices as much as 50% because of “new competition” from the iPad, this Apple product has its own DRM, so that if you buy a book for your iPad, you’ll have to buy it again (@ US$ 14.99?), To put it on your non-Apple telephone, have to maybe download it from some pirate site anyway if you want to process it in any way, such as creating audio book out of it (since the corporations are presumably hoping that the audio book will be yet another revenue stream). While I like reading the book, sometimes I’ll want to copy portions of it out for other texts that I am writing. And this would really want to be walking around with an expensive Apple device? As I said before, I like having a multipurpose telephone where I can read all kinds of texts, and stuff it in my pants if I’m off to the gym (where I can listen to it as an MP3 player, including audio books I might have created).

    Some are predicting the demise of this brand of publishing house, which brings us back to the issue will of pirate spaces. Remember that you don’t entirely own the e-book that you have purchased in the sense that you can’t necessarily resell it to a used bookstore, right? In some ways the major publishers must be thrilled at the prospect of e-books, particularly if they can eliminate the used book market that they don’t profit from. Some of the websites I have seen over the last couple days have suggested that the authors themselves are beginning to wonder to what extent the publishers have their interests at heart – but we need them because they help promote books in their way, serve as gatekeepers for a particular collective group quality and identity, and so on. It is interesting how many of these bloggers are now threatening to download the books from pirate/’public library’ sites. Will these spaces have some impact on these ereader wars?

  168. What You Steal | Ditchwalk
    at 1:14 pm on February 2, 2010

    [...] week I read a post on The Millions called Confessions of a Book Pirate. On the subject of piracy the confessor had this to say: In truth, I think it is clear that [...]

  169. Bob Fingerman
    at 6:35 pm on February 2, 2010

    As an author who’s had his work pirated, I write from some personal knowledge of what it’s like to lose sales and revue from piracy. It’s very much like the Metallica vs. Napster imbroglio. “Fans” came down on Metallica for taking Napster to court, winging about Metallica being greedy millionaires who just wanted more money. They failed to see how the principle of stealing from Metallica trickled down to stealing from little bands for whom every sale counted. Same goes for authors of books.

    Most authors/bands/artists don’t sell Stephen King numbers, so every sale (and inversely every theft) counts. One of my comic series was put of torrent sites and I saw that there were approximately 1500 DLs of the comic. I’m not saying each DL would have translated to a sale, but if even 10% did that would have been a significant amount given the numbers the books were selling. Some kind of detente needs to be reached between the pirates, the downloaders and creators of pirated material or it will become impossible to continue to create work and even hope to make a living.

    I don’t think most people who download copyrighted material are malicious. They’re doing it because it’s expedient and fun, without thinking about hurting the creators whose work they’re stealing. But this isn’t a Utopian world where everything can or should be free. You can’t download a place to live when you don’t have the rent money.

  170. Bob Fingerman
    at 6:38 pm on February 2, 2010

    Typed in haste and because there’s not edit function, I meant whining, not winging. Excuse that and the other typos.

  171. Katie-o
    at 8:02 pm on February 2, 2010

    Very few consumers really care about what a given product is worth in terms of production cost – that’s why we have Walmart, and on the other side, fine art. Products are worth what consumers will pay for them. If consumers don’t want to buy ebooks, they won’t (and I don’t just mean that they’ll download them instead – they simply might not buy them, the way I don’t buy every book I get a passing urge to read); publishers can figure out new ways to encrypt files, but pirates will script new programs to crack them. I’m not saying that means it’s legal or even right, but it’s the way things are.

    And it really does no one any good when people act like chickens with their heads cut off. People have been bootlegging music for decades, and have been doing it in greater numbers since the internet really got going, which was actually quite a while ago – and the recording industry is not dead. People have also been taping movies and shows off the tv for a long time, and that industry is still going as well. In fact, I’d say that going halfway by hosting episodes on their sites and on Hulu has probably helped, given that they’re still doing it.

    I think it’s important to remember that there are many people who host their work online for free: fanfiction writers and webcomic artists. As a writer and reader of fanfiction, I am immediately put off the side of anyone who attempts to label piracy as theft and equate it to shoplifting, as there are numerous authors who claim that fanfiction is theft and equal to shoplifting when it is clearly not. Anyway. Fanfiction writers do not have the choice to make writing their full-time job (or even accept donations), and many of them still produce enormous amounts of writing, which would seem to explode the idea that nobody would ever write anything if they weren’t getting paid. It is also not that difficult to sort through the masses of terrible fanfiction and find the gems, keep track of good authors, and give yourself publicity on the right communities. Webcomic writers/artists do have the option to earn money off of their work, and many of them do, despite offering their archives entirely for free. A surprising amount of them even manage to do it as a full time job. A select few do extremely well. They make the money through donations and print copies; the reason it works is that readers feel much closer to the writer/artist and the effect on the creator is more obvious to them.

    I’m not saying that all ebooks should be free, that there are no problems with the fanfiction or webcomic models, or anything ridiculous like that. I’m just pointing out that people who really want to produce creative work will do it regardless of whether or not it can be done as a business on its own, and that there are a lot of people who are currently working a job as well as writing (and some are also working on original fiction to sell at the same time). Ebook piracy is not the end of the world, and it’s not the clear-cut, black-and-white issue some of you would like it to be.

    (Sorry about the tl;dr.)

  172. Katie-o
    at 8:08 pm on February 2, 2010

    @Scath:

    “Just a question: have you checked out authors’ web sites to see if they have freebies posted or available for download?

    Did it occur to you to do that?

    Not judging, just curious. Freebies are pretty standard fare on authors’ sites, and I’m wondering about the effectiveness of offering them.”

    I’m not in the habit of downloading pirated copies of anything to “test” them, but if I were – the author freebies I have seen are just not long enough for me to tell anything about the book. When I buy a book in hard copy, I flip through many different sections in order to get an idea of where it’s going and whether or not I like that. I don’t want to just see the first chapter.

  173. Scath
    at 2:02 am on February 3, 2010

    Katie-o:

    Thanks for responding. :)

    The only site I know of where the author/publisher can set how much of a book can be sampled is Smashwords, and even then, you can’t pick portions of or certain chapters to show. Just from beginning to whatever percentage.

    What would you consider long enough of a freebie to give you an idea of whether or not you’d buy/keep an eye on an author’s books?

    Something like a 10k short story? Or a 30k novella?

    I think the shortness of freebies/samples is a matter of ‘earning’.

    Meaning, authors trying to sell books A) don’t want to have too much of the books they’re trying to sell freely available and B) don’t want to spend too much time writing freebies, since they won’t be seeing a financial return on them (they’d rather be working on the next novel that they will be selling, in other words).

    That’s just my opinion there.

    My freebies were ideas that popped up, or that someone asked me to write, until recently.

  174. Scath
    at 2:04 am on February 3, 2010

    Me: “B) don’t want to spend too much time writing freebies, since they won’t be seeing a financial return on them…”

    Eh, meaning a direct from those financial return. Obviously, if they’re any good, they’ll attract a possible new reader who will purchase the for sale titles.

  175. Scath
    at 2:46 am on February 3, 2010

    This is my personal opinion, based on this discussion:

    The biggest issue with the situation is that those who download pirated copies don’t really believe that they’re harming authors’ incomes, and authors claiming that *every* download is a lost sale.

    Until someone can produce some hard statistics to prove their claim true, there’s not any common ground between the two groups.

    Authors can say they’re losing income, but until one actually loses their publishing deal because more people downloaded than purchased, it’s a nebulous argument.

    Personally, I still maintain that the majority of those who download have no intention of paying for anything they can get for free.

    While I do understand the point about sales ensuring future book contracts for the traditionally published, I think the only option those authors have is to send take down notices in every single instance they become aware their books are being pirated.

    Which I suspect will only lead to more of the same as word gets around.

    On one hand, the whole issue is currently moot anyway, since by law, piracy is illegal. Obviously, that doesn’t stop anyone from doing it.

    I guess the most obvious answer is to focus on the download sites/file sharing networks where it goes on, rather than the individuals actively participating in it.

    A never ending battle either way. Take one down, a dozen others will pop up in its place.

    In short, that which has been stated in nicer terms by others above:

    Authors are screwed.

    Not just authors, but anyone who creates something that can find its way online in some fashion or another.

    So instead of bitching about it, start working on building a network of people/readers who will buy or donate so that you can continue earning from your work, regardless of piracy.

    Independents can experiment in that area. Not sure what the traditionally published can do, with publishers to answer to.

    Other than withhold digital rights and not release ebooks at all.

    Which really won’t solve their problem with piracy as long as there are people willing to spend the time scanning print books, like the guy in the interview.

