Saturday, May 22, 2010

Piracy... Again

In the past 24 hours, four separate writers have emailed me to tell me my books are being stolen online.

Well... no duh.

The internet was created to share and distribute data. It's the whole reason the world wide web exists.

Of course some of that data is going to be copyright-protected work. If it can be digitized, it can, and will, be shared.

What continues to amaze me is how freaked-out authors are by this. The thought that someone is sharing their work--without paying for it--seems to evoke the same reaction as having someone hack your bank account and drain your life savings.

As you see by the recent picture, I'm being pirated. Google pointed to 8880 different sites where my work is being illegally shared. And these are just torrent sites. This doesn't count file lockers, which I believe account for many more downloads than torrents.

And yet, I'm not worried. I'm currently selling 220 ebooks per day, and that rate shows no signs of slowing down.

So everyone needs to take a big, collective breath, let it out slow, and stop worrying about illegal file sharing. Here are some reasons why.

1. Copyright is unenforceable in a digital world. Period. Exclamation point. At no time in history has any individual, company, or industry been able to stop file sharing. No country or law has been able to stop it. No technology has been able to stop it. Which brings us to...

2. People want to share files. There is this much file sharing going on for a reason. It's what people want. Fighting piracy is fighting human nature. This is a battle no one can win. Getting your undies in a bunch at the thought of someone copying your ebook is a waste of a good ulcer. Worry about some problem that eventually will be solved. Like world hunger. Or cancer. Or war. Those will be conquered before file sharing is.

3. There is ZERO reliable evidence that file-sharing hurts sales. A shared file does not equal a lost sale, any more than someone reading a library book is a lost sale.

My ebooks that I'm selling on Amazon and Smashwords are available for FREE on my website. As in "they cost zero dollars." And yet the ebooks keep selling. Clearly, being able to get something for free doesn't inhibit sales.

4. The more people who know who you are, the better. File sharing certainly helps spread brand awareness and name recognition, and it does so without any effort on your part.

Now we'll take some questions.

Q: But Joe, if everyone steals your ebooks, how will you make money?

A: Show me an artist bankrupted by piracy, and we'll revisit this question.

Q: No, seriously, in a future where everything is free, how will...

A: We're not in a future where everything is free. But I'll play the "let's pretend" game. Let's pretend that all ebooks are free. How will writers make money? The same way all media makes money. Advertising, merchandising, and licensing.

Q: But I don't want ads in ebooks.

A: I don't want ads in anything. But that's how capitalism works. Deal with it.

Q: Piracy is immoral, and illegal. We need to spread awareness, then people will stop doing it.

A: Sure... that's how religion was able to successfully put a halt to masturbation, pre-marital and extra-marital sex. And why the US successfully won the war on drugs.

Illegal doesn't matter. People do what they want to do. Immoral is subjective. And teaching people to behave in a way contrary to human nature DOES NOT WORK.

Q: If I create something, I should have the right to do what I want with it, and make money from it. Piracy takes that right away from me.

A: No it doesn't. The vast majority of piracy doesn't monetarily benefit the pirate. It's simply sharing, where no one makes a profit.

Q: That's not true. The sites that host piracy make a lot of money.

A: So does Google. So does any popular website. But those sites aren't making money off the illegal sales of your material. They simply facilitate sharing.

Q: Why doesn't anyone close those sites?

A: They try. Then new sites come up. It is unstoppable.

Q: But I don't want my writing to be shared.

A: Then don't write. Simple as that. JK Rowling has lost millions of dollars, because she refused to let Harry Potter come out in ebook form. Newsflash: you can get ebooks of all the Potter books from pirate sites. She didn't cater to her fans, so her fans catered to themselves. And if Rowling can't stop it, with her billions and armies of layers, you can't either.

Q: Piracy is theft, pure and simple.

A: That's not actually a question. And that's not actually true. First of all, the stealing of a physical object deprives the owner of that object, which is a monetary loss. Copying a file does not deprive the owner of that file--the owner still has it.

Q: It's the theft of intellectual property.

A: Okay, even though I think this point is pretty much useless, I'll play.

Have you ever read a library book? Recorded a song off the radio? Tivo'ed a show and zipped through the commercials? Lent a CD to a friend? Rented a movie or videogame? Bought a used book?

Guess what--you just experienced someone else's intellectual property without compensating the artist.

We could play "gray areas" and "where to draw the line" all day. It ultimately comes down to what constitutes ownership of intellectual property--actually owning a tangible object, or experiencing it sensually?

If the IP argument is that every time you sensually experience a work of art you should compensate the artist, then we're all thieves. But if stealing isn't about the experience, it's about the tangible object, then sharing intangible objects, such as data files, is not stealing.

Q: Look, it's stealing, no matter how you try to justify it. We need to create better technology to make sure that pirates can't steal.

A: There's a reason iTunes no longer uses DRM (digital rights management, the industry standard for copy protection.) Because PEOPLE DON'T WANT DRM.

Do you know who wants DRM? Artists and companies who don't know what the hell they're doing because they have knee jerk reactions to the word "piracy."

If you really fear piracy, educate yourself. Read about it. Learn how it's done. Hear both sides defend their positions.

If you have an ounce of brains in your head, you will quickly realize that piracy is always going to be here, that nothing can be done to stop it, that artists can still make money, and that you'd be much better off worrying about something you have control over, like writing more and better books.

And next time you see your ebook on a file sharing site, don't say, "Oh no! I'm being stolen!" Instead say, "Cool, I'm being read." That's what I do.

Addendum:

There are some dissenting opinions in the comments thread, so I just wanted to clarify and distill some of my thoughts. I'm not sure how I went from "don't worry about piracy" to being a full advocate for piracy, but I'd like to make it clear that I believe piracy is stealing. I simply do not equate it with stealing something tangible.

I'd also like to offer my final (for the moment) thoughts:

1. You CANNOT assume that a downloaded free book is a lost sale. It isn't 1 for 1.

In some cases, the pirate would have never bought the book in the first place.
In some cases, the pirate does buy the book, and other books by the author.
In some cases, the book languishes on a hard drive, never read at all.
In some cases, the pirate would have never even been aware of the book or the author without finding it on the file sharing site.

And so on.

2. It is impossible to prove the effect of file sharing on sales without actually interviewing every single pirate and having them answer truthfully about their sharing and buying habits.

3. Industries can lose money for many reasons. There is no study that clearly shows piracy is the only cause, or even proves it is part of the cause.

4. Piracy is big business for groups that make money studying and combating piracy. Fair, unbiased reports are hard to come by, especially when capitalism and politics are involved.

5. I have shown significant growth in the face of freebies and piracy. So have many others.
While it is impossible to prove a direct link between piracy and sales, showing rising sales in the face of piracy is a damn good indicator that piracy isn't harmful. Or if it is harmful, it isn't enough to impact growth.

This isn't opinion. It is fact. And it is repeatable.

You cannot prove piracy has harmed you. But I can prove it hasn't harmed me. Ergo, my argument is sound.

6. Don't worry about what you can't control. You'll sleep better.

7. The only way to combat piracy is with cost and convenience, which I have blogged about before.

230 comments:

1 – 200 of 230   Newer›   Newest»
Stardog said...

Looking at the sites, at most there's only 2 seeders (2 people with the entire file) and two leechers (2 people part-way through downloading). It doesn't seem to be a massive deal and I'm surprised there's that many.

A lot of the links are "sponsored direct-download" links. They analyse what users type in to Google and generate titles based on that. You won't be able to get the file by clicking those. It's not actually available for download.

Like the 4 titles at the top here:
http://www.torrentsphere.org/search/origin.+by+j.a.konrath.

Looking on the biggest torrent search engine, Harry Potter books 1-7 only has 43 seeds and 2 leechers.

Piracy isn't a big deal for books.

Joe Konrath said...

I don't think piracy is a big deal for ebooks, or any other media. But 2 seeders doesn't mean it isn't being shared a lot.

2 seeders can share the files hundreds of times. The leeches just choose not to seed. And the seed/leech ratio can fluctuate. For a better indicator of how many times a file has been shared, look at how many times it has been grabbed.

As for "sponsored directs" there is some of that with any search. But some of those do lead to torrent and filelocker sites. And I didn't even bring up Usenet.

I've personally downloaded my own ebooks and audiobok on over a dozen sites, just to see what was being shared.

But, yes, I agree, piracy isn't a big deal.

CJ West said...

Cool, I'm being read.
Cool, I'm being read.
Cool, I'm being read.
Cool, I'm being read.

How many times do I have to say this before I feel better?

I understand your logic Joe, but it still bugs the Hell out of me. I think I have an overactive sense of justice.

CJ

Joe Konrath said...

Justice isn't black and white, CJ. Morals aren't universal.

Go to Youtube and watch Steal This Film 2. It's an eye opener.

The bottom line: society is becoming increasingly tolerant of file sharing. People like it, and don't think it is wrong. You're free to disagree, but you won't be able to stop it, even though the laws currently side with your viewpoint.

I say "currently." Give it 15 years.

Gareth-Michael Skarka said...

The only ways to combat piracy are cost and convenience. Fans of your work want to give you money, because generally, people like to support things that they're fans of. So, make it convenient for them to give you money, at prices they can afford, and guess what: THEY WILL.

Mike Masnick of Techdirt calls this model "CWF+RTB=$$$" (Connection With Fans plus Reason To Buy = Business Model). It works.

Consider the "pirated" ebooks as fan-seeds. Some of the folks who get their first exposure to your work via unauthorized download will become fans -- and then you've got them.

Tim Kring (creator of HEROES) told me at SXSW this year: "Bittorrent is advertising for everything else you do."

Blue Tyson said...

People who want DRM also being known as People Who Want Less Money.

T. H. Rathke said...

John Mayer (and I'm sure others) have become famous distributing their art for free. He allowed free downloads of his music before he was 'discovered.' He understood and embraced the technology.

Aden said...

A friend of mine re-tweeted this. I was going to comment about liking you and this point of view and how seeing writers out there like you makes me want to not just get a hold of your books, but also buy them maybe! Then I realized you were the Jack Daniels writer and I read some stuff before that you wrote about writing and liked you more. Just wanted to get that out there. I respect the hell out of you for not being crazy about this topic. Seeing this blog post has reminded me that your books are on my to-read list.

I'm an admitted pirate, shoot me, fry me, what-have-you, but I like to (and like to think that others do too) still buy books. Yes, I have an e-reader program, but I like physical books. Books don't run out of batteries, get corrupted unless you drop them in the toilet, and there's never an issue of format. Format is why there are three different e-reader programs on my ipod. Books are where my money goes and will keep going. I live off of second hand novels and book store coupons, so there's just times when I either can't buy something or just want to sample something, or heck, just want a e-copy of a favorite book. So what I'm saying or think I'm saying is that on top of your point of view I'd like to just add that while e-books are awesome and doing decently it seems, real physical in-my-hands books aren't going anywhere. Not soon. All my education leading to my one day librarian job will be a kick in the face if they did.

Also, on a really random note, how can I follow this blog with my own blogger account? I can't seem to find the right button.

Zoe Winters said...

I personally think the hassle of getting something for free is much less than just buying something I want at an affordable price. When you download free files from people you don't know you risk spyware and viruses. You don't KNOW what someone attached to that file either knowingly or unknowingly. Dealing with torrents is also a pain in the ass, and slow!

If I can buy an ebook in the format I want it for a reasonable price, I will do that.

My only concern with piracy is that not making a stand against it makes people think: "Well the author doesn't care if I take it without paying for it."

And if enough people feel like that, the author makes no money. I don't want to support a growing mentality that says "it's okay to not support the artists you like."

I want to cultivate fans who WANT TO SUPPORT ME. Because the more they do, the more I can write and not waste time doing stupid crap I don't want to do to make money, like content mill writing.

Also, advertising, merchandising, and licensing are all great things, but you need a certain platform to get there. In the imaginary world where everything is free, I think it would create a much higher barrier for an artist to EVER make money from their writing because they would need a certain level of fan base first.

Plus I think people value more that which they pay money for. Even 99 cents or 1.99 is better than free.

While I don't disagree with a lot of your points I feel like it confuses the issue and makes people think you don't want to make money/get paid (though anyone who has read much of your blog probably wouldn't think you weren't mercenary Haha!)

I feel like anything I say that undermines my CLEAR and communicated desire that I want to get PAID so I can keep doing this and do more of it, is a bad thing.

Anonymous said...

Most people don't use usenet to share anymore since some major ISPs removed access a couple years ago. There is a hardcore sharing culture still active via pay usenet servers, but it's much smaller than it used to be. They weeded out most of the casual downloaders.

You're quite right above. Most people want to buy or read something legally. Sharing requires learning technical stuff and it's too painful and time-consuming for most. BT and IRC are unfathomable to 99% of the population. And of those who can get the files, a lot of them will find authors they love and start to buy their books. Just like they do from reading used, loaned, and library books.

I use filesharing to try new authors, musicians, etc, and I can't even begin to tell you how many of those I buy from now; I only know thanks to yearly credit card statements that it involves thousands of dollars every year that I'd otherwise not have spent on those artists.

-Shelly

Flick Masters said...

Ultimately you can point to the music industry, which has been pretty much devastated by copying and file sharing.

True, a lot of people buy music on iTunes for $.99, but a majority of the music on your typical iPod is pirated. Young people expect to get their music for free.

One of the things that helps the book industry is that their clientele is older...they don't know how to use the torrents like their kids and grandkids.

As for ads in books, I say phooey. I'll just pirate the e-book, and read the version with the ads stripped out. If you can remove DRM, you can remove some stupid ad.

CGriffin said...

Here's a loosely related question I have for you, Joe. What's your take on another writer stealing your IP, your characters, and doing their 'own' fanfiction, distributing it freely? At what point (if ever) does piracy and copyright become become an issue for you?

Joe Konrath said...

What's your take on another writer stealing your IP, your characters, and doing their 'own' fanfiction, distributing it freely? At what point (if ever) does piracy and copyright become become an issue for you?

Good question. I don't want to be stolen, or plagiarized, if someone is making money off of it.

If people want to write fanfic based off my characters, or do a video and release it for free, I'm okay with that.

The only time I'd take issue with "free" is if it isn't a clear indication who the author is. If someone writes Jack Daniels fanfic that I had nothing to do with and was not involved in, I don't want it to be attributed to me, because it could dilute the brand.

In other words, if you steal me or my IP but don't make money, I'm fine, as long as you clearly state I'm not the author.

Why do I draw the line at money? Because then it isn't sharing any more. Then it is business. There's a difference between someone who wants to share my work, and someone who wants to make money from my work. The motives are entirely different.

Joe Konrath said...

As for ads in books, I say phooey. I'll just pirate the e-book, and read the version with the ads stripped out. If you can remove DRM, you can remove some stupid ad.

I don't see that happening. Do you cut all the ads out of your newspaper before reading?

Having downloaded music before, I've seen a lot of improperly labeled files. People don't fix the files, then upload the new version. Too much work, for what benefit?

If there were a site where authors made money by giving away ebooks funded by ads, there would be no point to piracy. You could download a free ebook legally--plus support the artists because the author earns $$$ on every download.

You're saying people would download for free, spend significant time stripping out ads (which is a manual process, not automated like stripping DRM), and then upload the ad-free book to a torrent site?

Doubtful.

Matthew Buckley said...

I think every time I read one of your articles I want to post a comment saying, "Best. Post. Ever." But then I realize it would make me sound too much like a fan boy.

Seriously, there are so few authors out there who understand how lucky we are that the digital revolution is FINALLY reaching the publishing industry. Finally, we can benefit from what musicians have had for years.

Moses Siregar III said...

Agreed.

On this subject, here's a video interview I conducted with author Eric Flint, and he talks in the first minute or two about his view on piracy and DRM, which is pretty lax since he's supported a free library of ebooks for the Baen publishing house. There's also a part 1 and 3 of the interview that you'll find on this YouTube page. This full video (which is part 2) has some good info in it, including topics like why new authors succeed, and common new author mistakes.

Frank Zubek said...

Great way to look at it Joe
lemons into lemonade

Ty Johnston said...

At this point in my writing career, if someone wants one of my books for free, they're welcome to pirate it. In fact, all they'd have to do is e-mail me and I'd probably send them a free doc or pdf file.

The only reason I don't offer my fiction for free online is because of a contract with a print publisher. I'm basically waiting to see what the next year or so will bring with the publisher, then I'll go from there.

Still, I only sell my ebooks for 99cents. As things stand, I'm making far more money on my non-fiction writings than I am my fiction, though hopefully that will change someday.

Noel said...

This is why I love your blog Joe! I was just talking with a friend about this last night. The publishing industry doesn't get it, the film industry doesn't get it, the music industry doesn't get it. But you do Joe, You f'ind do. And you rock, which is why I WILL buy your books and loan them to my friends.

Anonymous said...

When you download free files from people you don't know you risk spyware and viruses. You don't KNOW what someone attached to that file either knowingly or unknowingly.

I hear this argument over and over and it doesn't work when it comes to e-books. You will never get a virus from an e-book (or an MP3 for that matter). Why? Because e-book files are read-only. Let me try to explain this technical detail without making your eyes glaze over. :-)

Every computer has a file system, and each file has permissions. There are three specific permissions:

* The read permission, which grants the ability to read a file.

* The write permission, which grants the ability to modify a file.

* The execute permission, which grants the ability to execute a file. This permission must be set for executable binaries (for example, a compiled c++ program) or shell scripts (for example, a Perl program) in order to allow the operating system to run them.

You get viruses from executable files only. E-books are read-only, therefore you will never get a virus.

Zoe Winters said...

@Anon

Thank you for explaining that! I knew .exe files were risky for viruses and such but I had this nebulous idea in my head that somehow viruses or spyware could somehow be "caught" when you opened any kind of file.

But you explaining it like that, it makes a lot of sense.

What about sites that have all kinds of big pop up ads and such? It seems like when you go to sites like that you inevitably come away with some virus or spyware.

If you "can" get viruses and spyware that way, then couldn't the same problem happen at a pirate site if it had a bunch of those blaring ads and you accidentally clicked on something?

John Purcell said...

About this torrent thing, I'd like to make a confession, except - not here, not in public. So, I'll just say I owe you a drink, or two, maybe at B'Con, and get back to my nook.

Did I say nook? I meant book. Yea, that's it.

Jan said...

I agree, Joe. Great article to soothe the beast within!

Jan

C. Pinheiro, EA ABA said...

Intellectual property is ephemeral by nature.

Nothing surprises me anymore.

I HATE plagerism and piracy. It happens across all genres-- I actually had to send a "cease and desist" letter to a well-known financial planner (this person was actually on the Today Show) who had completely plagerized one of my articles, slapped his name on it, and posted it on his website as his own-- and I found out that even had the balls to sell the article to a local newspaper.

Fucking incredible. But it happens.

Anonymous said...

I post on piracy sites, asking people who download copies of my book to please consider donating a small sum to charity (since I donate my proceeds to charity). I think a few readers have done so, and one or two readers post to encourage other pirate downloaders to purchase the book if they can.

And of course I thank them for reading my work!

Natasha Fondren said...

I would like to see a study done on how many pirates, if it were made impossible to get the book online for free, would actually pay for it. I'd be shocked if it were even 1%.

The way to fight piracy is convenience. Have you seen that chart that's made its way around the internet?

Pirate vs. Paying Customer

Didn't I read that the most pirated books were those not available in ebook form and those with DRM?

John McFetridge said...

I agree that piracy probably doesn't actually affect sales (it probably increases sales). In this case people are getting something for free that they could legally purchase for a couple of bucks, or even get free from your site.

