Tuesday 9 November 2010

Opinionated Speculations: Thar Be Pirates

The great catch-up - wherein I endeavour to read all the emails and blog posts and comments to have come a-calling while I was on holiday there - the great catch-up... well, it goes.

Seems I missed a couple of almighty fusses. I'm already on the back foot as regards this so-called "Amazon review scandal," which seems to me a fine exemplar of the internet in action - and well worth bearing in mind the next time the internet assembles for such a petty, not to mention predictable set-piece - and there was the whole FOAF thing recounted on Haunted Legends editor Nick Mamatas' LJ. That properly got me going.

But alas, the internet. It moves a mile a minute, and for all that people profess they'd like to read about something other than what's hot and shiny and new, somewhat counter-intuitively, the internet also likes to bitch and moan and whine when someone dares to talk about something it's deemed in its infinite wisdom yawnsome old news.

So I won't bore you.

...what was I going on about again?

Ah yes. The great catch-up. So, whilst in the grips of the mighty Thunderbird and my RSS Reader, I came across an email from Celine Kiernan, author of The Poison Throne - full review here - as well as its sequels, The Rebel Prince and The Crowded Shadows. I'm sure a bunch of other bloggers did too, but as yet no-one (or at least no-one in my blogroll) seems to have given the point Celine raised therein the time of day. Shame on you all for that.

She blogged about it too, opening with the admission that "I've now lost count of the number of piracy sites that have my books up for illegal download as bit torrents or as pdfs or as so called e-books." Celine trots out the anti-piracy arguments as old as time, the same rationales people have met with utter disdain or at best disinterest since peer-to-peer filesharing paired with the woeful anonymity of the internet became a cause for concern. She trots them out and casts them aside, and well she should, because for all that the force is strong with them, and the logic sound, they - let's be frank - haven't made a whole hell of a lot of difference, have they? Instead, she asks:

"I'm just going to ask you to stop. OK? Stop stealing money from my pocket, sales from my reputation, and business from the legit booksellers and sites who legally support me and others like me. If you can’t afford to buy my work then, please, go to the library - at least they keep track of how many times the books are checked out - and those reports go back to my publishers, and believe it or not, that’s important."

And I applaud her courage. For standing up against the paramount immovable object of our era and saying her piece. She's certainly entitled to, and I'd go one further, say she's right to. Why? Because the oft-cited line between piracy and stealing isn't half as fine as pirates (what do you know?) would have you believe.

Let's do a little math.

Wait, no! Come back! It's only a little math...

So I went to Demonoid. Demonoid is perhaps the most prevalent private tracker out there; it's where you go for the good stuff, you know, as opposed to The Pirate Bay, which would be the torrent tracker of choice for stuff of interest to the great unwashed. I'll admit to having torrented a few things in my time - a few very specific things that I couldn't get my hands on otherwise, I hasten to add - and Demonoid has been my go-to whenever I've had need of an index of illicit things.

Anyway, I went to Demonoid, and I searched for Celine Kiernan. And much to my surprise - I hadn't honestly realised there was much interest in bootleg e-books - I got a result.

Here it is.

Now that's not a bloody invite to download The Poison Throne, you hear? What it is is one of - at last count - 40,904 e-books Demonoid are cool with you stealing. This is of particular import to us, I think. 'Us' here standing to mean fans of genre fiction. As a readership I think it's safe to say we're more interested in technology than most. Furthermore, we're more likely to be familiar with the ins and outs of filesharing via p2p networks. Thus, and this is just a guess, of those forty thousand torrents - and bear in mind they've only been counting since Demonoid wiped their servers of the millions of torrent files it had hosted before the government snarled in some legendary damn fool pirate's direction - perhaps 20,000 of those torrents are e-books likely to be of interest to you, and to me.

Now we're not even factoring in the teratorrents: those torrents indexing not just one file, and by extension one e-book, but many hundreds or thousands... all in one convenient click.