  176. Katie-o
    at 10:51 am on February 3, 2010

    Re: freebies – I wasn’t saying that authors *should* offer more, just as I wasn’t saying that they *should* price ebooks lower. I’m giving an opinion as a consumer, the way I would in a survey sent out by a store I went to. If I tell Trader Joe’s that I wish they had wider aisles and a better line system, I don’t have to squash that opinion because their store is on 14th St in Manhattan and there’s no room for them to expand, and they aren’t obligated to buy more space just because many of their customers feel that way. And I’ll put up with the lack of space and long lines because there are other things I do like there. It’s not a zero-sum game.

    I’m a bit confused as to why you admit that there’s no proof that authors are losing sales, but still think they’re “screwed”.

    All downloaders are not the same. Some people will only download things they literally cannot get IRL – out of print books, vinyl records for obscure bands, tv shows from other countries, etc. Some people will only download DRM’d music, books, and movies (and claiming that they’re lying when they say they’d buy them without DRM makes some of the people in this thread sound incredibly silly). Some people only download bestsellers and blockbusters because JKRowling/Stephenie Meyer/James Cameron doesn’t need the money. The reason everyone hates the RIAA is because they treat one-time downloaders as though they’re the same as all pirates. Unless you’ve done a major study of pirates – infiltrating them, paying attention to what they say – you simply do not know that “the majority of those who download have no intention of paying for anything they can get for free”.

    I think it would be worthwhile for e-authors to look at webcomics that earn money (studiofoglio.com, pennyarcade.com, achewood.com, qwantz.com, sluggy.com, somethingpositive.com) and fanfiction communities. Both involve a lot of creator/fan interaction – fanfiction authors in the middle of long novels can post shorts and drabbles, sometimes to their fans’ prompts, which helps build up a sense of goodwill and rapport. Fans who feel close to the author might feel guiltier about downloading and crack down on it themselves. A lot of webcomics have donation buttons attached to a graphic that shows how close to a goal the donations have come, with an extra update when the goal is reached, or give a gift (usually a wallpaper) with each donation for any amount. An author could do that, making a short story available to everyone once a certain amount had been paid, or giving a snippet of the next novel to anyone who donates. Merchandise is also important to webcomics, but surely an author could work out a contract with an artist for an image to be used in a cafepress store. Surely some of this could be used to supplement ebook sales and make up for piracy.

    One more webcomic-money-related link:
    http://ask.metafilter.com/42814/Do-webcomics-make-money-If-so-how

  177. The Only Post on Piracy I’ll Ever Make
    at 11:02 am on February 3, 2010

    [...] since the Confessions of a Book Pirate post hit the web, I am having the hardest time keeping my mouth shut. So just this once, in our [...]

  178. Bookmarks – “Rogue” edition: Palin buys her own book, an e-book pirate confesses, Rip Torn beats up Norman Mailer, and more | Quill & Quire
    at 11:55 am on February 3, 2010

    [...] An e-book pirate confesses [...]

  179. Scath
    at 2:18 pm on February 3, 2010

    Katie-O:

    Many authors are experimenting with, or even begin with web fiction, with the donation options, offering something special when a certain amount’s been reached, etcetera that you mentioned.

    I began experimenting with it myself last month; also with a paid subscription site, and now with a few other things, just to see what might work best for me personally in the long run.

    I have no plans of ever fully earning a living from writing. I’d just like to find something that worked that might grow into enough that I can fund my own reading needs. I’d really love an ereader, for example. :)

    Here’s a comment I received via email today:

    “People just like to figure out ways to beat the system and get stuff for free, but they don’t think about the people who suffer because of it like the writers and so on. They just don’t care about anyone but themselves anymore. It’s really sad.”

    It’s from someone who is your average reader, not an author. Someone who doesn’t buy ebooks, but chooses to hit bookstores to feed her reading addiction. :)

    When I see that kind of response from people who don’t write, yet do read/buy books quite a bit, that’s why I maintain my personal opinion that the *majority* of those who download have no intention of paying for something they could get for free.

    Those who just dip into downloading (casual downloaders) wouldn’t be in that majority, and I wasn’t attempting to imply that they are.

    It isn’t authors/publishers’ fault that ‘people are basically good/honest’ is turning into ‘given the chance, people will be jerks’.

    I’m old fashioned and think people are honest and good until they prove me wrong.

    Sometimes, I think I’m terribly naive to do so.

    As for the ‘authors are screwed’ opinion I stated, it seems obvious to me that whatever does pan out in the future, since piracy isn’t going to go away and seems certain to only grow in popularity, will likely mean authors/creators will have even less chances to earn than they do now.

    For example, someone up above pointed out that authors who deal strictly in ebooks don’t get paid if their ebooks aren’t purchased. They’re right.

    I don’t earn jack if my ebooks don’t sell. I don’t receive advances, and in a couple of cases, I was out a few hundred dollars for editing expenses even before releasing the ebooks.

    Fortunately, a few people do seem to enjoy my writing, so I have some sales every month. I consider myself lucky that this is the case! :)

    Traditionally published authors above have pointed out that not showing sales can harm their chances for continuing to be published.

    Alex, I think it was, said something about keeping track of downloads to show that there’s an audience for a particular author.

    Devil’s Advocate:

    What’s the point of doing that? A traditional publisher’s not really going to be impressed that you have 10k downloads by people who wanted to read but didn’t want to pay for your book.

    They want to see sales, how many copies it sold at Amazon or B&N.

    /end Devil’s Advocate

    I’m not really sure using fan fiction as a comparison works beyond the ‘gaining an audience’ or ‘creatives will create no matter what’ points.

    There isn’t supposed to be a financial gain for fan fic authors – not that you said there was, just pointing that out. The characters and worlds aren’t their creations, with the exception of O/Cs. Only the story is, if it’s not a re-written storyline from canon.

    I ‘practiced’ by writing fan fiction for a year before getting serious about writing original fiction, so I’m not a fan fic hater and have read quite a bit of it.

    Marvel fan fic anyway, since they’re okay with it. Even have a place on their forums for it! I think it’s really a good way to practice/hone writing skills and just flat out have fun with characters who’ve captured your heart/imagination.

    But a lot of it is horrible, horrible crap (including some of mine!), just on technical aspects alone (spelling, punctuation, so on).

    Yes, I know that I probably have a billion typos/mistakes in my comments here. That’s why I pay someone to edit my stories! :)

    Hypothetical situation:

    If my ebooks suddenly stop selling completely, and they’re just as suddenly all over the file sharing networks and being downloaded by people, then I’d think it safe to say piracy was affecting my ability to earn from my work.

    Right?

    If that happened, I could no longer afford to pay my editor.

    I’d have two choices: A) depend on my own poor editing skills and release them not as up to par technically as they could be, or B) give up writing/releasing anything new, because what’s the point?

    I’d still write, yeah. But I wouldn’t be putting any of it online after something like that happening.

    Some who’ve read my stuff might think that a good thing. ;)

    If there was a huge jump in my ebook sales, and I became aware that they were on file sharing networks and being downloaded a lot, it would be safe to say that piracy was boosting my ability to earn from my work.

    Some authors are apparently seeing the first effect, others the second when their books are pirated, but there’s no hard data either way for *us* to use to draw any sort of conclusion.

    RE: freebies

    You said: “Re: freebies – I wasn’t saying that authors *should* offer more, just as I wasn’t saying that they *should* price ebooks lower. I’m giving an opinion as a consumer, the way I would in a survey sent out by a store I went to.”

    I didn’t say you said either, and was asking your opinion on both. :)

  180. Scath
    at 2:25 pm on February 3, 2010

    Katie-O: “I’m a bit confused as to why you admit that there’s no proof that authors are losing sales, but still think they’re “screwed”.”

    I fumbled that one. I do that here and there. :)

    Obviously, some of the authors above have hard proof via their sales/lack thereof and knowledge of their books being pirated.

    There’s no hard proof for me to personally eyeball and come to the conclusion authors are losing sales due to piracy. Until I see hard proof, then I’m not going believe it’s affecting sales.

    Even with hard proof, considering my previously stated opinion about why the majority of ‘pirates’ download, I personally still won’t be convinced it’s affecting sales.

    Other people’s opinions will likely differ. :)

  181. Katie-o
    at 11:06 am on February 5, 2010

    Sorry, I read your post on freebies/samples as explaining why my preferences weren’t feasible, which I had sort of already guessed. (Although maybe flipping-through-the-book could work as a time-sensitive preview of the whole file?) I didn’t intend to use fanfiction as anything other than a model for gaining an audience and a personal connection with fans.

    I understand what you’re saying in your hypothetical situation about losing all sales and having to do your own editing. I’m aware that a lot of people who post their work for free have minimal editing, but many fanfiction (and unpublished original fiction) authors have beta readers who also work for free – and for the most part aren’t as good as paid, professional editors, but some are very talented, and some authors are just as good at proofing their own work. There are always friends and family members who can look things over as well.

    I think I’m just still confused as to why you say you won’t believe that piracy is affecting sales either way in general (and call arguing against piracy your Devil’s Advocate position) when the overall tone of your posts is that piracy is going to drive authors away.