Doesn't that seem weird? I can't imagine tht very many people will go to the trouble of getting an e-book from a pirate site when the books are priced at 2 or 3 dollars (my own e-books are $8.99 but I'm trying to get the publisher to lower that).

Ads may work with e-books on non-dedicated readers like the iPad the same way ads will be in magazines on the iPad. Recently someone compared the reading experience of an iPd and boo and the biggest difference thy noticed was that when reading on the iPad they tended to read for a shorter period of time before checking email or something else.

The different medium (e-reader vs. paper book) will likely affect the experience in a lot of ways and things like ads may end up being fine for most people.

Sure, some people will find ways to block the ads just like some pople block ads when surfing websites, butenough people will continue to look at the ads to keep that ad revenue financing a lot of the things we like.

The Daring Novelist said...

I've always thought that this piracy panic was whipped up by the same fear-mongering "solution providers" who sold us the Y2K panic.

Seriously, Y2K built an industry around "technology is going to destroy you and everything you hold dear" seminars and products and sales people. And we didn't really hear that much about piracy until the Y2K gravy train dried up.

It wasn't like there was no piracy before then.

Cheryl Kaye Tardif said...

Joe, as one of the four authors who took time to alert you to the piracy of your books, I'm offended by your cavalier attitude and your comments that people who fear piracy are basically stupid and uneducated. I am neither. I am smart enough and educated enough to make a decision on whether piracy hurts me as an author, and I believe it does.

Of course you disagree. As you told me in your email reply, you're still raking in the sales at $230 a day, so a little piracy isn't hurting your sales. Let me assure you that the majority of authors are NOT making money like this. Most authors I know are lucky to make that amount a month.

So yes, theft of our works strikes a protective chord for most of us. We simply cannot afford to have other people illegally offering up our works to others for free. It is up to the author or publisher to give away free books, and I do that often, on my own terms and when I can afford to do so.

Maybe if I was making $200+ a day on book sales, I'd have the same attitude about piracy, but I hope not. I hope that I always remain humble enough to remember the struggle to get there and to remember how I started, with one book and one sale.

Cheryl Kaye Tardif
www.cherylktardif.com

Joe Konrath said...

I'm offended by your cavalier attitude and your comments that people who fear piracy are basically stupid and uneducated. I am neither. I am smart enough and educated enough to make a decision on whether piracy hurts me as an author, and I believe it does.

I meant no offense, Cheryl.

C. Pinheiro has shown that piracy has specifically hurt her. Someone stole her article, claimed it to be his, and sold it. She has concrete damages. And legally, she stopped that particular individual.

If you read my blog entry, you know I do not believe file-sharing is in the same category as plageurism. And I do not believe piracy hurts the author, nor have I found any evidence (and I've looked) that it hurts the author.

As someone smart and educated, can you please point me to a source--any source--that shows authors are being hurt by piracy? Or is your decision based on something other than evidence?

I believe I made a pretty good case for piracy being unstoppable, and that the best way to deal with it is to ignore it.

You said, "We simply cannot afford to have other people illegally offering up our works to others for free." But where do you provide proof that you are being harmed by it, or provide any workable ways to stop it?

It doesn't make sense to be upset about something you can't control, and never will be able to control. It makes sense to leave it be and move on, which is my argument.

BTW, I've had this attitude toward piracy way before I got into ebooks. Since 2004, people were stealing my audiobooks. My reaction at first was alarm. After alarm, I researched all I could.

Are you familiar with bit torrent? Rapidshare? Usenet and binsearch? Limewire? The Dev Team? Megaupload?

Did you know 13 of the top 100 most visited site on the internet are file sharing sites?

Have you seen Steal This Film 2?

Do you know the story of Napster, and the aftermath?

Do you know why iTunes no longer uses DRM?

I studied this phenomenon. I didn't knee-jerk react to it and try to stop it. I found out all I could before I formed an opinion.

As a result, my opinion is based on the available facts, and my knowledge of human nature.

I'm sorry you're upset. But my advice is good advice. And if you really delved into the topic, you would agree. This isn't about legality or morality. It also isn't about money.

Joe Konrath said...

BTW Cheryl--Good for you for disagreeing with me, and having the guts to voice your opinion, and sign your name to it. That's awesome. Too often dissenting opinions are from anonymous goofballs.

If this sparks debate, that's great. That's what I love about this blog.

But remember folks, play nice. No attacking anyone for their opinions. Cheryl was both polite and graceful in her post, and I'll plonk anyone who starts behaving badly.

Jude Hardin said...

Q: That's not true. The sites that host piracy make a lot of money.

A: So does Google. So does any popular website. But those sites aren't making money off the illegal sales of your material. They simply facilitate sharing.


Wouldn't it be the same thing if someone with a hot dog stand printed up a bunch of copies of, say, Whiskey Sour, and offered a free copy with every hot dog sold? In a roundabout way, that person is making money from your intellectual property.

I agree that piracy probably can't be stopped, but I still don't think we should condone it.

That said, I'm never going to lose any sleep over it. My philosophy is that I'll know I've made it when people start stealing my stuff.

Sybir St. John said...

Joe & Cheryl,
I haven't yet begun to even delve into the research surrounding this matter. I'm unpublished so the thought hasn't crossed my mind. But, I do believe were it to happen to me, I'd be hurt at first...there's my writing, just out there.

And then, me being me,...the researcher that I am, I'd probably follow Joe's path and check everything out. I'd be looking at it the same way. I see nothing wrong with lending a friend a physical book. Honestly, if she/he likes it well enough, they're going to go out and buy a copy anyway. I've bought eBooks, and then bought the physical copy, because they were just that darn good.

I have to agree with Joe, even though my feelings would be along the lines of Cheryl's. (Nice way to play balanced huh?) While hurt and wanting to make a living at my art, I think I'd be a little lighter and happier that people were READING my work and sharing it.

Of course, selling it/plagiarizing it...then all bets are off. :)

Cheryl Kaye Tardif said...

Joe, I'll accept that you may not have meant to offend, but you did. The power of words.

Yes, I am familiar with many of the file sharing sites you've mentioned. I also followed the music industry's battle with illegal downloads. I made it a point years ago not to use these sites because I know that most artists struggle to make it. I support them by buying their music, not stealing it.

Yes, controversy and sharing of opinions is always a good thing.

Regarding your comment: "As someone smart and educated, can you please point me to a source--any source--that shows authors are being hurt by piracy? Or is your decision based on something other than evidence?"

Let's flip that back. As someone smart and educated, can you please point me to a source--any source--that shows authors are NOT being hurt by piracy? Or is your decision based on something other than evidence?

Yes, some authors will say piracy hasn't hurt them. I suspect these would be the authors that most people know by name--the Stephen Kings & JK Rowlings of the world--and the handful of authors who've made it big selling ebooks. And kudos to all of them! But I'm talking about the other 90% of writers. For us--and yes, I am not in that top 10%--it IS about money. If I don't earn a half decent income, I won't be able to afford to write. This is my career, not a hobby, and like all careers, I expect to make money.

I get that some people think they're helping an author by sharing their work. If people really want to help authors by sharing something, share your thoughts about one of their books and encourage someone to buy the book or get it from the library. And by the way, libraries buy the books first. Yes, they're lent out afterward, but that is an acceptable part of our business.

What I'm talking about is illegal sharing. Quite a different matter.

Sadly, you are right, Joe, in that piracy won't stop.

But I'll still fight it when I can.

Cheryl Kaye Tardif
Updates on this issue on my blog

Joe Konrath said...

Wouldn't it be the same thing if someone with a hot dog stand printed up a bunch of copies of, say, Whiskey Sour, and offered a free copy with every hot dog sold?

Actually, I like that idea. It would probably cost more money copying the books than it would to buy them in paperback, but what a cool way to spread brand awareness.

A cheaper way would be to give out a CD with an epub version of Whiskey Sour, or of all of my books. And I'd be amused by that, rather than feel threatened.

As for Google, consider the parallels. Google doesn't create content. It makes money by organizing the content other people have created. Is that really very much different than Megaupload or Demonoid?

Joe Konrath said...

As someone smart and educated, can you please point me to a source--any source--that shows authors are NOT being hurt by piracy?

Isn't that what I did? 220 downloads a day, and I'm being pirated along with giving away the same ebooks for free? Isn't that the ultimate experiment that proves my point?

I'll also point to Cory Doctorow, Baen, the experiments done by Bill O'Reilly, Boyd Morrison, and Scott Sigler, to name a few.

If I don't earn a half decent income, I won't be able to afford to write. This is my career, not a hobby, and like all careers, I expect to make money.

So where is the direct correlation between piracy and you not making money? My ebooks have been free, and I've been pirated, for years, and my sales have been steadily climbing.

Have you noticed increased piracy and a subsequent loss in sales? If so, how can you directly connect it to piracy?

And by the way, libraries buy the books first. Yes, they're lent out afterward, but that is an acceptable part of our business.

So one sold paperback (sixty cents to you) lent out by the library and read by a hundred people is okay, but someone copying an ebook and sending it to their mother isn't?

Are used books okay? You sell a hardcover, and it gets bought and sold six more times, and lent out to three dozen people. Is that okay?

Airports have been "renting" books for a few years now. But it at one airport location. Return it for almost full-price at your destination. Is that okay?

For that matter, are video rentals okay? The writer gets paid for a DVD sale, and then Blockbuster rents it to 300 people.

If I buy your ebook, can I make a back up copy? Can I change the format from epub to mobi, so I can read it on my Kindle?

My advise: why worry about any of this? It won't do you any good in the long run. And I still haven't seen a single study that proves piracy has hurt any industry.

Cheryl Kaye Tardif said...

The whole hot dog idea is interesting. I'm always looking for unique ways to market my books.

The key here is that it would be the author's decision and choice as to how to market their books. I have no problems giving away my books. I've given away hundreds of copies of each over the years and I'll continue to do so when I can.

What I'm fighting for is that it is the author's (and sometimes publisher's) right to choose when, where and how many to give away.

I'll take my hot dog with mustard, relish and onions, please.

Support Authors, Buy a Book!

Cheryl

Joe Konrath said...

Support Authors, Buy a Book!

I agree. I also agree that it should be the author's choice.

Do I personally believe file sharing is wrong? Yes.

I also personally believe that gays should be allowed to marry, drugs should be legal, and the only government torture that should be allowed is the torture approved by officials who had it personally done to them for an extended period of time.

But what I believe is right, and what actually exists in this country, are two different things.

In the case of drugs, gay marriage, and torture, I can support candidates who hold the same views, but these things won't come to pass until a majority agrees with them.

Right now, the majority believes file sharing is okay. Or even if they don't believe it's okay, they still do it. And this view is widening, as more children become internet savvy.

Eventually, laws will be made that support the popular view, because that is how laws work.

Jude Hardin said...

So it's okay for me to bundle a free CD of all your ebooks (that you own the rights to) and offer it with every copy of Pocket-47 sold? :)

Cheryl Kaye Tardif said...

I thought you were asking for a viable source, Joe. I know I was. Show me an actual study--real research--that proves piracy does not negatively affect an author (or music artist).

Just because you and a few other authors don't feel you're affected by piracy in a negative way, does not mean the majority agree with you.

For now, I'll do what I can regarding piracy of my own works. I am more an activist than a pacifist. In the end it all comes down to choice and deciding what's right and wrong--individually.

All the best,

Cheryl Kaye Tardif

Joe Konrath said...

So it's okay for me to bundle a free CD of all your ebooks (that you own the rights to) and offer it with every copy of Pocket-47 sold? :)

Yes. It would be smart to put your ebook on there as well, so people who buy the print version also have an epub/mobi version.

Lemme know if you'd like me to send you the files.

Jude Hardin said...

And I'm checking into the price of hot dog stands as we speak! That might actually work. Of course, I wonder how many hot dog eaters actually read books...

Moses Siregar III said...

My philosophy is that I'll know I've made it when people start stealing my stuff.

Agree with Jude.

You know how a lot of businesses give out free stuff? Those nice-looking old ladies at my local Costco letting you have a bite of tilapia or refried beans? Well, one of the less savory reasons why businesses do this is because free stuff kind of guilt trips people into buying stuff. This has been shown to by at least some psychological studies I've read about.

So, you know what? Pirate away. If someone gets a free copy of your stuff, and likes it, they're going to have to fight invisible gears in their head in order to not buy something else from you. And that is not at all easy to do.

How often have you gotten something for free, and then felt you should "support the store," or some other vaguely conscious rationalization for buying something from the source.

File-downloading sites are actually probably helping your business. It's like an army of unpaid employees handing out free samples of your chili.

And to get even more metaphysical (on a very different note), when you're contributing something of value to the world, whatever form that takes, I believe value comes back to you somehow. That one's much harder to prove, but I really believe that.

Joe Konrath said...

Just because you and a few other authors don't feel you're affected by piracy in a negative way, does not mean the majority agree with you.

Cheryl, these are all experiments with numbers to back them up. This isn't about what authors "feel."

I've posted numbers. So have the people I referenced. That's why I came to this conclusion.

Who cares how I "feel"? I'm looking at facts, which have no feelings. And there are no facts that prove file sharing is damaging to sales.

Elizabeth Munroz said...

It has been said, "Do what you love, the money will follow". I can tell you love what you do, and thank you for freely sharing! Provocative post!

heteromeles said...

Gee, as a long-term fan of libraries, I'll just have to immolate myself.

Anyway, I'd like to do a dissection, and point out another problem.

The dissection is that file-sharing (and intellectual piracy) are really about two things: money and control. A lot of authors conflate them, and that's part of the problem. Obviously, when you get published, you give up some control of the manuscript (temporarily, by working with the editor) in exchange for money. At the same time, you have to retain some control to make still more money.

However, file sharing seems to be fundamentally beyond your control as an author, so the question is, how to profit from it.

It seems like part of the way is to decouple the need for control from the need to make money.

Another part is to make paying for it more attractive. As an alternate-world example, I wonder what would have happened if JK Rowling had said, "Okay all you pirate fans, here's my eBook for US$9.99, and for every copy you buy, I'll donate US$1 to MyReallyCoolCharityPool. In my alternate-world example, she would have had massive sales, and it would be really neat to run this in real life. My personal favorite would be the "emerging writers microloan project" at kiva.org, which would help the rest of us get our manuscripts out and edited, but that's in a different fantasy realm.

The related problem is the obverse of pirating: it's what happens when I blow a lot of money on a book that sucks. I have a confession: I've read books online for free. And most of them I haven't bought. Why? I didn't like them. But you know, I invested maybe an hour of my time, and when that author writes something new, in >50% of the cases, I'll check it out.

I've also got a shelf full of books that I read at a library and proceeded to buy. I do like to reread.

Compare that to a couple of my formerly favorite authors who sold me bad stories. I was a fan, I shelled out for hardcover, and I was *bitterly* disappointed. I'm no longer buying their books, either.

Paradoxically, that's the nice thing about file sharing, libraries, and other free sources. I've found some great books that I paid for, because I believe in properly appreciating good art. Conversely, when I get burned, especially in a hard cover, I tend to stop buying.

The economics go both ways. It's a loss of control to have someone read your work without your consent, but it's probably as bad to have a consensual experience that ends the relationship.

Gareth-Michael Skarka said...

Cheryl: "I know that most artists struggle to make it. I support them by buying their music, not stealing it."

I'm sure the Record Label appreciated your purchase. The artist, however, most likely didn't see a penny. There is a reason why musicians tour -- that's how they make money, not through sales (with the exception of the top-sellers, who make enough that the Labels cannot avoid paying out).

You've said that you've read up on this topic. I would suggest that perhaps you might need to read a bit more. Your views on this topic are naive at best, and horribly misinformed at worst.

I find that far more offensive that any "cavalier attitude."

I've been working in electronic publishing for 7 years now -- a small-press operation, selling tabletop roleplaying game material in PDF format. My work has been pirated from the very beginning -- despite that, because of adhering to cost+convenience and giving fans the opportunity to pay me, I make a living at this -- close to the figures cited by Joe, in fact, despite being nowhere near the level of name-recognition.

Piracy spreads my brand. The majority of those who download my material illegally don't become my customers -- and they never would have. But a small percentage do. I convert them to fans, and there's my income.

I expect that you'll probably dismiss this as anecdotal, but there ya go.

Zoe Winters said...

Jude,

I eat hot dogs (rarely, but I do)

And I read books!

Cheryl Kaye Tardif said...

Because I do like to research, I'll leave this link to a very interesting report on music piracy and its affect on the industry.

The report was released by IFPI, a leading organization that supports the recording industry worldwide.

IFPI Digital Music Report 2010 (PDF)

The actual report was initiated by Jupiter Research and Forrester Research after a survey was conducted. Read the Jupiter report here.

I suspect we'll see similar stats regarding book piracy.

Cheryl

Alastair Mayer said...

Anonymous above said that you can't get viruses or other malware from e-books (or MP3 files) because they're not executable files. Alas, not so.

That may have been true in simpler times, but in these days of complex files that require special purpose software to read, (gee, like ebooks) that's no longer true. You can open a text file with just about anything, so you won't get viruses in a text file. What about something "obviously" read-only like a PDF file?

It turns out you can get a virus from a PDF, that can in turn infect other PDFs. Thank you Adobe for deciding to "upgrade" the Acrobat reader with a JavaScript interpreter. (Google "pdf virus" for more details, I don't need to into it here.)

There are other ways to spread viruses in structured files, but they require sloppy coding on the part of whoever wrote the reader software, and skill on the part of the virus writer. Unfortunately both those cases are more prevalent than they should be. Simply put, a clever virus writer could craft part of that read-only file to take advantage of a flaw (if present) in the reader software so that when it reads that file, it overflows a buffer within the program. Overflowing a buffer could give the malicious software writer access to parts of the reader code, what happens next is that the reader ends up jumping to a section of memory that contains data from the file rather than the executable code of the reader. Which is to say, it ends up executing part of the file. (In theory, it is even possible to do this with a plain text file and very poorly written text editor or display program. In practise, the simpler the file format, the less likely it is that the programmer made an error that would allow this.)

So, is it impossible for an ebook to contain a virus? If that ebook is in PDF format, it is easy for it to contain a virus. If it is some other format, it is possible for it to contain a virus, with the probability depending on the specific format and the kind of software used to read it. Even HTML can contain malware that may not technically be a virus (ie, self replicating) but could still trash your computer (thank you Internet Explorer and some other browsers), so yes, so could an ebook, especially one from an unknown source.

A dedicated ebook device is probably more resistant to such things, but probably not immune.

Zoe Winters said...

@heteromeless

I think that's an interesting idea about donating to charity. I also think it's a model that could work for smaller authors as well as authors selling more.

Scott Sigler has done pre-orders for things where the work won't be released until they reach a certain dollar amount. That model could work too.

The only issue I have is that when authors come out and say piracy doesn't hurt them, I think it converts SOME previously paying readers into people who will just take for free because they can more easily rationalize the situation. (Though probably "real fans" who can afford to buy want to support their authors.)

Like, Moses talks about the psychological phenomenon whereby people who are given things for free have this little guilt trigger that makes them want to "support the store or artist or whatever" if they like what they were given free. (I've noticed this effect in people who loved Kept or Claimed so much they told me I was way undercharging for it. Almost like they felt guilty for paying the price I asked.)

My concern though is that enough of a cultural shift will happen if authors run around saying piracy doesn't hurt them, that that little guilt trigger will sort of evolve out of people.

Then what?

