… (edited for length because I couldn’t inflict the whole lot on my sweet readers again)
Used bookstores: First of all, I received royalties for that book when it was bought new. My publisher has a record of it. I am entitled to the royalties for the books when they are sold new. What the person does with it after buying it is their business. Secondly, used bookstores are small businesses and I’m all in favor of small, independent businesses because by selling used books, someone is putting a roof over someone’s head. Thirdly, you basically explained WHY authors are in favor of used bookstores by explaining your experience with Malinda Lo’s ADAPTATION. You discovered her work by buying a used book of hers (which she has been paid her royalties for because someone bought it new) and liked her work so much that when her new book came out, you bought it.
Borrowing books: once again: someone has paid for that book, so I have been paid my royalties and my publisher has a record for it. And there is only one copy. When someone else lends a book to someone, they don’t have it anymore, the other person has it. And then that friend gives it back to them. The book cannot exist in two places at once, just a pirated copy can. And a pirated copy has never been bought, there have been no royalties paid, and my publisher can’t count it.
Malinda Lo’s books are a perfect example of why you need to not steal books. In fact, all queer writers. Because if you don’t buy our books, our publishers will not continue publishing them and the next time a great LGBT book comes across an editor’s desk and they take it to acquisitions, acquisitions will say “well, that last LGBT book didn’t do very well. So we can’t buy this one.” Do you know how hard it is to get a major publisher to take on an LGBT book? How narrow marketing teams think our readership is? Piracy perpetuates that myth. And diverse books won’t get published if you steal them.
Why would I rather they not read it at all than steal it? Yes. Of course. Because stealing (it’s not downloading, it’s stealing) is wrong. And because I don’t just write books for people’s enjoyment. This is my job. Would you go to work if they decided to pay you every other hour and said “Well, people are going to see all the hard work you did and they’re gonna enjoy it SO MUCH, so what does it matter you didn’t get paid?”
I support myself and two elderly parents on my book income. And if I can’t keep publishing books, I can’t provide a roof over their heads and food in our mouths. I’m a hick girl from a rural, economically depressed area. I do not have a college degree. Until I sold my books, I was baking for barely over minimum wage, making maybe 13,000 dollars a year. If my books don’t sell, it doesn’t just hurt me. And it doesn’t just hurt my family. It hurts publishers faith in books like mine’s ability to sell. In books about LGBT characters. About disabled characters. About recovering drug addicts.
And that is the biggest tragedy of all. Because books like Malinda’s, books like mine, books like hundreds of other authors whose sales have suffered because of piracy, may not continue to be published. Or if they are, they may not get the marketing they deserve.
I sat about typing like a chump when someone else had written a far more excellent response. LIKE A CHUMP!
A mini twitter rant I thought was worth re-posting here.
Defiantly worth reposting
um no. if i own the book but i cant find it im gonna read a pirated copy online. if i dont want to support the author (im looking at you orson scott card) but i still want to read the book i will pirate it.
Um, no. If I can’t locate the physical copy of a book I own and want to read it immediately, I am not entitled to STEAL a digital copy. I go find the physical book, or dig it out of storage, or wait for my friend who borrowed it to return it, etc, etc. There are books I own in print and ebook form for this very reason. Just because you paid for one copy of a book does not mean you get a second for free.
When you read a pirated book in any capacity, you are supporting piracy. You are telling the people running the site, “I support what you do, I think it’s okay to steal from authors, keep running this site and others like it.” It’s simple supply and demand. If no one downloaded illegal copies, these sites would not exist. People say ‘vote with your dollar.’ Well in this case, vote by not clicking.
Lastly, it is 100% your right to not support any author (or artist) you choose. But doing so through illegal channels defeats the entire purpose of making a statement. Go to the library and read OSC if you don’t want him to get another royalty from you buying his book. That library copy was purchased by legal means and can be read over and over without him earning another dime. Better yet, don’t read him PERIOD. That’s real follow-through. And then when someone asks you what you thought of Ender’s Game, for example, you have a wonderful chance to stand on your soapbox and explain that the book sounded awesome but you didn’t read it because you’re not supporting the author for REASONS.
