Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Do You Steal Books? ~and~ Do Authors Care?

Back in the dim fringes of my always-right, exuberant, ill-informed past, I did steal a book or three.

That was well before the commonality of digital books. Now, folks can steal a book with three mouse-clicks.

I’ve written before about book piracy: Ebook Piracy ~ Not A Bad Thing?? and Free Books, Pirated Books, & Our Digital Age…, to name two.

I just read a letter from Brian O’Leary, publishing consultant, to the President of the Author’s Guild, author and lawyer, Scott Turow.

It’s called The Walls We Build Up and I’ll put a few excerpts here to encourage you to read the whole letter:

“Dear Mr. Turow,
Congratulations and best wishes on your election as president of the Authors Guild.”

“…the claims you make about piracy aren’t based on any real evidence.  I’d like to offer some data that argue for a different point of view.”

“…the greater threat to many authors is obscurity, not piracy.”

“There are no reliable studies of the impact of piracy in the book business.”

“The Government Accounting Office recently ‘assessed the assessments’ of digital piracy and found them all lacking.”

“So, here’s what I think you should do: ….work with authors to distinguish between the instance of piracy and its impact. A pirated file is not necessarily equivalent to a lost sale. Most authors want to make money, but I’d wager that all authors would like to be read.”

“We can do as the music industry did, presuming a single answer and defending an existing model.  Or, we can choose a data-driven, more flexible path.  I prefer the latter, and I hope I can convince you that you should, too.  Even with the best of intentions, the walls we build up can lock us in.”

Do you know an author who’s suffered from piracy?

Are you an author who’s experienced this?

What are your thoughts and feelings on the issue??
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11 responses to “Do You Steal Books? ~and~ Do Authors Care?

  1. A Man December 5, 2011 at 5:40 pm

    US copyright law is a morass at best. It is frequently impossible for even a lawyer to determine who owns a given copyright, or if a thing is copyrighted at all. At worst it has been subverted so that it is now just a tool for enriching the corporation.

    A friend sent me a link to a particular BBC TV program. I can’t watch it though. It is blocked in the US. The purpose of this is to force me to purchase services from my local Cable TV provider.

    Before long I will be surrounded by The Great Firewall of the USA, all in the name of “protecting starving artists.”


  2. lynnbiederstadt December 5, 2011 at 6:22 pm

    No piracy–thus far. Being read is one thing (yes, please.) Having one’s plot stolen and recast is another (no thank you.) To get read, on the way to agent-finding and conventional or e-publishing, I put the first 13 chapters of The Spiritkeeper up on its own site, available for free (number of chapters subject to change if I go the e-publishing route.) So far, no thefts that I know of: I have been encouraging folks to share…and if a reader is intrigued enough to want to read the whole book, cheers.
    BTW, thank you for making me part of your distinguished blorgoll. The kindness has been returned.


  3. Alexander M Zoltai December 5, 2011 at 6:28 pm

    Thank you for adding me to your blogroll, Lynn :-)

    Also, curious what you think of the reasoning that pirated books are usually going to people who wouldn’t have bought the book in the first place and may end up encouraging future sales??


  4. Carter Lee (@thecarterlee) December 5, 2011 at 11:31 pm

    Excellent article Alexander. I have mixed emotions on this topic. In regards to my soon to be released book, When Jonathan Cried for Me, if the reader other wise wouldn’t have read my book but did so because it was free (because they ripped it) then it wouldn’t bother me. Assuming they enjoyed it I would then get word of mouth advertising and ultimately I hope my book helps people. On the other hand, I do need to make a living so clearly I hope most of my readers are purchasing the book, especially since a portion of the proceeds will go to charities that help children who were sexually abused.

    Thanks for covering this topic!



    • Alexander M Zoltai December 6, 2011 at 7:44 am

      I can understand your mixed feelings, Carter—even though I see clearly and rationally that “most” piracy is really promotion, I do want folks to buy my books…

      Naturally, the humanitarian thrust of your book’s success gives you more reason to pray for sales


  5. cmmarcum December 6, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    In a way piracy is a compliment: People only steal things of value.

    One thing is certain, a new writer is not going to get read if they hide. It seems to me that most writers are going to have to give-away a large amount of material just to generate a name, unless Uncle Miltley is editor of Books Are Us. Short stories, blogs and flash fiction are good starting points, but even here the competition and nepotism is a harsh reality.

    However, there’s nothing wrong with keeping your masterpiece hidden until the right moment. ;)


    • Alexander M Zoltai December 6, 2011 at 5:23 pm

      C. M.,

      Good point that folks only steal what they consider valuable.

      Plus, even giving my book away (over 240 copies, now) doesn’t guarantee engagement—the two follow-up emails sent to those people have generated very few responses—appears I need to give away thousands (something that was brought up in the linked-to article, being done by traditional houses).


  6. Pingback: Is Book Piracy Bad for Authors? | Notes from An Alien

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