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.)