Monday, March 14, 2011

Book Piracy

Piracy has taken a hit, but it’s always going to be a problem. It’s human nature to find ways around paying. – Jimmy Schaeffler

My first encounter with book piracy occurred when I lived in Taiwan in the early 80s. The large bookstores were stocked with inexpensive books—because many were pirated. I admit I didn’t think much about it at the time. I was more concerned about keeping my daughter in reading material. She’d go through books like I’d go through potato chips.

I’m also guilty of passing along favorite books to friends and family which I know deprives the author of royalty. So I guess you could say I should go around with an eye patch and say, “Arrgh, matey.”

However, I think the problem of printed book piracy pales in comparison to illegal e-book downloads. According to an article the

"A campaign is needed to educate the new wave of e-reader owners that downloading illegal ebooks from torrent sites is theft, amid signs that the piracy of books is increasing, authors claim.

“Crime writer David Hewson, author of the Italy-set Nic Costa novels, said a campaign along the lines of "People Who Love Books Don't Steal Books" was urgently required – because readers who consider themselves his fans are downloading pirated copies of his ebooks and audiobooks.”

The article goes on to say:

“Authors' incomes – never sizeable, except for a lucky minority – have been squeezed over the past two years, with the drop in publisher advances. Hewson said authors now face an erosion of their earnings from multiple directions, whether from the fact that library Public Lending Right doesn't cover the loans of ebooks and audiobooks, or the new practice of "Lendle-ing", joining ebook communities to take advantage of Amazon's US free loan facility on Kindle. "What we earn is being chipped away," he said. "I do know people who are thinking: 'Is it worth carrying on?'"

By the way, for those like me who didn’t know, “torrent,” according to eHow , is a type of computer file that usually ends in the extension .torrent and allows a computer to track files and download pieces of the files from other users across the Internet using a BitTorrent client. I understand you pay to join these sites and can then download books, music, videos and games without the author/creator receiving a dime.

An article in the addressed the online clubs such as and saying:

“Previously, Kindle and Nook readers were largely limited to sharing e-books with friends because two users needed to know each other's email address to initiate a loan. The new sites give e-book readers access to a larger network of people and a larger selection of books.

“The lending sites have drawbacks. One is limited selection. Most major book publishers haven't made their e-books lendable, and the books can be lent only once and for only 14 days. That means that with every successful loan, the sites' available library shrinks unless new users with books to lend join.”

The article has a detailed chart showing how these clubs work.

Are you guilty of book piracy? Would you join an online e-book club? Do you consider piracy a problem for writers? Do you have any solutions?

Thanks for stopping by today. I hope to see you again next week.

Tags: Jimmy Schaeffler, book piracy, torrent files,,


L. Diane Wolfe said...

Outside of buying used books, I've never contributed to the problem that I know of.

Old Kitty said...

When I first started blogging I was so keen that I volunteered for everything going - one of which was to read this book and pass it along. It was only after a published writer friend said that this was not helping the author of said book in terms of sales that I stopped. It's only now that I am dipping my toe in the waters of publishing that I realise just how little published authors truly make out of their works of art (unless you are one of the published elite or a "celebrity"). They really depend on advances and sales. Even if they get a contract, their contract only lasts as long as they are able to turn a profit for the company. Otherwise their contracts are cancelled.

So of course I would never knowingly buy a pirated copy knowing just how brutal a repurcussion this would mean to the authors/artists.

Take care

Karen Jones Gowen said...

This entire concept eludes me. Borrowing books, lending books, sharing books--isn't that what we all do? Not to mention giving away copies of our own books in hopes of building a fan base or getting reviews. These giveaways don't earn royalties either. And many well known authors such as Neil Gaiman have said that giving away free downloads of his books increased sales. I'm just not seeing piracy where books are concerned. Maybe I'm missing something.

Joanne said...

I'm with Diane, I've bought used books. But then again, I bought them from my library's book sale, so ultimately the $$ spent went to the library to purchase new books.

Jan Morrison said...

I do buy used books, I do lend books - as do all my friends. We are voracious readers all and passionately pass them on to those we think will enjoy them. I wouldn't join a group to download ebooks. I think it is truly that people don't get how it works. When I first had a cd out for a musical I'd co-written I had FRIENDS email me asking where they could download it. jeesh I thought. so bold. but it was because they didn't get it. they didn't get they were taking money out of my pocket. It is only going to get worse unfortunately. my kids do download movies by the score.

Mason Canyon said...

I've always been one to share both print and audio books with my best friend. I especially do this when I find a new author I like and want her to know about them. In the end, she winds up buying other books by the author and sharing them with more friends. As for e-book piracy .. that's a new world to me. I know the libraries are having problems being about to only loan e-books out so many times.