Nor are we going to look, for the sake of this little exercise, beyond Demonoid. This is a single server, and there are hundreds of prominent servers out there, each indexing their own versions of each torrent, each of which will likely have been downloaded as often as the aforementioned torrent of The Poison Throne. Which is to say, 764 times.

Let me repeat that: 764 people have downloaded The Poison Throne via Demonoid alone. Factor in a hundred other trackers with an e-book of Celine's novel each - and that's underestimating things some, I would wager - and we're looking at tens of thousands of pirated copies of The Poison Throne doing the rounds. Tens. Of. Thousands.

I'll put that in perspective for you. The top ten bestselling fiction novels recounted each week in The Times is pretty much the definitive bestsellers chart here in the UK - our paltry equivalent of the lists in The New York Times.

And I say paltry with good reason. Earlier in the year, Peter V. Brett - one of speculative fiction's biggest new authors - blogged that his second novel, The Desert Spear, had made it to number nine on the list. It took a bit of digging, but here's his post. Notice, as I did at the time, and much to my surprise, that all it took for The Desert Spear to be the ninth bestselling novel in the whole of the UK that week (the week of its release) was...

...wait for it...

1,475 copies. (As opposed to the 3,000 copies distributed by the darlings at Demonoid.)

Christ, that week the new Dan Brown only did shy of 3,000, and it was still the second most bought book in the whole of Britain. That revelation knocked me for six - seven even! - back in March. As does the thought today that if even a fraction of the people who have pirated The Poison Throne had put a few quid down for actual copies at an actual bookstore, Celine Kiernan would have been made. Her name would have been trumpeted from the tree-tops. Weather conditions notwithstanding, of course.

Instead... well. I have no idea how The Poison Throne did at retail - Orbit don't share their sales numbers with us, more's the pity. I'm sure it did fine. Sold as per expectations. But there's a reason expectations are so low: e-books have made a product that was once almost impossible to distribute in any other way than on paper pages (in books!) as vulnerable to piracy as MP3s and AVIs.

So why is no-one kicking up a stink about it? I ask you, where's the Metallica of SF&F gotten to?


I'm afraid I don't have an easy answer to those questions, and add to that: I tend to think I've gone on long enough for one afternoon anyway. I don't have an answer, per se, but never you fear, I do have a song for you all to sing while pondering over the great quandary of e-book piracy.

You might even know it:

If you go down to the Pirate Bay /
You're sure of a big surprise /
If you go down to the Pirate Bay /
You'd better go in disguise.

For ev'ry author that ever there was
will gather there for certain because /
Today's the day the pirates have
their goddamn hands lopped off for thieving!

Now Celine's a publisher author, a professional - if an exceedingly friendly one - so she has to be polite about this whole thing. I don't.

So... pirates? If you're reading this? You're helping to kill genre fiction. If not quite single-handedly, all the same, you're killing a lot of things that in turn mean a lot to me. And for that, fuck the lot of you.


  1. I've said it before and I say it again: don't fight it, work with it!

    It can't be that difficult to get a flat fee library system for ebooks of the ground, if the corporations get in line.

    Say 10 pounds or so a month to loan as many books as you like. If you really like the book you can buy a hard cover or paperback, or even make an extra donation to the author. No more crappy ebooks, no more feelings of being ripped off because the ebooks are more expensive then they should be (I'm not saying they are too expensive, but they appear to be too expensive).

    But no, ebooks will be vastly different than say, movies or music.

    Same mistake, made by short sighted people.

  2. Now that - that would be great. Like the Zune pass for music, a flat fee for as many ebooks as partake in the programme you moot would be something I'd absolutely be interested in.

    Still. They'd have to be DRMed. And people hate DRM. Or at least, the pirates hate DRM, and they're a pretty vocal minority (that is presuming they're even a minority).

    But DRM can always be undone; in that regards one can hardly blame the publishers who remain reticent about stepping into this arena.

