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Unsouled by Will Wight
 

Unsouled

Review

 

Is Pirating Books OK if you buy it later?

Pirated-EbooksI’ve been pointed to a post on Reddit.com that asks whether pirating ebooks (i.e. downloading them FREE off the Internet using illegal file sharing sites) is OK so long as you buy the book should you enjoy it. The post can be found here.

Personally, my thoughts are NO! In 2013 this is a feeble excuse and I really, really don’t like the idea that you are encouraging pirates to put an author’s work on the Internet by downloading their releases. Most pirates work through ‘ego’, they don’t make money, success to them is the number of accumulated downloads… if something gets downloaded a lot (e.g. an ebook they’ve ripped) they will upload more of the same kind of thing (i.e. more ebooks). Downloading lots of books then means that they will be encouraged to pirate lots of books.

The reason I call the ‘I am not sure if I will like it’ excuse ‘feeble’ is because almost every author writing today has a website that has some kind of extract/example of their writing and, even if they don’t, Amazon has free previews of nearly every book currently available on its store. For the time it takes to access an illegal torrent/file sharing site, download the torrent / file and load it onto your device you could have visited one of the above sites (Amazon or the author’s / publisher’s site) and assessed their content legally and without tempting any pirates to steal the earnings of a genre writer you (hopefully) will end up admiring and respecting. Remember, guys and girls, it doesn’t matter how honest your intentions are, there are plenty of people out there who thrive on ‘free’ stuff and, to be fair, many that don’t even realise how much of an effect it can have on a genre authors (quite often rather moderate) income.

My request to readers would be PLEASE do not hurt our genre and the industry by being tempted into downloading books for free. Every sale an author makes pushes them up the best sellers list (getting them further noticed), gives a signal to a publisher that sequels should be forthcoming and helps an author pay to feed him/herself and his/her family. Don’t take any of that away from them… or us, their fans.

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26 Comments

  1. Avatar Splicer says:

    Personally, my thoughts are that people who do this and sleep well at night will continue doing so no matter how many others try to guilt them into altering their behavior. The final step in living a life free from anger is to accept that there are some things that you will never be able to change.

    • Avatar Dan J. says:

      Agreed. I also don’t think the “It encourages pirates” argument carries much weight. It’s too simple to upload a book to the ‘Net for encouragement to be required. You can already download every movie that comes out, every television show, every significant piece of software. Books will soon be the same if they’re not in fact already that available. A handful of people not downloading is not going to change that.

      Personally, I’m extremely torn on the morals of this issue. I’m an aspiring author and if I ever do publish a book, I’d like to know that it’s not going to be given away free to anyone who wants it. I also want to reward my favorite authors, both as a personal gesture and as a practical matter so that they’ll keep putting out such wonderful books. So I buy books, I don’t pirate them. But I have a hard time seeing a cogent argument which says that downloading a book and reading it is a horrible act while going to the library and checking out a copy is perfectly permissible. I understand that one is illegal and one is legal, but from a philosophical standpoint, I have a hard time justifying why that might be. If there’s a moral obligation to pay for the pleasure one receives from reading a book, then where does that obligation go when one checks out a book from the library? That is, of course, a slightly different question from the one Overlord addressed but it’s all one big, complex issue for which there are no easy answers.

  2. Avatar Shawn Cook says:

    Couldn’t agree more. That excuse could work for music but not books. The average cost of a book is probably around 10$, I spend that on coffee everyday (I really do, someone help me!!:p). “I’ll buy it later if its good” is a nice way of saying “I’m a cheap thieving bastard”. I have no problem taking a chance on a new author. We as readers need to support those writing to ensure new talent doesn’t give up due to poor sales. A couple of dollars is a small price to pay for something a person poured their heart into for a year or two. I like holding a physical copy anyway. That way people in the food court know how smart I am. If I had some sort of device they would just assume I was playing angry birds :p. In conclusion. Don’t be cheap, buy the book.

