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From this conversation, I hope that we have all learned to think before posting, commenting or tweeting.

It has been said, ad nauseam, that all people should think before putting their thoughts up there in the internets for everyone, their pet parrot and their alien relatives to see. After all, it’s there forever, in one way or another (from Google cache to screen caps).

It has been noted that we eeeeeeeeeeeeeebol readers keep lists of authors behaving badly, and that we are not shy to share those lists with other readers whenever flaps like this latest break out.

It has been repeated all over the cyber-universe that, however unfair it may be, authors ought to behave in a different (wiser, more professional) manner than readers do–after all, authors are selling stuff to readers, and it behooves them to keep that in mind at all times.

Please note that I abhor piracy with a vengeance–as a reader, anything that will discourage authors from writing hurts me, and since it’s all about me…

However, equating “sharing within a very limited circle” to piracy and theft?

WTF gorilla

Ouch–for ALL involved.


Now, coming at it from another perspective.

The main difference between sharing a physical copy of a book and an electronic copy is that you cannot have three–let alone six–people sitting shoulder to shoulder and reading that one copy at the same time (unless one of the six is reading it out loud, of course, and that’s not the case).

With a print book, at no point there is a second or third copy to go around. With a print book, there is a limited viable life for the copy–just ask our very own SuperLibrarian about weeding out copies that are truly no longer viable. With a print book, even one that is sold and resold via used book stores, sooner or later the reselling stops–either because the last buyer kept the copy or because the copy fell apart.

None of these is true of electronic copies.

Electronic copies are pretty much eternal–just make a new copy to your next device and voilà, you are set.

Electronic copies are pretty much like bunnies on steroids–no limit to how many you can make and give away.

Electronic piracy can be extremely discouraging for authors–if your debut novel is being downloaded a few thousand times on release day, but your sales are of a hundred or so copies on the same day, it’s difficult not to feel that at least a few of those ‘free’ downloads could have been legitimate sales.

No, there are no hard numbers on this–but, let’s us readers be realistic here: we have a book that has been buzzed up the whazzo all over big readers’ sites. Then, on release day or before in some cases, we have hundreds of thousands of downloads from filesharing sites.

Is it unreasonable for the author to feel that at least one hundredth of those would have likely been sales?

Even if it had been half of one hundredth, those sales could have made a world of difference to the author whose next contract hinges on sale numbers.


None of the above means that I have a solution or answer to the continued conflict between authors wanting to make a living off their writing and readers wanting cheaper and more easily accessible reading material, but hey, I’ve been told I like the sound of my voice so here you have it.


  • Ella
    October 23
    9:14 am

    Is it unreasonable for the author to feel that at least one hundredth of those would have likely been sales?

    Yes. If people know where to find pirates sites then they had no intention of buying your book in the first place.

    I’m sorry ebook authors are having such a hard time but the market has expanded from a few years a go when it was just a handful of publishers putting out books. There are hundreds of ebook houses out there and NY has got in on the act. Readers have a lot more choice than they did have, and with things as they are a lot less disposable income. There is also the quality issue, readers might have been willing to accept poorly edited and plotted fiction when there wasn’t a lot of choice, but not any more. Readers are voting with their wallets.


  • katieM
    October 23
    11:31 am

    Is it unreasonable for the author to feel that at least one hundredth of those would have likely been sales?

    I disagree. It is not unreasonable to expect that such a small – 1 out of 100 or 10 out of 1,000 – downloaded books be purchased. If an author gets 50 cents a book, that’s only $5.00 dollars if 10 books are bought. We all know that writing a book is a year long proposition, so for those who download illegally would you do all that work for only $5.00? Authors sell books for a living. Those who don’t wish to make a profit put their stories on free sites like 365 tomorrows.

    I think ebook manufacturers should come up with a way to prevent illegal copies. They could either limit downloads to a certain ebook “address” like software companies do (that way that single address could always have access to a purchased book and owners who buy a second ebook could contact the company for a new code) or they could put some type of programming restriction that keeps copies of books from being made.


  • Someone predicted a few years back that as electronic books become easier to steal, authors will have to find a new way to make a living, that they will need to be performers–like musicians–take their show on the road and sell tickets.

    How many authors are going to be good at putting on a show? I mean, a show people will want to pay to see? Picturing myself taking up puppetry here. The image is not attractive. And then I would still have to write the books…

    Being an author will be for the young and strong only–because even after an author is successful, she will have to do something besides the writing and the usual promotion to make a living. Or at least have an SO who lives to support her/him.