One other thing... I think in the case of ebooks for people who have e-readers. I know it is WAY more convenient for me as a Kindle-owner to go buy a book in the Kindle store than it is for me to pirate it elsewhere, then try to convert it so it will look decent on my Kindle, and put it on my Kindle.

So I wonder if anyone has any opinions on how dedicated e-readers may help lessen piracy due to the added convenience of just getting it from the store tied into your e-reader.

Even if I know something is free somewhere... even if the author is GIVING it away, if I can get it at a reasonable price in the Kindle store, I'm more willing to get it that way just so I don't have to go through added layers of steps.

Kindle makes it "ridiculously easy" to shop and get what you want fast and easy without any hassles or red-tape at all.

Joe Konrath said...

I read that report a while ago, Cheryl. It reports a gigantic boom in digital music sales--they're up 20,900% since 2003.

Wouldn't piracry be hurting digital sales? And yet, they are bigger than ever.

Here are a bunch of posts that pick the report apart:

http://www.tinymixtapes.com/features/five-problems-ifpi-digital-music-report

http://www.slyck.com/story1901_IFPI_Digital_Report_2010_The_Sky_is_Falling_Again

http://paidcontent.co.uk/article/419-digital-music-sales-are-booming-but-industry-still-cites-piracy-woes/

http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2010-03/24/the-ifpi%27s-obsession-with-depression?page=all

http://penseenoir.wordpress.com/2010/01/27/pirates-are-the-music-industry%E2%80%99s-most-valuable-customers/

The fact is, that report CANNOT show a direct correlation between piracy and lost sales.

Zoe Winters said...

@ other anonymous,

Interesting. So my "nebulous fear of malware/spyware" probably is still exaggerated but not wholly impossible.

Joe Konrath said...

The problem is causality. Researchers look at increased file shared, decreased music revenue, and try to make a connection. It's a faulty argument, one brilliantly parodied by the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flying_Spaghetti_Monster#Pirates_and_global_warming

Those doing deeper research (polls, interviews) have shown that pirates are music buyers, and that this is a direct link with piracy and increased music sales.

But this is all really moot. Nothing can be done about it, so don't sweat it. Especially since there is no concrete proof it is harmful.

Joe Konrath said...

Interesting. So my "nebulous fear of malware/spyware" probably is still exaggerated but not wholly impossible.

Any pirate who knows what she's doing can easily avoid viruses. Just use a private tracker that is monitored, read comments, pay attention files types and extensions, and use Avast and Ad Aware.

Chris said...

"You get viruses from executable files only. E-books are read-only, therefore you will never get a virus."

Yes and no.

Yes, you technically only get viruses by things that can be "executed", but also keep in mind that in order to open these files, you need to use an executable.

So if I embed a virus in the ZIP file that the book is in that can use Winzip to install a Trojan, or the same with the tar files, or embed some code into the PDF that exploits a weakness in Acrobat Reader, then I can get a virus on the system.

Also keep in mind that Windows generally only executes EXE or COM files, but I could write some code in Assembly Language (that's the machine-level code of your system) that bypasses Windows entirely.

This is why your virus scanner doesn't just scan executable files.


BTW, Joe, great post. Of course, anyone who's been coming here for a while already has read this one before :-)

Chris said...

Also, using Tim Kring as a proponent in this argument is pretty funny, given how the guy has blamed "alternate viewing methods" for Heroes being canceled.

As opposed to, say, the drastic decline of quality in the show after the first season.

Jude Hardin said...

I eat hot dogs (rarely, but I do)

And I read books!


It would be an interesting experiment.

Cheryl Kaye Tardif said...

Zoe, you certainly have made some valid points. As have some of the others here. Piracy will always be a controversial subject, especially for those who feel they have something to lose.

While some people may feel guilted into buying something because they've gotten something for free, many people who download copies illegally are in the habit of doing just that. They won't bother going to a store; they'll take the next free copy. And the next. And the next.

I am very lucky to have wonderful fans. They bought my books even when they were priced at a ridiculous $26 each. Canadian. Thankfully, I can now offer affordable ebooks. Sometimes even for free.

As an author just said in an email to me, givine away free books "should be a temporary measure to stimulate readership or to introduce readers to a series."

I don't know any author who could afford to give away every copy of every book. But again, I say this goes back to copyright laws. Who holds the copyright? Doesn't that mean anything?

Joe, for every report, there are websites or blogs that will rip the report apart. Part of this research was conducted by interviewing people about their buying habits. Nearly 25% of people who used free file sharing didn't bother buying music. And the overall music market fell 30% from 2004-2009. Neither of these can be a good thing.

I am sure there are more reports out there with similar numbers.

Cheryl

Kangas said...

Can't disagree more with what you said.

Point by point:
---1. Copyright is unenforceable in a digital world. Period. Exclamation point. At no time in history has any individual, company, or industry been able to stop file sharing. No country or law has been able to stop it. No technology has been able to stop it.

Same can be said for murder. No country has been able to stop it. Oh, too far down the slope?

How about rape? Still too far? How about robbery? No country has ever been able to stop ANY crime. Does that mean we should stop trying?

---2. People want to share files. There is this much file sharing going on for a reason. It's what people want. Fighting piracy is fighting human nature.

Fighting anything people want is against human nature? Then again, fighting theft is fighting human nature. Fighting rape is fighting human nature. Human nature is, in general, a bad thing.

But we shouldn't fight it, because it's what people want?

---3. There is ZERO reliable evidence that file-sharing hurts sales. A shared file does not equal a lost sale, any more than someone reading a library book is a lost sale.

I would have to say that there's zero evidence to the contrary also. On my side is simple common sense. If someone can get something for free versus paying for it, I believe it is HUMAN NATURE to go for the free version.

If the free version isn't available and the person wants it bad enough, they will pay for it. So how WOULDN'T that translate into lost sales? Sure, not every person who would have downloaded it for free would buy it in this case, but more certainly would if the free version didn't exist. I'm not sure how logically you defend any other conclusion.

And in my world it's like this: They might not have bought my film, but they would have rented it because it's cheaper. So I can guarantee you that movie rentals have been affected by illegal downloads.

---Q: Piracy is immoral, and illegal. We need to spread awareness, then people will stop doing it.

--Illegal doesn't matter. People do what they want to do. Immoral is subjective. And teaching people to behave in a way contrary to human nature DOES NOT WORK.

Again, you have got to be a fan of anarchy, then. Because you're basically saying that anything that the masses want to do is okay. If human nature is rape, murder, and kill--go ahead, try to argue it, but we've been doing all those since DAY ONE--then that's all fine. Don't try to stop any of it. It's ridiculous.

--Q: That's not true. The sites that host piracy make a lot of money.

--A: So does Google. So does any popular website. But those sites aren't making money off the illegal sales of your material. They simply facilitate sharing.

Yeah, and the fence who takes a portion to sell the goods the crook got out of your house does the same thing--makes money by facilitating sharing...of your stuff. And the crook was just doing what human nature told him to...so it's all good.


---Q: Piracy is theft, pure and simple.

--A: That's not actually a question. And that's not actually true. Copying a file does not deprive the owner of that file--the owner still has it.

So...if I take a picture of the Mona Lisa and make a bunch of prints of it, and sell those, that's okay? 'Cause the Mona Lisa is still there. I didn't take it. That about right?

I don't know anything about you besides you are an author, but:

I find that in general the people who have your stance on piracy are either pirates, or people who haven't yet made a living in the field--when your sole living is made from being an author and you have a family counting on you, I'd be curious as to whether you're so inclined to philanthropy.

And btw: I find sometimes my responses can come off a bit snarky and dickish. I apologize for the tone in advance. If it helps, picture me with a big goofy smile as I typed those responses. :)
-K

Cheryl Kaye Tardif said...

Here's a link to another, very indepth study of the music industry. The True Cost of Sound Recording Piracy to the U.S. Economy.

I would be very interested to read any reports on the book industry and piracy, if anyone has any links to viable sources. I've read many that are inconclusive, though still interesting, like this report: U.S. Book Anti-Piracy Research Findings

Cheers!

Cheryl Kaye Tardif

P.S. I'm a bestselling, award-winning author, but that doesn't mean I can afford losses in revenue.

Moses Siregar III said...

While some people may feel guilted into buying something because they've gotten something for free, many people who download copies illegally are in the habit of doing just that. They won't bother going to a store; they'll take the next free copy. And the next. And the next.

I'd say those folks weren't going to buy your material anyway. In that case, at least someone is enjoying your creation, and maybe they'll tell their buying friends about you, or mention you in some random conversations, because deep down they feel so guilty about it ;-)

I respect your feelings on the issue, but I think we're better off accepting piracy (because it's going to happen anyway), while realizing that it probably helps us out more than it hurts us.

Alastair Mayer said...

The music industry overall may well have declined in that time period. Part of that might have been the economy. A more significant part is likely competition from other media.

That's less clear in the case of music, which you can listen to while doing something else (even reading). But as a writer hoping to make money by writing books, I'm more worried about the competition from non-book media -- video games for a prime example -- than from pirated copies of my own work.

Not that there's much I can do about it, other than write books that even gamers might want to read.

Cheryl Kaye Tardif said...

Moses, if you want to accept piracy, that's your choice.

I don't. That's my choice.

Cheryl

Joe Konrath said...

Same can be said for murder. No country has been able to stop it. Oh, too far down the slope?

Really? I thought we tried and convicted murders.

How many of the one billion pirates who file share every day have we tried and convicted?

BTW, comparing file sharing to murder and rape is very close to Godwin's law...

Then again, fighting theft is fighting human nature. Fighting rape is fighting human nature.

Do you really think the only thing preventing theft and rape in the world are laws? Seriously? That if we repealed the "do not murder" law, people would be killing each other in the streets?

I tend to have more faith in human nature. People believe murder is wrong. They do not believe file sharing is wrong, which is why as many as 70% have file shared. Have 70% murdered too?

Yeah, and the fence who takes a portion to sell the goods the crook got out of your house does the same thing--makes money by facilitating sharing...of your stuff.

Tangible and intangible, profit and no profit. Did you read my blog?

A fence deals in stolen property. A website is not akin to a fence. It is akin to the building owner where the fence does business. Again, those who file share DO NOT PROFIT.

So...if I take a picture of the Mona Lisa and make a bunch of prints of it, and sell those, that's okay?

You're profiting. If you give them away, it's okay.

when your sole living is made from being an author and you have a family counting on you, I'd be curious as to whether you're so inclined to philanthropy.

Consider your curiosity satisfied. I support myself and my family as a fulltime author, and am the sole support.

I find sometimes my responses can come off a bit snarky and dickish.

I sometimes come off the same way. :)

Moses Siregar III said...

Moses, if you want to accept piracy, that's your choice.

I don't. That's my choice.


Fair enough.

As for my point of view, look at the video interview I posted with Eric Flint above. I talked to him about the issue this year, and Baen (publishing house) has found with incredible consistency that by giving away free copies of their ebooks, sales of the same works spike upward. Same principle as free samples of pizza. It is really a marketing law: Give away free stuff and free sample, you make more money.

Also, a comment on the last study that Cheryl linked. We just just note that that study assumes a 1:1 relationship between items pirated and lost revenue. It does not attempt to address any of the other sides of the argument (unless I missed that).

Such as, people who wouldn't have bought that music anyway. Or, people who ended up buying music later on from those artists because they sampled them for free. Or, people who ended up telling their friends about the band (and their friends bought stuff). Or, people who bought merchandise or concert tickets because of the free downloads. Or, kids who didn't have money anyway (but who may have become lifelong fans of the artists when they were young).

Basically, that study only looks at the negative and assumes nothing but losses, when there are a host of positive factors to also consider.

All that said, I'm glad there are some people out there who want to fight piracy, because I think there should be at least some limits on it.

Joe Konrath said...

Nearly 25% of people who used free file sharing didn't bother buying music.

That tells me means two things.

1. 75% DID buy music. Which is good.

2. There is STILL no way to prove a free download equals a lost sale. None. Not a one. No way at all.

And the overall music market fell 30% from 2004-2009.

Did you read any of the links I posted? The FSM?

The music market could have fallen for a number of plausible reasons.

1. The economy in general fell during that time. What companies have grown?

2. Perhaps people just want to but the ONE HIT SONG, not the whole crappy $15.99 CD.

3. Digital sales have increased almost 30,000 percent in that time.

THIRTY. THOUSAND. PERCENT.

4. The music industry has proven, time and again, how corrupt, mismanaged, and stupid they are.

5. Apple got into the act. There's your decreased profits right there--a third party came and took a portion of the dough.

Ad nauseum.

Cheryl Kaye Tardif said...

I think some of you (including Moses) may have misunderstood my views on giving away free books.

There are huge advantages when an AUTHOR or PUBLISHER gives away free books. And it's their right to do so.

My objection is to others who feel they have the right to give away my work for free without my permission. In the past, I've allowed other websites and blogs to give away a book or two.

As a marketing strategy, giving away something is a valuable tool that, if done right (as JA Konrath does himself), can lead to more sales. Piracy doesn't.

However, if someone wants to prove me wrong, I'll find a site that has one of my books in full. You can read it then buy my other novels. Yeah, that'll show me! lol

Cheryl

Joe Konrath said...

The IPI report assumes substitution rates. That's a specious argument.

http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2193332,00.asp

I'm reading the links you're posting. You're not reading mine, are you?

Cheryl Kaye Tardif said...

If anyone here would like a free book, LEGALLY & PIRATE-FREE, please email me at cherylktardif@shaw.ca and I'll be happy to send a Smashwords coupon code for the ebook of Divine Intervention, my bestselling psychic suspense thriller.

This is me, the author, in control. :-)

Cheryl Kaye Tardif

Cheryl Kaye Tardif said...

Yes, Joe, I've read many of the reports at the links you've supplied. Subjective at best.

I guess we'll have to agree to disagree. For every report either of us finds online, other reports will tear them apart or counter. Such is free speech, I guess.

I've enjoyed this debate. Thank you. All the best to you.

Cheryl

Joe Konrath said...

The anti-book piracy report is also specious.

You CANNOT assume that a downloaded free book is a lost sale. It isn't 1 for 1.

In some cases, the pirate would have never bought the book in the first place.

In some cases, the pirate does buy the book, and other books by the author.

In some cases, the book languishes on a hard drive, never read at all.

In some cases, the pirate would have never even been aware of the book or the author without finding it on the file sharing site.

And so on.

I'm not sure how I went from "Don't fret pirates" to defending file-sharers, but I've got work to do and have to stop defending my POV, much as I enjoy it. I'll leave with this:

1. It is impossibly to prove the effect of file sharing on sales without actually interviewing every single pirate and having them answer truthfully about their sharing and buying habits.

2. Industries can lose money for many reasons. There is no study that clearly shows piracy is the only cause, or even proves it is part of the cause.

3. Piracy is big business for groups that make money studying and combating piracy. Fair, unbiased reports are hard to come by, especially when capitalism and politics are involved.

4. I have shown significant growth in the face of freebies and piracy. So have many others.

While it is impossible to prove a direct link between piracy and sales, showing rising sales in the face of piracy is a damn good indicator that piracy isn't harmful. Or if it is harmful, it isn't enough to impact growth.

This isn't opinion. It is fact. And it is repeatable.

You cannot prove piracy has harmed you. But I can prove it hasn't harmed me. Ergo, my argument is sound, yours is not.

5. Don't worry about what you can't control. You'll sleep better.

Joe Konrath said...

Yes, Joe, I've read many of the reports at the links you've supplied. Subjective at best.

Can't. Get. Away.

Show how they are subjective. Don't say it and not support it. I have shown how the links you posted were specious.

Moses Siregar III said...

If anyone here would like a free book, LEGALLY & PIRATE-FREE, please email me at cherylktardif@shaw.ca and I'll be happy to send a Smashwords coupon code for the ebook of Divine Intervention, my bestselling psychic suspense thriller.

This is me, the author, in control. :-)


Hehe. Now we're gettin' somewhere :-P

Let's say I did this. I read your free ebook, and I like it. What am I going to do?

I might very well buy another of your books some day (or more than one book). I might tell a friend that I think might like your work. I might start commenting on your blog. I might put your books on my shelf on Shelfari (haven't joined GoodReads yet, but I plan to). I might review your book on Amazon or some other online site. I might tweet about you or mention you on Facebook. I might send you an email as a fan that puts wind in your sales, or let you know about a typo on page 37. And I might just enjoy it and send you all that good juju/karma from the entertainment value.

All of that sounds pretty good, right? I wouldn't likely have bought or read your book previously, because your genre isn't on my radar.

Now what if I was a swashbuckling pirate, and I picked up your book from a filesharing site? Well, I think I would be just as likely to take any of those positive actions. In some ways, this is even better, because you didn't have to do any of the work to promote the free download. You could've spent that time writing another book, or sipping a marguerita.

Again, JMO, but it looks like more good than harm to me. But I'm also glad that there are some who don't see it that way, so that the pirates are kept somewhat in check ;-)

Cheryl Kaye Tardif said...

Moses, you must be busy parting the Red Sea again because I haven't received your email asking for the code for my thriller giveaway. ;-)

Truthfully, if you (as in any reader) aren't interested in my genre or if my book description doesn't interest you or my cover and title doesn't grab you, you won't bother to download it from a free share site, much less buy it.

As for all the benefits, I have yet to meet someone who has read my books through a pirate site. Sure, maybe some did all the things you say. There's nothing to say they did though.

Joe and readers, thank you for all your thoughts and opinions on this topic. There's no question it's controversial or that some people have very strong feelings for or against piracy. I appreciate your fairness and respect here. Thank you.

Now I'm off to sip margaritas and contemplate the purchase of eye patches for all the pirates out there. Of course, I'll have my book covers on them...

Cheryl Kaye Tardif

The Daring Novelist said...

The people who are making money off piracy are these "anti-piracy" experts who are getting HUGE fees for producing White Papers they pretend to be research.

It isn't research, it's assertion and fear-mongering. Publishers and writer organizations are being bilked for huge amounts of money by these creeps. (As I said up thread - these are the same kind people, offering the same kind of "proof" who manipulated everyone and made a killing during Y2K.)

Long before Joe proved it for himself, Baen Books proved that giving books away for free increases sales. Books that are available on pirate sites and newsgroups did not show any decrease in sales, and often showed an increase.

I won't stand for plagiarism, but if I were to see some hot dog stand giving away copies of my book, I would be thrilled.

Moses Siregar III said...

I'd want a veggie dog.

No dog, no deal.

Raven Corinn Carluk said...

Joe, I love you. You're so perfectly logical, and researched. And you've got strength in your convictions.

I have never equated downloading books to theft. In my eyes, downloading books is no different than borrowing from the library or a friend. Downloading music is like listening to it on the radio. Downloading movies is like watching them on tv.

If I feel something was worth my time, I will buy it. That's how I show my support, and how I send a message that I'd like more of that type of entertainment.

And because the entertainment industries wish to keep prices high, I'm less willing to pay for a movie/cd/book that I know nothing about. I don't want to invest in something that I won't find enjoyable.

Kangas said...

I don't mean to make you respond. Honestly. :)

--Really? I thought we tried and convicted murders.
--How many of the one billion pirates who file share every day have we tried and convicted?

Your point was that A) Piracy is unenforceable. (See: pirate bay case, among others--4 convicted)

And B) no country has been able to stop it, to which I reply that no country has been able to stop murder and crime and rape. So to say we've convicted a larger percentage of murderers and rapists than internet pirates does not validate your point.

You're saying, since we can't stop it, we shouldn't try. And I'm saying, the same thought applies to those other crimes.

--BTW, comparing file sharing to murder and rape is very close to Godwin's law...

