So I wanted to ask - politely - what people on Mobilism thought about this. If you were to meet me in a pub, and we were having a friendly discussion, how would you justify this? And what would you say to the proposition that if people like me can't earn a living from creating content - if everything becomes free - then the content itself will dry up and the culture will suffer as a result?
Hi Mr. Shepherd,
I'm not a Mobilism person (or I wasn't, until today); I found a link to your site & these discussions at ebooknewser. So I can't say why, specifically, people at Mobilism feel justified in sharing ebooks without paying the author. I am active on several ebook forums, and I can say what a lot of people bring up.
You've heard the "ebooks cost too much, and shared files are just good publicity" rants. While they are annoying, there is a kernel of truth in them. But I don't think those are why most people who pirate ebooks feel justified in doing so.
There are several reasons:
1) Got burned by DRM in the past
, or has a friend who did; not going to risk it again.
Some readers lost access to hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars of ebooks from Fictionwise, Amazon's *old* ebook service using PDF, or any store using the pre-ADE version of Adobe DRM. Those people are often reluctant to buy any DRM'd ebook; they know that if the company that sells the book pulls it, *or* the bookstore goes under, *or* the DRM servers change programming, they'll lose access to their books.
2) Not available in their area, or in a format compatible with their device.
Geo-restrictions and windowed releases are inspiring a lot of piracy. (Your own book is not yet available as [strike]an ebook[/strike] a print book (oops) in the US.) People who want to read before the spoilers start leaking all over the net may turn to piracy to get an early copy.
3) They think of piracy as "borrowing a copy from a friend," not stealing from the author.
This is probably the biggest reason... it's hard to understand the *moral* difference between copying a file from someone else's hard drive, and reading a book they were going to list on Bookcrossing
. Yes, yes, one creates a copy and the other doesn't... but in either case, a second reader doesn't pay the author. If the issue is "authors should get paid for everyone who reads their books," why are libraries and used bookstores allowed? If the issue is "authors should get paid for every copy," why are we allowed to copy from computer to device to device?
There is, in fact, a slippery set of technological/legal/maybe ethical issues tangled in here. But most people aren't going to recognize them, and authors getting defensive doesn't help sort out the problems.
One of the biggest statements that bounces around is that "piracy is just publicity." While I don't think that's entirely true, it has worked that way for some (many?) authors. It's more true that piracy seems to *follow* publicity: the more popular a book, the more it's pirated.
A while ago, I wrote an article about Turning Pirates Into Customers
, in which I insisted that the problem for an author isn't "piracy," it's "lack of sales." And you don't get more sales by stopping pirates. You get more sales by figuring out who your potential customers are, and what they want, and getting it to them at a price they can afford.
*That's* the big reason a lot of us don't worry much about piracy. We see much of it as the digital equivalent of the secondhand books we grew up on... I read thousands of books in my youth that made no royalties for authors.
A bit before that article, I'd done a link roundup about ebooks
about a multi-blog drama in which an author was upset that a fan told her she'd downloaded a copy of her new book, because the ebook isn't available for sale in Australia. That collection has insights from a number of perspectives, pro and con, which may be useful to you.