Mar 14th, 2012, 10:33 am
Hi Mobilism dwellers - I wonder if you could help me.

My book, The English Monster, was published on March 1 in the UK. At the beginning of this week, I got a Google alert which took me to a post on Mobilism where one of the members was asking someone to create an ebook for him of my book. I presume, for free. So I got into a bit of a conversation with him, and I asked him if he thought this was fair - that he get a free copy of my book, and I get nothing. And I did some digging around on Mobilism, which seems to me to be a big, friendly, well-organised machine for the generation of (among other things) free ebooks. People are friendly, are enthusiastic about books and reading, and it all seems very nice.

With one proviso, of course - that the people who create the content you're all consuming (people like me) don't get a bean.

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?

As I say, I do not ask this aggressively. I am not a digital luddite - I worked for fifteen years at Yahoo, the Guardian and the BBC, and I have always been an advocate for an open, unregulated, free Internet. But I do admit to growing concern that creators like me are going to find it harder and harder to justify spending time making new stuff for people like you to read.

Please read the exchange I had on Mobilism earlier this week for some more thoughts on this stuff.

(link removed)

Really, I just want to understand the reasoning behind this. And I do want to keep things civil. Thanks.
Mar 14th, 2012, 10:33 am
Last edited by merry60 on Apr 13th, 2012, 11:21 am, edited 1 time in total. Reason: remove link to deleted post in the request section.
Mar 14th, 2012, 12:49 pm
Mr. Shepherd, I'm afraid there is no easy way to reply to your satisfaction, but I'll try anyway.

Have you ever shared a book you liked with your friends and family? I'm sure you have, and many of them became fans of a particular writer thanks to you. That is basically what we do, we share. The fact that we do it on a larger scale is irrelevant because it also applies to the number of people who discover you as a writer.

No offence meant, but there was a great number of people who had never heard of your book before they read the request for it. You could consider this free publicity, as other authors do. Some actually encourage piracy:
"Paulo Coelho calls on readers to pirate books:
Multimillion-selling author links with Pirate Bay, saying 'the more people "pirate" a book, the better' "

You can read the whole article here: ... rate-books

Neil Gaiman is also known to have encouraged internet-sharing, claiming that in countries where his books were uploaded his sales rocketted sky-high.

Many authors get Google alerts, some mind and some don't. Those who do mind, contact the site's administrator and the post gets deleted right away, no problem. There was an author who actually asked me to remove her series, but to please leave the first book for publicity purposes, which I did.

I cancelled the request for your book. If it is ever posted and the post gets by me, don't hesitate and ask for it to be removed, we'll do it asap.

Thanks for visiting and enjoy the site,

Mar 14th, 2012, 12:49 pm
Mar 14th, 2012, 1:11 pm
Hi Merry - thanks for that, it was very enlightening. And I agree that the publicity for a book is essential.

On the other hand, people aren't requesting copies of my book for my benefit; they're requesting copies of my book so they don't have to pay for the legitimate copy. Now, I know there are plenty of cases where there is no legitimate copy available, and in those cases I can understand someone seeking to acquire the book through these means. But where there is a legitimate copy available, aren't such people on Mobilism really just freeloading?

Of course, the affect of people freeloading could be of benefit to me (as Coelho and Gaiman point out). That could well be true, although it's probably quite hard to prove that. But people aren't freeloading to benefit; they're doing it to benefit themselves. Don't you think that's true?
Mar 14th, 2012, 1:11 pm
Mar 14th, 2012, 1:58 pm
Hi Mr Shepherd

I have been following this converstion since the beginning and I would like to comment, if I may.

I am very impressed by your calm and elegant responses.

I would like to share from my perspective. I am an avid reader and have a library of more than 2,200 books (many first editions). I have been collecting books since I was 8 years old and today I have books that my grandfather, father and uncles have passed on to me. In addition I have purchased 1,000's of books.

Now, due to the fact that I travel extensively, I find it difficult to carry the books with me. But technology smiled on me and Kindle came along. So I have been downloading the ebook versions to enable me to read them during my travels. Here is where I find myself: Do I now pay for the book again? I suppose there will be many varied answers to this.

Back to Mobilism. You will find that most of the books here (dare I say 99%) come from other "free" ebook sites. I doubt that many people here know how to make an ebook.

As far as I am concerned, I have been introduced to authors I have never heard of before (you are a case in point), and the books I liked, I purchased hard copies off, because I will always prefer to have a book in my hand rather than a Kindle; and because I read books more than once, it is great to have a hard copy.

