Piracy Is Theft II

14 Jan

As you know, last week I published Piracy Is Theft, which outlined the fact that a pirate or group of pirates had copied the EARC of Falcone Strike and posted it, for SALE, on a pirate website. I got some interesting responses from my readers, which I will discuss here.

“Why Would Anyone Sell A Pirate Copy?”

The short answer to that, in the case of just about any professionally-published book, is that the investment has been made by someone else. There is no overhead for pirates who steal the edited piece of work and sell it for themselves. A few hundred copies, sold without permission, would reap a tidy profit. Maybe not in Falcone Strike’s case, but imagine what would happen if a pirate got their grubby little paws on the next JK Rowling or Stephen King. They’d have a good chance of reaping thousands of pounds, perhaps more, before the lawyers got involved.

That money is stolen directly from the authors and publishers, which leads neatly to …

“The Publishers Are Filthy Rich. They Won’t Notice Losing A Few Thousand Sales/Dollars”

The problem with that statement is that it simply isn’t true. Big Publishing is in trouble and has been for quite some time. There are a vast number of question marks hanging over the contract between Tor Books and John Scalzi – paying out so much, even in instalments, is going to be a major issue for Tor. Most authors, particularly those in thrall to Big Publishing, get paid only a tiny percentage of the profits. Losing that money is going to hurt.

But losing the sales may be worse. If one imagines it costs $10’000 to produce a book, including the electronic version, the publisher must sell enough to recoup their expenses before they can begin to reap a profit. Not selling enough copies will convince the accountants that the book isn’t selling, which will make them reluctant to buy the next volume. A pirate copy will NOT be counted, either in sales or profits.

If you want to keep a popular series going, don’t pirate it.

“It Gets Books To People Who Don’t Have Access To Amazon!”

There’s some truth in this one, I admit. Amazon has vast global reach, but it doesn’t sell (directly) to everywhere. However, I was able to purchase copies of Kindle EBooks while I was in Malaysia, so working around zoning restrictions isn’t that hard.

Again, however, selling the stolen books is a step too far. That money is not going to the author.

“But EBook Prices Are Too High!”

Again, there is some truth here. Big Publishing has yet to realise that people are not going to buy EBooks at hardback prices. On the other hand, neither stealing the books (see above) or leaving one-star reviews bitching about the high prices are actually productive. In the case of the latter, you’re not hurting the publisher, but the author.

It is a blunt truth of publishing, I think, that most authors get very little say in how their books are priced. Publishers will charge what they think the market will bear. My strong advice, in that case, is to email the publishers and make it clear that you won’t pay hardback prices for EBooks. They’ll only take note if they lose sales.

And if you do pirate copies, you’ll only hurt the prospect of getting further books in the series.

“I Want Out Of Print Books!”

Ok, I have some sympathy for this one. I have a whole list of books I want copies of, all of which are either impossible to find or have terrifyingly high prices. Still, if you want legal copies of these books, contact the copyright owner and ask. They may be unaware that there’s a market for these books as EBooks.

“I Want To Use My Books On All Machines/I Want Saved Copies Of My Purchased Books!”

Again, I have some sympathy for this one. It’s downright cheeky to limit the use of a book, once published; no one has any right to tell me I can’t read in the bath, so no one has any right to tell me I can’t put a copy of a purchased EBook on any machine. (Or DVD, or whatever.) If you buy a copy of [whatever], no one has any right to say you can’t copy it …

… Unless you’re planning to sell or pirate it.

The core problem with EBook piracy, which keeps spurring the development of increasingly-annoying DRM, is that you can steal the same book hundreds of times. Pinching a physical book – or a car – doesn’t allow you to do more than sell it once, but stealing an EBook lets you keep selling it or giving it away indefinitely.

My strong advice on this matter is to make sure you don’t lose track of your copies after you make them. And tell Amazon, or whoever you’re buying from, that you’d like other formats too.

(And just in case the book does go out of stock, make a copy beforehand first.)

21 Responses to “Piracy Is Theft II”

  1. Vincent Archer January 14, 2016 at 8:05 pm #

    “Again, there is some truth here. Big Publishing has yet to realise that people are not going to buy EBooks at hardback prices.”

    Actually, in some cases, they might (or close to). I’ve purchased quite a few Baen e-books at 15$.

