(Please note: Part II of “The Best MG/YA Books for Girls” had been postponed to bring you this important bulletin–er, blog. Part II will be posted Friday).
There’s been a lot of going around the interwebs lately about e-book piracy. Now, when I think about pirates, I think of cunning, lawless men and women who pillage and plunder booty from hard-working people.
Turns out the present-day reality really isn’t that far off.
There’s a romantic, glamorous notion associated with the term “pirates.” Sometimes, I think we forget just how callous and cutthroat those guys really were. And it’s no different when they’re taking goods (i.e. downloading e-books) from innocent folk (i.e. authors) and not paying a dime. Let’s examine e-book piracy in more detail, shall we? Come, sail the seven seas of stealing with me.
(Warning: this is a long-ish post. If you need a glass of rum in the middle, it’s cool. I’ll still be here when you get back)
Whaaah? Not what you were expecting, right? Personally, I feel e-book piracy is a stinky, scurvy habit. But there are some thoughts to the contrary. (Don’t worry–I’ll slash through their logic like a cutlass through a landlubber!) ;-)
1. E–books should be free.
Man, do I agree with that! Abso-FREEakin-lutely! So should all books. Plus rent, food, clothing, and health care. But the reality is, they’re not. We do not live in a perfect world. And with so many e-books being 99 cents or less, how much closer to free can you get?
I know it’s a rough economy. I know a lot of people are hurting. But if you really, really need to, you do have an option that’s totally free: the library. It’s filled with thousands of authors you will probably love. And there’s no tri-cornered hat or red sash required.
2. E-books lost to pirates aren’t really a loss. Pirates wouldn’t have paid for them anyway.
Um, yes they would. What if there were a magical computer program that made your modem explode with every illegal download? E-book pirates wouldn’t have a choice but to pay.
They might not buy them in the huge numbers they’re stealing, but if pirates truly love to read, they will buy. Barnes and Noble doesn’t let shoplifters just walk off with merchandise saying “Hey, they weren’t going to pay for it anyway.” That behavior would get you keelhauled faster than you could say “Davy Jones’ locker.”
3. Many people don’t know the e-books they’re downloading are illegal copies.
Okay, maybe you go to a website, see “free books” and think, “Score!” The site looks professional and legitimate, so you don’t ask too many questions.
But you’re walking down a dangerous plank there, my friends. If the sites don’t have the authors’ express permission to give away books, chances are the webmasters are criminals.
4. An e-book only “exists” on the computer. Therefore, not paying for it is somehow less wrong.
Ahoy, matey! That e-book still took time and effort for the writer to create. That cover design and professional editing, proofreading, and formatting all costs hundreds of dollars–if not more. And you get it all for only $2.99 at times? That, my friends, is a steal!
It wouldn’t be okay to walk into someone’s house and start taking books off their shelves. So it’s not okay to do it “just on the computer.”
5. Writing books is easy and fun. Why should I pay for someone’s else’s hobby?
Okay–I’ll bite. You’ve got this fish on the line. Let’s pretend, for a moment, that some of us don’t spend a huge chunk of our time treating writing as a business. Let’s also pretend that all writing was easy (though logically, we know that’s not true. Most authors I know slave and agonize over their books). Why should you pay us for something that’s so much fun?
Because otherwise, we can’t keep doing it. It’s really as simple as that. Even if the writing itself were always a breeze, we can’t type in the dark. Or with growling bellies. Or if our computers are attacked by viruses because we can’t afford protection software.
We need money to keep the lights on. To keep the bellies sated. To get Norton or McAfee so all our hard work isn’t erased overnight.
If a doctor, lawyer, or teacher loves their job, and goes to work happy every day, are you justified in not paying them? If your grocer loved giving you groceries, would it ever be right to simply walk out of the store with them? We don’t attempt to rationalize this with any other profession. But somehow, with authors, we say it’s okay.
6. If I post about it on Twitter, Amazon, Goodreads, etc., or tell my friends about the book, I’m giving the author free publicity.
No dice, dark and sinister book pirate! As much as authors appreciate your publicizing their work, most honest citizens do it without stealing. You can’t shoplift an i-pod from Apple and promise that you’ll tell all your buddies how cool it is. And what if your buddies are fellow pirates who also don’t pay for e-books? That doesn’t really help the authors, does it?