You know it's like getting a copy from a library or from a friend who liked it because his mother bought it and passed it on. So in effect 10 people can read the same book. You only would have been paid once.

I hope you are not too upset, and I can assure you that by being mentioned in Mobilism you are exposed to many more people than you think (membership exceeds 566,000).
Mar 14th, 2012, 1:58 pm

If a link is dead and you don't get a reply from me, please refer it to a Mod. Apologies for the inconvenience.
Mar 14th, 2012, 3:19 pm
Mr. Shepherd, thank you for your posts which I have enjoyed reading.
A little about my provenance, I am a published author and yes I have had my intellectual property rights freeloaded, schnorred, pirated.
You are rightly concerned that if your book were to be available for download here it would not benefit you and why should someone get something for nothing.
Maybe or maybe not. In terms of the hard copy the shelf life of your book in the shops is perhaps 2 months, 6 months before it is remaindered and possibly a few months after that before it can be found in the charity shops. Unless of course it becomes a best seller and goes to reprint. Much will depend on the publicity and reviews, of course I am sure everyone here will wish you the best.
You are competing with thousands of other authors and sadly there is a lot of rubbish out there. Like Beukies if I enjoy a book I will go out and buy it and my library exceeds 6,000 books some of which date back to the 18th.century.If your book was to appear on this site I might look at it and read it. If I enjoyed it I would go out and buy it, however it could be that I would decide I did not like your style or plot and simply delete it. Either way you have gained my attention far more than a commercially biased review or publicity blurb amongst thousands of others. That is your benefit, if I like it I will recommend it to others.
You have the assurance of an Ebook moderator that your book will not appear for download on this site and I trust you will have noticed that the site encourages people to go out and buy anything that appears here.
I did enjoy your article in the Guardian a week ago on your top 10 weird histories.
" Re-inventing it (the past) within the confines of the known facts, as far as they can be known, is a much more creative and fruitful exercise"

You might enjoy reading some of my riddles up in the contests section. Feel free to "Freeload" any ideas you might like. The initial posts are brief because I have found people will not plough through a lengthy narrative.
Perhaps you might suggest the Guardian commission me for a series? :wink:
Finally if you would like my opinion on your book please pm me for an email address for you to send it to. :D
I hope you will become a best seller.
Mar 14th, 2012, 3:19 pm

sherlockx The Eternal Trickster
Mar 14th, 2012, 4:23 pm
Hi Beukies and Sherlockx - many thanks for responding, and with such courtesy. I do of course understand your points, and appreciate the argument that any conversation about my work is worthwhile for me. I think that is certainly the strongest argument for permitting this kind of activity.

However, my concern remains: a great many people (how many? I have no idea) see "content" in 21st century terms as something which is essentially free: music, movies and books. There are places on Mobilism where people are sharing links to recent movie and music releases and, yes, book releases for free and immediate download. A good number of people have a sophisticated view of this, similar to the view that you both seem to have: that digital provides a mechanism for sampling and for having alternative transportable copies of content which might have been acquired by other means.

But there is an uncountably large other group of people who do not think like you: who believe, often very firmly, that "knowledge" (by which they mean "stuff other people made") should be "free" (by which they mean, why should they pay for it when they don't have to?). That, I'm afraid, is freeloading, and it does me no good at all.

Perhaps I can't have the one without the other. Perhaps being made available like this is worth the price of being freeloaded upon like this. Perhaps. I really don't know. I don't think anyone knows. But I worry that the psychology is pervasive; that people are getting into the habit of demanding stuff for free even if it wasn't free to produce; and that the quality of the culture will be degraded as a result.

But thank you for discussing it. It has been really fascinating, and I've learned a good deal.
Mar 14th, 2012, 4:23 pm
Mar 14th, 2012, 4:54 pm
Hi Mr. Shepherd,

i've tried to analyze my behavior regarding ebookz and books:

1st: If I want to read a book I go to a local book store, I buy it and I read it.
2nd: If I'm downloading sth here, i wouldn't have bought it in real life. Never. In my case, nobody loses money. For me, mobilism is like browsing a huge book store. I've never tried to save money by downloading an ebook here.
Mar 14th, 2012, 4:54 pm

Mar 14th, 2012, 5:47 pm
But I worry that the psychology is pervasive; that people are getting into the habit of demanding stuff for free even if it wasn't free to produce; and that the quality of the culture will be degraded as a result.