  3. Ideally there should be a solution where you don't get the book physically at all. Say an app (ipad or something like that), where you can search and add up to an x number of books at a time to your reading stack and when you're done you remove the book and can add another one.

    I don't know if it is technically possible to 'hide' the files in your app, but that would be a good solution I think.

    So it would be like a virtual library.

    And for pity's sake, recognise the first two w's in WWW and don't impose country-based limitations! (I'm looking at you itunes!)

  4. My God Niall - you're lucky I can't get my hands on you - there'd be so much huggage! You wouldn't breath for a week : )

  5. That's why I hide out all the way up here in Scotland! :D

    It's honestly the sort of debate I wish more of the blogosphere were interested in having, the elephant in the room everyone can see but no-one seems to want to acknowledge - perhaps because from time to time we all secretly like a little elephant - and I'm always pleased as punch to go against the grain, so.

  6. I've been reading ebooks for over 10 years. Not too much has changed in that time. Sure, more are available now, and you can borrow from the library now, but that's about it.

    I don't have an answer, so that's not much help, but a business that hasn't changed appreciably in over 10 years is, these days, a failing business.

    A flat fee would be fantastic. I'd be willing to pay a pretty hefty price, when I total up the cost of all the books I buy.

    I don't think that will solve the problem, though.

    Does anyone know, are SFF pirated more than other genres? If so, would it be because that genre tends to be more attractive to people who are more, um, tech savvy (I never know which should be the correct term, "geek" or "nerd")?


  7. Christina - On Demonoid at least, I'm pretty sure genre releases are indeed more prevalent than they are in the marketplace. A surprisingly large number of the torrents I've seen appear on that tracker in the past 24 hours have been SF&F. Admittedly that's a small cross-section of a single site, but I tend to think it's indicative enough. After all, it's geeks like us that most acutely appreciate geeky new tech, so books about geeky new tech presented as testbed cases for geeky new tech are sure to go down a treat. With geeks.

    Apologies for saying geeks so much. But I am not ashamed! :)

  8. People hate DRM because it doesn't allow them to move books across multiple devices. With a library system, you wouldn't need to do that, since you could load the DRMed copy to any device you own (maybe registered with them), one at a time. DRM simply puts a time limit on the file (as you get with a book you borrow from the library). So, a fee based system for the library would simply mean that DRMed books would have time limits and would be limited to devices you own. But that's a guessing game right now. DRM outside of the library system is problematic, since it prevents you from actually doing anything with the file you purchased.

    But to your point about piracy: amen. I don't have a problem with pirating once in a while so long as you have a "try before you buy" attitude (and actually buy things you like). What I can't stand is when people pirate to the extreme, so much so that it actually starts to hurt the creator. In the case of books: I don't get it. A book doesn't cost all that much. Pirating a DVD makes more sense, since $20 is a lot to pay for a movie that will likely be awful, but books? That's just stupid. Buy the darn thing...

  9. Wow. This is eye opening. I mean, I realized things like music and movies were pirated and all, but ebooks? I never really thought about it, maybe because I don't have an ereader. Still, the numbers are appalling. Nice article, and thanks for bringing this to my attention.

  10. Do writers *need* to publish ebook versions of their work? It seems almost counter to their interests to do so at all, at least if they're likely to have such problems protecting it.

    I'd be curious if authors are required by their publishing contracts to use the format. Can they opt out? And if so, is it likely that unauthorized versions of their work in PDF or similar formats, will appear?

    A question I think for the estimable Mr. Mark C. Newton, among others...


  11. A fascinating question, Eric - I too would be interested to hear whether e-book options come part and parcel with book deals these days. Celine?


    From what little I can gather, most of the e-books you see on torrent sites like Demonoid aren't legitimate e-books in any sense. These are OCR scans: some enterprising bookstore or library employee or else an avid mucher of literature has simply run a scanner bar over each page and let a bit of software do the work, then output a file for each of the popular formats.

    So whether or not the release of an official epub or the like would make piracy more or less likely... I don't know that if people are already prepared to go to such lengths it would really make a huge amount of difference.