I understand your points and how you are trying to justify your situation, but that’s exactly what they are—your justifications to steal anyway. Authors get paid royalties only twice a year, and many work a second job to get by. Every sale counts, and if you want more books written in the future, buy and read legal copies.
oh the illegal ebook debate. look, i get that writers need money. i get that they don’t get paid well. and i get that stealing is wrong. but in today’s economy, the average reader (especially young ones) doesn’t have the money to buy books or the time to go to the library. speaking from a student perspective, it isn’t a good idea to spend $10-20 on a book that you MIGHT like. because if you hate it, you’re stuck with it. you can take it to half price and get a little of your money back or you can donate it. you can’t give it to a friend because why would you give your friend a bad book? Personally, I love buying physical books but that’s only when I have the money to do so. If I’m broke, I will read ebooks and if I like them, I’ll buy physical copies when I get the money. If I don’t like it, why would I give someone money for writing something that I don’t like? Yes I could read a sample but that’s only a few chapters. A lot of books are good at first then get bad (like Twilight). So reading a sample isn’t going to help anything. Since I’m broke most of the time, if I read and review a book, I leave links for my followers to get the book. If I like it, I talk about it a lot. Just because I read a free version doesn’t mean everyone else will. Some people hate ebooks or they just like having their own copy. So even if I read it for free, the people I expose to the book/series will make up for it until I buy the physical copy. And then there are rare books. For example, the Graceling trilogy. The covers I want are only available in the UK and I wanted to read them physically. But since I’m American and would have to buy the ugly covers, I got tired of waiting and just downloaded the ebooks because I wanted to know what happened in the books. I started to read Fire (book 2) but then I discovered Book Depository and saw that they had the covers I needed and I stopped reading the ebook and decided to get the physical book from there. My point is that there are many factors that play into people downloading free ebooks and I’ve only listed a few. While I do think authors have every right to be upset by it, I think they should stop and look at the other side of the problem. ebook downloading isn’t going to go away, just like music or movie downloading. you can complain and take every precaution you can to avoid your book being stolen but it’s always going to happen. I think if you don’t want to have to deal with this problem, talk to your publisher about not making ebooks in the first place. that’s the only solution I see that has any chance of working. YES we love your books. YES we want to support you. But sometimes, we can’t support you financially, so we use social media to spread the word about your book. We might not be giving you the money you need but we’re providing a link between you and a lot of people who CAN give you that money.
There are some points here (if you can’t afford to support an author financially, please do what you can to promote their work online) BUT I take issue with the excuse that younger readers don’t have TIME to go to a library. And FFS, can we stop EXCUSING this behavior with responsibility-removing statements like “well, piracy isn’t going away” and “just because *I* steal books doesn’t mean other readers will so chill out” because that’s just not all right. This is not a victimless problem.
I’m going to stay out of the meat of the argument, since I can actually see the argument from both sides. Specifically, I want to comment on the libraries, and how telling somebody to just go get the book from the library is a laughable joke.
My experience with libraries is that the selection is highly limited, and there’s about a 1 in a million chance of them actually having the book you want. Maybe that’s just my experience, but I had it in Whittier (a suburb of Los Angeles) and the same problem in here in Carson City (the capitol of Nevada). Especially when it comes to Young Adult fiction.
Even if you check it in their system, it rarely pans out — They had two copies of The Fault in Our Stars, (one of the most popular novels in the world right now) between something like fifteen libraries. And one of the copies had been out for nearly a year. And that’s one of the more popular books. Oftentimes, if the book you want is more obscure (Gayle Forman’s Sisters in Sanity, for instance), you’re not going to find it in the library system for love or money.
And it’s not just YA fiction. I went to look for the libretto of Next to Normal, a Pulitzer-winning musical, and no sign of it in the library or in the system.
Long story short, trying to play the library game is frustrating, especially when going to download a book doesn’t require dealing with others or waiting a long time. Sure, that doesn’t justify downloading stuff illegally, but let’s not pretend that go to the library is a valid option more than, oh, 30% of the time. The library’s not going to buy a book just because somebody asks for it.
I was taking issue with the idea that people don’t have TIME to go to the library—I understand the scarcity of copies, depending on the branch, can be its own frustration—BUT to answer this, I’m sorry, but my answer to those who can’t 1. buy the copy legally in some form, or 2. go to the library, is to WAIT.
I think in today’s immediate gratification society waiting has become a foreign concept, and one people seem to think garners understanding, but I’m sorry, I just don’t have sympathy for the impatience argument.
