If you follow me on Facebook, you know that I've been speaking out against book piracy for ages. Like any intellectual property (books, music, art, photography, etc) books are popping up on one pirate site after another. The sad thing is, even if you issue a DMCA take-down notice and get the site taken down, another three pop up like nuclear-resistant cockroaches. So, I don't bother with that often. But I do share every post about it that I come across on Facebook. Often these include screenshots with the cheapskate's name and comments, and it gets shared a LOT. If you want to go viral for being a thief, then go ahead. I'll be watching you like The Police.
Here's my throwback post from my old blog, Unwritten, on August 18, 2012, when I first discovered my own book on these sites.
I've updated a few comments. You'll see those in blue. Read on....
This week's proven interesting in several bookish debates. One of which occurred when I received a Google Alert about A Ranger's Tale. Someone had asked for it on a forum that hosts e-book sharing. After doing a bit of searching, it appears the site once hosted actual book files, but now only facilitates sharing between site members.
A few more threads from their moderators suggest how wholeheartedly they feel their methods are justified, even going so far as to claim that the extra exposure of proliferating e-book sharing will help authors in the end, lead to more sales, and get this...even movie deals.
And e-book sharing is not pirating, they say, because no one's making actual money from the trade. In fact, they're very supportive of authors and want to facilitate author/reader connection.
If that is the case, then why did the person requesting an illegal copy of A Ranger's Tale (or the site administrators) not contact ME directly? Or the countless other authors whose work they're sharing with all the sad souls who can't afford books (in support, of course)?
Here's my message to them, since they never bothered to contact me:
If you were to take a poll of the readers/reviewers of my work, I guarantee the vast majority received a free copy from me either in return for a review or as part of a giveaway. My books are not locked in
some holy Ark of the Covenant which only the richest reader can access. From my own experience, most up-and-coming authors are more than happy to communicate with readers. If they're not running free downloads on Amazon, they are regularly offering up their books through giveaways and giving out review copies if you request one.
Book sharing sites like these may not be selling pirated copies, but by allowing others to share unlimited e-copies of any author's work, without the express consent of said author, are perpetrating the illegal trade of copyrighted work. I'm sure there are authors there who regularly interact with the members there, but I am not one of those, and to see a request for my book pop up there is surprising and annoying, considering how easy it is to contact me online.
Many authors argue that every instance of file sharing is another lost sale. In my (and in most writers') cases, we're NOT reaping huge profits from our work. But, the point is, we have a right to control the distribution of our work. And yes, writing IS work. Most books take months, years, or even decades to be completed, so we deserve to see something come out of it, even if it's simply a review from a book we've given out for FREE. When you facilitate or participate in e-book sharing on sites such as this, you're disrespecting that author's time and efforts.
The argument was also posed that one can share a print copy with no repercussions, so why not-ebooks? Sure, it's easy as pie to email a file. No postage necessary. You don't even have to meet in some dark alleyway. But, you see, when you share a print copy, unless you've snatched it from your local library or a bookstore, SOMEONE has purchased it. The author has been compensated for that copy. Pass it around to your neighbors and weird aunts for all we care. In fact, I welcome that sort of sharing. You can even share a purchased (or rightfully obtained free) e-copy, if you have an e-reader, and hand it over to your daughter to read--that's great!
But, as soon as you duplicate that e-copy and start sending it out to people without the author's consent, you've crossed the line.
The way I see it, if you cannot afford to buy a legitimate copy of a book, you have a few options. Take
notes if you need to:
Borrow a print copy from a friend.
Borrow a copy from the library. Many libraries even have e-book lending now! If your library doesn't have the book you want, ask the librarian to order one. They're usually more than happy to do so.
Search Google for your favorite author or book, find his/her blog/Facebook page/Twitter, etc and see when they'll be hosting their next giveaway.
Contact the author you're interested in by email (you can contact me via the contact tab at the top of my website or via any of my social media buttons at the bottom of my website) and ask them for a review copy. And you know what? Writing a review really isn't that hard. You can even ask me how if you're not sure. I'm kinda nice like that. I enjoy helping people, as do most writers.
Last but not least, and this one is hard to swallow for our "I have a right to something for nothing" society, DO WITHOUT. Seriously, most people, if they can't afford a car, don't go to a car lot and just drive off with a new Honda, while asking, "How else am I going to get one?" They walk, or ride a bicycle, or take the bus, or carpool....get my drift?
Let me end with a story from my childhood. Growing up, we were poor. My parents could barely keep a roof over our heads. And I LOVED to read, particularly during the summer when I didn't have a thing to do because they couldn't afford to send me to camp or take vacations. Granted, we didn't have e-books back then, but you know what my mom did? She called our county library and asked for the Bookmobile to come to my house. Every week, I could barely contain myself when that blue and white truck pulled up in our drive. And the driver knew what I liked, so he kept my favorite books stocked. I read just about every book that Victoria Holt wrote that way and returned them so others could enjoy them, too.
There was MY option. Now, in our digital age, finding a book to read is easier than ever. Yet, we don't have to resort to stealing them in order to enjoy our favorite authors. Most of us are just a click away. We love and cherish our readers, for without you, we'd just be writing for ourselves. Taking our books without our permission and without involving us in any way means that's what we're reduced to--just writing for ourselves.
And what's the point of that?
In case I haven't convinced you that e-book pirating is a bad idea....A Ranger's Tale is actually permanently FREE now on Amazon and all e-book sites, so if you steal it from a pirate site, you'll probably get a lot more than a book. Most of these sites are so generous, they'll upload some spectacular malware right to your computer. Congratz! Now you can enjoy a free book AND identity theft. Isn't that awesome?