  12. I don't think the numbers of people who download pirated e-books is much differet from the number of people who uses the piracy argument to call for cheaper e-books.

    According to Newsweek (sorry haven't got the link) production cost for an e-book is $0.50, for a hardcover it's $3.05. So e-books are priced well below what they should be.
    At this point e-books are getting a free ride from all the cost that goes into the production of a hardcover before it is printed. Once e-books take over a large percentage of the market their price will have to go up, not down.

    As for the argument that many people use, that if the e-book is to expensive, they'll just pirate it. IT'S A IDIOTIC STATEMENT! Go into an electronics-shop and tell the salesman you'll only pay half-price for that tv, cause you can steal your neighbour's when he's at work, and he'll most likely tell the police. The argument is the same as the one used with e-books.

    Eric raises a very good question:

    "Do writers *need* to publish ebook versions of their work? It seems almost counter to their interests to do so at all, at least if they're likely to have such problems protecting it."

    In a way it's easy to answer this. If your product is liable to get pirated, making you loose money. And if the legitimate buyers will not pay the price you need to sell your product for, you stop producing it.

    If people won't pay $15-20 for an e-book, economic theory suggests they will disappear.

  13. I don't think an author is required to sign away anything they don't want to - however I think refusing to sign up for e-book rights wouldn't solve the piracy problem (and would just serve to keep you out of a growing market)

    As far as I know ( and I'm open to correction) there were illegal downloads of Poison Throne available way before the e-books had been produced (almost certainly there were of Rebel Prince)I doubt many of these came from 'cracked' e-book files ( excuse my very hopelessly inaccurate techo-speak there. Someone get me my bath-chair and hearing trumpet will yah?)

  14. As you suggest, Niall, same shite, different day.

    I don't think pirates are killing a single thing about the genre. (Non-fic might be different.) People who browse torrent sites to buy my book are (off the record, my publisher probably disagree wholeheartedly!) not people who would have spent money on the book anyway. Who cares? I've got another reader. It's like when you lend your copy of a book to someone else for free. I'm not going to get all evil and KICK YO ASS on someone who reads my book for free. I like readers - they're kind of useful to authors. Maybe they'll spend money on my books in future, who knows.

    Fucksake. If people who download torrents are killing the genre, then by that definition Cory Doctorow - who makes available all his books for free in a variety of e-formats - would not have a career. As I recall, he's not doing badly.

    I don't think we can compare books to movies and music - they're quick hits, books are time investments.

    But if you want someone to fight, fight the supermarkets who demand eye-watering discounts from publishers in order to stock their books, which that means very few people are making money (the author, the publisher) and your average bookstores suffer. What about WH Smiths who charge publishers merely to carry their books in stores? That hurts publishers, too, and drives out smaller imprints, and thus homogenising the genre. That's what hurts.

    A little perspective, please.

  15. Out of curiousity, how are pirates hurting the industry more than used bookstores or friends/family who share the same pool of books?

  16. "Out of curiousity, how are pirates hurting the industry more than used bookstores or friends/family who share the same pool of books?"

    Because you can do it from your chair without having to either go to the used bookstore or asking friends what book they have. You can get the latest books straight away, for free, almost instantly.

    As MCN suggests, it is impossible to know how many pirates would have actually bought the books in question if they hadn't pirated them. It might have been 25% or it might have been 5%. 'None at all' seems wishful thinking though.

  17. Eh? It doesn't make a difference to the author/publisher whether you've left your chair or not. Either way, you experience the art and they receive $0.00 in compensation.