    • Avatar UnionJane says:

      I work at a corporate bookstore, and I *wish* most books were around $10. Hardcovers now run $20-$40 and paperbacks $10-$20 (even mass market paperbacks!). The only place where I find decent book prices are Half Price Books.

      • Avatar Elrook says:

        yeah i buy my books but here in Australia paperbacks start at 20 dollars. All books sold in Australia have to be printed in Australia or face massive taxes because our stupid government is “protecting” the book industry with some laws. it had the opposite effect when the internet fired up now everyone gets their books online and our 100 year old book publisher and seller went bankrupt.

      • Avatar Joe says:

        And all the people that are actually fans of Fantasy said: AMEN! If you actually like books and respect the genre, you buy books, PREFERABLY BEFORE you decide if you like them. No one can make up the mind of a good reader about a book before they’ve bought it.

        Joe

  3. Avatar Vincent Quill says:

    I definitely agree with this, but I can sympathise to an extent with people who had already bought the book but had lost it somehow deciding to pirate the book.

  4. Avatar Kyle says:

    If a book that I want to read releases in the UK more than a month before it releases in the US (where I live) I have no problem pirating it. If I do, I buy it on US release day.

  5. Avatar Shaad Zaman says:

    I admit that I am guilty of this however isnt it similar to borrowing a book where you get it for free? This gives people the opportunity to read the book as possible and spread the word because if you like a book you will other people will buy it. Also I certainly cant afford all the books that i want to there hundreds on my tbr. I am not saying pirating is a good thing however the person that is pirating pronanly wouldnt have read the book if he didnt get it for free so technically you did not lose a sale.

  6. Avatar Shaad Zaman says:

    Also i want to say if you buy a paper copy of the book its unfair for readers to pay for a ebook also. i love to have books in paper copy but i love to read on my ereader so I can have all my books and have the flexibility to read any book i want to. I also loe to keep my books in best condition.

  7. Avatar Arley Sorg says:

    Pirating books sucks.

    Most books are pretty cheap. Too many talented authors struggle for recognition and finances as it is. I believe in supporting artists, supporting each other, and supporting small business (ie buy a book from a bookstore once in a while!)

    If an author is already rolling in cash (lucky!), the last argument in the column still makes sense.

  8. I price my ebooks much lower than $10. If you still can’t afford that, I don’t want you ripping my books off, I want them to sit out there and niggle at your thoughts — how good that book must be — gotta have it — my life isn’t complete until…until you can’t stand it anymore and have to sell a couple tee-shirts to afford it. ;->

  9. Avatar Khaldun says:

    I may have found and downloaded Scott Lynch’s ‘The Republic of Thieves’ because Chapters wouldn’t sell the book for the online price and I wanted it that day. I own every book that Lynch has written so far, and ordered the book online as I was starting to read the copy I found online. I have also sent him personal donations to support his writing of Queen of the Iron Sands.

    I don’t buy the argument that the author (or movie company or whatever) is necessarily losing out on a sale if the book is found online. Heck, Brandon Sanderson released Warbreaker on his website for free and I still bought a copy. Cory Doctorow’s books are awesome, and even though most are available in DRM-free formats, I own a wide selection of his novels.

    Frankly, I own too many books to buy novels from new authors without first reading it in the library, stealing glimpses in the bookshop, or, yes, downloading it online. If I bought every novel with a cool cover I’d rapidly empty my bank account. However, with that said, no one who has seen my library will ever accuse me of not supporting the writing of books.

  10. Avatar UnionJane says:

    This is a pretty controversial issue right now in light of the challenges of publishers to survive, midlist writers to survive, and readers to be able to afford books. An article linked on Book Riot the other day noted how almost 100 UK publishers have been forced to go out of business due to the hegemony of Amazon. (My sister noted even Amazon is taking a loss on book sales, which she says they use as a means to get people to the site to buy other stuff. I haven’t substantiated this claim.) Amazon has also coerced bookstores to raise their overhead, and that price is passed onto readers. It is more expensive than ever to go to a bookstore and purchase a brand new hardcover or even trade paperback, and it’s a small wonder people are getting their fixes elsewhere.