  182. Scath
    at 11:35 am on February 6, 2010

    Katie-O, arguing *against piracy* isn’t my Devil’s Advocate position.

    Arguing against certain justifications for doing it ( such as “I’ll stop downloading books when publishers stop shafting authors” ) or asking questions about suggestions made in regards to piracy being helpful ( such as tracking illegal downloads to show a prospective publisher that there’s an audience for the book you’ve submitted ) are my Devil’s Advocate positions.

    It *will* drive some authors away.

    Not all, but with traditional publishing tottering on the brink and book piracy becoming such a hot button issue, there’s likely to be a lot of authors people enjoying reading who will just quit writing rather than deal with ebooks and book piracy.

    No matter how clearly it’s explained what piracy is, people (meaning authors, publishers and some readers) are going to continue to see it as ‘stealing’.

    They’re going to keep pointing out that it’s costing them sales (seriously, I’d guess perhaps 1 in 100,000 D/Ls *might* be a ‘lost’ sale).

    I read another post where the opinion was that book piracy and the fall of tradition publishing were going to leave readers nothing but amateur writers’ horrible crap to read.

    (Note: The majority of traditionally published authors appear to believe that if it’s self-published, it’s badly written, ill-edited crap.

    Readers and indies love pointing out the mistakes made in traditionally published books, especially if it’s a series, and moreso the higher count of titles the series has.

    Opinions differ about ‘crap’.) :)

    I like the ‘flipping through the whole book idea’ and can even think of a way to implement it on an author’s site, but someone geekier than I will probably do it, and much better than my idea.

    Authors can put ‘100%’ when submitting to Smashwords and asked how much to make available as the sample.

    I’m betting anyone who has a price on their books won’t do that, since samples there are downloadable, depending on your format of choice.

    Not that you can actually ‘flip’ through those samples…I’m thinking of turning the pages of a book, which I took your words to mean?

    I think fear of piracy will prevent that idea.

    Shame, because it’s a cool one.

  183. RegVictor
    at 5:04 pm on February 6, 2010

    Quotes taken from above, at random & out of context:
    “The biggest issue with the situation is that those who download pirated copies don’t really believe that they’re harming authors’ incomes, and authors claiming that *every* download is a lost sale.

    “No matter how clearly it’s explained what piracy is, people (meaning authors, publishers and some readers) are going to continue to see it as ’stealing’.

    I just returned from the library where I borrowed two books for my son, Vols. 5 & 6 of John Flanigan’s Ranger’s Apprentice series. He’s so far read volumes 1-4, all from school or public library editions, and he has volume 7 waiting for him from a school library. That would bring him up to date. He has bought many books, and his bookshelves, windowsill, desk, and even his floor littered with books (not to mention musical instruments, computer and electronic peripherals, clothes, and other such things).

    When we borrowed them from the library, did you expect that ‘in our heads’ we did or should have felt that we were harming author’s income? Whether or not we were is not the question – it has to do with the matter of what was going through our heads. Perhaps my son was simply more focused on whether the library had the books he wanted.

    Is it enough to have one sale to a library and then allow it to be multiply lent out? To complicate things, the library also offers the same books as part of their electronic borrowing program. I could download them from home and read them on Adobe Digital editions, for free (from our perspective). When I’m done with that I won’t necessarily want to keep it anyway, particularly if I can borrow it out again. Is this the next step, teaching my son that it’s okay to download books to read on his computer. Again someone paid for the electronic publication, but it will now be multiply lent out.

    Finally, he could (in theory, and not with my permission) go to one of the torrent sites, and download the volumes without any payment, and read them in on his Adobe Digital editions account, or his iTouch, etc. After a week he might delete them. Using a quick search program, I see that these books are offered via torrent, although, not having downloaded it, I can’t say whether they’re readable or not, complete or not, authoritative or not. In neither of these three situations did he pay for what he’s reading. And while he might pay for these volumes if he went and found it at a used bookstore, those sales wouldn’t compensate either the publisher or the writer, I’m not clear that he would be thinking about this. Probably not.

    Authors intent on only allowing people who bought their “books” might refuse to sell them to libraries, but libraries serve multiple functions including acting as repositories for such books in case they go out print, encouraging readers and literacy, and indirectly serving as places to learn about new authors, musicians, and so on. the people in this column need to get away from the idea that the only choice is between the the new bookstore and the surreptitious download.

    Some libraries allow him to join them even if they are not physically located in the immediate County. I suppose that would mean that someone from Afghanistan to Zaire might join such a library to download a copy. While the initial library did pay a licensing fee, isn’t all of this legal downloading also denying the authors income, every download beyond the first?

  184. The price of piracy
    at 5:12 pm on February 6, 2010

    [...] have failed to adequately address. Book pirates have been in the news lately from Peru to America. And the internet is a perfectly tailored environment for it to occur: books can be scanned and [...]

  185. An (Ebook) Fate Worse Than Piracy – Jeff Duntemann’s Contrapositive Diary
    at 3:23 pm on February 7, 2010

    [...] had it in mind for some months now to conduct and publish an interview like this one with a backchannel correspondent of mine who calls himself The Jolly Pirate. That’s unlikely; [...]

  186. Amazon, Macmillan throw elbows over e-book prices - Laser Orgy
    at 4:55 pm on February 7, 2010

    [...] or a DRM-locked e-copy of the latest Stephen King, how many consumers are going to go the way of this guy?–by John BowkerJohn Bowker is a writer and fiction editor for the online magazine [...]

  187. Katie-o
    at 9:31 am on February 8, 2010

    Scath –

    When you were being a Devil’s Advocate, you said:

    “What’s the point of doing that? A traditional publisher’s not really going to be impressed that you have 10k downloads by people who wanted to read but didn’t want to pay for your book.

    They want to see sales, how many copies it sold at Amazon or B&N.”

    By definition, you disagree with that position. A Devil’s Advocate argues just to offer an opposing position, not out of any commitment to that position. So I’m confused.

    Traditional publishing may be “tottering on the brink” in comparison to how well it did in decades past, but it’s still churning out books, and quite a lot of people buy them – either because they find it morally right or because they want to support a particular author. And I don’t think any authors I would want to read would stop writing just because they couldn’t do it as a full-time job. Full-time writing is the dream. It’s not the only way to do it. Many people have regular jobs and supplement their income with writing (which is what I myself intend to do). Seriously, if I liked an author and they made a blog post saying, “I have been losing sales due to piracy and since I now cannot support myself solely on my writing, I am no longer publishing anything at all ever,” I would lose most of my respect for them.

  188. Katie-o
    at 10:05 am on February 8, 2010

    RegVictor –

    I agree wrt libraries and used bookstores. The argument that is usually made against a comparison with libraries is that he book will be returned to the library, while the pirated copy will last forever – but how many people will delete the file after reading it once, because they didn’t like it or because they know they aren’t going to read it again? Even if they don’t delete it, if they never read it again (or never get around to reading it the first time), I don’t see it as much different than getting a book from the library.

  189. Scath
    at 5:53 pm on February 8, 2010

    RegVictor: Since those were quotes from my comments, allow me to respond with my opinion.

    I love libraries. I donate hard backs I don’t want to keep for myself to our library. =)

    I also buy books from there (those they have too many copies of, what have you, are kept in the entry way for people to pick through and purchase).

    Libraries and the extremely useful purposes they serve are an entirely different subject than book piracy, though they keep getting dragged into the discussion.

    Books are paid for before they get to the library. No matter whether the library orders them, or they are donated by a reader. The copy has been paid for, and on print books, that’s all an author expects: a single royalty per physical copy.

    Doesn’t matter how many times the book is loaned out, it was paid for originally.

    Though to be fair, I did read some author’s blog who was bitching about ‘lost sales’ because his book(s) had been checked out a lot from a library.

    He’d probably equate libraries with book piracy. ;)

  190. Scath
    at 6:08 pm on February 8, 2010

    Katie-O:

    Alex’s suggestion that tracking downloads would show a publisher that there was an audience for an author’s works was a good one.

    My DA position is the likely response some authors who want to be traditionally published would have to it. And I have seen some agents/editors say that publishers want to see sales numbers for self-published titles.

    I don’t have any interest in being traditionally published. I like being an independent and working things out myself. :)

  191. Scath
    at 6:16 pm on February 8, 2010

    Katie-O:
    “Seriously, if I liked an author and they made a blog post saying, “I have been losing sales due to piracy and since I now cannot support myself solely on my writing, I am no longer publishing anything at all ever,” I would lose most of my respect for them.”

    Do some reading around on authors’ web sites. There are some saying that, because they won’t have time to write because they’ll be working/working more to make up income lost from lack of sales.

    Most of them don’t seem to be writing full-time anyway, unless they’ve been very lucky or have a spouse with a good job.

  192. kirsten saell
    at 9:05 pm on February 8, 2010

    Books are paid for before they get to the library. No matter whether the library orders them, or they are donated by a reader. The copy has been paid for, and on print books, that’s all an author expects: a single royalty per physical copy.