    But Baen understand ebooks. Their sell those e-hardcovers with a two-to-three months headstart, making them good value for those who are ready to pay a premium for the book NOW. Which is basically the same as for all books; you can buy the hardcover edition when it comes out, or wait for the cheaper paperback reprint next year which will have the discounted hardcover around the same time. Or wait for the bargain bin (if ever). So, yea, Baen understand the ebooks, which is why they make their ebook bundles and quite a few other attractive options.

    (disclaimer: I buy ebooks for one main reason: I don’t have room in my apartment for new books anymore, but bytes can be stacked to impressive depths. Plus hardcovers are hard to read on the bus)

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard January 14, 2016 at 8:30 pm #

      Nit, the $15 Baen eBooks are the Electronic Advanced Reader Copies (eARCs).

      Those are pre-final edit versions of Baen’s forth-coming eBooks.

      Now, thanks to Baen’s agreement with Amazon.com, the eBook versions of the Hardcover editions are $9.99.

      eBooks for Baen trade paperbacks are $8.99 and eBooks for Baen mass-market paperbacks are $6.99.

    • chrishanger January 17, 2016 at 1:10 pm #

      Baen is the exception that proves the rule.


  2. duncancairncross January 14, 2016 at 10:14 pm #

    Hi Chris
    Buying “Out of Zone” – is actually treated the same as piracy!! – so hung for a sheep or a lamb – If you wait long enough you can normally get what you want but I had to wait for nearly 2 years for one book
    It’s not a case of Amazon not having a vast global reach – some publishers act the way the film industry does and try and get more money by deliberately not releasing in certain markets – I have no idea why they think they make more money that way but it does piss me off when it comes up with “That title is not available in your location”

    Out of Print
    Is much much more complicated than “contact the copyright owner” – even when he/she is long dead the copyright persists not to mention the fact that it may have been sold to somebody else – several times!
    Google had the best idea get all of the “Orphans” available as e-books and charge a small fee putting the money into a pot for all of the actual copyright owners

    Saved copies/all machines
    At the moment Amazon do a good job but you can’t save an unlocked copy – you can unlock it but that is also treated as piracy!
    What will happen if in 5 years Amazon goes bust?

  3. Gary Blievernicht January 14, 2016 at 11:52 pm #

    I was wondering if the author’s share of an ebook was more or less than a print copy, rather than just ask, and be like a troll, I did some web searching and found a report from May, 2015 which analyzed the changes in sales and prices following the “big 5” agreement with Amazon regarding ebook pricing.


    Please go to read the report. Quite interesting. Many other reports exist at the site as well.

    Part of the summary of the report reads:

    One final point that bears mentioning: Protecting the paper book trade will not help publishers. We know from their own accounting that ebooks are far more profitable. Any report showing a decline in ebooks and an increase in print means a net loss for the Big 5 and their authors. Every dollar of consumer ebook spending that is replaced with a dollar of consumer paperback or hardcover spending means:

    Reduced publisher profits (only 20 cents of profit on each dollar versus 52.5 cents on ebooks).
    Reduced author earnings (only 8-15 cents of each dollar goes to the author versus 17.5 cents on ebooks).
    Fewer of an author’s books get sold and read.
    Less discoverability (in the last quarter, the number of titles on bestseller lists plummeted 26%).
    Fewer new fans eagerly awaiting the author’s next book.
    Authors need to understand that ebook dollars and even the celebrated hardcover dollars aren’t equivalent. In addition to the lower royalty share authors get, a big chunk of those dollars are lost on printing, shipping, and returns.

  4. Steven January 15, 2016 at 1:55 am #

    You make a good point about if you want a writer to come out with sequels you should pay.

    In my case I have paid my money to Amazon some years ago to a few books with good concepts, namely Bad News: The Warning by J.Russell Steel and Wolf Hunt (The Burning Ages Book 1) by Sebastian P. Breit . Both were part one of planned series.

    J.Russell Steel posted on Facebook that he had sold some decent sales numbers and was pleased with his success, he last posted in 2013 in the Amazon review section that book two was almost finished but no word since.

    Sebastian P. Breit apologised for a delay while moving day jobs and then updated his website from time to time saying that the final chapters were almost done in 2014, since then nothing.

    Reading part one of an abandoned series is really reading an incomplete book, it is pointless. Yet Amazon continues to sell these with the sequels almost five years on frm the first books release!