    That being said, I believe stealing an author’s work in the first place is a shameful thing to do. If someone is curious about an author, go to a brick and mortar store and check them out. Read online reviews, find where the best price is, and purchase it. That’s doing the author a favor that at least, somewhere down the chain, that counts as a sale. Most authors need these sales.

    The other aspect to this issue is that there are *free* resources available to people like me, who are in college and can’t afford most of the books I drool over at my bookstore job. I use the library extensively, and my local public library offers popular print and digital books (at an exorbitant cost to them, but that’s the publisher trying to recoup loss). My college library offers academic works and access to thousands of academic journals. My college library also allows students to check out Kindles for a few days with books preloaded on there, and DVDs. I make this point to say that while the library may not contribute to an author’s sales, it’s far better than going through the effort of stealing something.

    The last part I’d like to mention is that it’s common in Torrent/Pirate Bay culture that when you download something, you upload something else, and that is the technical part that’s considered breaking the law. Not everyone gets caught, obviously, but now where I live, it’s common for Internet providers to call you out with a warning and then suspend service if they discover you’re uploading. That would be insult to injury if it’s over a pirated book.

    Overall, I appreciate that people want to know what they’re buying before they purchase a book. It’s the act of stealing in the first place that I find so loathsome, because I believe it is a copout from doing honest research on a work to decide if they want to read it. Be an informed reader and make smart purchases.

    • Avatar Dan J. says:

      You’re entitled to your own opinion, of course, but I have a hard time following your logic. You make extensive use of the library. So you go to the library, check out a book and take it home and read it. When you’re done, you take it back and turn it in. The author of the book gets nothing. Meanwhile, i download the same book. I read it. The author of the book gets nothing. Your actions and my actions are functionally and effectively equivalent – we both gained enjoyment from reading the author’s works without providing any compensation to the author. Yet your actions are perfectly OK and acceptable while my action is “… a shameful thing to do.” I can’t follow that logic.

      Second, your information concerning BitTorrent is incorrect. BitTorrent is a two-way process. When you join a swarm, your client starts downloading chunks of the file. As soon as a chunk is downloaded, it’s available to be uploaded to anyone else in the swarm. You’re simultaneously uploading and downloading the file. Both uploading and downloading are violations of the copyright, and plenty of people have received warning notes from the ISP or been sued/threatened with suit by copyright holder’s solely for downloading.

      • Avatar Faith says:

        I’m not sure the person who commented above (Dan J) will ever see this as I’m late to the conversation, but borrowing from a library and downloading are not the same thing.

        Many authors and publishers are part of a partnership program with libraries that sees them receiving a small royalty every time their book is checked out from the library. It’s very small, but when you’re an author, every penny counts (since most authors barely make anything off their work in the first place).

        For many authors, the library DOES contribute to sales (in the sense that it provides a small source of revenue).

        So, no. Downloading and borrowing from the library are not the same thing at all.

  11. Avatar Splicer says:

    I will add this. I recently bought an album from the Swedish Rock group, The Flower Kings. Since I adore this band, I will buy their work albeit in downloadable form since that is what I prefer. I am sacrificing quality since none of the download sites will provide me with a lossless format nor will they provide me with the complete booklet that comes with the CD version. In other words, they are selling me an inferior product. Therefore, the booklet and artwork that I now have for this album are “pirated” versions.

    If an author, an artist or a musician want to sell me something in digital format, they can kindly provide me with the whole package. If there are a dozen maps for the fantasy brick I’m reading, I want all dozen maps whether I buy a hard copy of the book or a digital copy.