    To further Scath’s response, the library can only lend out that copy to one person at a time. If 100 people want to read it, they have to either wait their turn (or not wait and buy the book for themselves), or the library has to pay for more copies to lend out. In addition, eventually those copies will wear out and the library will have to purchase more.

    Used books stores often purchase back the very books they’ve sold over and over, but again, eventually someone drops the book in the tub or let’s a toddler have his way with it, and it’s no longer in circulation. At which point someone will have to buy it new if they want to read it, or not read it at all.

    The following is an absurdity, but sometimes absurdity drives the point home: an ebook pirate could upload a single purchased copy of a book and allow every person on earth who owns a computer read it for free at the same time, and then read it again next week, and then again next week. And then if they want to read it again in three years or fifty, they can still do that because it’s a digital file that can be backed up infinitely from a single copy, and converted to any new format with the right software and a few clicks. It’s not going to turn yellow, the glue in the spine isn’t going to get brittle and it won’t get eaten by moths.

    Ebook piracy = library lending and used book sales? I don’t think so.

  193. kirsten saell
    at 9:08 pm on February 8, 2010

    Do some reading around on authors’ web sites. There are some saying that, because they won’t have time to write because they’ll be working/working more to make up income lost from lack of sales.

    Most of them don’t seem to be writing full-time anyway, unless they’ve been very lucky or have a spouse with a good job.

    I have a day job. I know I’ll likely never make a living from my writing. But every hour I spend at my day job is an hour I’m not writing. I won’t ever stop, but there are months where I don’t get a single word on the page because I have to rely on work I know I’ll be decently compensated for. If that means one book every two years instead of three books a year, well, that sucks, doesn’t it?

  194. Katie-o
    at 9:47 am on February 12, 2010

    If that means one book every two years instead of three books a year, well, that sucks, doesn’t it?

    That sucks, but it’s a different fish entirely from withholding from publishing to punish pirates.

    Most of them don’t seem to be writing full-time anyway, unless they’ve been very lucky or have a spouse with a good job.

    There was someone here earlier who said in response to a list of ways to make money that they could not get a regular job because their writing was a full-time job. I suppose I’ve had that stuck in my head.

    To go back to libraries: Libraries can keep books around for 50+ years, assuming normal wear and tear. I’ve got books on my own shelf that are from the 1870s and 1880s, and it’s not like they were expensive first editions, either. Ebooks have been around for, what, ten years? How do you know that the ebooks being passed around today are going to be readable in another ten years? The programs they’re read with will be there, but they may be updated and made into better versions until 2010 ebooks are no longer compatible with them, or with a newer OS. It happens to all kinds of files. I’m not saying it’s going to happen in ten years, but there’s no way to know how long a given file will be usable. Files are actually much easier to lose accidentally than books, when it comes down to it.

    So if a library owns a particular book, and in the time it takes me to download it, read it, and delete it nobody checks it out, does it cancel out?

  195. Friday Links « 800 CEO Read
    at 6:51 pm on February 12, 2010

    [...] The interview also led me to an interesting interview with a book pirate done by C. Max Magee, Confessions of a Book Pirate. [...]

  196. Scath
    at 10:36 pm on February 12, 2010

    Katie-O:
    “How do you know that the ebooks being passed around today are going to be readable in another ten years?”

    We don’t, of course. :)

    But:

    1. PDFs were around then, and are still around now. They’re one of the most popular formats for ebooks.

    They’ll probably still be around in ten years.

    2. There are several different formats for ebooks, and no one can say that .doc, .RTF, HTML, mobi, epub, etc. file types won’t still be around in a decade’s time.

    So you’ll probably get the argument that they do stand a chance of still being around ten years from now.

    “There was someone here earlier who said in response to a list of ways to make money that they could not get a regular job because their writing was a full-time job. I suppose I’ve had that stuck in my head.”

    Another way of looking at it: Writing *is* a full time job, but few writers have the opportunity to work full time at it. :)

  197. Katie-o
    at 8:07 pm on February 14, 2010

    I admit, I chose a ten-year time frame for effect – but, like I said, I have hundred-year-old books. Do you really think that the ebooks on someone’s computer will last for a century?

  198. Scath
    at 12:51 pm on February 15, 2010

    Katie-o:

    Considering how archived the internet is becoming? The number of files available on multiple download sites/file sharing networks?

    I’d guess it conceivable. Not necessarily ‘the rule’, but definitely possible.

    When there are new file formats available for ebooks, I think those people like will be converted from older formats to newer ones.

    That’s the thing about digital: once it’s been placed online, it never really goes away. Or so say some who know a lot more about that than I do. :)

  199. Katie-o
    at 10:55 am on February 18, 2010

    Torrents run out of seeds once everyone decides to delete the torrent from their queues, and then nobody’s downloading anything. FTPs get shut down when the owner loses interest and deletes it, or – as has happened to friends of mine – when a troll comes in and deletes everything. Sites like Mediafire and Sendspace and Megaupload delete uploaded files after a certain number of days or downloads, and if someone flags the file as illegal it will get deleted sooner. Files hosted on personal sites disappear when the owner gets a C&D or stops paying for the domain name (or when the site is hacked). I’m not saying that I necessarily know more than whoever told you that nothing online goes away, but I can think of a lot of ways for digital files to disappear through neglect or malice or legality. (The text on a web page never really goes away, due to the Wayback Machine, but that doesn’t recall files, AFAIK.)

    You’re ignoring the fact that I was talking about someone’s already-downloaded files, though. Let’s say John torrents a folder full of ebooks all bundled together. He doesn’t want some of them – maybe he already has them, maybe he hates the author, maybe he just wasn’t looking for them and wants to clear up space on his computer – and so he deletes a portion of them right off without looking at them. Some of the rest he reads, and some of the rest he never gets around to reading. Four years later, his computer has gotten some kind of a virus, or is just old and cranky and slow, and he buys a new one. He might transfer all of his files over, but he’s more likely to just move his personal documents and music, in case there’s something in there that caused the crankiness (or the virus could have gotten to and corrupted the rest of the computer). So there’s a good chance that those ebooks got left behind on the old computer or corrupted. There’s a possibility that John just go and redownload them again, but IME people don’t really care that much about things they can get for free and aren’t going to bother, especially if they’ve already read them; also, related to my first paragraph – who knows if he can find them again?

    Or let’s say he doesn’t get a new computer! (Highly unlikely, though.) He keeps using his clunky old CPU until the day of his death, and never deletes ebooks (read or unread) to make space on it. Do you really think his children will go through all of his files and sort out which ebooks to keep and which to delete? It seems more likely to me that they’d look for financial information, photos, etc. and then get rid of the rest because it’s only running on Windows 7, for goodness’s sake, and none of it’s compatible with Windows 2050.

  200. Scath
    at 10:28 am on February 19, 2010

    Katie-o:

    I wasn’t ignoring it, just didn’t realize you were concentrating on that particular hypothetical situation. Hadn’t had enough coffee for my brain to be fully coherent then! :)

    Your hypothesis is correct, in my opinion. But John’s only one person.

    A little research tells me that anyone who downloads via file sharing networks can also be downloaded from if they’re set up to have certain folders on their own computers shared.

    So if John has his settings set to share, then a number of people could conceivably download that collection of ebooks from him during the time he has it in his shared directory.

    Their copy is shared, and so on, so forth. While individuals might delete the file(s), unless every single one does, that ebook collection would still be available somewhere, and probably from multiple locations.

    While I’m sure a lot of files do end up deleted & removed for a variety of reasons, such as those you mentioned, I’d still think it possible for them to be available for lengthy periods of times, and that some may be switched to newer file formats as time moves on.

    Again, not *every* single file ever uploaded/shared, but those that are popular.

    Which logically would be a small percentage of the ‘pirated’ files available and probably more likely to be music or software than ebooks.

    BTW, if John’s computer does last that many years, I’d be highly impressed! LOL :)

  201. AT
    at 5:32 pm on February 19, 2010

    People who steal from others can always find a way to rationalize their actions. Our pirate knows what he’s doing; he simply doen’t care that he’s harming other human beings. That’s called depraved indifference. I would hate to stuck on a lifeboat with this guy.

  202. AT
    at 7:50 pm on February 19, 2010

    It occurs to me that our pirate is acting out of frustrated creativity. He himself lacks the talent or perseverance to actually write a book, but by laying claim to, copying, and disseminating the hard-won creative work of others, he can feel the thrill of being an “author”—something he will never actually be.

  203. Scath
    at 10:46 pm on February 19, 2010

    AT:

    Having seen quite a bit in regards to amateur writing, I disagree that frustrated creativity, lack of talent or perseverance are reasons for piracy.

    The internet allows all kinds of people to display their writing, on blogs, writing sites, in forums, etc.

    Anyone can write a book. Anyone.

