Big publishers encourage book piracy
Posted by Greta van der Rol
I’m not sure I understand the mindset of people who pirate books, putting them up on the internet for people to download for free. Some (I suppose) collect email addresses. Some charge a fee to join – which has the added possible purpose of making people feel that if they pay $10 to join for a year, they’re really paying for the books. (If that’s what you think, you’re wrong) I guess all us small writers know that people like Neil Gaiman don’t see piracy as a problem and the chorus goes up ‘but he sells millions – what would he know?’ Look, I’m not saying I’m happy that people can download my books for free. Writing and publishing is bloody hard work and sure, I resent people ducking out of what’s not much money – $5 or less for a novel. Nor do I feel the need to feel sorry for people who have at least a computer/tablet/phone and access to the internet to download and read a pirated book. However, I’m a pragmatist. The internet is out there and people will take advantage of its flexibility. That’s life.
But I do wish the Big Five/Six would get with the program and stop encouraging the pirates. Yes, they do. Do we really believe that book pirates bother a lot about small Indie writers who sell a few hundred books? No. They steal works by Neil Gaiman, Dan Brown, Jack McDevitt and the like. Go and put a big name followed by ‘epub’ in a search engine and see what happens.
The internet is international. That’s why it’s called WWW (world wide web). Internet book publishing is not. Quite some time ago I wrote an article entitled Why is buying e-books so fuming hard? In which I complained at being unable to buy e-books because I live in the intergalatic boonies AKA Australia.
Well, folks, nothing has changed. I recently wanted to buy Linnea Sinclair’s Hope’s Folly and these days I much prefer my e-reader to dead tree books. My first stop was Amazon, where I could buy a trade paperback or an audio book but not a Kindle version. The book was published in 2009. Fine. I can read e-pub on my tablet, so I visited, in succession, Barnes & Noble, Diesel and a few others – I forget which. In every sodding case I was (eventually) told I couldn’t buy the bloody book because I live in the wrong sodding country.
Now tell me, folks, if I wasn’t a writer and totally conscious of the issue of piracy, do you think I would have spent an hour and more bouncing around to various internet sites if I could download a book for free without even having to set up an account?
Besides, the Big Publishers charge far too much for e-books. I recently went through a similar I-want-to-do-this-honestly charade with Jack McDevitt’s Firebird. I could buy the paperback for around $7 – but the e-book cost me $13. WTF? Knowing how much it costs to produce a paperback, it seems to me they’re using e-book sales to prop up the dead tree market. Always provided, of course, that you can find the link to the e-book so you can buy it.
And while I’m on this soapbox with the wind blowing around my shorts, the Big Book Sellers want buyers to jump through too many hoops to buy online. I can see absolutely no reason why a company needs my street address to send me an e-book. In these days of internet security, I resent having to provide unnecessary information about my identity. ESPECIALLY if they’re prepared to take my money via PayPal. And don’t give me any crap about ‘your data is secure with us’. I worked in IT. Let’s face it, I can buy a book in Big W or Target, take it to the counter and pay with my credit card. What is the difference?
I know we’re never going to stop people pirating books. DRM is a waste of time. Purveyors of software programs tried to protect their intellectual property with encryption mechanisms and locks of various kinds since computers appeared on everybody’s desktop. That achieved two things. It pissed off the vast majority of honest purchasers for a whole slew of reasons, and it presented a challenge to the hackers. Have a look online. You’ll find pages of programs to break DRM.
Please, please, Big Publishers. Piracy won’t go away, but you can lessen the impact.
- Realise the web is accessible even from third world backwaters like Australia.
- Make it easy for us to find e-books
- Make the prices reasonable
- Don’t make us jump through hoops to pay for the damn things
Anything you’d like to add?