That is a rather nihilistic view, one might almost essay that it might be partly due to the looting last year not too far from you?
The press throughout the world is full of people wanting something for nothing but take consolation from the fact that no culture is static and balancing feedback will occur.
Approach it with humour and hope they are "a bunch of mindless jerks who will be the first against the wall when the revolution comes"
Bonus points if you know the quote without looking it up :lol: :lol:
Mar 14th, 2012, 5:47 pm

sherlockx The Eternal Trickster
Mar 14th, 2012, 8:24 pm
Sherlockx, I resemble that remark.

Dear author, less than a year ago I bought most of my books at a bookstore or at the thrift shop. One of them provided me with new, usually best selling books. The other provided me with older, slightly rumpled discounted copies of the works of writers I knew or got curious about. I still frequent both places. I still buy new books. I still buy old books. And now I buy e copies of many a book. I still give away my paperbacks, or trade them at the second hand store. The guy at the second hand store charges me a fee to trade the book and I can only get one book for every two I trade. If I wanted to buy the book it would cost me roughly 25% of the cover price. I don't see you, the printer or the publisher getting a slice of that pie. If anything, after having discovered how easily e books travel, I spend more on books than I did before.

I spend more because I now trade ideas and authors and points of view with other like minded people. I get introduced to other points of view. And if I like it, I go out and buy it, if only because I want to support the writer and because I love the feel and the smell and the sound of a book. I don't think that my electronic gadget would make the same satisfying WHAP! sound if I slapped it down in exasperation when someone interrupted my reading

There will always be good points and bad points to almost anything under the sun, the bad point here is that someone didn't get paid for a copy that had already been bought, like a used book. The good thing about it is that some kid in Asscrackistan will read your book, fall in love with your story and your hero, share it with his friends, tell them all about it. And promising himself that as soon as he has an extra ten dollars to spend, he will buy your book.
Mar 14th, 2012, 8:24 pm

Image Image
Mar 16th, 2012, 3:09 pm
The reason that I download e-books is because I live in India where even the best bookstores do not stock the vast majority of the kind of genre fiction that I like to read. It's a choice between never reading/buying the books at all or reading them via this forum. Either way you don't get any money. Believe me, I understand how crappy a deal that is. Please get Indian bookstores to stock genre fiction and get publishers to ship/market the books Asia-wards and I will certainly buy them.

I am in the US now, as a student, and believe me, I buy the books that I like. I still download books on occasion (albeit much more infrequently than when I was in India) but it's along the same lines as when (in the pre-internet era) I used to borrow books from friends/a library. If I liked the book, I bought it. I do the same now - every single time. I know it's quite frequently an excuse used by pirates but I do believe it to be true in the case of book pirates - these people probably buy a lot of books. I certainly do. As does everyone I knew in India who downloaded books. They're voracious, sophisticated readers who are genuinely frustrated by the lack of access in a country like India.

I know my categorization of us in an almost victim-like fashion must really be annoying but it really does come down to a choice between never getting to read/buy the books or downloading them.

Things ARE changing slowly in India with the introduction of an online book sales website called Flipkart. Up until now our only other option was Amazon which charges a ton to ship books to India on a shipping option that actually guarantees it will get there (the price of shipping the book was often far more than the price of the book, making purchase untenable). Flipkart is slowly changing that. And I welcome that.
Mar 16th, 2012, 3:09 pm
Mar 16th, 2012, 6:17 pm
Hi Mr. Shepherd,

First of all, WOW! What a very interesting and different take you have with regards to Mobilism and the sharing of eBooks.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading what you wrote on the Guardian. (Thanks Guy, Sherlockx, and merry)

Personally for me, I get the book from the library first, and if I feel the book was worth the reading time, I buy it.
However where I live, there are no book stores, nor libraries. Hence, I come here. And if I enjoyed the book I buy it online.

Thanks for stopping by!
Mar 16th, 2012, 6:17 pm

!~! Retired !~!
Mar 16th, 2012, 11:40 pm
This is an interesting discussion. Before I post my comments I should explain my position.

First, I am a professional writer, full-time nonfiction freelance, writing about business issues, usually (but not always) involving computer technology. I have never written a book, but I have 45 years of professional journalism experience.

Second, I am a long-term e-book reader, going back to the mid-1990s and PeanutPress (now eReader) on the Palm PDA. Today I no longer buy books on paper because of the ecological impact of producing, distributing, etc., physical books. However, I do pay for my books (unless the book is offered free by the author) and buy from eReader, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon/Kindle (I have yet to try Kobo). I do my reading on my Android smart phone and do not own a single-purpose book reader. I read about 25 books a year (more if I can get the time).