  18. Aidan - long time no speak! Pleased to see you moving on up, though. To wit: I think congrats are in order.

    To your point, though, absolutely, you can look at the aftermarket for used books (just as used movies and games, particularly that latter) as hurting the industry, but no-one keeps anything forever, you know. There's a certain expectation when you sell a product that that product will more than likely change hand a couple of times in its lifetime. No-one's keen on it, but there it is. In the gaming industry, digital rights management has gotten more and more tyrannical; there are countless initiatives to encourage you to buy new rather than used - exclusive DLC, no online play unless you have such and such a pass, and so on. We'll likely see - as we have - such measures taken now that books are being distributed electronically. No-one will like that, either. Just as there was an outcry over the DRM the Kindle format came part and parcel with, people feel entitled to do what they please - within reason - with a thing that they pay money for, share it or hoard it. And well they should.

    However, ownership and the transfer thereof are one thing. Stealing 1000+ copies of a book and handing copies out to whomsoever fancies one is another. Surely at the point at which there's a presumption of rampant piracy equal to the gruding acceptance of an aftermarket, we're in trouble.

    And let's not pretend that genre fiction is untouchable. Above, Mark mentions that the likes of Cory Doctorow can give their work away with little to no impact on the bottom line. Indeed, they can, and more power to Cory for taking that chance - but he's a big hitter. He'll sell books even if he's writing nonsense on the basis of his name and reputation alone. Unproved authors like Celine might not, you know? And perhaps the notion of pirating a book by an author you're not sure of is easier to rationalise away.

    To clarify, I'm overstating the case suggesting that pirates are killing the genre entire, but as Celine pointed out in her blog, and this is what rankles with me, while they might be just another brick in the wall when it comes to established authors who're assured a certain number of sales, for those starting out a single brick - to the order of thousands of potential sales (I'm with Adam here: it isn't every one, but it's not nothing either) - might make all the difference.

    Daniel Abraham, for instance. Didn't underwhelming sales near-enough scupper his future prospects? We'll never know whose careers piracy stops dead in its track - thankfully not Daniel's - but assuredly it's a harmful enough factor these days that certain authors are feeling the pinch. And the pinch is only going to get nastier the more and more prevalent e-books become.

    Now as to what's to be done about it? God alone knows. I really just wanted to stick a finger up at the entitled asses who think this kind of thing's OK.

    Let me be doubly sure: no-one here's saying it is, right?

  19. God no it's not right. I have a hard time justifying to myself it's OK to download papers and classics from the Gutenberg project, much less pirating the new stuff!

    Everyone's bringing up good points, keep it up!


  20. "It doesn't make a difference to the author/publisher whether you've left your chair or not. Either way, you experience the art and they receive $0.00 in compensation."

    Except that in the second-hand market someone somewhere has legally paid for the item you are enjoying. It may be lip service, but better than nothing.

    The problem is that the book industry doesn't want to go down the DRM route which has devastated the PC gaming industry and led to a monstrous increase in the amount of piracy, even if it was realistic to do so.

    Those artists who enjoy success using a free-share model, such as Doctorow and Radiohead, are notably those who established themselves as a big success through traditional models first. In music there's been some more success for newcomers trying the same thing (Arctic Monkeys and Lily Allen, to some extent) but we haven't seen a debut author break through with a free-to-share model, probably because it would be difficult to distinguish it from fanfic or self-publishing, both of which (rightly or wrongly) have a negative connotation for many fans.

  21. We're on the same wavelength, Adam, you and I.

    Hoss, you on the Twitter?

    This isn't a real comment at all... :/

  22. The main deal is, some people are wired weird. That most likely includes me. I've got a very low tolerance for the guilt prod, and so I'm pretty much unable to steal anything.

    I think people who are going to steal it are going to steal it regardless. Whether it costs 10 cents or 10 dollars isn't going to make a difference to them.

    Again, not helpful.

    Yup, I'm on the Twitter, and a faithful follower, and occasional commenter :)

  23. As for a solution, we need to look at what has turned around the gaming and music industries' problems with the digital space, namely Steam for games and maybe the iTunes store for music.