Not when discussing human nature.

--Do you really think the only thing preventing theft and rape in the world are laws? if we repealed the "do not murder" law, people would be killing each other in the streets?

Uh...it's history, man. Until we got civilized(and even after), men have been killing each other. I also saw a poll a while back(I can try to find it) where they anonymously asked 100 men the question: If you could rape a woman and there was 0% of being caught or held responsible, would you do it? And I think about 70% said yes.

So...

--I tend to have more faith in human nature. They do not believe file sharing is wrong, which is why as many as 70% have file shared. Have 70% murdered too?

70% of what have file shared? People with computers? People in general? People in what country? Where is that fact from? I would have to look into it, as I haven't seen the study.

--Tangible and intangible, profit and no profit. Did you read my blog?

Yeah, and I think that argument is nonsense and should frankly be offensive to you, a creator. You have basically assigned a zero dollar value to your creation because it's not tangible.

What you're saying is that anybody should be able to make toys from Star Wars and sell them, because they're not STEALING anything, right? The toys that Hasbro has will still be there.

--A fence deals in stolen property. A website is not akin to a fence. It is akin to the building owner where the fence does business. Again, those who file share DO NOT PROFIT.

They do profit--maybe not monetarily, but they're profiting because they're ALSO not buying stuff they should be paying for. And if the monetarily is the part that makes it okay--when someone lets themself into your house and takes your TV--but he doesn't sell it, he just keeps it to watch stuff on, I guess you'll be fine with that. He didn't profit monetarily off of it.

I think you believe because pirating stuff on the internet is so easy, it can't be wrong. I believe that is not the case.

--So...if I take a picture of the Mona Lisa and make a bunch of prints of it, and sell those, that's okay?

--You're profiting. If you give them away, it's okay.

Let's say I make a bunch of prints of it. And I trade those prints to another guy for some Van Gogh prints that he made. And we all do it with every painting made. How long do you think those artists could go on painting if they lived in today's age? Do you think they'd approve of this, really?

This can be applied to anything. The Hasbro toy analogy. We all make bootleg toys and trade them, and never buy a licensed Hasbro toy from Star Wars. How long do you think before Hasbro drops its license with Lucas? (and yeah, I know Lucas doesn't need the money) But this is not a good thing for creators and those of us who value our intellectual properties.

--Consider your curiosity satisfied. I support myself and my family as a fulltime author, and am the sole support.

That's very cool. Is that all internet sales or what? Or do you make a % in ad revenue and whatnot?

If you don't wanna respond, no problem. Get to work! :)
-K

Joe Konrath said...

You're saying, since we can't stop it, we shouldn't try. And I'm saying, the same thought applies to those other crimes.

I'm saying you can't stop human nature. Murder is not human nature. Sex and drugs are human nature. I'd group piracy in with sex and drugs, not stealing cars.

Uh...it's history, man.

Nope. The majority do not kill. The majority does file share, according to polls.

I think you believe because pirating stuff on the internet is so easy, it can't be wrong. I believe that is not the case.

Doesn't matter what I believe. It matters what the general public believes. Which is why (sigh) it can't be stopped.

How long do you think those artists could go on painting if they lived in today's age? Do you think they'd approve of this, really?

Who cares if the artist approves?

If it can be digitized, it will be shared. And it will continue to be shared. That's what the net is for.

We all make bootleg toys and trade them, and never buy a licensed Hasbro toy from Star Wars.

Hasbro will only care if you SELL them, not make them.

And there is a difference between tangible objects for sale, and intangible objects for sharing. I have made this point several times.

That's very cool. Is that all internet sales or what? Or do you make a % in ad revenue and whatnot?

I've been a fulltime writer since 2004. You're more than welcome to Google me.

lisa brazeau said...

Great article. Tons of information and more than a little food for thought on the ever changing face of 'e'-ownership

Joe Konrath said...

You have basically assigned a zero dollar value to your creation because it's not tangible.

Nope, I've assigned a small dollar value to it, $1.99 to $2.99. At that price it's an impulse buy, convenient, easy, immediate.

I do see a future where ebooks are free, funded by ads, much like Hula does right now, and Youtube has been adopting.

How much do people like free vs. paying?

I've got an ebook called The List that has sold around 15k copies.

I've also got a free ebook called SERIAL that was downloaded 250k times.

The List, at the new royalty rate, would earn $30k.

SERIAL, funded by ads (ten ads per book, 2 cents each) would have earned $50k. Free is the way to go...

Kangas said...

--How long do you think those artists could go on painting if they lived in today's age? Do you think they'd approve of this, really?

--Who cares if the artist approves?

Man...I don't know what to say to that. This, more than anything, is disappointing.

It's one thing if you want to put your stuff up for free everywhere.

It's another for you to basically say nobody has the right to say how their creations are used.

As long as the majority wants it, it's okay.

As for free vs. pay...obviously people are for free stuff. That's the heart of the problem. Nobody's arguing that.

But to more or less spit on the worth of creativity...due to the moral shortcomings of the illegal torrenters...

I dunno. I think there is a right and a wrong here. I don't think right and wrong is determined by majority.

For instance, there was a time the majority believed blacks should be slaves. Women shouldn't be allowed to vote. Right now the majority thinks same-sex marriage is not okay.

I believe, regardless of the majority, that all of these stances are wrong. You seem to believe that as long as it's majority, they are correct.

Anyway--clearly we're not going to agree, and you've got work to do. I will not take up any more time, so you've got the last word if you want it.(on this post--but I'll be watching your blog! be warned. :)

Appreciate the discussion anyway.
-K

Robbie said...

A year or two ago, Monty Python members put their shows on Youtube for free. They realized that many people were dubbing old, worn-out, incomplete skits, etc. and uploading them, so they decided, if the skits, which are obviously beloved, are going to be shared, why not share better copies of them. They did. They also asked folks to buy the DVDs if they really wanted to own nice copies of them. People did. Sales improved 2000% since they made their material free on Youtube. Funny that, but not so surprising.

Eric Christopherson said...

What the effect of book piracy is on book sales has yet to be determined, but stealing is wrong and so is condoning it. A society needs moral principles.

J L said...

I'm on several author loops and every day there's at least one pirate site mentioned on those loops. The authors report them to the publisher. The publisher sends a cease-and-desist. The next day a new site opens.

When I first started being published, I worried about this. "Good heavens, look at where my books are -- I'm losing money" yada yada.

An author friend of mine tallied up all the sites where her books are located for free and figured that if people bought those books, she would gain an extra $XX,XXX a year in income (sorry: can't remember it exactly and I can't find her post. I was surprised, though).

IF. That's the biggie, of course.

I came to the conclusion that I have control over just a few things in this whole publishing game: the book; who I submit it to; how I promote it; timing (as in: when should I submit the next book?)

Everything else is a crap shoot: cover art, release date, edits, public appreciation, piracy.

I'm not convinced that piracy doesn't hurt the author. I'm not convinced that it does. But I can't fix it. I try not to worry about things I can't fix. Maybe that's an ostrich approach to the world, but I have a full-time day job that provides me with ample opportunity to worry. I'd rather avoid in my other job whenever I can.

Joe Konrath said...

I don't think right and wrong is determined by majority.

Actually, that IS how it works. Morality is dictated by the majority of a society at any given time.

For instance, there was a time the majority believed blacks should be slaves. Women shouldn't be allowed to vote. Right now the majority thinks same-sex marriage is not okay.

I've used these same exact points. If it wasn't "okay" at the time, why did society do this?

There are no universal truths. It's all a big gray area that changes according to societal demands. What was acceptable years ago often becomes intolerable, and vice-versa.

I'm not saying artists don't have the right to do what they want with their art.

I'm saying, in a digital world, the masses don't care. And the masses will win.

Morality changes. Universal truths are pretty easy to debunk, because they are based on subjective opinion, not a universally understood a priori set of laws.

We don't have to like it. But looking at the history of piracy, we are never going to change it.

Joe Konrath said...

A society needs moral principles.

The society itself decides what moral principles it will follow, based on the majority. Always has, always will.

Right now, the majority file share, or at least tolerate it.

If you followed the epic fails of the RIAA and DRM the MPAA and Macrovision, you'll see what the public wants.

It may not be what you want. But I pointed out earlier, I want legal drugs, gay marriage, and no torture by my government. I believe I'm right on these issues. But guess what? My country doesn't, or else they wouldn't tolerate them.

Saying "accept what you cannot change" is not the same as saying "never pay an artist again."

Mohamed Mughal said...

Good data-driven discussion. Thanks for continuing to share useful information with your fellow authors.

Joe Konrath said...

We're drifting into philosophy, so anyone interested in why my beliefs are what they are can Google "moral relativism" and "empiricism", both of which are pretty damn impossible to argue logically against.

Anonymous said...

Wow, jurisprudence in the wild. Legal positivism vs. some sort of Kantian deontological theory. Thank you all, this is very interesting.

Coolkayaker1 said...

I think you're the only one that feels that feels that you are fine selling 220 books per day when you could be selling 440 per day, for example, if not pirated. "Show be evidence that books pirated will affect sales." Okay. I am going to download your book Torrent now for free and read it, rather than buying it from Amazon. I send my thanks to, not the author, but the website that allowed me to pirate it.

By the way, if you feel strongly enough about your position, JA, and I know you do to some extent as I have already read Afraid for free that you allowed for Amazon Kindle, then why not release all of your works and any future works for free online, Kindle and other places. Why bother charging for it? Because 220 books a day is needed for your mortgage? Well, what about the budding author who does not share your readership? Maybe they can get pirated down to selling, oh, a book or two a day from their printed canon of work--and they can live in a cardboard box on Sunset Boulevard.

Contrary to your logic about getting theri name out there with free pirated stuff, I will not read a new author for free download and say, "Hey, I liked that book...let me make sure to buy the next one so that the author can pay for food." Instead, especially as downloaded material can be read on smartphones and readers with superb formatting and even photos, one would be even more likely to spend five minutes--hell, make it two minutes--searching for their other work for free and putting it in their "library". Sad.

Joe Konrath said...

I think you're the only one that feels that feels that you are fine selling 220 books per day when you could be selling 440 per day, for example, if not pirated.

By showing growth in the midst of piracy, I'm showing piracy isn't detrimental. It's a simple argument.

Your counter argument--that I might sell more without piracy--simply isn't provable, and not worth pursuing.

Okay. I am going to download your book Torrent now for free and read it, rather than buying it from Amazon.

You're also free to buy it used or get it from a library or get it from my website for free--in all of those cases, I don't get a royalty.

then why not release all of your works and any future works for free online

I tried. Amazon won't let self-pubbed authors give away free ebooks, or I would have. And I'd still do it, in conjunction with low priced ebooks. That isn't hypocrisy. It's capitalism.

I'm not saying "give everything away." This isn't an "every book must be free" argument. This is a "you can't fight piracy" argument.

Contrary to your logic about getting theri name out there with free pirated stuff, I will not read a new author for free download and say, "Hey, I liked that book...let me make sure to buy the next one so that the author can pay for food."

Neither will anyone else. No one cares about the artist. That's the point.

But I get plenty of email from fans who get my books for free or cheap, enjoy them, and buy others. They aren't doing this because they care about my mortgage. They do this because they like the books, and I give them cost-effective and convenient ways to read those books.

Well, what about the budding author who does not share your readership?

I'm becoming convinced no one is truly reading my blog entry, or my responses, carefully. I thought I've been pretty clear.

I'm not condoning piracy. I'm saying don't worry about things beyond your control. Like rain. And taxes. And piracy.

I realize this is a hot button issue, but where am I telling the world to pirate ebooks? I'm simply stating an easy-to-follow argument about why writers don't need to get so upset about this--and that seems to be making people upset. ;)

Joe Konrath said...

Wow, jurisprudence in the wild. Legal positivism vs. some sort of Kantian deontological theory.

Kant tried damn hard to come up with a logical explanation for truth without sensory proof, ostensibly to allow for the existence of a supreme being.

He was wrong. :P

Anonymous said...

And just to give the discussion some historical prospective-- Shakespeare's plays were pirated by those nefarious printers with their newfangled printing presses. Where did they get their text? It's assumed they sent agents to attend the theatre to copy the lines as spoken by the actors.

Everything old is new again.

Same Anonymous.

Zoe Winters said...

Hey Joe,

I agree, but I think "the average consumer" may be worried enough about the threat of viruses not to "start" pirating.

I don't know, maybe I'm wrong, but I see pirates as generally this sort of "sub-group" of people like tech heads.

Something most people don't want to even deal with the hassle of.

Of course I'm probably like one step away from the Grandmother who thinks people could see her through her computer screen if she got one. It's kind of a wonder I'm even ON the Internet.

So my perspective may be a little skewed toward crazy on this one!

Eric Christopherson said...

Seems to me Joe you're saying don't worry about piracy because it's not so damaging economically and because the majority decides what is verboten in our society and the majority is ok with digital piracy. You've sold me on the first notion (at least for the time being), but not the second.

A majority of Americans believe in the Bible, which commands: "Thou shalt not steal." So which is to guide us: the supreme normative authority for most Americans or their actual behavior?

In truth digital piracy is conducted by a minority of Americans, according to most surveys. (Whether this would also be true for the under thirty crowd I'm not sure.)

Not that I, personally, actually believe in moral relativism or the notion that the majority opinion ought to determine anyone's moral principles. Our founding fathers put safeguards into the Constitution against the "tyranny of the majority" after all.

Zoe Winters said...

Cheryl,

I think "most" pirates, if they didn't pirate, wouldn't buy either. They'd just find some other socially deviant thing to do. :P

One thing about the research... asking people things is usually pretty unreliable. People often lie about things they feel guilty about. Like studies that show pirates are the biggest music buyers. They may just SAY they buy a lot of music to not look like a total douche with the interviewer.

It's why polls about sexual activity are rarely in ANY way accurate. People are afraid to look "deviant." So they lie.

So I really don't know the overall effect of piracy. My main concern is that people who aren't now pirates don't BECOME pirates because of a laissez-faire attitude about things by the artists themselves.

People who were going to do it anyway were going to do it.

Zoe Winters said...

Joe,

Wildly curious here... are you a Libertarian?

author Scott Nicholson said...

far worse to be ignored than be pirated...

Scott Nicholson

Joe Konrath said...

If course I'm a liberatarian. What rational person isn't? :)

John McFetridge said...

As far as music and books go, file sharing is really just an extension of the ways that the material has been accessed "for free" in the past - the radio and libraries.

Yes, libraries buy a few copies and radio stations pay a few cents each time they play a song. Libraries are supported by taxes and radio stations by ads (or taxes in the case of publc radio).

Of those two models most people would probably prefer ads to taxes as a way to finance the material.

But for the consumers the idea that the material is "free" isn't new or criminal. It's just the way it's accessed that's new and the fact there's no "behind the scenes" payment method for the industries involved (because the artists only get a tiny percentage of what the libraries and radio stations pay for the material so let's not pretend it's all about the artists).

So, an interesting study might be to see what the sales were of music and books that were never "file shared" for free before the internet - that is music that was never played on the radio or books that were never in libraries, but only available at full retail prices with no way to sample them.

Ev Bishop said...

I can't wait 'til I'm pirated. It will mean I've "made it"--that my books and name are popular enough for people to search them online.

Anonymous said...

SERIAL, funded by ads (ten ads per book, 2 cents each) would have earned $50k. Free is the way to go...

A quick question: Say ten people had placed ads in SERIAL at 2 cents each. Let's say they each got a bill for $5,000. How do you guarantee yourself payment? What happens if some didn't realize how many copies were going to be downloaded and didn't have the money? Or one or two were start-up businesses that went under? Or someone simply decided not to pay?

Just wondering how ad payments (collections?) worked in your example.

Thanks.

-AA

Ellen Fisher said...

Ev, having your books in torrents doesn't mean you've "made it." Mine have been in torrents for years. Have you ever heard of me? Yeah, I thought not:-).

EVERYTHING is pirated. Popular stuff is pirated more, of course, but pretty much any ebook can be found on torrents, I think.

Joe Konrath said...

LOL of the day. The Pirate Party of Finland just contacted me, asking if they could translate this blog entry. ASKING. I love irony like this. :)

And naturally, I agreed. I don't think I've ever denied permission to anyone who asked to reprint something, nor have I gone after anyone who did so without permission...

Kristopher and Crew said...

Joe,

You rock my world. You may be one of the very few people on the internet with a intelligent and realistic view of the modern world.

Now if you could get my nook to order a pizza while I read my just-downloaded copy of AFRAID... well, that'd be swell.

Heather Dearly said...

Your arguement is so very Zen. I don't love stealing, but I do love choosing not be emotionally tortured by that which is out of my control.

I can't even begin to tell you how psyched I am to be included in the upcoming Halloween anthology with you. You are the reason I finally bought an ereader. Thanks much for keeping us informed.

Morris Rosenthal said...

Joe,

You write fiction. Readers have a different relationship with fiction than they do with nonfiction. While I'll wait another nine months to be sure, when my most popular nonfiction eBook went hot on the file sharing networks, sales fell about 40%. This was a few months ago.

If you don't believe fiction and nonfiction are different, ask yourself how many people are writing novels today, how many novels will be published through author services companies this year by authors so anxious to be read that they are willing to pay for a remote chance of discovery.

Then ask yourself how many people you know who sat down and decided to spend a year writing a book about car repair, a plumbing manual, a workbook for troubleshooting laptops. The answer is next to nobody, other than authors who are doing it for a living.

Why is that? You tell me. Maybe it's the lack of ego gratification, the knowledge that writing a how-to book isn't going to make the author famous or get optioned for a movie, unless it's in one of those highly commercial fields like sex or diet.

Readers of how-to books, who one might think would be more willing to pay than readers of fiction, don't seem to see it that way. Maybe they share the belief that while fiction is a work of imagination that the author has some claim to, nonfiction is simply the arrangement of existing information that belongs to everybody by default. So why pay.

Do the people who pirate your eBooks, with or without your blessing, take your name out and try to pass the work off as their own? I have to tell you, it's pretty annoying to have to purchase a copy of an eBook in order to prove to the "legitimate" downlaod service that it's stolen.

Clearly you're a smart guy who's thought about these issues, but as near as I can tell, you've thought about them from the uniquely selfish standpoint of how they affect you. Isn't that funny, that the guy who think piracy is cool should be called selfish by a guy who wants people to actually pay for his eBooks. But that's what happens when people have different interests.

Personally, I don't care how many people know who I am, your great "selling point" for piracy. Being a name how-to writer is worth NOTHING, that's not how people look for nonfiction information.

The count of eBooks available for download on torrents, etc, means almost nothing - many of those pages are automated. What matters is when you start typing your book titles into Google, and Google autocompletes the phrase with "Torrent", "Rapidshare", "Free Download", "eBook Torrent", etc.

That's not people stumbling across a title because they hang out on free sites. That's what we used to call "word-of-mouth" or marketing, generating interest enough in a book that people are looking for it. And according to Google Adwords, thousands of people a month go trolling for pirated copies of my eBooks.

What else can I say. I'm glad it's working out for you, but your assumption that it must be working out for everybody by extension shows a strange lack of imagination for a fiction writer.

Morris

Zoe Winters said...

LOL Joe, me too. You were sounding very Libertarian on the anarcho-libertarian end of the spectrum.

Zoe Winters said...

Morris,

Your book, Print-on-demand book publishing was the book that finally made me decide to go indie. I bought it. It's on my shelf.

Thank you for writing it.