    However, not *everyone* can write a book that others want to read. :)

  204. Two years old, and recommended reading « Curiously Persistent
    at 7:31 am on February 20, 2010

    [...] interesting article on the confessions of a book pirate. It is vital to understand people’s motivations, rather than simply castigating and [...]

  205. Noteworthy news, 1st quarter 2010. at Geeks On High
    at 1:43 am on February 28, 2010

    [...] Confessions of a book pirate – themillions.com. Find out more about how a book pirate does his work. [...]

  206. The Truth About eBook Piracy: And the Truth Shall Set Them (Customers) Free :: Visual Arts Junction
    at 2:02 am on March 8, 2010

    [...] An interesting background interview by C. Max Magee, of a real live pirate, gives some insight into this dark world with Confessions of a Book Pirate. [...]

  207. Guardian Article: Who’s afraid of digital book piracy? | 222.490 research compile
    at 6:49 pm on March 8, 2010

    [...] blog The Millions recently hosted an amazing interview with an American book pirate who provides e-copies of books because of his open-source, [...]

  208. Confessions of a Book Pirate | The Digital Reader
    at 6:37 pm on March 17, 2010

    [...] is a really interesting interview over on The Millions. I’m not going to comment; this issue is too [...]

  209. Horatio
    at 10:30 am on March 27, 2010

    Hercule said:
    “Is it ‘right’ for someone to disregard the laws surrounding copyright? That depends on the person’s opinion of whether the law is just. If they don’t believe in the law then they’re not wrong to break it.”

    Really????????? You mean I “can” go next door and blow my neighbor’s head off because he blasts his music from 9:00 am in the morning till 3:00 am at night because I don’t “believe” in the laws against homicide? And i’m not wrong for that? If only I could convince the courts of that! Hey dude, when I do the do, can I hire you as my defense attorney? It sounds like you have it all together. If not, can I cite your genius opinion in my defense?

  210. Etica dell’accumulazione « Almanacco Americano
    at 8:30 am on April 7, 2010

    [...] all’oro dei libri elettronici come anni fa per gli mp3? Il mercato esiste, vedi le “Confessions of a Book Pirate” uscite qualche tempo fa su The Millions. Posto che il problema etico nasce in presenza di un [...]

  211. Is Stealing eBooks Ethical? - Candlelight Stories
    at 7:10 pm on April 11, 2010

    [...] here’s a better piece at The Millions about an eBook pirate who’s pretty clear about what he [...]

  212. Edysseus Consulting auditionné par Christine Albanel « Edysseus Consulting
    at 5:25 am on April 16, 2010

    [...] Télécharger le rapport [...]

  213. J.A.Emery
    at 4:23 am on April 25, 2010

    I do not wish to rehash, but it appears I may offer a different view on this topic, particularly to those of you have used language that condemns so-called-pirates as immoral thieves, and a threat to your livelihood.
    As a person who knows at least a hundred downloaders of books in torrent form, I must tell every one of you, regardless of your persuasive, articulate arguments that you are completely wrong, and in all ways lacking any accurate information.
    It is certainly quite a rare thing for me to make this sort of strong statement, as we live in a world of gray much more then black and white, but I feel I must.
    Firstly, I would like to address the idea that it is the words we customers are buying, and the e version, therefore should be as nearly expensive as a hardback.
    Rubbish.
    Those you attack, and will soon be seeing what some published authors think of them as I forward this site to them, love the actual book, along with the story. I dare to suggest that we lovers of books love the smell, the pages, the binding and the covers a great deal, and to suggest that an ebook, to us, comes close to the way the book spine fits into our bookcases, and feels the same as holding the book in our hands, means you don’t know us. It is an insult to consumers to charge the same for an ebook as a physical book. Absurd. Then to also place controls on that book, through DRM, etc. Police state is right. You stop being our friends, and start being some sort of paranoid fascists.
    I have carefully read the numbers and statistics many of you have posted.
    Like most statistics, the thoughtful minded mistrust and even eventually disregard most statistics as one begins to learn what surprising influence large corporate America has on the “facts” our citizens take as truth, without further thought.
    Here is what is more true, with exceptions of course, as with all things.
    Those who download torrents of all kinds, really, and do not purchase at all, never were going to, anyway. It is just that simple. You may continue to rant and rave and dispute and stand on the self-righteous pedestal of morality, and beat your chest, and still:
    Those who cannot afford the media, and thus acquire it through torrents, would not have purchased. With prices high, it is not a surprise this occurs.
    Those who are dishonest thieves, who can afford everything, but choose to spend time trying to locate and acquire media online, only to have media that does not have the cool packaging that comes with the actual movie, or a real book to put in the bookcase to show friends, are not common, and why would they be?
    I might also point out, (and you may just be too out of touch to realize this simple truth), readers of books are better citizens. Call me simplistic, but I’ve lived in nearly every state, and for some reason, this just seems to be strangely true. We love books and the people that write them, and we wouldn’t like our friends to not make a few dollars, at least, from what they have given us.
    Having the ebook is not having the book. We don’t see it that way. Every person I know that downloads torrents also buys your books, and sometimes, as a result of having read the ebook they “pirated”.
    It would be best to execute discretion, obviously, so my small example will sound vague.
    Two months one person I know downloaded a torrent, and after reading the book, ordered 4 other books from Amazon by the same author, as well as the pirated ebook, in hardback.
    He emailed me the author’s name, and after I looked him up on Amazon, I ordered the ebook he had downloaded, in paperback.
    I finished this book last week, and ordered the same 4 books from Amazon that he did, except in paperback form. I just loaned the first book to my best friend, and also ordered the first book from Amazon this morning, to send to my brother for his birthday.
    Do you see where I am going with this?
    It is too time consuming to give the thousand examples that supports what I know to be true.
    Filesharing is not the death of profit, and it is just that simple.
    It is not going to go away, and though of course the really bad people are really bad, and we don’t like them.
    However, they are not lost customers, they are jerks.
    If you have some sort of idea that filesharers do not care about supporting the artists, much more often then not, and I mean MUCH more often then not, and that hearing an album for free and loving that artist doesn’t lead to legitimate sales, or seeing an ebook for free doesn’t lead to sales, or that when a customer loves something, they don’t go out of their way to get more of it, to visit websites and become fans and buy tee-shirts, and mugs, and go to concerts, and book signings..then you need to learn more.
    Filesharing is not your enemy, no matter what corporations say. I’ve seen it, I know it is true, and for the numerous people I know who do this often, the idea of not spending to support is frowned upon. Peer pressure means you MUST support what you have enjoyed. Believe it.
    Bad people are Bad people, but good people are the vast majority.
    Good Luck to All,
    JAE

  214. J.A.Emery
    at 4:31 am on April 25, 2010

    I apologize for the grammatical errors, as well as formatting and usage errors, I thought I would be able to go back in and edit after I posted!

  215. J.A.Emery
    at 4:46 am on April 25, 2010

    Oh, and Horatio, the answer to your question is an absolute, “yes”
    If you believe that it is right for you to murder your neighbor for playing loud music, then yes, you would be wrong not to do it.
    Your question is a basic question, often addressed in first year Philosophy.

  216. RTW
    at 7:55 am on April 25, 2010

    Just a couple of quick thoughts on Emery’s interesting post. I believe that Emery’s social circle does try to take a genuinely moral approach to piracy, with the piracy as a supplement to buying books or as a way of choosing books to buy in the future. But I also believe that this morally fastidious attitude is characteristic of early adopters of any new form of piracy, and that the general public becomes increasingly less fastidious as the piracy grows more common. For instance, I love old Astaire-Rogers musicals and used to buy them sometimes on DVD. Since they’ve become easily available on YouTube, however, I never buy them anymore. Emery can call me a jerk for this, and that’s right as far as it goes, but one reason I do it is precisely because I know that nobody in the general public is ever going to hate me or socially ostracize me for doing it. I don’t think my approach is so uncommon–I suspect that it’s far more common than the more sophisticated approach of Emery’s circle. I think maybe Emery is underestimating the role of sheer laziness in most people’s decisions, the mindless selfishness that prevails once piracy becomes so common that it’s no longer the activity of a fairly small group of people who have thought clearly and deeply about what they’re doing.

  217. J.A.Emery
    at 9:06 pm on April 25, 2010

    RTW
    I would not, or course, deem to call anyone a jerk who is thoughtful, and bothers to consider the consequences and unintended implications of his personal choices and actions.
    A cold chill ran down my spine after I read your post, thus, I am going to step away, shake the last bit of my Sapphire into an icy Gibson, and return with a clearer set of thoughts on your interesting, yet potentially disturbing observations.
    See you soon.

