Big publishers encourage book piracy

picture of skull and crossbonesI’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?


About Greta van der Rol

I'm an author of fast-paced, action-adventure novels, mainly space opera - although I've been known to write in other genres. I live not far from the coast in Queensland, Australia and enjoy photography and cooking when I'm not bent over the computer. I have a degree in history and a background in building information systems, both of which go a long way toward helping me in my writing endeavours.

Posted on 16 July 2013, in Life and things and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 19 Comments.

  1. scotlandphotojournal

    Good rant. I agree on every point. It’s insane and getting worse.

  2. I suspect it’s because the publisher’s contract with the author doesn’t allow them to sell the ebook in Australia – a hangover from the days of print. If they’ve gone to the bother of preparing an ebook, it takes less effort to tick “worldwide” on Amazon than it does to tick the individual countries.

    I had a similar experience when I decided to try something by Tad Williams – none of his books are (or were) available on the Kindle in the UK, except a short story collection, A Stark and Wormy Night. Fortunately, there wasn’t a particular book of his I wanted to read – I just wanted to read something by him, to see if I liked his style.

  3. Being from a small press, I generally recommend people in “blocked” countries buy e-books directly from the publisher. Especially since Amazon et al choose to make it so ridiculously difficult. Then again I was trying to support an author friend by buying directly from her (large house) publisher. Jumped through hoop after hoop, never could download. Finally gave it up as a bad cause and waited a few days to get it on Amazon. And I’m relatively computer savvy at least when it comes to buying stuff!

  4. juliabarrett

    Great rant. Yes, I would like to add something. My husband loves the text to speech function on his Kindle as he commutes nearly two hours to work and two hours home. Some of the big pubs disable the text to speech function in order to make more money selling the audio book. It’s infuriating.

  5. *claps*

    As another one who lives in Australia, I totally hear you. And just as frustrating are the books that you can buy in Australia, but for $2-3 more than anywhere else (despite the Australian dollar being worth more than the US right now!)

    TV and movies are just the same. Drives me mad!

  6. It’s no different in South Africa. And yes, I’ve been away from there for nearly five years now. I know nothing’s changed. A local business set up an Amazon copycat (called – and they’re brilliant) because Amazon refuses, by and large, to deal with customers in South Africa. I doubt that scenario has changed much. And yeah, I second Rinelle’s complaint – stuff in the boonies is too dang expensive.

    Excellent rant… now if only certain people would read it!

  7. This country blocking has only happened over the last year.

    I have been buying Ebooks since 2007 and NEVER had a problem buying Ebooks till this last year. And the prices have skyrocketed since then as well. And that was when the Aussie dollar was really low. I used to get about 3 Ebooks for the price of a paperback here.

    And the reason initially was that it was because of a deal with their distributors.

  8. Fantastic rant! Totally agree. I think I mentioned once before I found book in KMart that was $18 while the ebook on Amazon was $17. It’s more now that the aus $ has dropped. I didn’t buy it from either.

  9. J. Kathleen Cheney

    BTW my book showed up on a ‘pirate’ site yesterday…but the book won’t be released until November. Now I’m pretty sure this guy doesn’t actually have a copy of my book. Instead, a lot of these ‘pirate’ sites are just actually venues for malware. I suspect if you click on his ‘free download’ link for my book….you’d seriously regret it….

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