(Also, agree with you on the nonfiction issue. When "information want to be free" it's harder to sell that information. People seem to get more worked up about a novelist's copyright than a nonfiction author's copyright. Which is sad.)

Redstarsix said...

Interesting point Morris and I can sympathize with you on it.

I know at uni, most of the students have illegally downloaded copies of their textbooks rather than paying the hundreds of dollars for the (often backbreaking) paper versions. The value simply isn't there as many of these books never get used again once the semester is over.

I think a reasonably priced electronic version (with all of the extras made possible by the electronic format like worked solutions or interactive diagrams) would be seen as a lot more valuable.

I'd guess it's the same for many of these how to books. People want a specific answer to a specific problem without an expensive book sitting on their shelf collecting dust.

Could cheap e-books on how to install a new shower or how to do an oil change sell in the volume needed to make a bigger profit for the author than a traditional publication? Is there a better way than through convenience and price? I don't know the answer to that question but I do hope you find a solution which works out for you Morris.

Anonymous said...

Joe:
First, I make my living writing, and so far it's been a pretty good living, so I definitely have a dog in this fight. I'm a #1 NYT bestselling author, and I'm posting anonymously to avoid the backlash of the pirate community.

I wish I could muster the same sense of nonchalance that you apparently have. You remind me of the heroes of Russian literature: stoic, resigned and fatalistic. If we are to march to our doom comrade, we should do it with a smile on our faces and our backs straight, no?

So far, sales are holding despite rampant piracy. However, I suspect that in a few years, as piracy gains even more public acceptance, things will change. You know how fast digital reading is growing, and how reluctant people are to are to pay for what they can obtain for free. Extrapolating those trends a few years is pretty depressing. Of course, MAYBE thousands of people will choose to pay for stuff just for fun. Instead of being a professional writer, I'll be rattling my tin cup right along with the rest of the new indigents.

The good news is that I'm getting up in years. I could probably retire tomorrow and keep soup and beans on the table until the grim reaper comes for me. I don't have to make a living in the world of free. I'll publish until I can't make enough money to make it worthwhile, and then go watch the sunsets.

Sadly, many terrific writers will probably quite writing when it becomes unprofitable. Movies will end up being camcord high school plays, and books simply glorified fanfic. Oh Brave new World, where art has no value at all.

The Daring Novelist said...

Non-fiction does have more of a piracy issue, but it always has had. Since information can't be copyrighted, and that's what the non-fiction writer is selling, there is always a bigger struggle to keep ahead of the game.

If a system is unsustainable, then it will change. I'm not sure non-fiction publishing will survive exactly as we see it now.

But the mention of somebody working hard on their auto repair book is maybe a clue to where it will go. Right now, if I want to fix something, the first place I go is the web. I find myself a guru. And if I really like the way the person explains it, and I find it really helpful... I BUY THEIR EBOOK.

Just like a novel. Only more so. (This is why the book industry thrived for years on non-fiction.) I'm not going to go to a pirate site to find a book on how to do something. Pirate sites really only work for browsing. (And that's why they are great for introducing people to new writers.)

Non-fiction in future will be a lot of hustle and work (more social networking than ever, doing a lot of free work on a blog) but non-fiction writers are used to hard work.

Change can be tough, but it's not always bad.

Morris Rosenthal said...

Redstarsix,

I think at $14.95 (printed) and $12.95 (eBook), my flowcharts book which is an assigned text in a few college programs is the cheapest textbook those students will ever see. It's certainly cheaper than anything I bought in engineering school 25 years ago.

I may experiment with pricing down to $9.95 since so many people are convinced that's the right price for an eBook, but I don't have the potential to price all the way down to $.99 and make it up in volume because the volume isn't there and the trasaction costs are high. I've experimented in the past with pricing, and it had essentially no impact volume, perhaps because people think too cheap for a technical book means no good.

I also face some limits that fiction authors never do, like the incompatability of my format with Kindle or ePub, the books are designed as 8.5x11 on paper and require large illustrations (flowcharts) that can't be shrunk or broken up. No Kindle or iPad for me.

This is odd, carrying on a conversation on somebdoy else's blog.

Morris

Morris Rosenthal said...

The Daring Novelist,

Facts may not be copyrightable, but composition obviously is. I'm not aware of any differences in copyright law for fiction and nonfiction.

I don't expect nonfiction publishing will survive exactly as it does now, which is why I put a lot of effort into my websites which average about 10,000 unique visitors a day and account for as much of my income as paper book sales at this point.

You mention if you want to fix something, you go to the web first, and if you like the material, you buy the eBook. That's my whole business model and I've written about it extensively. The problem is, you are becoming the exception.

People come to my website, and if they find it useful, too many of them go look for a free download. That doesn't count the ones who copy and paste my web pages onto their own websites, remove my name, claim it's theirs, etc.

My main problem with Joe's lack of a problem about piracy is that it is helping create a generation of thieves who don't even know that they are thieves because respected fiction writers tell them it's cool. I came across one Torrent where over fifty people thanked the poster for stealing my eBook, comments like, "Great, I've been looking for this." One of them wrote "Ur #1" to the poster, which led me to conclude in my blog post about it that I must be #2.

I don't feel like #2, I don't lose sleep, I just think that it's sad, and I don't see anything redeeming about it.

Morris

Morris Rosenthal said...

Zoe,

Thanks for the kind words:-)

Your mention of that book reminds me of another point, which is, as an aging nonfiction title that has attracted mucho competition, it's no longer a commercial book for me, ie, income is trivial. Ironically, it's the one book that's on Kindle as well, but the point is that fiction authors can do very well selling backlist.

Most nonfiction writers, including successful ones, have very limited backlist income. It's primarily limited to trade literary nonfiction, niche books that never attract serious competition, and books that become the "bibles" of their niche.

Morris

The Daring Novelist said...

Morris:

Joe isn't creating the attitude, he's just recognizing it.

And the attitude was always there. It's just that it was more buried before. When somebody plagiarized your work, it was harder to catch before. (Trust me, there are stringers out there who were stealing your work and selling it to small news papers and magazines long ago.)

Yeah, things are changing. It's frightening, especially since we can see it close up, but it's only the end of the world _as we know it_. The only way to get to the "and I feel fine" part is to recognize it and move on.

Joe is doing writers a favor by prognosticating. He's not problem, he's the solution.

Matthew Buckley said...

For those asking for 'serious studies' of the effects that free e-books have on printed books, this is a summary of a doctoral thesis on that exact topic:

http://opencontent.org/blog/archives/1313#axzz0ooa5AUMD

And this is the link to the actual thesis itself.

http://contentdm.lib.byu.edu/ETD/image/etd3433.pdf

Now you may argue that this is the publisher who is making these books available for free, and not pirates, but the simple fact is that an e-book is free, and that led to increased sales of the printed book. Drawing a tie between pirated books and those given away for free from the publisher is not too large of a leap.

Joe Konrath said...

Lots of interesting things being said here. I want to respond to many of them, but I'm in NY hanging out with my new publisher (AmazonEncore) and don't have net access, so I'm typing this on my iPhone.

Semi-related note, Shaken will not only be $2.99, it will also be DRM free. It's so incredible to have a publisher willing to listen to me...

To the #1 bestseller, I understand your concerns about piracy. But reread what you posted. If your sales are still strong in the face if rampant piracy (and you are being pirated for sure) why assume things will change? No one here is marching off to death. On the contrary, we're making money. I expect that trend to continue. Not because I'm an optimist. But because I've paid very close attention to this for years, and the trend IS continuing. And it will for a while.

If you want to worry about something, worry about your publisher not understanding the market and pricing your ebooks so high that they're encouraging piracy and pissing off your fans.

Blue Tyson said...

Thanks Joe,

Very interesting.

Bought it after you announced it - but even better!

Should be easier to get some other people to buy it now. :)

Morris Rosenthal said...

Daring,

We don't agree, not even on the emotions. You find it "frightening", I find it sad. I've been publshing online since 1995 so none of this is new to me. It has simply gotten worse and worse. People who steal do quote back the words of certain piracy advocating authors to justify themselves, as if they understand business and have thought it all through. It's just people taking what they want because they can get away with it.

Morris

Angelia Sparrow said...

People will steal anything.

Price doesn't matter. I've had $1.29 short stories pirated at the same level as $7.99 novels.

Charity doesn't matter. One of the $1.29 short stories donated not only all the royalties, but the publisher matched it. So, 97 cents of the 1.29 went to charity. It still was pirated more than it sold.

It is incredibly demoralizing to watch your sales drop month by month and quarter by quarter after the pirate sites discover you.
~700 copies for the first month before I was discovered vs. ~500 after.

It's disheartening to a writer to see that the story you sold 30 copies of last month was stolen 450times.

When you get two days of sales before your newest piece gets offered to any and all takers for free? That puts me and my partner right off writing.

We might as well go back to fanfiction. At least we got feedback there.

Joe Konrath said...

Lots of interesting things being said here. I want to respond to many of them, but I'm in NY hanging out with my new publisher (AmazonEncore) and don't have net access, so I'm typing this on my iPhone.

Semi-related note, Shaken will not only be $2.99, it will also be DRM free. It's so incredible to have a publisher willing to listen to me...

To the #1 bestseller, I understand your concerns about piracy. But reread what you posted. If your sales are still strong in the face if rampant piracy (and you are being pirated for sure) why assume things will change? No one here is marching off to death. On the contrary, we're making money. I expect that trend to continue. Not because I'm an optimist. But because I've paid very close attention to this for years, and the trend IS continuing. And it will for a while.

If you want to worry about something, worry about your publisher not understanding the market and pricing your ebooks so high that they're encouraging piracy and pissing off your fans.

Zoe Winters said...

@Morris,

It's funny because people always told me the money was in nonfiction, not fiction for authors. In light of the piracy issue and the fact that fiction authors can build brand recognition of their names and rabid fans, I'm wondering if that will remain true in a world where ebooks dominate. I may be better off staying where I am and doing what I'm doing.

Also, have you tried the software that makes your site not able to be copy and pasted? I'm sure there is some way around it, but people have to work harder for it. I'm all in favor of making people work harder to be jerks.

@Matthew,

I think when stuff is free in digital, “right now” it increases sales of a scarce good like a printed book. I think the real fears are when everything is digital, a world we're moving toward faster than many wish to admit.

What's kind of funny is that the same people who say: “ebooks are a tiny portion of the market and will never overtake print, don't worry about it.” are the same people screaming “Piracy! Man the fort!” Last I checked file sharing is ebooks. If people HATE reading off a screen in large enough numbers to matter, why the drama? I think everybody sees the future here and knows E is the future. What happens when you have the choice between a free ebook and a paid ebook? With only the good will of the people allowing an author to make money?

I DO worry about piracy, more than Joe, because it's all about cultural attitude. When any author advocates piracy it makes the cultural attitude shift farther away from our favor.

I think there will always be A way to monetize any art. But the real problem is, a slimmer and slimmer minority of people will be able to make money doing it. And I'm not sure everybody who isn't famous should have to give everything away to build a following for ten years. No one in any other industry is expected to do that much volunteer work once they've started their profession in earnest.

John McFetridge said...

Yes, the cultural attitude is important. If the content is given away, what's for sale?

Cory Doctorow makes some very good points about giving away the content and then selling the books, but he admits to fetishizing books, collecting them and displaying them in his house and so on. The physical paper book still has real value to him.

I don't feel that way about many books (I know, I'm usually the only writer at the party that doesn't care so much about the book), I only care about the content.

A lot of this attitude about pirating developed before e-reades were widely available and so good, so people didn't worry so much about e-books. It was a sall part of the market.

So, a lot of this will depend if e-books replace a significant segment of the book market or if e-books are an addtion to the market.

Jon F. Merz said...

Count me as another author unconcerned about piracy. I'm thrilled the my work is being propagated out there, expanding my name recognition, brand awareness, etc. The more the better, I say. I never touch DRM - and I want my ebooks copies, posted, pirated, sent around, transmitted, etc. etc. as much as possible (despite what my copyright page says, lol) I just don't get the concern here, nor do I happen to think that most of the readers in the world right now are pirates - I actually think it's a fairly small majority.

Instead of worrying about this type of thing, I'll spend my time more focused on enhancing my own brand as a writer. You know how people will often buy a fake Chanel bag but then later when they have enough money to buy the real thing, they do? That's the same thing I'm aiming for. Grab a pirated copy of one of my many novels or short stories and once you get hooked, come back and buy some. Or buy a hardcover, or a signed trade paperback.

Jon F. Merz
http://www.jonfmerz.net

Jon F. Merz said...

(sorry that should have read "small minority")

Anonymous said...

To the #1 bestseller, I understand your concerns about piracy. But reread what you posted. If your sales are still strong in the face if rampant piracy (and you are being pirated for sure) why assume things will change? No one here is marching off to death. On the contrary, we're making money. I expect that trend to continue. Not because I'm an optimist. But because I've paid very close attention to this for years, and the trend IS continuing. And it will for a while.

If you want to worry about something, worry about your publisher not understanding the market and pricing your ebooks so high that they're encouraging piracy and pissing off your fans.


Joe, perhaps I've sold you short. You're not fatalistic, you're eager to meet the future. My hat's off to you, sir.

My ability to predict the future has been proven far from infallible. The bottom line is that there's simply not enough data to allow accurate extrapolation of future trends (I was a statistician in another life), so we'll just have to wait and see. Here's hoping that my gloomy predictions are wrong, and publishing remains strong and vibrant for a long, long time!

For the record, I completely agree the cost and convenience are going to be absolutely critical to success in this changing battlefield. My publisher just priced the e-book of my latest novel at $24.99 -- suffice it to say we'll be having a talk about their efforts to scuttle my career as well! Pirates off the starboard bow, and idiot publishers off the stern, what's an author to do? :-)

LM Preston said...

I just wonder how many times purchased paperbacks have been shared over and over again? Hum...

The Daring Novelist said...

Morris:

I don't find it frightening at all. I find it exciting and wonderful. That's where we disagree.

I see a lot of frightened, angry people shooting themselves in the foot over this. I see them falling prey to fear-mongers.

You may be more depressed than frightened, but you still see doom, which to me reads as fear - maybe a misreading, but it's what I respond to in your posts.

I don't see doom. I see a very cool future. I wish others could see it too.

Morris Rosenthal said...

Daring,

You just wrote:

"Yeah, things are changing. It's frightening..."

I don't put words in folks mouths.

Well, this has been a strange experience, carrying on a conversation on somebody else's blog. I can't imagine people come here to read me, so I think I'll back away:-)

Morris

The Daring Novelist said...

Morris,

Pretty much every post here turns into a very long free-for-all discussion. It's a useful part of this blog.

(And when I said change is frightening, I was speaking in general terms. Like saying "the thought of plane crashes are frightening" doesn't mean I'm frightened of them. It's what you say to acknowledge the fear in others. I thought my posts have made it darn clear that I think the fear is irrational and unnecessary. But maybe not.)

C. Pinheiro, EA ABA said...

Oh, I'm so jazzed that Morris Rosenthal is here!

I agree that nonfiction is a different animal. Luckily, my books are updated annually for tax law changes. But used copies and pirated copies still affect my sales by the end of the year.

The best way to mitigate this is to keep producing new content and new editions. It keeps the nonfiction material fresh and it helps boost pbook sales.

On a side note, I like Jude's new profile picture.

C. Pinheiro, EA ABA said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dawn said...

Another great post, JA. And no, I never thought you were ADVOCATING piracy.

I have a ???
Is there some type of pattern that the writers who are the most worried about this are the writers who maybe have not produced as much? I'm just asking.

If someone lifted my Kindle story, yes, it would suck and I'd be pissed, but---I'd just write another story. And another. And another.

Creativity is not a limited well---I don't think a writer only has "x" number of stories left in him [though some stories are granted, better than others]...but many people do who fall into the "x number category" seem to be VERY worried about copyright infringement.

Coolkayaker1 said...

Joe, your replies are well-thought and kind. You've lit a tinderbox of opinion on this one, clearly.

I appreciate your replies to my earlier post. I must say, I agree with the general thoughts of Morris above. I must comment that two points being repeatedly made here that are irritating, and far off base in my opinion are (a) show me a study that shows that pirating lowers sales, and (b) why worry about things you cannot control.

There are no studies for most things in life, and thinking something is true or untrue just because there is or is not a 'study" is a very non-scientific way of looking at it. I'm in sciences, and know that many things can be assumed without a study, and many studies are not done because they're impossible to conduct or no one has the time or money to conduct them. That said, studies done are often wrong. The point is, to argue that something is true or untrue just because there is not a study done carries, as every high school debater knows, no weight in any argument.

We all consider things we cannot control in an effort to understand them, and sometimes change them. That is the essence of being a human. By understanding first, as in the replies to your blog, and then seeing where we stand or feel
m on a subject, then seeing if there is a way to effect change, is what makes the world tick. If one really felt that they should not waste thought on things they couldn't control, one would have very little to think about--certainly not politics, or blogs, or interaction with other beings (who can never be predicted or controlled). Life would be about the couch, the fridge, and the blistering pustule on our buttock, and that's about all we control. Again, stating (as some have done above) that we should worry about only things in our control is provincial think at best, and patently foolish at worst.

JA, I must say, and this is a topic change, I really enjoyed Afraid on my Kindle. You're an excellent writer.

My prediction for the future of publishing: printed novels will become a thing of the past (except for boutique titles and novels) completely within ten years, everyone will read digital copy of everything, and once that occurs, free downloads will make up the vast majority of book "sales"....and even with your undeniable talent and low prices at $2.99 per title, few will buy your books. Many will enjoy them, few will buy them.

Looking forward to meeting you at a book signing someday (before book signings go the way of the pony express and the cathode ray tube TV). Thanks, JA, love your blog.

Tuukka said...

Hi,

First of all let me offer a firm virtual handshake for excellent blog, excellent attitude and for helping people to understand the unknown.

For all of you against (illegal) filesharing I'd say embrace the pirates.They are not thieves, They are Your fans, they are Your potential customers. If your business model doesn't reach that clientèle, maybe it's time to change the business model.

Pirates I know (such as myself) pirate due to lack of viable legal alternatives. I used to have a collection of 100k songs, then came Spotify and now I only have Creative Commons licensed music on my machines in addition to Spotify. If there came an alternative to Spotify, that would guarantee that money goes straight to artist (there are some, but not as good/easy as Spotify), I think most of people would happily pay. Spotify changed the business model and even though most artists don't see much of that money, it works.

Movies like Star Wreck showed that you can be successful with free media, maybe you don't make as much money out of it than from a Hollywood movie, but on the other hand production gets cheaper with all the open source software and open source knowhow and you have the most efficient distributors ever available: Pirates. You have worldwide distribution and advertising instantly and at no cost to you. After that all money you make is profit.

So how to make money out of being pirated?

Open source is largely supported by donations and the easier it is to donate money to someone, the lower the threshold of actually doing it is. I don't see a donate button on this page, if there was one, I'd read the book and possibly donate some amount of money. I've done that with indie movies, games and documentaries I've watched whenever there's an obvious and trusted way to donate (like paypal donate). Heck, I'd donate for just this blog post if there was an super easy one click method of doing so...which there is. It's called Flattr*

Most people probably know about Indie games bundle called Humble indie bundle from a couple weeks back. It made over a million dollars in a matter of days. 25% of people pirated it, but there are valid reasons for some of them. (access, payment, knowledge). Then there's the diaspora project which has made 180k so far. Those kind of examples show that people respect Intellectual property and pay for things they value. It's just a matter of reaching your customers.