  218. J.A.Emery
    at 12:10 am on April 26, 2010

    It seems I am going to be successful in gathering a rather large amount of young boys together to gather more research on this matter that I have believed I understood well.
    While working in the tech world, I have often found myself surround by masses of bright boys, somewhere between 18 and 25. It’s going to take awhile, but I am gathering them, as well as their mates, together in order to better ascertain what this group of tech-smart young people think of this issue, as well as determining how much purchased media vs pirated they may have in their collection.
    My predictions:
    I believe, as a non-expert, that I am going to find that this group, the owners of all new gadgets and the unafraid purchasers of $400 phones and several $400 game consoles, are going to wish to have much more of the real deal then pirated.
    I believe morality may not play as much into that decision as the desire to show status and general coolness to their friends.
    I believe some of them would not be willing to take any chances, no matter how small, of getting into legal trouble.
    I believe I am going to find that most people who pirate are male.
    Females historically make up less of the group one might consider risk-takers.
    I have carefully read what has been offered here, and I still perceive, instinctually, that the bigger truths are being missed, or misunderstood, in a way so significant, that acting upon this information may be counter-productive..
    We can certainly assume my study group will be too small to extrapolate some really solid numbers, but this has peeked my interest.
    As I have a rather large number of people to draw from, given some time, I’m going to start with the group I’ve mentioned, and see what I find out their, before deciding where to head, next.
    A warm note of thanks to RTW for composing an argument in such a way that it spoke to, what may end up being, my somewhat immovable position on the matter.
    Best to All,
    J.A.E.

  219. J.A.Emery
    at 12:20 am on April 26, 2010

    I’m becoming quite conscious, on this literary site, of the startling inadequacies of my own writing.
    In my defense, I am a rather unimportant individual in all ways, and I do not write for a living, though that was my dream, once, before life became different from what it once was when I was small.
    I have just noticed that it seems I am overly-fond of commas.
    I do hope that my lack of skill may be forgiven, and at the same time, if any kind soul wishes to attack my usage, etc., I would be most grateful for the opportunity to benefit from criticism and correction.
    I have my little Strunk book right beside me, but utilizing it to prevent gross errors has not worked out as I hoped.
    This will be my last letter of apology, and perhaps I will be improve as time passes!
    Best,
    J.A.E.

  220. STGreen
    at 8:03 am on April 30, 2010

    I did not know much about pirating ebooks until recently, when just about every author/ebook forum I’ve gone to has a post (or more) about it. A few months ago I would have told you that my belief as to why people pirate was because they just don’t want to pay the asking price. It seemed pretty straightfoward to me, but not a justification for the action. But now that I have read so much on the issue, I’ve become much more sympathetic for *some* pirates. I knew nothing about DRM, but now find it abhorrent and completely understand why many refuse to pay for a product containing it, or strip it off as soon as they can. I realize that DRM is a publisher’s decision, but authors do not *have* to use a publisher that insists on DRM so I don’t have much respect for authors that say they have no control over DRM. I also had no idea that many people in other countries are not able to buy legal ebooks because of regional restrictions. Now that I know about that I can see why they pirate, too. I also have learned about the new agency pricing model that seems clearly designed to wreck the ebook market in favor of hardback books, and I can see why ebook buyers are furious – when competition makes the price go *up*, it smacks of price-fixing and civil disobedience seems like a viable alternative.

    So, I can only say that what used to be a black-and-white, “pirating is always wrong” viewpoint for me has changed (thanks mostly to authors’ discussions!) into one that sees a many shades of gray, “I can’t blame some of them” take on it. Probably not what authors were aiming for in their “educational” posts, but there it is.

  221. This Week in the WorldWideWeb(ofBooks) « readingthroughlife.ca
    at 12:08 pm on May 13, 2010

    [...] People talk about book pirating. [...]

  222. Big Reader
    at 5:54 pm on May 14, 2010

    Ebooks? Yeah… I pirate them!

    Do I feel guilty? Not really… I also buy plenty of paper books and have a far too large collection of them… I spend more money on books than I do on music and movies.

    A lot of the books I download are books I already got in paper form, but which I want to be able to bring when I travel. I’m not going to pay twice for the same book (Baen is an exception to this as they’re offering exactly what most readers want), and quite often the ebook is not available anyway, or not available in a form I can use (I use an Iliad ebook reader).

    If an ebook is DRM’ed I don’t buy it on principle! While I might have been able to read it now (if I had a supported reader), I probably wouldn’t in 5 years time when I’ve bought a new reader. Most likely the new reader would not support the format, the DRM servers might have been taken down, or the company won’t recognise that I actually have the right to use the book on the new reader.
    That alone is enough to prove that for a long-term use item like a book, DRM is just a complete stupidity! DRM to me stands for Digital Rights Mutilation, and means I WILL run into problems at some point in the future.

    I absolutely love Baen books and haven’t pirated a single book from them that I want to read! Their price is right, they offer freebies, the don’t use DRM, they offer the books in a bunch of different formats… I’ve even bought EARC’s (released before the official release of the paper book at a premium price) from them, then gone ahead and bought the paper version when it came out!
    They really understand that to sell their wares, they have to offer what the customers WANT!

    A lot of the books I’ve pirated have been books I wouldn’t have bought, maybe because I didn’t like the owner, maybe because they didn’t look/sounded interesting, or whatever.
    When I then read them, I might discover that I actually like the author. I’ll still not go and buy the ebook or paper copy of the book, but I could very well buy other books from that author, and’ll recognise his name when I browse bookstores. Robert Conroy, Joe Scalzi and Charles Sheffield are just a couple of authors I’ve discovered this way.

    I don’t spend less money on books now than I did before I started copying books, but my reader contain a much larger number of books. Some bought, most copied… Most of the copied stuff I already own in paper form, or is out-of-print stuff, or is just books I think I might want to check out sometime when I’m bored in an airplane.

    As said, I don’t feel guilty. I spend the same money (or more) that I always have on books, so the publishers and authors aren’t really losing anything overall. Authors I’d never have looked at gets advertising that might get me to buy their books. I don’t have to buy a book to learn if an author is to my liking, but can focus the money I spend on the authors that I’ve found that I do like.
    Of cause this means that the crappy authors whose publisher makes the book looks better than it is won’t sell to me, but I couldn’t care. An author more deserving of my money gets them.

    The most important things I can advise publishers and authors that want my money are:
    * Ditch the DRM!
    * Price it reasonably. Baen does this beautifully!
    * Ditch the DRM!
    * Don’t delay the release of the ebook. If not available legally, I’ll pirate it!
    * Ditch the DRM!
    * Don’t release at different times for regions. If not available legally, I’ll pirate it!
    * Ditch the DRM!
    Did I forget to mention ‘Ditch the DRM’?

  223. James Pittaro
    at 4:15 am on May 16, 2010

    Speaking as an ebook author published by double dragon e-books and a small publisher, who has learned to make proper paper back books for himself. I find the antics of this thieving rat to be an inditement of modern man’s attitude in general. I.e. why pay for it when you can basically steal it! It seems that most people who do this kind of thing on the net always have an internal justification for it; many reasons; however the result is still the same. They want and will take something for nothing; they don’t care about people like me who sit for most of their lives typing away at the wordprocessor and hoping for a better future as a result of their honest effforts. They just don’t care! It’s just that simple; low morales, thieving rat mentality; shame on you for being an intelligent man and not realising, and not caring about the damage you are doing…

  224. Will the iPad Kill the Publishing Star? « JETLawBlog: The Official Blog of the Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment and Technology Law
    at 6:08 pm on May 18, 2010

    [...] new e-readers has also released a wealth of already digitized works into the market, avoiding the pirate’s need to scan or digitize the work [...]

  225. Self-Publishing Review | Blog | On Piracy and Freebooks
    at 3:55 pm on May 27, 2010

    [...] and publishing on the whole.  Check out this endlessly fascinating interview with a bittorrent book pirate. He justifies it this way: 1) With digital copies, what is “stolen” is not as clear as with [...]

  226. Four Reasons Why the iPad does not promote book piracy « Make This Do – Making The Web Work For You
    at 12:50 am on May 30, 2010

    [...] The Millions have a great interview titled: Confessions of a Book Pirate. [...]

  227. Crys
    at 12:45 pm on June 23, 2010

    Hey, at least the publishers leave the author SOME money — you pirates leave them none. I have writer friends who need the royalties to clothe the kids and make the mortgage, and you aren’t making that any easier. Why don’t you just come steal the spoons out of the kitchen, too? Oh, because they’d SEE you do it and of course, it’s SO much easier to justify when you don’t have to look at your victim. If it’s all electrons, you can tell yourself that they don’t see it happen or feel the pain. They do.

    A thief is a thief is a thief.

  228. Digital Crows Nest » Our New Piracy Tracking System
    at 4:37 pm on June 27, 2010

    [...] to deal with piracy.  All of this despite numerous reports indicating that we don’t have any real idea as to what is actually going on. More data is needed, and as we continue to work towards more [...]

  229. Motivation Monday | Solelyfictional
    at 1:21 pm on June 28, 2010

    [...] Feuds from the Daily Beast. Check out the slideshow too. New, uber fast bookscanner revealed. Considering a lot of pirated books are scanned in, publishers probably aren’t cheering this latest technological [...]