  • Let me keep this really short, for obvious reasons:

    Thank you, Karen.


  • Katie Mack
    October 23
    8:13 pm

    AztecLady — Thanks for this post; I totally agree with you on it all.


  • Sorry, AztecLady! I should have read more carefully. But thank you for the rational words and Karen for the forum!


  • Electronic piracy can be extremely discouraging for authors


    Thanks, Azteclady. 🙂


  • As a writer, reader and someone who doesn’t have a lot of money to spend, I feel for all the parties. Personally, I’ve written several short stories that are totally free to readers. Four free ones by me are up at my publisher Total-E-Bound. I also have other free reads at the Long & Short Reviews and around the web. Sometimes I have contests to give away a book or two.

    On the other hand, I work very hard on my books. It’s my second job and I come home from one job often tired and stressed and go to the second. I do so not only because I love to create stories but because my family depends on my extra income. I wish I could afford to write only for the love of it. At this time if I were to stop earning the second income, I’d have to cut way back on writing and get a different second job. I’d rather have one that I love (writing) than one I don’t. My kids need food and gym shoes and clothes, unfortunately.


  • The amount of books pirated is depressing, no doubt about it.

    However, I think there are a number of authors who are focusing their (rightful) anger at the wrong people. I’m an e-published author myself, and some of the attitudes I have seen towards readers have made me feel uncomfortable. It is scarily like the attitude of the RIAA, where they assume that most people would steal rather than purchase. I don’t like that assumption as a consumer, and I know it’s a huge complaint readers have.

    Things like DRM only make it more difficult for the honest user. I can’t recall if it was here or Dear Author where someone mentioned that because they used a non-standard operating system, most ebook formats that used DRM were not compatible. The person in question would purchase the ebook legitimately — and then download the “cracked” version from a Torrent site in order to even read the book they had bought. That’s fucking ridiculous.

    People would argue “that’s the price of piracy”, but DRM doesn’t even protect. All it takes is one hacker to crack the DRM, post it online, and it seeds from there.

    Maybe I come from a different angle because I grew up with the Internet. It’s always seemed to me that e-piracy is the downside of doing business online. No matter how hard the RIAA, publishers, whomever, try to outsmart the pirates… they are always one step ahead. Truthfully, I don’t see that changing without even further punishing legitimate consumers.

    I don’t personally consider it money lost, because most of these pirates would not buy the book if it were unavailable via illegal download. They would simply wait until it becomes available. I don’t see the sense in getting worked up over it, because as soon as one is taken down, another will pop up in its place. It’s unfortunate, but it’s the reality.

    Placing blame and shame on legitimate readers is not the answer. Frankly, some of the commentary I have read from fellow authors in this whole hullabaloo has decided me to either buy their works used — or not at all, in the case where I can’t do so. There are some behaviors and attitudes I simply don’t want to support.


  • Thank you, Azteclady. This whole issue is about to make my head explode. I abhor piracy, and when you see statements like, “Oh, wow, I’m so glad I found this site! It’ll save me so much money!” on pirate sites (and yes, that is an ACTUAL quote from one of the biggest sites,) it’s horribly discouraging.

    On the issue of sharing…I love used book stores, garage sales, libraries, and friends sharing print books. It’s how I grew up, how I fostered a love for reading. Ebooks? It’s happening, so we might as well work with it…and by work with it, I mean embrace devices such as the Nook (though I’m still unclear on whether the sharing feature only allows ONE share of that book forever, or if it allows multiple shares of the same book, just one at a time.)

    There are definitely some strong opinions on both piracy and sharing, so as technology advances and ebooks become more popular, I fear it’ll only get worse before it gets better.

    Thanks again for the post!


  • Mireya
    October 25
    10:12 pm

    I still remember the “Napster” revolution. That “revolution” ended up with Apple finally “getting” it and bringing to subscribers what they wanted: single song downloads that were affordable. The RIAA is comprised by a bunch of asses that didn’t react until Napster had been the media used by hundreds of thousands net users for well over a year.

    Until publishers start “getting” it both authors AND readers will be stuck in this limbo we are currently on. Why is it taking so long for someone to “get” it boggles my mind … I think the closest is Amazon, but sadly, there are too many dinosaurs in management positions at most publishers who really have no understanding about technology and how it works, nor the market for such technology. All they are seeing is that readers are potential thieves… and THAT is what pisses me off.


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