You can also rent e-books from most libraries now and that catalogue is deeper.
Actually, most (if not all) libraries DO allow you to suggest purchases. It’s always worth asking if they’ll buy something you’re eager to read. And if you’re a student who really, truly, honestly doesn’t have time to visit the public library once or twice a month, try talking to your school librarian. The school librarians I’ve met are generally keen to help students get their hands on the materials they most want to read—and if you’re especially lucky, they might even lend you some of their own books.
Many public libraries subscribe to e-book rental services, too, so you can borrow tons of stuff without ever leaving your house. Mine has licenses to e-books and audiobooks through both Overdrive and Hoopla. If your local library doesn’t have a program like this, you can also investigate international libraries. I admittedly haven’t done much research, but I’ve heard there’s a library in Singapore that allows applications from international patrons who’d like to use their e-reserve.
Okay, but if you’re an author and you’re that pissed off about pirated ebooks, do you get that angry about used books? Because you’re also not making any money off that, so why is that acceptable? I don’t see used book buyers getting called immoral, but they’re not contributing any money to the author, editor or publisher.
And also, why do you want people to borrow it from a friend? You don’t make any money off that either, so why is that okay? I just don’t understand the logic.
I mean, really, the more people that read your book, the more people talk about your book. The more people who talk about your book, the more people buy it. (For example, I bought Malinda Lo’s Adaptation used. Lo didn’t make any money off it. But when I read it and loved it, I immediately bought the sequel new, still in hardcover. And then, I ordered in copies for the bookstore I work at and have already hand sold two. That would have been exactly the same if I downloaded the ebook—actually, that’s a lie. If I had downloaded the ebook, I would have then bought the physical book after reading it as well.)
I just don’t understand why you’d rather someone didn’t read your book at all than pirate it. I understand that you want people to buy your books, but if they don’t have the money and don’t have access to a library copy, what difference is there to the author whether they borrow it from a friends, buy a used copy, or download it? And why would you rather that they never read it all (guaranteeing they won’t talk about it and recommend it) than download it?
Let me try to explain the logic: say I create this book. I then have certain rights because—well, I made it. I then sell the right to make copies of the book to only one entity—my publisher.
If you buy a copy, that copy was made by my publisher with my agreement: that one copy is yours to do with as you wish. Read it, give it to a library, give it to a used bookshop, sell it to someone for a million dollars saying it was autographed by a mermaid in invisible ink, seal it in a stone tomb a thousand miles under the sea and never whisper its accursed name except to the night wind. It’s YOUR copy, and if you want to turn it into someone else’s copy, that’s cool! I don’t have the right to tell you what to do with it. And so used books are part of the normal cycle that I agreed to.
(And so it’s awesome that you found Adaptation used—I’ve found books I love used too—and it’s so great that you went on to support the author in other ways!)
If you pirate a book, then you’re taking something I never gave you—a copy I never said could be made. (And infinity more copies can be illegally made, and infinity people can read them, so the damage is far greater than can be done with one copy.)
If someone talks about/recommends my book to their friends with an ‘I downloaded it’… I think it raises the chances that their friends will download it too, so that doesn’t really… help me? And even when I’m glad if people liked my books, I’m mad they stomped all over my rights.
In the last post I made, I was talking about the fact I’m writing a free novel-length story. (I try to write free extra stories a lot, though I haven’t written one on a novel-length scale before, and I feel very lucky I have time and energy and money, for now, to do so.) That is to say: there is free stuff available! Go, take it. I wrote it for you. I want you to. But I think it’s fair to say ‘With certain things I made, at certain times, I do really need to get paid by you/a library/someone who bought the copy new that you’re buying used/your friend who loaned you this/SOMEONE, so I can continue to eat and write stories both free and not-free.’ And it does not seem fair, to me, to say: ‘I want this specific thing you made, right now, for nothing, in exactly the way I want it, while harming you.’
I also want to examine the idea that people say they buy books when the books are hard to find.
Those books… and believe me when I say I know this as they are often my books… are hard to find because they are not being promoted. (These books are often books with LGBTQ characters or PoCs, because those books are judged as less marketable.) Being in a bookshop at all is promotion. ‘I download hard to find books’ translates to ‘I download books from already struggling authors.’ Which makes sure they struggle more.