    • duncancairncross January 15, 2016 at 2:45 am #

      Hi Steven
      It’s always been like that!
      Some of my favorite series have come out decades apart –
      Or even worse the writer has had the effrontery to die before finishing the series

      I don’t know of any way to fix that – stopping the sale of the initial books would only reduce the writers incentive

      • Steven January 15, 2016 at 3:01 am #

        “Some of my favorite series have come out decades apart ”

        Such as?

      • duncancairncross January 15, 2016 at 3:22 am #

        The most extreme I can think of right now
        Anne McCaffrey
        Decision at Doona -1969
        Crisis at Doona – 1992

      • Steven January 15, 2016 at 7:35 am #

        Completely different circumstance. Are you seriously trying to compare her writing a complete book and then extending it with sequels years later to incomplete books from first time authors I have taken a gamble on with my money?

      • duncancairncross January 15, 2016 at 8:09 am #

        I remember waiting for years, for ages for May’s Exile’s Trilogy – then I looked it up and they came out once a year!
        Some do take a long time Weber’s Hells Gate – two books then a 10 year wait

      • Steven January 15, 2016 at 8:30 am #

        Once again, not comparable

      • chrishanger January 17, 2016 at 1:13 pm #

        Tell the author you loved his book and you really can’t wait for the sequel


    • chrishanger January 17, 2016 at 1:12 pm #

      You would probably need to encourage the author

      I’m not familiar with either one, but it’s possible that they felt they didn’t get enough feedback to keep going – or real life issues simply got in the way.

      (Although that is why i do my best to keep stories as stand-alone as possible.)


  5. duncancairncross January 15, 2016 at 9:23 am #

    To go back to the theme
    Piracy is Theft
    No – not really
    Piracy (the copyright kind) is more of the level of “Flyposting”

    Illegal – can be nasty – but NOT a serious crime

    Real Piracy is something else – and conflating a relatively minor civil offense and a real vicious crime like Piracy is in itself a form of dishonesty

  6. Joel Li January 15, 2016 at 9:26 am #

    Technically all books I read from Chris and other authors on Amazon are illegally obtained.

    Because stupid Amazon and/or (I HATE THEM) publishers always dont sell the books in Asia or sell them at super high prices as paperbacks or years laters.

    I cannot read any good books if I follow (THE USELESS EVIL) global licenses laws. This is the same for my TV shows.

    How fraking hard is it be allow me to pay money legally to watch or read something. The only reason it is not happening is because of EVIL corporations more interested in their greed then anyone else.

    I had to fraking buy a American Credit Card, use VPN, get an American Address to PAY to read and watch (netflix) my shows.

    Thus I will never be on the side of publishers and distributors ever in my life. In fact, if they all go bankrupt and force authors to get out into the world I will be eternally happy.

    Publishers and Distributors (aka middle man) are the ones enabling piracy because (in my case) until I (illegally) got into Amazon USA and Netflix, the only way I could get the shows and books I loved was to download them from wherever I could find them. This is the same with Steam for games.

    • Joel Li January 15, 2016 at 9:32 am #

      Not sure an American can understand.

      But it is extremely frustrating to have the money, the willingness to pay.

      And someone coming to tell you, sorry this and that is unavailable because you dont live in America. And oh sorry we never going to bring in because of some crap reason…

      And oh, if we bring in, we going to charge you premium because we will have a monopoly on the product and heck you.

      And lastly, you will have to wait a year or so, before we can bring it in.

      There is no logical, when I can from a website, download the book or show, minutes after it is released, on the Internet.

      Only think blocking it is, evil corporations screwing with us.

      • Joel Li January 15, 2016 at 9:38 am #

        Thus in the world, it is easy for many end users to pirate.

        Not because they dont have the money.

        Not because they dont want to pay.

        But because compared to paying for it (does not make it legal still), illegal distribution means are just that much more convenient and easy and fast. Paying for it, is hard and you must jump through hoops after hoops after hoops of crap.

        It is stupid, when this happens. If publishers only just SOLD the products, people would come…. but nooo they cannot keep up with the times and thus end users seek out other alternative.

        And when the only easy fast alternative is piracy, end users are not going to not do it.

  7. Rob January 16, 2016 at 1:13 am #

    Fairly unrelated question – why can’t I find any of your books on goodreads?

    • chrishanger January 17, 2016 at 1:15 pm #

      For sale or reviews? If the latter, there are reviews.


      • Rob January 17, 2016 at 6:16 pm #

        Ah! I needed to search without the ‘G’. Thank you sir.

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