lilietsblog said: About book piracy. I just kind of want to hear your opinion on 1) people reading lots of books online and then buying those they like best in numbers they can fit into their budget; 2) people from overseas reading books online because they are just not sold over there and international shipping is too much pain in the ass for something you are not really sure is worth it as you haven't read it...
Piracy is a huge and complicated issue, but a lot of where it comes down to for me is “I enjoy eating.” I enjoy having food. I enjoy having lights that come on. I really, really enjoy feeding my cats. Forget my enjoyment of luxuries like Monster High dolls and sometimes going to Disneyland—I enjoy food, and shelter, and providing for the living creatures who depend on me. I am able to do this because people buy my books. I am a full time author, which means I have no safety net at all: I get what people pay for, and not a penny more.
From here, I am going to switch to the generic “you,” because I need to express some pretty broad concepts. I am not accusing you, the asker, of piracy. I have no information one way or the other, and I’m not trying to call anyone out. That said…
You’re not sure you’re going to like my work? I give away a borderline ridiculous amount of fiction, for free, with no DRM and no geographical restrictions. Both the Velveteen vs. books are available DRM free, again with no geographic restrictions. All the Velveteen stories are available free on my blog, where they were originally posted. I have short stories in publications all over the internet, many of which can be read, again, for free, without geographic restrictions or DRM. If you’re worried that you may not like the sort of things I write, there are ways to reassure yourself.
(“Liking one thing doesn’t mean liking everything” is an absolute truth. Stephen King is my favorite author, and I don’t like several of his books. I still bought them. I bought them, I read them, I disliked them, I got rid of them. Because I don’t pay for my movie tickets after the film; I don’t pay for my theme park admission based on how many times I barfed on the scrambler. I had the experience of the book, which I bought based on my preferences and my track record with the author. I paid for it because I wanted it. I was not cheated, even when the book wasn’t for me.)
There’s a way to read a lot of books and buy the ones you like best without piracy: the library. If the library in your area does not have all the books you want to read, either because of the country you’re in or because of budget restrictions, that sucks. That does not make it ethically right to download a bunch of books that were not intended for free release. Authors do get paid for library use: the library buys our books, and then, if those books are popular, they buy more. No one’s getting paid for piracy.
Everyone in the world, except for the first editor who opens the file, is paying for a book they’re not sure they’ll like. I’m not saying buy blindly, or buy everything, or that you owe me a living. But given how much you can get hold of without putting down a cent, I find “I may not like it” to be a little disingenuous as a defense of piracy. Either you know you like my work, and are trying to excuse not wanting to pay for it, or you haven’t taken the time to read before saying “hey let’s just steal stuff.”
Here is a post I wrote about piracy:
Here is another:
Piracy is not a victimless crime. Piracy hurts people. There’s no way of saying “one hundred pirated books equals ____ sales,” because that’s not real math, but the fact is that books are not songs are not movies; most people don’t re-read, and buying a copy of a book you’ve already read will almost always come after buying a book you haven’t read yet.
I don’t make that much per copy, all told. It’s about fifty cents once you average it out. And that means that if someone were to illegally download all the Seanan McGuire books—not even the Mira Grant—when they otherwise would have bought them, they would only be depriving me of $7.50. Not a big deal. Less than the full cover price of one book, right?
Except that it’s never just one person. It never stops at $7.50.
I am terrified of not being able to pay my bills. I left my day job because trying to write and work for a corporation at the same time was literally killing me. It was destroying my health and my sanity, and I couldn’t take it any longer. I need to be able to eat and keep the power on and feed my cats and take care of my mother, and I do that by selling books. I am a businesswoman. This is my job.
How do I feel about piracy? I hate it. I give away so much, in part to keep people from wasting their money when they don’t know if they’ll like my prose. I am as generous as I can be. But I can’t be generous here.
I can’t starve myself to save someone else a dollar.
Along similar lines, do you feel the same way about used books? I work at a used bookstore, and whenever I see one of your books, I jump at the opportunity to sell it to a customer. Do you feel that I’m taking away a customer that might buy a copy from, say, Barnes and Noble? Also, does it upset you in any way to see your books at a used bookstore?
Not in the slightest sense of any word you can come up with.
I grew up poor. Dirt poor. Literally, because we couldn’t afford to heat the apartment in the winter (and this was when California still had winters, there was ice on the sidewalk when I walked to school in December) and we couldn’t afford to pay for drugs if one of us caught pneumonia from going to bed with wet hair. Used books were my SALVATION. Used books created an ecosystem in which I, as a child who picked up pennies because they added up to nickles added up to dimes added up to quarters added up to a dollar and that was enough for two clearance paperbacks at Bay Books, was allowed to participate. I understand being so poor that a single book is a huge investment, and I still buy used books, because sometimes that’s the only way to get something that’s out of print.
(Many midlist authors go out of print because people aren’t buying them new, which results in used bookstores becoming the only option. Fun for the whole family.)
I do not give any fucks about the fact that if Person A resells their books, I don’t get money from the secondary sale. Two reasons:
#1. Person A paid for the book in the first place, and
#2. Those are the only books.
A book sold at a used bookstore is part of a vital ecosystem that keeps authors eating and people on limited budgets reading. And once it’s gone, it’s gone. A book that is illegally downloaded may keep the people on the limited budgets reading—although it’s a very privileged means of balancing those scales, since it assumes a computer, a stable internet connection, and a certain amount of technical know-how—but it doesn’t keep the authors eating, and it’s not the original book that Person A paid for. It’s a clone. Potentially one of thousands.
One resold book is nothing. It is legal, it is right, it is important. One thousand copies run off in the office and then handed out for free?
That’s a problem.
Seanan McGuire on piracy, used bookshops and libraries, and the differences therein. It is safe to assume I agree with all the things. Also I recently read all the free InCryptid short stories she’s written and they are A-plus awesome.
Seeing piracy after I’ve written a free book and a pile of free short stories, that makes me feel like the world’s supremo chump: what an idiot I am, I think, to spend time making presents for people who will just go take the rest of what I made in order to support myself.
I reallio trulio appreciate it when people buy/librarify/buy used for a penny/legally borrow from a friend my work.