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Janitor On Duty

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June 3rd, 2009

10:50 AM

Online piracy of books, again

Jane wrote an excellent article on it at Dear Author at http://dearauthor.com/wordpress/2009/06/02/effectively-combatting-piracy/

I'd like to add that authors may (rightfully) rail and chide and scold readers for downloading pirated books, but the best way to get anything done is by pushing the big players in the industry to do something. As we have seen, pirate sites will always be around and there are always people who will want free stuff.

The thing here is that authors must accept is that readers can be selfish and put their own needs above the authors'. In this case, while readers may understand that an author needs royalties to survive, there will also be readers out there who find books too expensive and therefore, if piracy is an available mean to get the books they want, they will resort to that. You can scream and wail and call them pirates and scum, but that's how people can be sometimes.

Instead of sounding off on readers, maybe it's time to dogpile the industry players instead? For example, $9.99 is way too high for ebooks. Even if I have a Kindle, I'm not buying their books if they cost $9.99 each. I don't care if publishers whine that their ebooks are supercool and that DRM is an added value for money or whatever else they can tell me - I am not spending $9.99 on any ebook, period. And if you tell me this is the amount of money I must pay for ebooks so that my favorite authors can eat, I'd remind you that I have to eat too. 

And then there is the matter of availability. As long as ebooks by these bigwig publishers are restricted to US folks only, I don't know why these people are complaining when people outside US resort to piracy to get their hands on those ebooks. My favorite move was by Wizards of the Coast who banned online retailers from selling legal PDFs of their out-of-print books to "combat" rampant piracy. Great move there - trying to beat piracy by making pirated copies the only kind of PDFs available to readers!

Anyway, my point is, arguing about morality is not the best way to combat piracy. Human nature being what it is, people are more likely to react favorably if you give them incentives to buy an ebook legally as opposed to getting pirated copies. Reduce the price, greatly increase the availability, and make it very convenient to buy a legal copy, like Jane said. And for goodness sake, authors should stop screaming at people and calling them scumbags because that is not going to get them to listen to you. When the RIAA started suing kids for downloading music, that was a PR nightmare because it made the RIAA looked like utter morons even if you argue that they were in the right to go after those kids. Unless the bigwigs in publishing actually do something, I suspect that the poor authors will have to live with the situation until someone pulls an iTunes for ebooks.

Push the industry players to do something. Railing at readers isn't going to change anything.

2 comment(s).

Posted by kirsten saell:

Yes yes yes!

I hear the argument all the time when it comes to lesbian fiction and the ungodly prices many small LGBT print publishers want for their books, both print and digital. That I should suck it up and pay the high prices for the satisfaction of supporting LGBT authors. Well, dammit, I'm not made of money, and I don't buy books out of a sense of activism. I buy f/f books because I want to read a good f/f book, and I want it for a reasonable price, especially if I'm not familiar with the author's writing. There is no excuse for charging $12.95 for any ebook--even if that $12.95 is a couple bucks less than the print version.

And geographic restrictions? I wanted to buy the SBs' book at Sony, but it was US residents only. I'm freaking Canadian, for fuck sake, and I see Sarah giving a free copy to every audience member on a Canadian talk show, it's in Canadian bookstores, for all I know, but I can't buy the damn thing in digital? Piss me right off. There's no excuse for geographic restrictions on ebooks. They take one of the best, most lucrative aspects of ebooks--the ability to market a book anywhere and rake in the dough--and don't exploit it? Stupid.

I know geographic restrictions are often tied into the foreign sales rights in publishing contracts, but the fact that so many traditional publishers haven't amended their contracts to take into account the global nature of ebooks just shows how insane they are. How hard would it be to change the language to reflect worldwide English digital rights, and keep foreign English print rights and foreign language rights separate from that? There are plenty of people all over the globe who want books in English, and they shouldn't be restricted to purchasing a book a year after its initial release once it's been translated into German or French. Just stupid.
June 4th, 2009 @ 12:23 AM

Posted by XandraG:

Maybe some of the pressure needs to be put on agents as well. The geographical restrictions need to be divorced from digital rights in the contract, and the people in the best position for that are the agents that negotiate said contracts. Get the agents on board with pushing for contract changes for digital rights and the geographical limitations will no longer slip through the cracks and be in place simply because dated contracts have forced authors and publishers to be stuck with something that makes no sense.
June 4th, 2009 @ 5:30 AM