What I would like to suggest to the author is that one way to resolve this problem is to publish your books as e-books as well as paper books. This has several advantages:

Producing a paper book is a messy business involving a lot of chemicals, power, and ecological impact. The impact of e-books depends in part on the reader. As I use my smart phone (which I own primarily for other purposes, mainly communication and personal organization), and before that used my PDA, which I owned mainly for personal organizational use, this impact is diluted among several uses. I also tend to use a device until it wears out, btw.

Obviously a reader who buys a special device for book reading such as a Kindle or Nook has a much larger initial impact. I have seen studies however that show that even in this case, if the owner is a heavy reader the net ecological impact will be less than buying paper books.

The economics are also a consideration. Until the entry of Amazon, e-books typically cost much less than paper books, and at the same time the author received a much higher percentage of each sale (and more money in absolute terms) than the same author would from paper publishing. That equation has changed some with the dominance of Amazon and B&N in the last few years, although my understanding is that the author still receives a higher return on e-book sales.

Shelf life also enters into this. In the U.S., unless you are a best selling author, your books get a shelf life of three weeks in bookstores that are the size of supermarkets. Then they are sent back. E-books, on the other hand, are forever. Since they just take up a few KB each in a database, the publishers have no reason ever to take them off the shelf. I have been able to get novels from the early 1960 that are long out of print on paper through eReader, for instance.

Another consideration here is that the overall market is changing. More than a year ago Amazon announced that it was selling more e-books than physical books overall, and that experience is confirmed by other sellers. Author Scott Sigler, for instance, also reports that his e-book sales are higher than his physical book sales.

Personally, I no longer buy physical books unless they are very special editions, and since I do not actively collect, that does not happen often. I also do not pirate anything whatsoever. So if your book is not legitimately available in an e-book edition, I will not consider buying it. There are too many books that I want to read that are available. But that is just me.

However, one reason that people do pirate music, books, and other material is that they are not available legally at a reasonable price. I am not talking about free here, but anyone who thinks that $15+ is reasonable for a paperback has more money than sense in my opinion. So perhaps the answer to the problem is for you as author, and I presume copyright holder, to arrange for digital publication of your books at a reasonable price through one of the e-publishers like eReader (now part of BN, btw). Just something to think about.

All the best, Gbert
Mar 16th, 2012, 11:40 pm
Last edited by merry60 on Mar 17th, 2012, 9:42 am, edited 1 time in total. Reason: his ebook is already available at a bit over 10€
Mar 17th, 2012, 12:05 am
english_monster wrote: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.
Mar 17th, 2012, 12:05 am
Mar 17th, 2012, 5:04 am
Note: I'm not trying to justify anything here, merely posing questions.
How do we define what is stealing? Obviously if I go to the shops and take something without paying for it, that is theft. But what if it's not a tangible item?
In Japan it's quite common for people to read books in bookstores. You walk into any bookstore, and there will be people standing there reading books, as if it was a library. Is this wrong? It's certainly not socially acceptable in Australia. So what's the difference between borrowing a book from your local library, and reading it at the bookstore? Obviously if you buy the book, you have a hard copy that you can read and re-read as many times as you like. But what if you're the type of person that only reads books once and then passes them on to someone else?
I like the idea that knowledge should be free. However, where does this knowledge come from? Did someone work to discover the information/theory/miracle cancer cure? If i spend 10 years working on a cure for cancer, i jolly well hope i'd been being paid a salary all that time. But all books aren't knowledge. Take a trashy best-selling romance novel. There's no educational value there, but there may be entertainment.
What else can we steal? We used to joke in Japan about 'stealing the English' ... basically you would get random Japanese people who would interrupt your daily life (ie at the shops, at restaurants) because they wanted to speak English with you. It's awesome that they want to practise their english, but when i get paid $30/hr to teach, why should I give up my free time to a stranger? If students pay $50/hr for english conversation lessons, aren't these people trying to get something for free? If you put yourself out there as offering language exchange, that's one thing. But following someone through a bookstore, continually trying to talk to them, that's just plain rude!
Got a friend who's a doctor/lawyer/tradesperson etc? Ever asked them about a rash/what to do with your will/to have a look at your car etc etc? Depending on the level of friendship, this may be acceptable. But if plumbers charge $100/hr for weekend call outs (for example), aren't you depriving your friend of income by asking him to do it for you?
Is reading this post a waste of your time? or have I stolen it from you? We can look at the idea of volition, so if I donate my services to a good cause, I'm volunteering, the hurricane victims aren't stealing from me. Obviously if an author writes a book, they want to sell lots of copies and make money. So most will not voluntarily offer their book for free, be it a digital version or hard copy. But have you ever heard of an author refusing to allow a book to be kept in a public library?
Mar 17th, 2012, 5:04 am