  230. RoundUp from 7/5/2010 « Trolleyed
    at 9:54 pm on July 20, 2010

    [...] Privacy Revolution -Choose privacy – American Library Association   Librarians in the Movies Confessions of a Book Pirate Best and Worst Jobs 2010 – The Wall Street Journal – Will Librarian make the [...]

  231. murk
    at 8:34 am on July 26, 2010

    I know people who pirate books, games, music, movies, and the like.

    Two commonly expressed views I hear are these:

    1) No one wants to buy anything with DRM. For two reasons.

    First, especially with games, the implementation of DRM has been terrible. If you have the choice between paying $60 for a product that doesn’t work, or downloading one that will work perfectly forever for free, which would you choose?

    Second, you purchase a product. You don’t rent the rights to use it until you change laptops… or replace your OS one too many times… or (with games) until the product is old and the producing company no longer supports it and has taken the server supporting the product registration offline. And I can’t even tell you how many military members I have heard complain that they purchased a game to use as entertainment on deployment and then couldn’t play it because they didn’t have access to an internet connection.

    Personally, I think that’s unacceptable. If you want to sell a license to use something only three times, then don’t charge so much. If you want someone to pay full price for something, then give them full rights to what they purchased, preferably without the need for an internet connection whenever they want to use it. Some people are actually nostalgic and will want to play something again 20 years from now. Hell, I still play Mario Bros on my old Nintendo occasionally, just out of nostalgia.

    Of course, the way to get around this is to just provide a copy with no DRM for $60. One that will work and that can actually be used for as long as it’s physically kept. Then chances are good many of the people I know will just BUY a copy.

    2) Industries (even ones with formerly great track records) are releasing so much junk these days that the average consumer would waste inordinately high amounts of money on complete trash if they bought everything that they THOUGHT was promising. Most of the people I know who pirate download their choice of content and read/play/listen/watch. Then, if they like it, they go out and buy a copy in a conscious effort to promote and support the writer/company/musician that produced it.

    I still believe that piracy=stealing, but I have to say that they have a point. As it stands, even though I’m not on a tight budget, I refuse to waste my money on nearly anything until I’ve heard good reviews on it by people I trust. This wasn’t so 10-15 years ago because about 10-15 years ago, there didn’t seem to be quite so much junk being produced–the odds of regretting a purchase were much smaller.

    I’m sick to death of products that look good because some marketing firm did their best to make it sound good when they knew the product was absolute trash. Some of the worst films have fantastic opening weekends these days because the trailers happen to have been edited nicely. And, even though I go and pay, it irritates me greatly to waste $15 on a ticket to a film that even the production company had to know was trash. Result: I don’t go to movies in the theater much any more. I’ll wait until they come out on DVD and either get them on Pay-Per-View or Netflix them. And most of the time I’m REALLY happy I didn’t bother to see them in the theater. I hate to tell the movie industry this, but maybe some of their loss of sales isn’t related to piracy. It’s related to the fact that they’re producing utter tripe.

    The same goes for books. There is some interesting stuff coming out, but there’s also a lot of crap. And even the interesting stuff is often poorly edited and proofread. I truly believe that the film and publishing industries are greatly underestimating the intelligence of their audiences.

    So, I have to say, if pirates are using pirated products as a try-before-you-buy and then going out and purchasing the ones that are worthwhile, thereby promoting products with higher standards of quality, I can’t say I’m 100% against piracy. It means I’ll have less garbage to wade through.

  232. Editor’s List: Required Reading « The Bygone Bureau
    at 10:05 am on August 2, 2010

    [...] “Confessions of a Book Pirate” by C. Max Magee at The Millions [...]

  233. How to increase your profits from your book by pirating it yourself « Freewheeling Economics
    at 10:05 am on August 7, 2010

    [...] that sounds odd. But someone will create a zero-cost version sooner or later and pirating your own e-book ensures that the first [...]

  234. Edición e actividade editorial » Arquivos » E dálle co libro dixital
    at 11:37 am on August 21, 2010

    [...] Xunto a este texto temos a primeira ligazón que é un comentario que nos remite a un gran artigo sobre o futuro da edición. Aquí volo deixo todo para que o vaiades [...]

  235. kids Book » Saturday Afternoon Visits: January 30
    at 1:37 pm on August 24, 2010

    [...] topic making waves in the Kidlitosphere concerns book piracy. Cheryl Rainfield linked to an article at The Millions in which an anonymous e-Book pirater discussed his motivations. Then Laurie Halse Anderson took on [...]

  236. DigitalLoad
    at 11:15 am on September 16, 2010

    I must be thee Robin Hood compared to the confessor….
    Current ebook upload count: 40,000+

  237. Amazon Feigns “Lending” of Kindle E-Books | Politics of Piracy
    at 1:47 am on October 25, 2010

    [...] of books as exemplified in the claims and behaviors of “The Real Caterpillar” from The Millions’ Confessions of a Book Pirate. This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the [...]

  238. Assorted Links 15 « Daily Expositions
    at 4:22 pm on October 31, 2010

    [...] Confessions of a book pirate. [...]

  239. Marty (Dark Wyrm Reads)
    at 10:32 am on November 8, 2010

    “although that nagging question of what the person who has been stolen from is missing still lingers”

    What’s the person missing? Well… the author is missing royalties from sales and any money or time they dedicated to marketing is basically wasted because marketing is done to promote sales and you, Mr. Pirate, have just defeated that purpose.

    “Just because someone downloads a file, it does not mean they would have bought the product I think this is the key fact that many people in the music industry ignore – a download does not translate to a lost sale.”

    I wonder if this argument would work for physical objects as well as electronic objects. I’d love to cruise down the road in a shiny red Ferrari but would never actually buy one. Is it okay for me to steal one since it wouldn’t actually translate to a lost sale? Somehow, I don’t think the cops would understand that logic. Why? Because it’s a load of crap.

    “Just because someone downloads a file, it doesn’t mean they will read it.”

    Soooo, it’s okay to steal an ebook if there’s a chance you won’t read it? Then why steal it, idiot?

    Sounds like the pirate is a bright guy; too bad he’s so stupid.

  240. Book Sharing Bankrupting Publishing Industry! | Foltzwerk
    at 12:54 am on December 30, 2010

    [...] See also: Confessions of a Book Pirate. [...]

  241. Book Sharing Bankrupting Publishing Industry! « Foltzwerk
    at 1:05 am on December 31, 2010

    [...] also: Confessions of a Book Pirate. [image http://www.flickr.com/photos/sylvar/ / CC BY 2.0] [via [...]

  242. Simon Bookman
    at 11:39 pm on January 23, 2011

    Gentlemen,

    I have downloaded as many ebooks as my tastes demand, whether legally or otherwise. Far away and creditcardless, I have little option if I wish not to die without reading what is the best lit out there.

    But, I have found so very very little, (e.g.: Beckett, Bernhard, Simon, Pinquet, etc) that it seems safe to assume, – though the exampled authors be dead, all, – that if one’s tastes are a little elevated, piracy is almost impossible, and hence no royalties will be denied these men, or rather their estates.

    Simon Bookman

  243. Belay That | Heart of the Dreaming
    at 3:21 pm on January 31, 2011

    [...] the Pirate’s Perspective: The Millions (and dude, the amount of work this guy puts into his scans is unreal. I can’t believe that 4 [...]

  244. Column: Avast! Thar Be Books Ahead! | Marci Sischo
    at 12:44 am on February 16, 2011

    [...] It’s the authors who pay. More on ebook Piracy JA Konrath: Piracy… Again The Millions: Confessions of a Book Pirate CNN: Digital piracy hits the e-book industry Jim C. Hines: Arguing Book Piracy NY Times: Print [...]

  245. Avast! Thar Be Books Ahead! | The Commuter
    at 7:33 pm on February 22, 2011

    [...] another. It’s the authors who pay. More on ebook Piracy JA Konrath: Piracy… Again The Millions: Confessions of a Book Pirate CNN: Digital piracy hits the e-book industry Jim C. Hines: Arguing Book Piracy NY Times: Print [...]

  246. Who’s afraid of digital book piracy?
    at 4:06 pm on March 7, 2011

    [...] blog The Millions recently hosted an amazing interview with an American book pirate who provides e-copies of books because of his open-source, [...]

  247. We Have Met the Enemy and He is The Real Caterpillar | Publishing In the 21st Century
    at 4:33 pm on May 17, 2011

    [...] the full flavor of Magee’s interview read Confessions of a Book Pirate in its entirety here. We are Harlan Ellison’s literary agents. Our e-book company is publisher of some thirty of [...]

  248. Dick
    at 12:02 pm on June 1, 2011

    I am curious about one thing. I have a collection of hundreds of physical books, both hard and soft cover. Most I have bought used. Most have been bought used. It would seem to me that the practice of selling used books or even libraries loaning them out should be considered piracy, just as much as offering free ebooks. The author and publisher has already gotten their payments for these books and they get absolutely nothing when I buy a used book or borrow from a library. Why the big deal about ebooks?