    Something similar could be done for books, integrating something like Goodreads or Facebook's Visual Bookshelf with people able to see people's recs on books, download them immediately for a fee, share their experiences, take part in online virtual book clubs and so on. It might sound a little bit twee, but it does seem to have worked for other mediums. The big problem for publishers is that it's worked in those other mediums mostly by also lowering costs to make legit purchasing more attractive. For example, on one of Steam's sale offers you could get Grand Theft Auto IV for £3 (!) less than a year after release for a short time. Would publishers be happy selling a book at those prices less than a year after publication, even briefly? I'm not sure.

  24. One of the problems with this debate is that each camp takes a hard line. The content creators say that unauthorized copying is stealing and in truth, that's just not the case. It's like using a toll road without paying. It's not something that can be given back but it's not something the creator has to worry about replacing. Further, the infringers (pirate is a word that connotates resale) take a stance saying "I wouldn't pay you for it anyway" which is not an ethical argument.

    What's clear is that the economy of book selling is changing and that authors and publishers should be finding ways to capture the energy that the freeloaders are demonstrating. If book torrents are on the increase, I would imagine interest is climbing as well.

  25. T.N., your toll booth example is slightly off. A car going down a toll road would exert wear upon that road, and whomever owns that road wouldn't be recompensed for the wear exerted. That's not a worry with digital piracy, however.

    On topic:
    In my opinion, if something can be gained illegitimately, someone somewhere will do so whether it's a game, a book, a film or an album. No amount of DRM or copy-protection will stop them doing so.

    As one of the beleaguered PC gamers that Adam spoke of above, my experience suggests that DRM is only "effective" if it benefits the end user - And his example of Steam is a perfect, well, example. It doesn't, however, stop publishers still shipping games on Steam with extra DRM for absolutely no reason at all. All that happens to the legitimate user is their game sometimes has issues working or might not work at all. UbiSoft, on the other end of things, caused a lot of outrage with their always-on DRM for PC games, which is just salt in the wounds. We get less content, often less support, more restrictions and then they put that on.

    I don't think publishers help themselves, and nor do bookstores. I am *not* paying £9 for a 200 page paperback in WHSmith or Tesco when I can go to Amazon and get it for £3-4. That, in my opinion, is stores taking the yellow liquid. Surely dropping the price of a book to £5-6 would make it more attractive to the buyer, therefore more sales?

    But really, I think DRM is something ebooks need to stay free of.

  26. I wanna look at Dwagginz's argument:

    "I don't think publishers help themselves, and nor do bookstores. I am *not* paying £9 for a 200 page paperback in WHSmith or Tesco when I can go to Amazon and get it for £3-4. That, in my opinion, is stores taking the yellow liquid. Surely dropping the price of a book to £5-6 would make it more attractive to the buyer, therefore more sales?"

    Firstly I think you'll find most of the money a book costs more at a physical store than Amazon, goes to rent, electricity and higher staff costs per £ in sales.

    As for lower prices=higher sales, I don't agree. Let's say (using totally random numbers)the publisher earns £5 for every £10 the book buyer spends. Since production costs per copy are pretty fixed, lower price might mean the publisher only makes £3 for every £10 spent. That would mean they'd have to sell 67% more books to earn the same amout of money. -Or that for the publisher to earn £15 pounds you'd have to spend £50 instead of £30.

    Most people who buy many books have a fixed budget to do so, and I don't think those that buy few or no books will start buying more books if the price drops.

  27. Sorry, but this whole thread it's just the old RIAA/MPAA/BSA "1 download = 1 lost sale" argument who has been dismantled repeatedly in the last 10 years.

    And I wouldn't be so quick to ignore Doctorow. He is not the only one making his books available for free, Baen has been doing the same for years and they're still in business. Some of their authors had all their books, including their debuts, available for free from day one and they still sell a lot.

    The only thing to do with regard to "ebook piracy" is NOT TO TALK about it like it's the end of the world. Napster exploded after the lawsuits, because they made pretty much everyone aware of a possibility they didn't know. Right now most people have no idea you can find unlicensed copies of ebooks, provide all these people NOW with a decent store with decent prices and they'll just buy the books there. Of course a minority will look for free copies, but as long as it's a minority you don't really have to care.