Maybe Flattr will fail, maybe it will be a success. I like it and the future it represents. maybe a person will only donate 2e/month for 100 people. Maybe it will change, but the future is in open society with free flow of information and we have to adjust to that, not force our archaic ways.

Filesharing techniques are leaping forward all the time and soon all pirates will be untraceable (a lot of them are already). Filesharing can't be stopped, but it can be molded and people can be shown how to share culture while respecting the author. Authors just have to respect their customers too.

Other tools to enjoy free legal culture with less effort:
Miro, Tribler, Vodo

*Flattr is still in Beta and it's invite only, but you can request an invite. For those of you that don't know about Flattr, here's how it works:
You put an X amount of money on your flattr account and you decide to donate Y amount each month to the people you have Flattrd (one ugly word) every month if you see a blog post, website, people or anything you like and they have a flattr button on their profile, you click that. after a month the amount of money you have chosen to donate is divided by all those you flattrd, Thus you have supported everything you like by how much you like them.

Anonymous said...

Great thread, but I believe people are over-analysing the issue.

It's not about cultural attitudes, morality or how many angels can dance on a pin.

I believe it comes down to two things: convenience and value.

Let's look at the music industry. In the good old days, you had to physically buy a CD at a store, or at best, order one online, wait for delivery, then listen to it.

You paid at least $10, maybe $15 or $20, without knowing what you were getting (beside the hit song on the CD).

When filesharing emerged, the established process proved inconvenient and a poor value.

People could now download and instantly listen to music, saving time and aggravation. They could also download the songs they wanted (or could preview for free) without feeling they were ripped off buying 15 songs that were crap.

Apple matched the convenience and value equasion with convenience and value and made a fortune.

Imagine if the record companies were ahead of the game and offered 99 cent downloads before Napster even arrived?

For the vast majority, it is a cost benefit analysis not a moral one.

Same principles apply for books. Pay $25 for a hardcover, and have to physically go fetch it or order it and wait to read it. And you don't know if it is good or garbage.

VS. Pay $2, have it now, and no great loss if it stinks.

Which means Konrath is correct - provide real value at the right price and people will do the math and piracy won't be a big issue for you. Because people seek the path of least resistance to the best value.

Kindle and Itunes are much friendlier and easier to use than pirate websites to use. Value and convenience will always win because that's what drives consumers, not moralistic equations on this stuff.

John Brown said...

Joe,

I agree there is no one-to-one relationship between piracy and lost sales. I agree piracy might increase brand awareness. I even agree that authors shouldn't be going bonkers over it for many of the reasons you state.

However, the logic of "you can't stop it, so why try" is a classic example of the all-or-nothing fallacy.

The goal isn't to eradicate piracy 100%. That is IMpossible. But reducing it to some degree IS possible. And has to be done at some point.

A lot of people commit some kind of fraud against their employers or employees. Have you ever taken a pen home from work? A Post-it pad? The piracy we're talking about with books isn't that different.

But just because most people have committed some kind of petty fraud in their lives doesn't mean that they do it all the time or that fraud rates can't be influenced or that we're okay with someone raiding the bank account. It's not all or nothing.

In fact, quite the opposite. Fraud risk levels CAN be reduced by taking some key steps to (a) have appropriate controls that minimize opportunity and (b) help people so they can't rationalize it so easily, e.g. something as simple as a departmental reviews of policys such as "it's illegal to take cash from the till." (You can find a lot of great case studies in FRAUD EXAMINATION by Albrect et. al.)

The same goes for any type of theft risk in any business.

Do you know about the Bagel Man?

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/06/06/magazine/what-the-bagel-man-saw.html?pagewanted=1

Here's a guy who used the honor system for selling his bagels & doughnuts.

What he saw was EXACTLY THE REVERSE of what you suggest about the population of pirates. He saw average honesty rates of about 80-90%, sometimes higher, sometimes lower depending on the area.

The key is that he could still make a living with some theft. And he was okay with that, just as you are. But he couldn't make a living with huge levels. He did have to take steps to minimize it.

If you read the article closely, you'll see he addressed opportunity (when it came to keeping his moo-lah safe) AND addressed rationalization by making it quite clear people should pay for the bagels and doughnuts with a simple sign and box. He might have been able to reduce the risk even further.

But the point is that most people are honest, although there will be some demographics that don't value honesty as much. Most people are willing to pay for something of value.

This isn't an all-or-nothing argument. It's about acceptable levels of piracy and reducing the risk of theft.

Again, I think the best way to do this is price, convenience, and once in a while, reminding people to do the right thing. And ultimately you must do something or risk losing your living.

Here's why. Most Kindle users purchase your books because getting them on Amazon is so much more convenient than getting the free copy on your site. It's more convenient because most of them don't KNOW about the free copy on your site. And because even if they did, what a pain in the neck to have to go to a hundred different author sites! We have middleman precisely because they make shopping so much easier for us.

But what if someone else were to come up with Pirate-Mart and made it easy as Amazon with just as good a selection and tell everyone that it was legal and legit and that publishers welcomed them downloading your free books?

(continued...)

John Brown said...

. . . I guarantee you'd see a drastic drop in your sales.

You say you'd then make money on ads, but what's to say the Pirate-Mart people wouldn't say to heck with that! We're taking all the money for the ads! We stole the book, we formatted it, and now we're going to charge OUR advertisers. And you can't stop us anyway, neener-neener.

Unlimited piracy simply allows the thieves to take all the moo-lah. The best you can do then is join a writers guild where you reminded readers you would oh so very much appreciate it if they could make a donation of any size to you so you can keep providing your books.

But that's really no different than the Bagel Man reminding people to pay for the doughnuts in the break room.

You have to stop the piracy somewhere. You have to draw a line.

It may be that we do go to the ads in print model. That's fine. But whether it's ads or royalty rates, prudent and reasonable steps should be taken to reinforce honesty and reduce the risk of theft.

Anonymous said...

Heck, I wish I could find my books on torrent! I wrote a couple of books in the past ( no electronic version) and, despite some good reviews, sold a gran total of a couple of thousand copies; which means, I profited no more than 3k from 2 books.
Now they aren't distributed anymore, and they're virtually lost!

Joe Konrath said...

You have to stop the piracy somewhere. You have to draw a line.

A thoughtful post, but one that doesn't work in practice. Pirate-Mart already exists. Dozens of them do. Every tracker and file locker is a Pirate Mart, and many of them are easier and faster to use than Amazon. "Legal and legit" doesn't matter.

Donuts are tangible objects. Files are not. It's pretty easy to discourage property from being stolen. It's impossible to protect intellectual property.

John McFetridge said...

Was there ever a movement to shut down used bookstores?

I spent a lot of years only buying used books for around a dollar. Found a lot of great writers that way.

Aberg said...

@Cheryl
You were asking for reliable data regarding the effect of piracy on sales. Since nobody, as far as I have seen, have done more than post debunks of the IFPI (hardly a independant source in these matters btw) report I thought I'd post a few of the links I've found on the net.

Actually, the trend is that industry reports point towards piracy to being harmful whereas independent universities usually point to piracy being helpful or non affecting to sales.
http://www.news.harvard.edu/gazette/2004/04.15/09-filesharing.html

http://torrentfreak.com/economy-profits-from-file-sharing-report-concludes-090119/

Similar studies, with the same results have been conducted by the University of Oslo and Royal Technical University of Stockholm (though I can't find any english language links for those at the moment)

Noam said...

Exactly.

Music and DVD sales are stronger than ever.

Today you can download movies before they've even come out in theatres, and yet last year was the highest grossing year in film history!

From my side, I can attest to the fact that 100% of the movies and CD's I own, I've pirated at some point: I'm not going to buy something without finding out whether I like it or not first.

Nobody made a fuss about a friend lending you his favorite new LP in the 70's; this is no different.

Right now we're putting together our first anthology at ISFN Publishing, and we plan on making all digital versions available for free. And we'll be proud to stamp those hardcover and paperback editions with a nice big Creative Commons license!

Pablo said...

That was a GREAT blog post!

I'd say I'm a pirate myself, so I'll tell you my experience (which is also very close to my friends' experience):

More often than not its about the convenience than for the price.
I think too many people tend to think: "We can't fight piracy because we can't make a living while competing with $0,00 price points".
Well, turns out you can! But most don't.

As I said, in most cases its about convenience. I am sort of a "movie enthusiast". I also follow like 5 or 6 TV series. I really would not mind paying for watching all those movies I usually pirate, or maybe a flatrate for having access to lots of digital content. But you know what? If I want to do things the way most artists would want me to (that is, paying for it), I would have to go through at least one, if not all of the following things:

1) wait weeks - if not months - for the content to be available in my country, or be available at all!
2) Go out, find the damng thing in a store, maybe even backorder it, return home
3) If I'm lucky I can already enjoy it, but in other cases (music CDs, etc) I might have to go and rip it, then transfer the music or movie to my phone, hardrive or whatnot
(that's if you know how to do it, or you would not have reached this step)

You see, I won't do that if someone else is offering the download a few clicks away.

You'd be mistaken if you thought this was not the case for buying digital content.
There is no single ebook store where I can buy and download books and not have to worry about what will happen if I switch from sony reader to barnes&Noble or kindle.
Well, actually what I said is not entirely true. There is a place where you can get all you want and it will "just work" on almost al readers. Yes, the internet. Yes, pirated content.

But you know what? Even though its a hassle go find the correct book in an acceptable format that will display well on your book, and having to deal with torrents and broken links and whatnot, it is STILL easier to just do it that way and have all your books in your hard drive so you can copy them between your sony reader, kindle, laptop or android phone.
It is the easy way.
And let me repeat: this is NOT about price. It is about convenience. Its about comfort.

Same thing applies to movies and other stuff.
For me, the consumer, downloading a movie off pirate sites is
the way to go, because otherwise I would have to wait weeks or monthgs for the content to be available here, and then I would not be able to watch it wherever or whenever I want.

Sure, there are services like iTunes where buying songs is easier than finding them online - and I believe their success is due to that combined with the fact that there are some many ipods around.
But iTunes does not work for everybody, mainly only for itunes and ipod users, everyone else is pretty much screwed or required to lock-in into their platform.

My point is, if pirates can offer a better product than the original product, someone is doing something VERY wrong. And no, we are not talking about the price. Its about convenience.

Maybe when I was 15 or 16 I could not afford buying most things, so I just downloaded it. But now I can afford it. Problem is, I still don't buy lots of things, just because it is too inconvenient, slow and often results in the original being "crippled" product compared to the pirated one!

So long story short: try to fight piracy by making it easily accessible to users. Many won't bother dealing with slow torrents, finding megaupload or rapidshare link, etc... if they can just go to a website and download the content. Yes, even if its paid content, if its reasonably priced compared to the physical product. (I have seen ebooks priced the same as the real thing+shipping, thats a no-go)

Hope this helps someone.

-frustrated consumer

Anonymous said...

Yahhh... somethings WRONG at your web-site.
As a voracious reader who lives below poverty, I decided to hit the site and browse the freebies...
Win7, Firefox on and old Dell Laptop; Each page DEMANDS to stay at the top.
If I drag the slider down (to see the rest of the page) it drags itself up.
Clicking on a link that takes me to the middle of the page, drags itself to the top. Really annoying.
Posted here to be SURE of getting your attention.

Dinatius said...

I jumped on the file-sharing bandwagon back in the Napster days, and I've come and gone since then. And I don't think I'll completely stop. I think of it as a completely legitimate form of advertising. As another post said, I can't count the number of times I've downloaded something to try it before I buy it. Along those lines, if an artist puts up a sample of their work (a chapter, or a few songs), I'm much more likely to buy them.

Take the box technology stores for example. They offer hundreds of CDs, movies, and video games. They allow you to play a few of the games, but you can't watch or listen to the media they offer. Now if I can hop over to the internet, download a song, and listen to that, I'm much more likely to go back to Best Buy and shell out the $15-20 for a CD. Again, someone already pointed out, a good portion of the population is able to pay, and will, if they can easily access the content.

I'm a sub-amateur author, dabbling in some short fiction on occasion. If I put up my content for free, and saw people reading it, I'd be thrilled. I'd know that people like what I'm writing. Obviously it's different for a full-timer, since their sales pay their bills. But like Joe's post points out, you can be pirated and still pay the bills. Doesn't it give an artist some base level of satisfaction that people enjoy their work?

RowenaBCherry said...

Joe,

I am glad that piracy seems to be working for you.

You say you wouldn't like anyone to make money off pirating your work.

They are doing so, you know. There are subscription pirate sites that claim: "Instead of paying by the book, we allow you unlimited e-book downloads for a low monthly fee!" I don't know whether your books are being shared there, either as part of the subscribers library, or freely on the forums.

Other uploaders use sites that pay a commission. Ziddu does. So does MegaUpload. If an uploader can generate enough incoming traffic to the site, they are paid (or the pirate site that referred the uploader is paid.)

On casual glance, your Cherry Bomb has been uploaded to ifile.it by someone named dl.

DL has only been openly thanked a couple of times on the pirate site, but the pirate and anyone visiting either the pirate site or ifile.it has the functionality on both sites to share the link to your book to everyone they know on over 280 different social networking venues including Blogger, Facebook, Twitter.

Joe Konrath said...

If someone was selling pirated copies of my book on the street, maybe I would be concerned. But probably not.

I have no concern over pirate sites at all.

John Brown said...

Joe,

No, Pirate-Mart does not exist. Maybe I wasn't clear on what I meant. If PM did exist, everybody would be going there to get books instead of going to Amazon to buy them. Everyone would know about it like they do Amazon. Everyone would feel fine taking books for free.

You're still thinking all or nothing.

There is no torrent site, or combination of such sites, that gets even a fraction of the unique number of visitors and transactions that Amazon does. That Google and Apple will in the next few years.

The pirates are currently nibblers.

And that's the point. The pirates right now operate on the margins and don't steal that many book sales. But should they ever replace the legit sites and become THE dominant method, then your sales go bye-bye. As do your ad revenues.

Second, you say it's impossible to protect intellecutal property. I think you mean digital intellectual property. Other intellectual property is protected all the time with patents and trademarks and big old lawsuits. But digitial property--sure, someone who burns with a deep and abiding jones to copy will find a way to copy. Or we make the product so hard to get into that nobody but the NSA could read it.

But just because there are a few thieves out there, doesn't mean all of us are. Just because it can be done doesn't mean it will be in most instances. That's more all or nothing.

The Bagel Man's doughnuts were NOT monitored or locked up. They were as easy to steal as a book. And 89% of the people decided to pay anyway.

89%!

You don't have to eliminate 100% of digital property theft. That's IMpossible. But you can reduce it. If with nothing else, you do it by reinforcing values of fairness.

Most people DO respond to clear moral value statements on this issue. Most people DO want to pay for value they receive. Most people follow most of the laws even when nobody's watching. Even digital laws.

Just because there will always be some people who steal doesn't mean all people will. Just because many people have stolen in their life at some time doesn't mean they steal all the time.

In the end, we do and will have to continue to take measures to encourage basic fairness. Because basic fairness is part of the bedrock we base our social system on. Take that away and you have no society worth living in at all.

dahankzter said...

Thank god for a sane voice in this debacle!

I will for sure purchase your books even though I had really no idea that you even existed before today. I hope I will like your work but this will be a purchase of principle regardless.

The insane hunt for pirates has to stop because the only way to do it is by turning the world into 1984 and I for one one would rather not see that happening.

Joe Konrath said...

There is no torrent site, or combination of such sites, that gets even a fraction of the unique number of visitors and transactions that Amazon does.

Actually, that's not true. Rapidshare is ranked #37 worldwide. Amazon is #10.

But Amazon is only 1 site. What about Pirate Bay, Isohunt, Demonoid, Megaupload, 4Shared, Torrentbit, Black Cats, Badongo, BT Scene, and dozens more. Not to mention Usenet (try binsearch.com), eDonkey, RShare, Shareaza, Limewire, and dozens on non-torrent applications.

It is very easy for anyone looking for free media to find it. And in many cases, it is easier to download free media than it is to buy media--it takes fewer steps, and sometimes the download is faster.

Is there a one-stop shopping for pirates? No. But it's easy to find and do.

But even if it does become the dominant method of media distribution (and it may already be) I haven't seen my sales falter, even though I'm available on many of the sites I mentioned above for free.

You don't have to eliminate 100% of digital property theft. That's Impossible. But you can reduce it. If with nothing else, you do it by reinforcing values of fairness.

You'd have to show me proof that reinforcing values of fairness works.

I'm thinking about all of those ridiculous commercials in DVDs, equating downloading movies on the web to stealing a car. If my 12 year old son thinks those are ridiculous, I'd say everyone else does as well.

I have a Paypal donation button on my website, for people who download my free ebooks. I get a few donations a week. Not nearly the amount of the people who download freebies (maybe 1 out of 50 donate).

A donut is tangible. A file is not, and doesn't have the same perceived value.

Consumers HATE DRM, and it doesn't work. Educating the public hasn't stopped drug use.

People are going to share their media. It's built into the human psyche. Nothing can stop it.

And yet, artists still make money.

The "what about in the future" argument is a poor one, especially since no one can prove that file sharing is harmful now, when billions of files are being downloaded.

Jonathan Pritchard said...

Hello, I just wanted to say thank you for your informed opinion. I'm not a creator, but I feel the same way you do about piracy.

I don't think it's as damaging as it's reported to be (as your experience also suggests) and I believe that people have to come up with pragmatic solutions to it. Such as impulse-buy purchasing. Letting customers experience the work before they buy.

Very interesting.

Anonymous said...

I think Cheryl needs to remember, when she posts links to studies, that the music industry is the recording industry plus the artists, just like your industry is made up of publishers plus authors. The recording industry is not the music industry.
The recording industry makes money by delivering music to us on plastic disks. Unfortunately, the internet is much better at delivery of data (music) than they are, so their industry is failing.
Artists, however, are seeing a boom in concert revenue. It isn't an increase quite big enough to pay for record label downturns, but it is enough to pay artists for their "losses" to free music.
See what Lady Gaga says about music: "Downloads are advertising, concerts are income" (or something to that effect).

Despite massive, widespread sharing, Hollywood enjoyed it's largest box office income ever in 2009, and released the largest number of movies ever released in one year.
DVD sales will eventually dry up thanks to the internet, but people will always pay for the experience of watching a movie in a theater.

I imagine something similar will happen for books. Yes, publishers will be hurt badly, and eventually most of them will die thanks to the internet, but authors will continue. I have no idea how authors will monetize their work though... convenience, advertising, product placement?

I am a little confused to see Joe first correctly point out that copying is not stealing because there is no loss, but then later say that he believes sharing IS stealing.
Also, sharing online is "bad", but giving away freebies with hotdogs is "good"? Surely both must be good, or both must be bad?

Marilynn Byerly said...

I just adore very successful writers who come out in favor of piracy or make it a victimless crime because it hasn't hurt them. Of course, it's not hurt them enough to notice because they have so many other ways to sell their books, unlike most other authors.

Think of it this way. Someone steals $1000 from a wealthy person. It doesn't really hurt them. Someone steals $1000 from someone on welfare. The poor person will probably end up homeless.

Think of it this way. Very successful authors who publish through the large conglomerates have diversified risk. That means lots of book titles in many formats-- paper, ebook, audio, and possibly media rights (TV, movies, graphic novel). Those paper books are available in most bookstores. The new book title as well as the backlist is available on bookshelves.

Most other authors with the conglomerate publishers are very lucky to have one book on those shelves for a very short time, and no other media rights sold. Other authors have no paper books on those shelves and must rely on online sales for their paper books, if they have a paper version, and their ebook version.