  249. A Pirate Confesses His Sins « digitaltrends221
    at 3:51 pm on June 10, 2011

    [...] He calls himself The Real Caterpillar. [...]

  250. justinchina
    at 2:49 am on June 23, 2011

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Go_the_Fuck_to_Sleep

    Piracy worked pretty well for Adam Mansbach (and his publisher). the correct product for the correct audience…even if the marketi….er…piracy was done accidentally.

  251. Geek Media Round-Up: August 1, 2011 – Grasping for the Wind
    at 9:03 am on August 1, 2011

    [...] Confessions of a Book Pirate [...]

  252. Karen Dionne: E-Piracy: The High Cost of Stolen Books | PCE Groups, LLC
    at 2:48 pm on September 8, 2011

    [...] e-pirates. “I’ve debated [scanning and uploading] some newer authors and books,” one admits, “but I would need to … resolve the moral dilemma of actually causing noticeable [...]

  253. E-Piracy: The High Cost of Stolen Books
    at 1:33 pm on September 12, 2011

    [...] e-pirates. “I’ve debated [scanning and uploading] some newer authors and books,” one admits, “but I would need to … resolve the moral dilemma of actually causing noticeable [...]

  254. The Great Kindle Challenge: Day 10 | 12 Books in 12 Months
    at 8:04 am on September 15, 2011

    [...] Justin Bieber CDs – but that doesn’t mean readers have no use for piracy.  For instance, this guy began pirating because the stuff he and his pals wanted to read wasn’t actually available in a digital format.  [...]

  255. Book pirates | Personal Blog
    at 7:07 am on October 26, 2011

    [...] Book pirates Posted on January 27, 2010 by my playlist Book pirates: Once you’ve downloaded a book, what format is it in and how do you read it? On you computer? Printed out? Now that’s a good question! Continue reading → Book pirates: [...]

  256. Authors and Book Piracy | Rachelle Gardner
    at 3:04 pm on November 7, 2011

    [...] here are a few of the online articles I read: Book Piracy: Less DRM, More Data (O’Reilly) The Millions: Confessions of a Book Pirate A Book Author Wonders How to Fight Piracy Fighting piracy is the dumbest thing you can do E-book [...]

  257. Wodke Hawkinson
    at 11:09 pm on November 28, 2011

    Piracy is not a gray area to us. It’s theft. We work hard on our books, put hours and hours and months and months into it. Taking it without paying for it is stealing, pure and simple. Check this out: http://forum.mobilism.org/viewtopic.php?p=843300

  258. j
    at 10:02 am on January 30, 2012

    I wonder how many of these appalled authors have computers which are 100% free from materials which they do not have express written permission to use.

    Did you save a picture of yourself from an event you went to, which you found through a tag on Facebook?
    Well, facebook legally OWNS that photograph, the moment that person uploaded it. That’s “theft”, because if you had gone to the actual website to view it instead of keeping it as a file, they would receive ad revenue.
    Anything you save from the internet to your hard drive or other device is “theft” in the same way. That picture of a beach/flower/mountain you found online and use as your background? “Stolen”.

    My household income last year was about 15,000, in a city where the average household costs are over 50,000. Any book that I downloaded, I did so because I certainly couldn’t afford it, as well as the fact that the library was in a foreign language I did not speak, thus it clearly didn’t have those books available.

    If us working our hardest doesn’t entitle me to have even ONE square meal a day, what makes YOU think that writing a book (clearly something you love doing, if you keep doing it despite low profit margins) entitles you to make a good living?

  259. “I assume they are primarily produced by individuals like me – bibliophiles who want to share their favorite books with others. They likely own hundreds of books, and when asked what their favorite book is look at you like you are crazy before rat
    at 4:03 pm on April 4, 2012

    [...] Confessions of a book pirate – The Millions [...]

  260. The List 1/26/2010 | jjjjosh
    at 2:38 pm on April 5, 2012

    [...] Confessions of a Book Pirate – Link [...]

  261. Book Piracy | The John Fox
    at 12:42 pm on May 12, 2012

    [...] at The Millions, there's some great journalism going on — an interview with a book pirate called "The Real Caterpillar." One of [...]

  262. Jason
    at 6:30 pm on June 21, 2012

    Ok, I know it’s an old thread, but people keep commenting. I think that people don’t see it as stealing because they feel like it’s not a physical object and that’s not what we recognize ‘stealing’ as. I’ve scanned a lot of books myself and uploaded them to my computer and used a company called 1dollarscan that scans them, but I don’t share. I just don’t feel right about it, but it’s so common now. Pirating is no doubt changing the future of these industries.

  263. Links of the Week « Alison McCarty
    at 11:35 am on June 22, 2012

    [...] Confessions of a Book Pirate article is pretty interesting, especially this line: “Just because someone downloads a file, [...]

  264. P.Seingalt
    at 5:44 pm on October 25, 2012

    No one minds if the pirate reads all the books he wants to for free as long as he checks them out from a library and returns them. The piracy is caused because he keeps the read files on his computer and fails to delete them, or acts himself as a library distributing texts. Clearly the law has not caught up with the technology. There needs to be a law which addresses digital economies and finds a way to compensate writers for their work. Perhaps this could be done through a tax like there is on the now-obsolete digital audio tape, perhaps it could be done through assessing mills (as opposed to cents) on downloads. The last major comprehensive revision to the US copyright law was in 1976. At that time book piracy was limited to thieves who ripped the front covers off of paperbacks and books printed in Taiwan, since that country had not signed any copyright treaties. The world has changed and the law must change with it. If your business model is threatened by a fan with a scanner the business model needs to change. Surely we can find a solution to these issues, but criminalizing this behavior helps no one.

  265. Abe
    at 12:02 pm on January 1, 2013

    I don’t know if it’s been said in any of the flood of comments above, but my guess–if most pirating mirrors my own habits–is that *MOST* downloads go unwatched, unread, and perhaps even unlistened to. I’ve downloaded my share of movies, TV shows, music, and ebooks but find that I read very few of what I obtain for “free.”

    As in most things, it seems that the more “skin in the game” I have, the more I’m likely to care. In the case of media, when I have a finite amount of money and eventually decide to spend a bit of it on an ebook, music/movie/TV download, I am MUCH more likely to read it. Not to say that there aren’t people out there who’s primary means of consuming media is pirating it, but me, I’ve discovered that if I pirate it, I rarely use it. Mostly it sits on an old hard drive in the garage gathering dust. I think most people pirate for the shear joy of *having* stuff–not because they actually do anything with it.

    With this in mind, I think the cost of piracy is exponentially over-estimated. True losses are probably less than 1% of the estimated amounts. And even those losses may be smaller than they appear–if some of the “lost” revenue results in more ebooks by an author or publisher purchased, more movies or TV episodes purchased.

  266. Loren
    at 1:09 pm on January 1, 2013

    Another factor to keep in mind–not all downloads actually represent piracy. I am in the process of trying to replace my bookshelf with electronic versions. I don’t have a suitable scanner and it’s much faster to download somebody else’s scan than to do it myself anyway.

    I already own the physical books, though, I’m not stealing anything by doing this–yet my downloads no doubt get counted as piracy.

  267. Editoria, la pirateria serve al marketing | Il magazine di FirstMaster
    at 8:32 am on January 11, 2013

    [...] di formarci un’opinione possiamo rileggere questo vecchio pezzo di The Millions: Confessions of a Book Pirate. Oppure consultare la lista dei libri più piratati in inglese, che ci riserva [...]

  268. The Assault on Writers by Internet Pirates - Gini Graham Scott
    at 4:02 pm on July 2, 2013

    [...] The damage to the industry and writers is enormous.  For example, Attributor, a firm that specializes in monitoring online content, has claimed that book piracy costs the industry nearly $3 billion in sales or over 10% of total revenue.  In a 2010 study they counted 3.2 million in downloaded books, according to C. Max Magee in an article entitled “Confessions of a Book Pirate.”  http://www.themillions.com/2010/01/confessions-of-a-book-pirate.html. [...]

  269. Deborah Toyin Longe (Pen Deborah O'longe)
    at 7:22 pm on August 12, 2013

    I have been a victim of piracy. Piracy (downloading books and sharing/selling them without permission) is stealing. You are blatantly stealing from others for a living and defending your action. How so interesting and condescending!

  270. This Week: A Book Pirate Bares All, Was Shakespeare Actually a Woman? | Lit Drift: Storytelling in the 21st Century
    at 5:04 pm on March 16, 2014

    […] Over at The Millions, a book pirate bares all. […]

  271. Link Digest – November 24, 2013 | zota
    at 4:10 pm on July 8, 2014

    […] The Millions : Confessions of a Book Pirate […]

Post a Response

Comments with unrelated links will be deleted. If you'd like to reach our readers, consider buying an advertisement instead.

Anonymous and pseudonymous comments that do not add to the conversation will be deleted at our discretion.