Some thoughts on International “Please Don’t Pirate My Book!” Day

First and foremost, if you haven’t read Chuck Wendig’s post on piracy, and his declaration of today as the above-titled Day of Import, then by all means please go there at once. The post itself is funny and thought-provoking, and a quick glance through the comments showed a surprising and heartening level of thoughtful conversation. (That could well have changed, but it was quite civil when I looked.)

 

Now, since he invited others to write down some of their thoughts on the subject, I thought I’d take him up on his offer. I think it’s something that should be talked about. It certainly weighs heavily on my mind.

You might ask why, seeing as I haven’t managed to have any of my books published yet. Right now, none of my original works are available for piracy, whether of the modern e-piracy variety, or the old-fashioned steal-a-book-from-the-library or print-a-bunch-of-copies-in-China sort.

But there could be. Self-publishing is an increasing trend. I could have made a book or two available through Amazon, or TinyPress, or some other venue, anytime in the last few years.

One of the reasons why I have not yet decided to venture into those waters – yet – is the fear of e-piracy. Authors who are published through a publishing house – whether paper or purely e-press – have the resources of those houses behind them. Some publishers offer a lot of resources to help combat the problem; others almost none. But all of them probably have a better idea of how to handle the problem of e-piracy better than I do.

And I do think it’s a problem. Not just because it’s stealing, although that’s certainly something I object to on general principles.  But because it devalues the worth of the work that I and other authors do, the effort that is put in trying to write good, compelling stories that entertain readers. That is WORK, and work that should be respected. While I have heard the argument that sometimes e-pirates go out and purchase books they actually like afterwards, how true is that? Is it apocryphal? Is it a small percentage? And should an author have to depend on the after-ethics of the effect of theft?

I don’t think so. Promotion is good, great even. Word of mouth is very powerful. But I hope that can happen without piracy.

I’m also a huge fan of libraries. Most of the books (including ebooks) I read these days come from the library. And one of the major problems facing libraries these days is the need to defend their ebooks from piracy. They have to pay a lot of money (that frankly our overburdened and under-supported library systems don’t have) trying to protect their books against piracy. They have to pay more money to publishers, who are naturally quite wary about how library e-books affect their bottom line.

And because of this, there are a number of books that I can’t get from the library, because either the ebook edition is so locked down I can’t figure out how to get it open on my computer (true, alas!), or it’s only available as a Kindle ebook USB direct-transfer edition, or simply isn’t available at all, because it’s too small/obscure/limited a title.

That doesn’t make me happy, of course. But I don’t blame the library system. I don’t blame the publishers. I don’t blame the authors.

I do blame my own technological incompetence, at least a bit. And the e-piracy realities that makes the problem that much worse.