  12. Avatar TheDude42 says:

    What about buying a book, either in paperback or hardcover, then downloading the ebook for free?

  13. Avatar Sheogorath says:

    My request to readers would be PLEASE do not hurt our genre and the industry by being tempted into downloading books for free.
    So does that mean I should no longer use manybooks.net? I honestly believed it never hurt anything because authors like Frances Hodgson Burnett and L. Frank Baum are long dead, and thus cannot miss any revenues that might be generated by sales of their works.

    • Avatar Faith says:

      Books that are in the public domain are a different story entirely. Anyone — literally anyone — can package and re-sell a public domain book. Hence why they’re typically available for free (even on Kobo, Amazon, etc.).

      If the estate of the author still receives financial compensation from the works, I don’t think it’s actually in public domain, in which case downloading would be a case of missed revenues.

      (Someone please correct me if I’m wrong on that last point.)

  14. Avatar Jared says:

    As Marc says, the answer to the titular question is “no”.

    And if you have to come up with a complicated scenario in which the answer could possibly be “maybe”? The answer is still “no”.

  15. […] and publisher’s expense. The reason I found this interesting is that we’ve recently had a discussion on this site about illegal piracy and – pretty much all involved – concluded that if you’re doing it to read free […]

  16. Avatar Christopher Keene says:

    All-in-all I agree with Neil Gaiman’s view on this subject.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Qkyt1wXNlI

    This is a victim-less crime that not only helps writers get their stories out there but also creates a valuable filtering system for consumers who wish to spend there money only after sampling the goods. I only buy a story if I’ve enjoyed it, my collection will be one quality not quantity and the clutter and rubbish of hard copies are too much otherwise.

    If my books ever catch on, my chest would be unburried for the pirates with a big sign saying take what you will and give back only what you deem it’s quality deserves.

  17. Avatar Martin Sakur says:

    I don’t agree with this at all. Many books in my bookshelf are there because of pirating. I would never even heard of many of those authors if i hadn’t been a pirate. Being pirated is like the best commercial you can have in this kind of world we are living.

    Of course there are pirates who just want to get free content, but there actually are a lot of pirates who live by the rule: “If you like it, buy it!” And I consider myself one of those. I don’t want to buy e-books, i hate them, yet i own some of them, because they are easy to handle and carry with you. Yet I don’t have enough time to spend in bookstores to read the book before buying it. And in this world I would never buy book by the cover, so the only option I have is pirate these books. If I gonna really read this book, then I will go to bookstore and spend there 5 minutes to buy the book.

    For me it is simple e-book VS. real book problem. I just like to fill my bookshelves, look it, hold the books and the new book smell…oh god. And if I support the writer, then there is nothing wrong there. I just wanted to be sure that I have point buying this book, I don’t want to spend 25€ and find out that i don’t even like the book and i won’t ever read it. It’s like a guarantee.

    • Avatar Overlord says:

      Most books have sample chapters these days though? Amazon have the ‘look inside feature’ too…

      • Avatar Martin Sakur says:

        Sample chapters doesn’t mean anything….For the “Gunslinger” (Stephen King) i had to read over half the book to get even little bit exited about it and then read all the other 7 books…

        Sample chapters don’t give enough information, and it may be the most useless and bad-written chapter.

        And what use is this sample if i never even hear about this author??? For example, never heard about Robin Hobb before pirating, I saw, that she was on top-list of downloads and I gave it a shot. (Didn’t have any books in my native language either) After that i have bought all of her books…no regrets.

        What has the writer lost from this? I have read it and i have payed for it…Nothing. What has writer gained from it? Money, good words from me to my friends, writer is more known because (s)he has more downloads. More commercial is always only positive.

        Most people who read books and who like to read them, still like to read the REAL books. And the real readers still buy the book, not the e-book crap, because they want to hold it and turn the real pages and have something in their bookshelves. Nothing more nothing less.

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