Most newer authors with the conglomerate presses get a very small advance, unlike the $100,000+ for a three-book deal Konrath has talked about for his books. It will probably be the only money the author will ever see on that book. The author will be expected to use at least 10 to 25% for promotion.

If the first book doesn't sell well enough, the publisher will not buy the next book of that author who has no career left or must restart with a new name.

Those authors with indie and ebook publishers get no advance. Their books are only available online, usually as ebooks or more expensive trade paperbacks.

Some have done quite well because they produce numerous books a year, those books are high quality and similar in kind, and the book is a popular genre like erotica. Everyone else struggles to come out even after the expenses of the website, etc.

Most authors cannot continue to write if there is no profit after a period of time. The only exception is the hobby writer who has a second income through a financially successful spouse or who is able to hold down a full-time job as well as writing two or three novels a year and spending many hours promoting them in their "spare" time.

With their diversified list of books, types of media, and sales sites, the average conglomerate publisher can take a loss, perceived or real, on ebook sales. The average small press or ebook publisher goes out of business because they aren't so diversified and ebook sales plummet.

It's hard not believe that piracy doesn't hurt when an epublishers' entire list is available for free all over the Internet, there's no income from any other source because the books are only available as ebooks, and the money isn't coming in.

It's hard to say piracy doesn't hurt when an ebook has thousands of pirated downloads all over the web, and the author can't take her family out to McD's with her quarterly royalty check, and the only thing the author gets from all that "free" promotion of pirated earlier books is that her next new book will hit the pirate lists even faster than the last did.

I belong to lots of lists where some of these small publishers and authors hang out, and many are hemorrhaging to death. Authors are becoming dispirited that their "fans" show so little respect for them by stealing their work, and their income continues to fall. Publishers are watching the steady march toward bankruptcy and are fighting to stay in business.

What does this mean to the reader? Those authors who are making lots of money will continue to publish. The conglomerate publishers will continue to publish lots of books for much fewer authors. That means fewer choices of paper books available.

Ebook piracy a victimless crime? Maybe for a few authors like Konrath, but not for the rest of us.

John Brown said...

Actually, that's not true. Rapidshare is ranked #37 worldwide. Amazon is #10.

Please link me some data. I did a google on "top domains ranked unique visitors" and couldn't find that.

Furthermore, rankings is helpful, but the actual count of unique visitors is more helpful. For example, the traffic to the #1 domain is almost 300% the traffic to #10. The difference between Amazon at #6 and Rapidshare might be as great or greater. And Amazon is, as you say, just one site. We're not counting B&N and all the other legit portals for purchasing.

See: http://lists.compete.com/ for current top 10.

See this 2007 list (out of date) where rapidshare doesn't even appear:
http://blog.compete.com/2007/10/30/top-50-websites-domains-digg-youtube-flickr-facebook/

Again, the point is that piracy right now is on the edges. It is NOT the dominant method for obtaining books or even ebooks. So naturally your sales aren't going to be affected that much. I'm not arguing it's killing you now. I'm saying that the idea that "piracy does no harm" is meaningless unless you add in the level of piracy you're talking about.

Piracy at small levels does little harm. But if piracy becomes ubiquitous, then nobody pays for their books. Nor is there any reason for pirates to cut a deal where they run ads for "your" clients. They'll just run their own. Why not? At that point, what are you left with? Nothing but an appeal to your readers' sense of value and fair exchange.

As for showing you that reinforcing values works, you don't seem to accept the bagel man study because you think there's an essential difference between stealing bagels in a basket and stealing digital content. I don't think you can point to any essential difference in the two thefts. But it is true that you can steal a doughnut only once while a digital file can be stolen again and again until kingdom come. Then you cite ad campaigns you thought were stupid.

Those ads might have been stupid and ineffective. That doesn't mean other types of messaging don't work. There's a whole body of fraud research that shows it can influence. I can certainly go get some references. In the meantime, look at NPR. Every year they raise thousands and thousands of dollars at all their member stations by appealing to the value of fair exchange. To many of us it's annoying and we still listen for free. But they get enough people to contribute to make up what they need.

Finally, as for simple sharing, you keep making all or nothing statements. Yes, people will share. It's not about stopping ALL sharing. We have libraries today that facilitate sharing. We luvs them.

Up to a point the sharing serves to engender more awareness and potential sales. But if people do nothing but share, then the author is going to get paid very few times.

You seem to suggest we'll never get to that point. I think your best argument is to say that the untapped market for books is so huge that even if piracy and sharing occurs on a massive scale, it will generate enough awareness and sales or donations as a byproduct that your revenues will still rise from current levels. You only get paid for a minority of the exchanges, but what you get is better than what it would have been without the exposure.

Maybe. But even then you'll be depending on those who believe in fair exchange. Not the pirates.

Joe Konrath said...

It's hard to say piracy doesn't hurt when an ebook has thousands of pirated downloads all over the web, and the author can't take her family out to McD's with her quarterly royalty check, and the only thing the author gets from all that "free" promotion of pirated earlier books is that her next new book will hit the pirate lists even faster than the last did.

Show me the thousands of pirated ebooks vs. the low sales. Then show me the pirated books are the cause of the low sales.

I have found zero correlation between the number of times a book is downloaded for free and the number of copies it sells. and I have the numbers to back this up. I'm tracking freebies on my website, I visit torrent sites and see how many people are sharing me, I watch my Amazon numbers.

If you can prove a scientific link between piracy and losing money, I'd really like to see it.

John Brown said...

Oh, about drug use. All-or-nothing again.

It's not about obliterating all use. Just because you can find a bunch of people who do drugs doesn't mean anything.

Case in point.

Please look at the drop in cigarette smoking rates from 1960 until now. Smoking back then was cool among the majority of people. It is now a stigma.

http://www.acsevents.org/docroot/NWS/content/NWS_2_1x_US_Smoking_Rates_Continue_to_Drop.asp

What changed it? Not just new laws. It was a huge shift in cultural values at all levels.

Does moral teaching work? Why yes, it does.

Joe Konrath said...

@Marilynn - If you read my blog, you know I sell my ebooks at $1.99. Perhaps that is something you should consider, because I believe it would give your sales a boost.

Ashley said...

Hey Joe,

As a new author, I need to get my book out, but I don't want you taking it just because you believe you are entitled to it.

I don't get 100% of my sales. I get 35% of my digital sales. I am an ebook author through and through. For you to sit there and be so ho hum about it is disturbing. But then again you say your ebooks are free, no wonder why you don't care if you are pirated. You give them away.

How dare you sit here and shrug your shoulders at something that hits us who have ebook publishers so hard. How about this, I'll go into BAMM's warehouse grab 15 boxes of your books and stand on the corner and hand them out...you lose sales and so does your publisher...would you happy about? Well nevermind, knowing you, you would be happy. Its publicity for you.

I write and I have a day job, I have too because I am so new at this. But if I want to write full time I have to make the money to do so and you my friend sitting here condoning ebook priacy is making it harder and harder for some of us to do.

For shame Joe. You should be standing with the authors and publishers, not the piraters and file share sites.

Joe Konrath said...

Alexa.com ranks site traffic.

It is NOT the dominant method for obtaining books or even ebooks.

Exactly. What crystal ball do you have that predicts it will become the dominant method? Piracy has been around for a long time. Yet it hasn't become the dominant method for movies, music, game, or programs.

Why do you think it will completely overtake current distribution methods? Where's the evidence to back that up?

You seem to suggest we'll never get to that point.

That's indeed part of what I'm saying. Mostly what I'm saying is: piracy will always be here, I haven't seen any proof it is harmful to artists, so don't worry about it.

The harm I have seen to artists doesn't come from pirates. It comes from companies who sell the media. Consumers don't want high prices, proprietary formats, DRM, and the inability to share and copy downloads. This hurts the artist, and this IS provable. I've proven it with my own numbers, comparing my self-pubbed ebooks to the ones my publisher controls. By my estimate, I'm losing $100k per year not because of pirates, but because of my publisher. In other words, if I had my erights, I'd be doing much better.

Piracy? Show me, in real numbers, how I'm being hurt, and I'll pay attention.

Joe Konrath said...

Please look at the drop in cigarette smoking rates from 1960 until now.

Can you directly link that directly to increased awareness of the dangers of smoking?

Personally, I'd link it to the outrageous price of tobacco.

Again, it's not a good argument. Watch these. They are well worth your time:

http://videosift.com/video/Grass-History-of-Marijuana-Documentary

http://videosift.com/video/Steal-This-Film-2

They both show how futile it is to fight something that people want to do, and how efforts to stop it are doomed to fail.

How about this, I'll go into BAMM's warehouse grab 15 boxes of your books and stand on the corner and hand them out...

Are you joking? I'd love it if you did that with 100,000 boxes of mine. Free books help to sell books. That's why publishers give so many away.

How dare you sit here and shrug your shoulders at something that hits us who have ebook publishers so hard.

Again, I can prove piracy hasn't hurt me with solid numbers and evidence.

Can you prove it has hurt you?

Condor said...

There is also another aspect to this issue and that is the thieves who sell a thousand books at a time for a specific amount of money on E-bay and other such sites. Clear case of their making money off of authors intellectual property and work. Their little storefront began with pirated copies of books.

No way, no how. Fight piracy anyway you can.

Cheryl Kaye Tardif said...

I'm dropping by to give you all another update on the 4shared website that has illegally shared so many authors' works.

Mine were removed--as were many others--after 2-3 brief emails with 4shared. It wasn't time consuming and I didn't find it half the battle as when I was fighting for the rights of authors to keep their signature lines on Amazon book reviews, which we can do now although they had been deleting reviews by authors who had done such.

It's a small win, having your work deleted from pirate sites.

Do I think this solves the issue? Not at all. My work could end up right back on the site, but for now I'm satisfied. At least I took a stand against something that is legally wrong.

The word "copyright" and subsequent laws protecting our copyrights are there for a reason. When a pirate distributes an ebook, they are making illegal copies and conversions, sometimes even scanning a printed book. While there will always be people disobeying this law, it is in authors' best interests to not sit passively and allow this to happen.

Over the past week or so I've been contacted by a number of authors who were not happy to see their works pirated. I was also contacted by the agent of a very well-known bestselling author. She wasn't pleased to find her client's works on 4shared and she and the publishers involved are taking steps to have the works removed. 4shared has been fairly easy to work with on this matter.

As for Joe's belief that authors should sell ebooks for $1.99 to see better sales, that's not a guarantee. Not every author has the fan base or history of publishing with big publishers as Joe has had, and whether he wants to believe that makes a difference or not, it does. Having a series also helps in this situation; hook people with book #1 and they'll come back for more because they want to know what happens next to those characters. I KNOW that if I'd been published by a major or even mid-list traditional publisher, my work would have reached far more people than it did publishing with a small traditional publisher. It's a no-brainer.

That doesn't mean Joe hasn't worked hard. When I read about all his promotional strategies, I'm exhausted. :-) And good for him for being so pro-active on this. Many authors think it's up to the publisher to market their books. It's not.

Regarding ebook pricing: Pricing your ebooks at $1.99 does not guarantee you higher sales, and new authors really need to understand this. It's your fan base and marketing strategies (which includes pricing and much more) that will lead to high sales.

An author with a new release SHOULD market her books a bit higher to put value on it and also so that later, when the book has been out awhile, she can discount it to make it more attractive as a backlist or older title.

This doesn't mean she can't put it on sale every now and then, or give away some free copies--both great marketing strategies...

tbc...

Support Authors, Buy a Book! :-)

Cheryl Kaye Tardif,
bestselling Canadian author
www.cherylktardif.com

Cheryl Kaye Tardif said...

continued...

Anyone who's ever been in marketing & sales (that was my background prior to becoming a published author) of other products will know that new products hold better value. If you start with $1.99 ebooks, you don't have much room to go in discounting, especially since some retailers have minimum prices you have to charge (like Amazon).

Though I bowed out of this debate awhile ago, I'm still reading posts here, plus the many emails I've received privately from authors and (surprisingly) admitted "pirates". Though I appreciate their reasoning and can even understand why they do it, I can't condone it as others here have done. For anyone just weighing in on this debate, it is far better to investigate both sides of the piracy issue before making a decision. And trust me, if you aren't an author or if you haven't been pirated, you have no idea how it feels to have your work stolen and re-distributed. Pirates don't usually download a book they aren't interested in, and in that authors have lost a potential sale. Period.

But I do agree with a couple of points my new pirate friends mentioned: ebooks need to be priced affordably (less than $5 seems to be the consensus, easily accessible to all ereader devices and easily uploaded. Smashwords.com seems to understand these concepts and I believe they have the most versatility when it comes to formats. My books are all available through Smashwords. Plus, their coupons make it easy for me to discount my books for special sales.

By the way, Smashwords, Amazon on other retailers offer a LEGAL method for people to "distribute" authors' works. It's called affiliation. As an affiliate, you can advertise an author's works on your site/blog (which is very supportive) and then earn money on sales purchased via your affiliate link. Former pirates could then earn money to buy more books. I am more than happy to have others distribute my works this way--and we all win.

I'll leave you all to continue this debate. I've said what I need to say on this subject, as you can see on my own blogs about piracy.

I encourage authors to read everything they can on piracy. Don't take my word for it, or Joe's. We each have strong opinions on what's right and wrong. Make an informed decision based on more than a couple of authors' (or pirates) opinions.

Cheryl Kaye Tardif

Joe Konrath said...

Pricing your ebooks at $1.99 does not guarantee you higher sales

Nothing guarantees you sales. But my last blog entry shows that a low price point does indeed encourage sales, even with those who have no history or platform.

I'm growing weary of repeating the same points over and over, when no one has proof piracy harms sales. So I suppose I'll try an experiment of my own...

John Brown said...

I can't find unique visitors on Alexa. Worldwide it appears Amazon is 3.6% of the traffic Alexa captures. Rapidshare is 2.4%. But that doesn't tell me if small number of people visit Rapidshare a LOT or whether it's more spread out.

Even more interesting is that it's an Indian site. I wonder what the geographic distribution of users are. Are most Indian? Or are most in the US? I also wonder what portion of its hits relate to book downloads. Couldn't find that there. So the data on Alexa isn't helping.

Maybe the best way is to look at units of books.

http://www.publishers.org/main/IndustryStats/indStats_02.htm

Do the share sites come close to these numbers? Does anyone have reliable data to confirm that?

As for cigarette prices, very few products have inelastic demand. You raise prices and you WILL see less consumption. It isn't surprising that we see that with cigarettes.

But it doesn't explain all the movement. Please see this report from the CDC.

http://www.cdc.gov/media/pressrel/2010/r100423.htm

"Smoke-free laws, hard-hitting ads, and higher cigarette prices are among our strongest weapons in this fight against tobacco use."

Two more things to consider.

1) "California, which has the longest-running tobacco control program in the country, has seen lung cancer rates decline four times faster than those in the nation as a whole." And their tax rate on tobacco is one of the smallest.

2) Please look at the state with the lowest tobacco use. Utah. It's tax is high, but not nearly the highest. What explains the lack of smokers there? Religion. http://www.ncsl.org/default.aspx?tabid=14349

The fact is that supporting values can and has worked.

Show me, in real numbers, how I'm being hurt, and I'll pay attention.

I thought I addressed that by stating what I think is your best argument.

I'll watch your two videos later today.

Stitch said...

Joe,

Thank you for taking the time to post your thoughts on this, and responding to so many comments.

I find no flaws in your logic. I'll be recommending this blog post to everyone I know, because this is one of the best entries into this debate, ever. Period.

And I'll be checking out some of your fiction as well!

Before I saw the link to this blog post, on a blog about piracy, I'd never heard of you.

Thanks again. Keep it up!

Joe Konrath said...

I'm doing an experiment to see if piracy actually hurts sales:

Here's the link.

Anonymous said...

This was definitely one of the most informed, intelligent takes on literary piracy I've read. I'm not sure about other people, but I think that some kind of fair use (not necessarily legally, but morally) typically occurs. Piracy happens most frequently a) when the reader already has the physical book, b) the book is not available as an ebook, or c) the reader would end up getting it from a library instead. In all of those cases, its unreasonable for the author/publisher to kvetch, since they wouldn't get any extra revenue anyways.

Another thing I know is that I'm now much more likely to purchase one of Mr. Konrath's novels.

Marilynn Byerly said...

Unfortunately, all my information about the damage done by pirates to indie epublished authors, not myself, is anecdotal through private correspondence, private listservs, etc. so I have no right to share the specifics or name names. I stand by the truth of what I've said, though.

I strongly urge anyone with evidence that pirated ebooks have hurt your bottom line to share your experiences at Authors Without Yachts

http://www.goodreads.com/group/show/30255.Authors_Without_Yachts_AWaY_

This group has a collection of book pirate horror stories, and more specifics are always welcome.

Despite being a vocal critic against book piracy and well-known for my articles on copyright, I have had surprising little piracy of my works because I write non-erotic romance which is not a major target of the standard demographic of most pirates.

And as to the price of my books, unlike you, I am not self-published so my publishers price my books. I have no control over that.

J Friesen said...

Brilliant post, Mr. Konvath!

And let's not forget authors like David Wellington (Monster Island etc), who got published because he gave away his books for free. He's now had almost a dozen books published.

Or authors like Peter Watts, whose book Blindsight was slated for a paltry 3700 book run. After he gave it away online for free, it got rave reviews, has undergone multiple printings and was nominated for the Hugo Award.

As a writer myself, I also put my work up online for free for everyone to see. Every little bit of exposure is a good thing in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

Cheryl said:
Pirates don't usually download a book they aren't interested in, and in that authors have lost a potential sale. Period.

This is simply incorrect.
Although I haven't shared any ebooks (I download free classics) I do download movies and games that I would never consider buying/paying for.

Blue Tyson said...

Doesn't make a lot of sense to compare smoking to consumption of entertainment.

If you can demonstrably prove to people that it is bad for them, individually then that is rather more powerful than 'Downloading this might be bad for us billionaires. Maybe. We can't prove it though.'

Not allowing companies to advertise that smoking is good for you, or supercool, etc., probably has some effect.

You could ban advertising of media. That would definitely result in reduced downloading. :)

John Brown said...

It appears my post on STEAL THIS MOVIE hung. So I'll attempt to rewrite. It was interesting. They seemed to be making these points.

1) The internet is a huge copy machine, was built to be such, and once something is on it, you can't stop it from being copied.

2) We're on the brink of a new economic model when it comes to digital goods.

3) Copyright is an artificial concept that runs counter to human nature of wanting to share and communicate.

4) People who put significant time and expense into creating digital products and services should not want any value in return for those products and services beyond the warm glow that comes from having communicated.

5) People who want to make money with intellectual property are money-grubbing corporations or unlikeable men with rabbits. Trying to make money from digital products is somehow bad.

6) The reason why corporations fear copying is NOT because they want to earn their investment back (millions, in the case of movie companies) plus some profit. The real reason is that they're really scared of competition from guys working in their basements or out by the garbage cans.

I agree with point #1. Governments could legislate and take over all the routers etc., requiring only legit communications. But I think a shadow internet would immediately rise. But again, the fact that you can't stop everyone from copying doesn't mean you can't stop or persuade many or most. Still, I'll agree. I also agree with point #2.

I can't agree with point #3. Humans have been dividing labor, specializing, and trading with the expectation of receiving value in the trade since forever. Copyright is simply the term applied to this concept for printed productions.

Point #4. Kumbaya? Are you kidding me?

Point #5. Yes, I'm a very very bad man.