Why you shouldn’t be an e-book pirate
1. Stealing is wrong. Period.
End of story, topic, and discussion. Well, okay–for more discussion, please see below.
2. You’re encouraging others’ bad behavior.
This goes for any fellow book-lovers you know. They think “Well, if so-and-so is doing it, it can’t be that bad. After all, he/she is basically a decent person.” And you may well be a decent sort (your swashbuckling piracy notwithstanding). But your actions are spreading the disease of e-book stealing like plague-ridden, shipbound rats.
This is especially true if you have kids. E-book piracy sets a bad example for them. What kind of lesson are you teaching your little cabin boys and girls by stealing books? Don’t think they know you’re going to those illegal download sites? Think again. They were processing digital data in the womb. They know how to check a browser history. They’ll probably use your computer to take over the world someday.
So please don’t be shocked when they unlawfully download, say . . . music. Illegal monkey see, illegal monkey do. And since it’s illegal . . .
3. You can be prosecuted for e-book piracy.
Yes, the odds are slim since we authors usually don’t have the means to send our rowboats after you. But it can happen. In related news, here’s an article where an author was sued for copyright infringement over a blog pic.
4. You may already be paying for pirated e-books.
A twitter pal of mine recently mentioned that many pirate sites have those little yellow “Donate” buttons. So they won’t support authors, but they expect you to support them?
I think that kind of arrogance borders on psychopathology. I swear Captain Hook is running some of these sites. Why not take those dollars and give them to the authors by buying their books?
By the way, that twitter pal is the fabulous Liana Brooks–author extraordinaire and sadly, pirate victim. See her tongue-in-cheek take on e-book piracy here.
5. There are legal ways to get free books.
There’s the library, as I mentioned. There are also dozens of websites dedicated to free, legitimate e-books. Why not check out those options instead?
Here’s another way to score free books: be a book blogger. Yes, I know there are already a lot out there. But they often get free books in exchange for an honest review on their sites. And hey—you were going to read the book anyway. Why not review and post about it too?
You can also enter giveaways and contests. There’s no swabbing of the deck required. Just put some of those fabulous book bloggers on your RSS feed. Many of them have new giveaways every week. Gift cards, books—it’s all there. Enter enough and you’ll win a few.
6. You’re actually stopping the authors you love so much from writing.
This is similar to the point made above (why you should pay us for doing something that’s “fun”). What’s the number one reason professional authors give up writing? I’ll bet it’s because they can’t make a living at it. There seems to be a myth that all authors are rich and famous. Therefore, a few stolen books won’t make a difference. The reality is most of us have day jobs, and still struggle to make ends meet.
It’s not that we expect chestfulls of gold doubloons for every novella. But if just a fraction of the people pirating e-books paid for them, we could afford to give you even more books. Please don’t love our work so much that, through piracy, you rend it extinct.
There is nothing more devastating to an author (except possibly rejection), than to see people appreciating our book—while they rip it from our hands. Yes, we can track all those illegal downloads. We see what was paid for and what wasn’t. You didn’t think we’d ever find out you pirated our e-books, did you? Well, we did—and it stings.
Will there ever be an end to e-book piracy?
I know this simple blog post will not stop the hard-core e-book pirates. I know they are probably thumbing their noses (and other appendages) at me this very moment. And that’s if they’re even reading this! I know the scourge will continue, unfortunately, and I will hardly make a dent it in.
But despite all of this, I refuse to be cynical. I think most people are good and kind. And how bad can pirates be, if they are book-lovers just like me? Perhaps you aren’t truly a pirate at heart. Perhaps you were ill-informed before. Perhaps you thought e-book pirating was a minor, “victimless” crime.
Well, now you know better. You see the damage and the heartache it does. You know it prevents authors from continuing to provide the books you love. So avast, ye scurvy scoundrels, etc! Go forth and sin no more. Take that parrot off your shoulder and that black patch off your eye. We’ll make an honest sailor of ye yet.
Have opinions on the best ways to prevent e-book piracy? Know any ways to download books legitimately? Let’s hear it in the comments, folks!
(Top image by fuzzcat. Attribution given and rights respected. NOT pirated!)