Believe me, I think ebook prices should change, I think there should be more loans, I think that there should be more discount promotions for more authors. The system isn’t perfect. But harming people really low down on the ladder doesn’t help.
People often say ‘This celebrated guy author in a really secure financial position is A-OK with piracy’ and honestly all I can do is go ‘Well gee… I wonder why.’
They’re the ones whose books are the easiest to find. They’re the ones in all the bookshops, and getting promotion within the bookshops so they are highly visible. They’re the ones getting low promotional price points that other authors beg for and don’t get. They’re less likely to be pirated, and less likely to be hurt.
But just because it’s super-easy and super-convenient to hurt someone doesn’t mean you should.
This post isn’t about me. It’s about my friends who are having anxiety attacks because of piracy. Friends who are thinking of quitting because the piracy is out of control. Friends who depend on book sales to have a roof over their head and food on their tables. Friends who wish they could depend on books to give them a roof over their head and food on their tables. It could be friends who self-published, or friends who are traditionally published. It doesn’t matter.
I hate piracy with a thriving passion. So much so I did all the math (which I also hate), to show you the breakdown of time and energy spent, and the cost of stealing. The numbers used in terms of hours spent is very very very low, and in reality, the number is probably double that. And still.
Please share this post. But mostly, please don’t steal books.
These are some heroic maths.
No, nobody’s saying anyone should stop reading.
There are many ways to get free books.
Thousands of books that are out of copyright, their authors dead and unable to be hurt. Jane Austen, William Thackeray, Anthony Trollope, to name three I love. If you like horror, there’s Dracula and Carmilla.
If you like fantasy, I really recommend George MacDonald Fraser’s ‘The Princess and the Goblin.’ http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/34339
There’s fanfiction. Tons of great fanfiction out there for free.
There are discounted ebooks, and sometimes ebooks given away for free, for certain periods of time, to look out for.
Used books are much cheaper than new—and used books are different from piracy, as it’s a copy that was bought by someone, who then could do whatever they will with that one copy. I am not sure of your situation, but in some places books are set out on stoops to be taken away, books available on lending systems in bars and coffee shops, books available outside used bookshops with tip jars. Many authors and book blogs offer free copies, and you can enter as many of those draws as you want.
There are online book borrowing chains, like http://bookmooch.com/ - if people can afford postage, that’s a great way to get books.
There are many, many authors who write free things you can read legally. They write things for free, hoping that readers might want to buy some of their stuff that’s for sale—but also just wanting to share their writing, and hoping people enjoy.
Seanan McGuire’s shorts, many of which are free:
Also short stories on her livejournal: http://seanan-mcguire.livejournal.com/351126.html
Short stories by Kelley Armstrong, who has also written a lot:
Ilona Andrews, whose books I love:
I myself have written huge amounts of free stuff online myself. Feel free to read it! Please make yourself free of it and enjoy.
The Turn of the Story: http://sarahtales.livejournal.com/209287.html
For those who say they want to try before they buy—there are lots of ways to try out a writer without piracy.
And there are authors who are going to say: yes, okay to piracy. Neil Gaiman apparently is one. Cory Doctorow is another famous example, and provides free copies of his own work. (Men’s work is always valued more than women’s work, and I would be surprised if more people didn’t come back and buy a guy’s book after they got it for free, because the guy ‘deserved’ it—so I am not surprised by seeing more guy authors having a more relaxed attitude. Similarly, I doubt all that many guys have been scolded and told they should feel lucky that anyone’s paying attention to them if they are against book piracy.)
It sucks not being able to have the specific book you want, of course. Yesterday I was having a tantrum on twitter because I want Courtney Milan’s The Heiress Effect, and my ereader store (Sony) doesn’t have it yet. I want it! But I can’t have it. Same thing happened with A Kiss For Midwinter—eventually it came in, and I bought it. I want it, and I want it now—and I can’t have it now. That sucks. But I don’t intend to punish Courtney Milan for that. I will wait, and buy it when I can.
It sucks to be in a country where you can’t buy books. I wish there was a system in place to make regional ebooks a thing of the past—I hope it’s something that will happen in the future.