Point #6. This is laughable. Especially with the examples they gave. I will grant the price of making and distributing movies, music, and books has come down, lowering one barrier to entry. But I don't see anyone shaking in their boots over YouTube cinema or Lulu self publishing. The fact is that you need more than the ability to produce. You need to be able to produce something someone is going to want to watch or read or listen to. That takes skill, which requires lots and lots and lots of hard work. And that's not a barrier anyone can remove.

So the first two points are well-taken. But I've never argued against them. The rest weren't compelling to me.

Joe, saw your piracy experiment. Let me suggest a real acid test. Take your books, covers, descriptions—the whole works. Release them again on Amazon with a second account. So same JA Konrath, same titles, descriptions, but make 'em cheaper. Or keep the price the same. Just put them up in that venue in a separate account. Let them run side-by-side. Pirated copy and legit copy in the same venue. Wouldn't that be a better way to test a dominant piracy scenario? Because we already know you're being pirated at this level and are seeing sales rise. So let's see what happens when you're pirated at higher levels.

John Brown said...

btw, you must know that I love your blog. You've given me many many good things to think about.

RowenaBCherry said...

Kudos to you for your experiment, Joe. So far, no one has uploaded it to Astatalk.

xenoterracide said...

I occasionally buy books I... Illegally previewed. These day I buy all used books though because they're cheaper and usually in the same condition as a new book. I refuse to buy from companies that /are/ have sued people who can't afford it, fans, etc. Suing a college kid is inappropriate, suing a fan website is inappropriate. But some companies think it's ok. So I refuse to buy their products. I may find otherways to enjoy them. I also know that people have bought books that I couldn't afford because they looked at my /preview copy/.

Anonymous said...

I just have to say... BRAVO...

I can not lie, I have pirated an item or two, always things that I would not go out and buy.. and by pirating them, I actually end up buying the new improved version if the software/item is good.

If not, its deleted to never be seen or heard from again.

In this day and age of people releasing crappy items, it always ticks me off to buy let's say Software A that is advertised to do XYZ only to find out that it crashes 50% of the time doing XYZ. I can't return the Software A cause it's opened, my only two options are 1) hope they fix it (50/50 chance here, usually they release Software AB which you have to pay to upgrade to) or 2)throw it away

It's not quite the same as ebooks you say, but I beg to differ. As was stated, if you put out good quality stuff, the pirate a lot of time will buy other items that you have done.

If you write a good book, and they read it, then they will probably buy it.

xenoterracide said...

basically, what I'm saying is that companies that really have a problem with this are those that like to make money selling products that aren't worth what they are selling them for.

No one is going to pay $xx for your crap if it's only worth $x and they can get it for $0 however if it's worth $xxx to them and they made sure of that by getting it for $0 they're probably willing to compensate you $xx in return for you not having made expensive crap.

nobody said...

Anonymous said...
[...]
This is simply incorrect.
Although I haven't shared any ebooks (I download free classics) I do download movies and games that I would never consider buying/paying for.


That's exactly one of the points of mr. Konrath's original post. If you (or, for that matter I) weren't going to pay for the content (video/audio/e-book) anyway, how's that a lost sale. I mean if I don't want to pay for a song and I can't download it from anywhere I *still* won't buy it.

How (*WHY*) do we count my download as a lost sale? I wouldn't have bought the damned thing in the first place anyway.

But maybe, just maybe, I do download the game, I play it and at some time I realize that it's better than I thought it would be. And then I buy it (I have actually done that with all the games I've ever spent more than 2 hours playing). And I have to admit I wouldn't have bought most of them otherwise.

Anonymous said...

Here is a story as a whole which talks about how well the music industry is doing.

Most of the surveys where they talk about how sales are down, take into no account the DIGITAL sales, only the CD sells.

I remember when CD's first released, and the music industry claimed how much cheaper they were to produce than cassette tapes, and how in 4 to 5 years after wide adoption the price of said CD would be down to $5.00 approximately per new release disc.

http://www.abajournal.com/magazine/article/the_record_business_blues

"The piece kicks off by highlighting that the music industry appears to be thriving, and then noting that it's not the same as the recording industry, which has been struggling."

Joe Konrath said...

@John - I'm pretty much with you on Steal This Film 2, on what you agree and disagree with.

But the reason I believe people should see it is not because I believe every artist should give away media for free. The thing I found most compelling was listening to what the average consumer thought.

People simply don't believe file-sharing is wrong. That's what I took away from that film.

Now, throughout history, when the majority believes in something, it usually becomes law.

Copyright, as we know it, is doomed.

As for releasing my books under another name--that sounds interesting, but more work than I'm willing to put it. Also it will annoy fans who accidentally purchase two copies of the same ebook.

If I had to make a statement about why piracy exists, it would be: I believe the majority of piracy exists because copyright holders are unable or unwilling to meet specific consumer demand, such as availability, price, and convenience.

What I foresee happening is the price of media coming down, and availability becoming universal.

I just spent $5.99 on a pay per view movie still in theaters, because it was easier and cheaper than going to the show.

I've pirated video games from Japan because they aren't available in the US and are territory locked.

I've downloaded music CDs that are out of print and impossible to find.

The problem is that making it cheap, easy, and available, which would result in more sales, might not result in higher profits. So copyright holders continue to mess around with territory locks and DRM, continue to price digital media too high, and continue to alienate consumers, which forces many of them to pirate.

Selena Kitt said...

"Unfortunately, all my information about the damage done by pirates to indie epublished authors, not myself, is anecdotal..."


Ah, but remember, all J's "evidence" is anecdotal as well, and specific to his own ebook sales and the model in which he sells them (as I understand it, he collects 100% of his profits - most ebook authors don't. Although I would contend that they should!)

There is no real "scientific" proof, with long-term studies and conclusive outcomes, ONE WAY OR THE OTHER, in regards to piracy. There is only fear and conjecture and anecdotal evidence.

There are some truths here, though, that are self-evident.

1. Cream Rises to the Top.

A good writer (and "good" is very subjective here - you could substitute the word "liked" here and it would probably be more accurate) will sell well. They will sell well with or without pirates stealing their work. A mediocre writer will sell moderately well. And a bad writer will sell poorly. Nothing is going to change that. And you'll notice that the most pirated works are usually those written by "good" (i.e. "liked") authors.

Unfortunately, a mediocre or even a poor author (in terms of likability and sales, remember, not in terms of quality of the work per se) may not actually write a bad book... they just don't have that x-factor, or they didn't write about sparkly vampires, or whatever the latest popular trend might be...

Most of the artists we consider "great" weren't compensated in life for their efforts - but many who have dropped into obscurity made a great deal of money for theirs. Sales don't always equal greatness. Just popularity.

But if you are speaking as a "good" (or "liked") writer to a mediocre or poor author, telling them piracy doesn't hurt their sales, you need to remember that you are speaking from a very different place in the stratosphere of publishing.

You can't compare apples to oranges.

2. Publishers aren't record labels and authors aren't recording artists.

We're comparing apples to oranges again. Authors don't make money going on book tours, I'm afraid. And making money on "ad revenue" within ebooks is just all-kinds-of-wrong I can't even begin to extrapolate in this little comment.

2. Piracy hurts. Everyone.

It hurts when someone takes what you have to offer without giving you some sort of homage. It should be an exchange of energy, always... Piracy removes that, and it hurts everyone involved. It hurts the author, who deserves to be acknowledged for their hard work. And it hurts the pirate, who doesn't learn the value of respect and just continues stealing in their narcissistic little e-bubble. It may not be preventable. It may or may not "help" or "hurt" sales. But piracy hurts everyone. It continues to further unravel the moral and ethical fabric of our human-being and pushes us further down the slippery slope.

And to paraphrase the quite popular "Jurassic Park" (which will probably, in 100 years, be relegated to obscurity):

Just because you CAN do something, doesn't mean you SHOULD.

Anonymous said...

Part of piracy is the thrill of getting something valuable for nothing. Implicit in that is the belief that the file is something you're expected to pay for and is relatively scarce.

No one pirates a blog, for instance, because it's totally free and always available. But tons of people pirate Photoshop.

It's important, then, to both maintain the expectation that books aren't free and at the same time to keep playing whack-a-mole with pirate sites. No, you can't eliminate them, but the pressure is necessary.

Because if we embrace piracy as equally legitimate as paying, then we treat paying customers as suckers. It's like paying a volunteer income tax. No one wants to do that.

P.S., love your style Joe. This is one of the best blogs I've ever found.

Anonymous said...

"Governments could legislate and take over all the routers etc., requiring only legit communications." John Brown

You're supposed to be someone who makes a living selling paper with ideas written on it. I agree with you then:

Governments should take control of the Internet, censoring _illegit_ communications. That way, we won't have to put up with seeing such stupid ideas as what I've quoted.

Alisha A. said...

I've often downloaded pirated books to use as a "trial period", if you will. I love holding a book in my hand and feeling that somehow I'm contributing towards a writer I respect or admire. But I see nothing wrong in getting a pirate version to try out the work first. It's basically the same as going to the library.
I don't think I've ever read a whole pirated book on my pc or handheld systems. I have, however, been moved to buy books because I was enjoying them in digital form.

John Eje Thelin said...

A couple of thoughts on this (not just restricted to the literary side).

Every single independent reputable study, like those from The Swedish Royal Technical College, the Dutch Government, the Norwegian School of Economics and MIT, shows either no causal link between piracy and reduction of sales OR shows that piracy helps drive sales.

The only studies that show any deleterious effects are ones ordered by organizations like IFPI and they tend to fall apart when scrutinized.

If piracy hurts sales, explain the Arctic Monkeys to me. They made their name in large part via (semi-legal) file sharing of their early demos. This lead to a recording contract and when the debut album was about to be released it leaked and was immediately downloaded in huge numbers.

Now, if those who fear piracy were correct, this album should not have sold very much at all. Yet it was the fastest selling debut album in UK history. Maybe because of all the online exposure? No one can really say if it helped, but it's probably safe to say that the leak didn't do all too much damage.

As for it becoming accepted legally within a few years, there's no doubt. Here in Sweden, every single youth section of every political party is for decriminalizing file-sharing not done for profit. Once they grow up to be tomorrow's parliamentarians, they point will be moot.

And finally, because of the nature of digital information and the internet, you can only curtail sharing behavior by severely infringing on most of the good aspects of the net itself and computers in general.

To me, even if piracy were as bad as the RIAA and their like claim, it would still be worth it because of the huge boon to society and civilization that the internet represents. And, yes, I speak as both a musician and writer who makes his living entirely off of copyrighted works and gets royalties from time to time.

Marilynn Byerly said...

John Thelin, as many have said, music and books don't really make a good comparison.

For one thing, most people listen to music over and over again, and they want the listening quality of a CD.

Most read a book once and reading quality doesn't change, be it stolen or bought.

You didn't mention it, but the way most musicians make money these days is in performance.

With very few exception, I doubt anyone would pay to see an author in person. Even bestsellers these days who aren't celebrities in another field have trouble filling a room.

If anyone came to see me sing, I'd make them pay to get out of the room because my voice is that bad. (evil grin)

Also, a vast majority of authors have a website or blog page where you can read 1-3 chapters of a book online to see if you are interested, and Amazon's open book feature allows you to do a virtual flip through the book, as well. You don't need a pirated version to sample a book.

And as an interesting addition to this discussion, some publishers have figured out a way to brand an ebook purchase with the buyer's name and ISP address so they know who is uploading books to pirate sites.

One interesting suggestion is to charge the pirate's credit card for each illegal download. The legalities are currently being looked in to.

Publishers on groups I'm on are currently sharing the infringers names and will block those people who have a consistent pattern of theft.

As Konrath should know since he writes mysteries, eventually crime doesn't pay.

Blue Tyson said...

Marilynn

"One interesting suggestion is to charge the pirate's credit card for each illegal download. The legalities are currently being looked in to."

Seriously? The first time you do that to a few wrong people smells like class action lawsuit, especially if you try it in the USA.

You are also suffering under the DRM delusion it would appear. There might be a few people dumb enough to do that, but not many. What you are suggesting is trivial to remove.

Note also the blowback fun and games. Given you have publicly advocated this, it is guaranteed someone will find *your* credit card number, and substitute it in a whole bunch of files and upload those. That'll be fun for you. :)

Especially if done on the cheap and they run a program that does it, with no human checking.... ;-)

Apart from the fact that debit cards and one use CC numbers exist, as well....

You just add to the evidence that publishing's understanding of technology, is, well, rather absent.

Xan said...

Jack, I subscribe to everything you said. I also want to add that our current economic system is a contrived "honor system" brought into practice, but at the end of the day, we are speculating about intangibles.

As a broke student, I've "pirated" text books. I was broke, so tough cookies. I wasn't given much of an alternative, and I felt cornered and imposed upon. Now as a well to do professional, I've made a point of supporting with my dollars those who focus more on producing something of quality than making money.
An artist, at the end of the day, should be producing his/her art whether he/she gets paid or not, but because it is synonymous to breathing. If you do not have this motivation you are a prostitute or a mercenary.
I believe in paying for music, movies and books, because i want to reward the creators who made them. But the business model that the music industry enjoyed for so long was broken to begin with, and now it is falling apart, and instead of overhauling it and innovating, they try to use litigation to "keep beating the dead horse."
Now, to prove a counter argument, I haven't ever downloaded any of your books for free. I actually regret saying I haven't read you.
But your position seems to align with my philosophy, so I am proceeding onto buying one of your electronic books, to contribute your disposition with my dollars. I may read it, I may not. But let it stand against the logic of those who say that being pirated is financially detrimental. In this case, you have gained financially even though I haven't (yet) even read your work.

Cordially, Xan

Marilynn Byerly said...

Blue, I thought I'd convinced you that pirating is a bad thing during our Teleread debates on the subject.

I imagine that, with the right terms of service clause about illegal uploading of ebooks, it would be perfectly legal for a publisher to charge a pirate's credit card for every illegal download.

An, yes, some pirates are that stupid and don't remove their personal info with the DRM. That's why they're getting into trouble.

It's hard to feel sorry, though, for someone who has had numerous warnings that they are stealing, have had numerous takedown notices from copyright owners with warnings of further consequences, and yet they continue to do the same thing. Stupidity and arrogance are a poor combination.

I am not advocating this, I am merely reporting what I have heard, but I don't blame the publishers and authors hurt by this for fighting back.

The cold hard fact of the matter is copyright is property, every civilized country in the world recognizes intellectual copyright as property, and pirating is stealing. It is the same as stealing someone's paycheck or their car.

You can justify it all you want with all the nonsense I've seen here and elsewhere, but it is stealing. If it belongs to me and I don't offer it for free like Konrath, you have no right to take it. Period.

To quote one of the oldest laws in the world, "Thou shall not steal."

And for those who think authors shouldn't be paid because we do it for "love," get real. Being a professional writer is hard work above and beyond sitting on our butts for hours a day, and it's an expensive profession with a long, laborious and expensive learning curve to reach a professional level. If you want to read someone who does it for love, I suggest you stick to fanfic.

Anonymous said...

From wikipedia:

The actus reus of theft is usually defined as an unauthorised taking, keeping or using of another's property which must be accompanied by a mens rea of dishonesty and/or the intent to permanently deprive the owner or the person with rightful possession of that property or its use.

and

A person is guilty of theft, if he dishonestly appropriates property belonging to another with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it.

According to US and UK law, file sharing does not meat the definition of theft.

Just sayin'.

Marilynn Byerly said...

Dearest Anonymous,

A digital copy of intellectual property is property; therefore, file sharing of a copyrighted ebook is theft.

If you do not think this is true, I suggest you put a copy of a Disney movie or a Harry Potter novel online for free download with your real name and address attached. I will be happy to alert the right legal people in both cases so the experiment can go forward.

Personally, I wouldn't risk my future by believing a vague paragraph in Wikipedia by who knows.

If you are interested in learning more about copyright, file sharing, "The First Sale Doctrine" regarding ebooks, etc., I suggest you go to my blog and click on the copyright label.

You don't have to read my articles, but the bibliographies attached have links to the US Government's copyright laws as well as explanations of them from lawyers at Harvard and Stanford Law among others.

http://mbyerly.blogspot.com/

Blue Tyson said...

Marilynn,

I am glad you are not stupid enough to be advocating that. As you say though, no surprise that some publishers are moronic enough to think of this.

As far as fighting back goes - what usually happens when you take on, in public, an overwhelmingly numerically superior force, that is also technologically superior?

As Joe says, you need evidence to prove it. The publishing industry is terrible at (and seemingly not interested in) analysis, that is very clear.

Right terms of service? How is that going to hold up in various different countries - insular thinking, certainly.

Not to mention PR nightmare.

Let's say someone uploads a Harry Potter book in public with your name and address on it - what exactly do you think will happen?

Marilynn Byerly said...

Blue, it would take more than my name and address to cause trouble. They'd have to tie me to it, and since I would never upload an illegal file, good luck to them trying to make the case.

A vast majority of those in trouble for illegal downloading have been warned repeatedly, but they continue to do it and pay the price. Stupidity and arrogance, as I said before.

If everyone gives up the fight to protect copyrighted material because too many people do it, there will be no new copyrighted material before long.

After all, would you work for free when you still have bills to pay?

Sure, there are assholes galore who will upload and download no matter what, but most people, once they realize that it costs them by taking away their entertainment and hurting those that entertain, do stop the illegal behavior.

To quote two old saws. There's no such thing as a free lunch, and a smart junkie doesn't kill his drug dealer.

Anonymous said...

A good example of how piracy has benefited a company is blizzard entertainment and their warcraft 2 game.

I know countless people (many friends and friends of friends) who installed pirated warcraft 2 and loved the game. This introduced them to the warcraft universe and blizzard entertainment, and then when games like warcraft 3 and world of warcraft came out years later, the pirated users of warcraft 2 bought the game because they were fans. Had they never been introduced to warcraft 2 via piracy, i do doubt that blizzard would be so popular. Because this is exactly how I got suckered into their franchise and I'm a happy camper loving all games produced by that company.

John Eje Thelin said...

Marilynn:

they want the listening quality of a CD.

I think the continued growth of the MP3 format and streaming services with generally low quality like Spotify and Pandora put a lie to that. I regularly see young people listening to music on cell phone speakers, for instance.

Most read a book once and reading quality doesn't change, be it stolen or bought.

No, but the acquisition method (and wanting to support a writer you like) does make a difference.

You didn't mention it, but the way most musicians make money these days is in performance.

To an extent that's always been the case, but it's still not entirely true. Musicians now make money by connecting with fans and giving them value for money in one way or another. British Prog stalwarts IQ have sold more of their latest album in a year than of any of their previous 12 albums over the last 25. Partly due to offering some nice special editions of their CD (but, I suspect, also because they've reached more listeners through file sharing).

The big five record labels have not only seen their total sales go down, but their slice of the pie has shrunk from about 90% to 70%, which means people are buying more from independent labels and artists directly. It's at least as much about control over exposure as it is about actually selling music.

With very few exception, I doubt anyone would pay to see an author in person. Even bestsellers these days who aren't celebrities in another field have trouble filling a room.

And why would they need to? There are other methods of making money, more suited to literary creators. Everything from presales of books to come (where you set a goal and don't release it until X number has been sold) to merchandise and special editions. It's not rocket science, this.

You don't need a pirated version to sample a book.

Of course not, but often, the pirated version is easier to get and more convenient (no DRM or device specificity).

One interesting suggestion is to charge the pirate's credit card for each illegal download. The legalities are currently being looked in to.

Probably the most stupid anti-piracy idea I have ever heard, and I've heard some doozies. There's no way that wouldn't backfire within a week of implementation.

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