Thoughts in Progress

Carol Kilgore said...

Piracy is a huge problem in the publishing industry, especially for ebooks. Part of the problem is that people don't know how authors and musicians earn their money. They think we're paid upfront and that's it. Not only do they not know, they don't care.

The other part is the pirates who make all the money that the authors and publishers should make. They are stealing directly from us.

The Old Silly said...

Not guilty! I refuse to buy "used" books online and hate that Amazon sells used copies of my books - which I get zilch in royalties from the sales of. Egads, it gets harder all the time to eke out a living as a writer, hmm?

You lived in Taiwan? How cool!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I think technology has changed views as to what is piracy or not. I can giveaway or sell my CDs, which are physical, but Napster was shut down for giving away free music because the artists received no compensation. I think eBooks fall into the same category.

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Diane, I forgot about the used book stores.

Old Kitty, I would cringe when people told me how they passed my book around, but since I’d done the same with other books I learned to just smile and say thanks.

Karen G., I have given away my books, too. I think the problem is mostly on the torrent sites where the owners of the sites are the ones making money on the free book downloads.

Joanne, I love libraries. I discovered that there are people who never buy books, so if the library doesn’t have the book they want to read, they simply don’t read it.

Jan, I think a big part of the problem is that people don’t understand how the average author makes money on sales and how insignificant that money is.

Mason, it’s great when sharing results in another sale or two.

Carol, some people might care if they took a moment to think about it—others are probably totally aware of what they are doing.

The Old Silly, I think it’s great you won’t buy used books on line. I have done so, but only when a book is out of print. Taiwan was a fun and interesting place to live back in those days. I understand that it has mushroomed in size and I probably wouldn’t recognize it now.

Alex, I agree—technology has changed the piracy issue completely. I think it’s more complicated now.

Arlee Bird said...

No solutions that I know of--people that are going to do this are probably always going to find a way to steal. It seems like it would really be a hassle to pirate hard copys of books unlike CDs and DVDs, but E-books would be so easy to pirate since it just amounts to a transfer of data and there's no manufacturing involved.

It's sad that so many people thoughtlessly will steal just to save a buck and don't even give any consideration of who they are taking money from and giving it to instead.

Tossing It Out

Christina Rodriguez said...

I don't think lending books to friends hurts authors, necessarily. It helps build a fan base, which creates more demand for the books in the end, whether through bookstores or libraries.

The e-book piracy is a very depressing thing. I worry that we'll have to lower our prices so much so people won't be tempted to steal them.

Helen Ginger said...

The book industry has to learn from the music industry and put a stop to piracy. I agree about getting the word out that stolen books hurt authors.

Ciara said...

This is a sad truth. I have met so many people who boast about piracy. It bothers me. I couldn't do it. Great post.

Ashley Ashbee said...

It will be interesting to see how writers of e-books will respond to e-book piracy. Maybe some will embrace it like some famous musicians embrace illegal music downloading.

I don't think passing your books to friends is a bad thing!

John A. Allen said...

What I don't think was addressed here was at least a large part of the problem:


Studies have shown that when given the opportunity to download and own legitimate mp3s, most people will do so. Now, you can purchase an entire album online for almost half of what the physical CD used to cost in stores.

But digital books (at least those offered by "traditional" publishers) haven't yet learned from the mistakes of the recording industry.

I still see books going for $10 or more on the Kindle and Sony Reader - and when you stop to think of it - that's outrageous! There's no more printing cost, the delivery method is negligible... it's just greed.

I'm self-published. I sell my book for roughly $2.99 for the ebook. I also give it away for free online (both the pdf and the unabridged audiobook podcast are free).

And it sells. And it's actually selling more copies now than when I released it back in 09. I've had some of the best sales months ever the last 6 months.

Why? Because I embrace sharing. And, sure enough - people will either donate, or buy.

Or, better yet - they tell their friends about it, who then buy. For every 5 or so people who read my book or listen to the story - 1 buys.

While that might not sound like much - guess how much I'm paying for that advertising? Nothing.

But when you actually think about advertising ROI (I work in advertising, after all), and you think about "how much would it have cost me to reach that one person who bought the book?" then you realize that giving it away for free is wonderful for making money.

I know, doesn't make sense... but by giving it away for free, I can track exactly how many people download my book. And there's no need for sites like BitTorrent to offer my book - because it's already free.

Jane's Ride - Novelist Jane Kennedy Sutton's journey through the ups and downs of the writing, publishing and marketing world