  28. Just another thing: the publishing market is completely different from music/movies. Music and movies are immediate gratification and (mostly) short lifetime. A movie lasts two hours, a song a few minutes, and for most people it's just casual consumption.

    Publishing is different: an MP3 is arguably the same or better than a CD, a HD x264 is arguably the same thing or better than a bluray disk, but a book is not so easily replaceable, books will not disappear soon, and most of all, few people read and the ones who do read more than a book per year are already _invested_, so they're already the best kind of customers a media company could want, people accustomed to spending money and people who will continue spending.

  29. 764 downloads? I bet not even 10% will read it. And from those 10%, i wonder how many would buy it if they couldn't get it for free...

    We don't know, just as we don't know how many of those might enjoy the book and decide to buy it or buy the next books from the author. Or have friends that might hear about it and decide to buy it.

    And those people who download torrents with 10000 ebooks? How many centuries would they need to read those? Or did they download it becouse of a couple ebooks? Or are just hoarders? Yet, for publicists, that's 10000 fewer sales per download...

    If prices are fair, people will buy the books. If they don't feel explored, they will buy. Of course, there will always be people who won't buy no matter what. But those aren't lost sales or clients... They never were potencial clients anyway. But who knows if some might become clients, if they manage to read something that they weren't willing to if it weren't free?

    I buy more books than what I can read. And since i've got my kindle and easy access to pirated ebooks, these last two years, i've spent more money in books and ebooks than in my previous 10 years together!

    Ebooks make it easier for us to purchase by impulse. And piracy... Although morally wrong, it's not necessarily bad, either for reader or authors or publishers. It's a matter of the publishers to adapt to current times.

    People talk about how easy it is to pirate music and movies with the mp3 and such... The music and movie business never had such strong sales and profits as today. Something to think about...

  30. In a nice bit of serendipity, Rose Fox over at Genreville, is discussing the impact international e-book copyright restrictions are having on readers. You can read the post here

  31. Since we're sharing links, looks like Adam has posted his thoughts on the debate in full over at The Wertzone. He also offers up the beginnings of a potential solution to e-book piracy he and a few other commenters mooted earlier - a Steam experiment of sorts, you could call it.

    Go, and do:


    But back I go to The Tiger. It's still swell. Night all!

  32. Hey Niall, I know where Metallica are - they're here in Sydney, Australia and I'm going to see them tonight! \m/

    And as for their fight against Napster, I wonder if you asked them now in hindsight whether they were happy with that fight and what they achieved and whether or not they would do the same thing again. It is very debatable whether they would - they alienated and p!ssed off a lot of fans and didn't change a whole lot...

  33. Man, people are dishonest. I don't give a flying fuck about the numbers or the philosophy of the best solution. As far as i'm concerned the reader has a contract with the author. Borrowing a book? Fine. Getting a book at the library? Fine. Your reading a book that has been payed for, even if it wasn't by you

    Getting the book online without even a nod in the authors direction. Fuck you. I'm not even an author and this pisses me off.

    All of these excuses in these comments for why something drastic and effective hasn't been done to stop this ridiculousness are simply excuses for dishonesty. Stealing is stealing.

    As for music or video games or movies or any other media with an existing pirate community, Reading is like that. It just isn't. It's educational, it can lead to severe and very helpful self examination and a different view of the world around you. It is what makes you and i more advanced from people a thousand years ago. They read, yes, but did they have as much material to read? No.

    Mark Twain said, "The man who doesn't read good books is no better then the one who can't read them." He was right, and in light of this, how can anyone treat reading like movies or any of the others mentioned above?

  34. And another link, late maybe, but what will the NYT putting out an ebook bestseller list do? I would think those who normally wait and release the ebook later than the book will reconsider.



  35. t"he content creators say that unauthorized copying is stealing and in truth, that's just not the case. It's like using a toll road without paying. It's not something that can be given back but it's not something the creator has to worry about replacing."