It sucks to not have enough money to buy a book. (Though there are different versions of ‘I can’t afford.’ I admit, it stings and is horrible to be told ‘I couldn’t afford your book’ by someone who means ‘I wished to spend the money on something else instead, like this fancy belt, and have BOTH things, and I didn’t care about the effect it had on anyone but me.’ It’s quite different to ‘It’s the choice between your book and dinner’—of course dinner should win.)
I don’t like piracy, but I understand there are reasons to pirate—but I also think that it should be borne in mind that piracy can hurt authors, and that authors are people. It can hurt libraries, which hurts people who are very badly off. It can hurt bookshops, which hurts people’s chances of discovering new books to love, or a love for books at all. It can hurt readers, if a favourite author’s books aren’t published anymore and they never get to read new books from them.
I think that it’s good to remind people of that, so they can consider if they do really need to pirate books.
And if they feel that they truly don’t have another way to get the books and the books would be a huge comfort to them, I think it’s good to know that piracy hurts authors so later, if people are in a different position, they can remember to buy the books. (Worth noting: remember that authors who don’t sell are often let go by their old publishers and have to (if they’re lucky), find new ones, so buy the newer books by the new publishers if you can.)
Remember, too, that piracy affects libraries, and libraries are vitally important to people who cannot afford luxury items like computers and ereaders—who are in a worse position than most.
I know that I am lucky: lucky to have the job I have, for however long it lasts, and lucky in that while I been in the position where I skipped a meal in order to buy a book, I am no longer in that position, and have never been in a position where I would have had to skip several meals: where I was facing real privation.
I know this stuff is complicated.
And I know it sucks. But I think there should be awareness that authors are people, and people who are harmed, and dropped by their publishers, and also emotionally upset, by this stuff.
Quoting Seanan McGuire again (sorry Seanan! It’s been a Seanan-With-Seanan-On-Top Day!)
‘It is absolutely complicated… That’s also why it was “please don’t pirate,” not “if you pirate you are scum and I hate you and you can never never never be a true fan, ever.”
Part of the problem for me, as a creator, is that the more we-as-people become distanced from the work—the more the work is viewed as this amorphous “thing” that just sprung into being without human intervention, but which pays THE MAN in royalties when you buy it—the easier it is to not stop and think “okay, did I love this enough to pay for it? Did I love this enough to pay for something else by the same person?” And that’s part of why we keep talking about it. We need to remain part of the conversation, with our mortgages and our hungry cats, or we’re in even more trouble than we already are.’
I took a break from the fifty million things I have to do today (organise promotion, write up promotion, edit my book, edit an essay, panic and panic some more) and saw a list of pirated links to books (not mine) on my dashboard and had to take a break and take deep breaths.
So look, here’s the thing. I don’t live in the US. I know it really sucks to not be able to get the book you want in the format you want: I wish the distribution models were better. I wish there were more libraries and e-libraries. I wish things were better.
But please: there are secondhand books (someone already bought the book), there are libraries (take a book out and libraries will buy more books: go to a library and you will help the libraries continue to exist for other readers). I know the system’s not perfect, but there are alternatives.
Readers are hurt by writers’ books not being available in print: it sucks to not be able to afford a book in any form, but it sucks much worse for people (often kids) with no computers, internet connections or ereaders. This is explained much better than I can here: http://seanan-mcguire.livejournal.com/390067.html
Generally readers are hurt because writers whose books don’t have great sales records have their contracts cancelled, so no more of the books they like in any form.
And of course writers are hurt by that, too. I’m a writer: I cannot pretend to be objective. I know a book is just a Thing You’d Like, but it is a thing created by a real person, with considerable effort.
I write a lot of free content—I’m happy for people to have that. But I also write, hoping to be paid for some of the work I do. Writers don’t make much money, exceptions like E.L. James and Stephenie Meyer aside. Writers tend to be just getting by, having other jobs as well, really, really trying to make it work—so they can share their books with people, so they can *keep* sharing their books with people.
I know I am very lucky to have the job I have, for however long I may have it (and it may not be very long: it may end this year). Writing a book is wonderful, it’s glorious, it makes me happy and I’d do it anyway, of course I would. But would I work until I cried over promotion? Would I stay up for three nights without sleep until I made myself sick to get something done, if it was just for me, if I wasn’t trying to make a career of this? I wouldn’t. It is so much work.
Please don’t take my work against my will, in a way that hurts me. Please don’t take anyone’s work against their will, in a way that hurts them.
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