    That's odd, I don't remember difficulty to replace being anywhere in the definition of stealing: "to take the property of another wrongfully and especially as a habitual or regular practice" (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/stealing)

    As far as I'm concerned, there's no way to justify piracy. Downloading is the same thing as walking into a bookstore, slipping a book under your jacket, and walking out, sans any realistic chance of getting caught. Could you do that? I just don't understand the attitude that the people who make your entertainment don't deserve your money; they should be happy you're reading them. What short sighted bullshit. I'm sure authors do enjoy being read very much, but in a few years of being read with no real sales, I have a feeling there's going to be a slightly negative effect on the market. Just a theory, mind you.

    Though I do just want to point out that I'm somewhat annoyed by the number of people referring to music as instant gratification and nothing more. Seriously? You've never studied an album for every nuance, tried to chart the progress of a band's style, or even had a favorite album that you still play years after you first heard it? Right now, I'm looking at you with the same sad eyes I'd direct at someone who's only read Dan Brown.

  36. Great article Niall, eventhough it's a bit saddening that people would do this.

    I ran across this article. http://www.economist.com/blogs/babbage/2010/10/steal_book
    It came from one of the library blogs I follow for work, but I thought it might add to the discussion here.

    Oh and Evil Hat, your sad eyes made me giggle, so thanks for that!

  37. That's a fascinating article, Meineke! Thank you for sharing it.

  38. This is tangential, but...

    I'm kind of baffled by one thing here: do libraries in the UK (or anywhere) really send circ numbers to publishers? I can't imagine a library having the time and funding to compile that information by publisher (unless they're sending their total circ numbers to ALL the publishers and letting them sort it out), and I can't imagine why a publisher would care about those numbers. As far as I have ever heard, circ numbers are used internally by libraries to guide future purchases and locally to allocate funding, that kind of thing.

    A single copy of a book that checks out to 500 patrons in a year still earns the publisher the profit of a single book.

    Does anyone have a reliable source for libraries providing publishers with circ numbers, or an explanation for why publishers would actually care?

  39. The Library system sends the writer/translator a PLR report at the end of the year :)

  40. Sorry - I should have taken time to explain. A Public Library Remuneration (lending remuneration?) report. We get approx 8 cent per lend per title registered - whether you keep it or donate it back to the library is up to you :)

  41. @Celine You're welcome :) And I didn't know that about the PLR. Is that just a UK thing or global? I'm an academic librarian myself.

    @Mel Depending on which ILS a library uses, it might be as simple as setting the right parameters when sorting, since publishers are part of the metadata added to publications.

  42. I live in Ireland, but I know the same applies to UK/AUS/NZ/Canadian and German libraries to name a few. I don't think it applies to US library systems. ( just to be clear you are only entitled to PLR from the country you reside - translators are entitled to PLR in their country. Illustrators too are entitled to a portion of PLR)

  43. That thar be librarians hereabouts as well gives me, I'm not ashamed to admit, no small amount of pleasure. You guys... you guys are like Jedi!

    That is all I have to add this afternoon.

  44. *beams* I'm like a Jedi. My geek-cred just doubled!

    That's really interesting Celine. I just looked it up on Google and I figured out why I'd never heard of it too. Academic libraries are exempt in the Netherlands.

  45. Wow, that's really handy for the publishers/authors. I'm not sure most U.S. libraries are well-enough funded to be able to do that, though.

  46. Mieneke, you're from the Netherlands? That's gas! The first book has just been translated for the Netherlands! I'm eagerly awaiting hearing what 'Poison Throne' is in Dutch!

    Mel: Libraries are really struggling here too - which is a shame as I and my peers have had the most incredible support from the Irish library system. I've never met such a driven group of people. They are so thoroughly dedicated to getting kids reading.

  47. Just adding another link to the thread. Author Saundra Mitchell raises her voice about piracy and the toll its taking on her sales:HERE