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Old 07-30-2007, 01:56 PM   #1
Alexander Turcic
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Exclusive interview with "Deathly Hallows" e-book pirates

Photographed pages of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" were flooding popular BitTorrent search engine sites days ahead of the book's official publication date. Although some of these photos were barely readable, it didn't stop DSB, an e-book pirates group, to type out (i.e. transcribe) the full thing in less than 48 hours after the initial leak and to release it in readable e-book formats. MobileRead had a chat with one of the leaders of DSB.

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Hello DSB. How many people where involved in OCRing and proofreading the leaked photo images?

DSB originally had seven members who worked on releasing the first 10 chapters of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows". After that, we sent an email asking people for help. I really don't know how many people helped in total, but about 100-150 volunteered. Of these, maybe 10-15 actually ended up helping.

What hardware and software did you use?

Just our day-to-day computers (i.e. nothing special) with an image reader software, and occasionally Adobe Photoshop to enhance/sharpen the leaked images. No OCR software was used, it was all rewritten. We tried for a while to use OCR, but it just wouldn't read the images.

Perhaps OCR will improve one day with the launch of Google's OCRopus project. Last year, the e-book of "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" was released in about 12 hours after the hardcover release. How long did it take you in total?

We started Monday morning and by Tuesday night we had our first 10 chapters done. We only worked for about 8-9 hours a day. After that, we received much more help and got the remaining 26 chapters plus epilogue done by Thursday morning and finally released it on Thursday afternoon.

And what was the original idea of scanning "Deathly Hallows"?

Well, we didn't scan it. We transcribed it. We all wanted to read it but hated those horrible pictures because they were killing our eyes. We decided that if each one of us takes a chapter from 1-10, we could all read the book in a nice format and only put in a little work. From there on we decided it wasn't right to keep this to ourselves. We wanted to keep the release within the group but realized we wouldn't be able to finish in time if we only had our 7 people.

Let's talk about the e-book scene. What attracted you to it?

See above.

We hear a lot about the 0-day and the movie scene. Is there a connection to the e-book scene? Is the e-book scene structured in similar ways (eg. with competiting release groups)?

Well, I'm not really part of any other group and this was our first and maybe only release. There was, however, competition. After our 10-chapter release, another group released chapters 11-21 soon after. A couple of hours after them we released the entire book.

Aren't you afraid of getting in trouble should publishers take aim - like RIAA and MPAA have done for the movie and record industries?

Sure we're afraid, but we think we've taken enough preventative measures as to not get caught.

Well, the person who shot the original photos included the EXIF-data of his camera along with its serial number. Do you think they will eventually track him down? Should he worry?

I don't think he should worry all that much; unless he registered his camera, there's no way - as far as I know - to track him down. Furthermore even if he did register his camera, he could have just "sold it", "broke it" or "lost it" years ago, and what proof would anyone have otherwise. Regardless though, if he did register his camera and if he is a librarian responsible for keeping the Harry Potter books secure then he may be in some trouble.

Where do you see e-books in 12 months from now?

I don't think they'll be much if any different than they are now.

What would you say to JK Rowling if you had the chance?

I would tell her, thank you for making a great book which has actually made so many people read. I'd also tell her that I'm disappointed in how the last two chapters ended and that I don't understand why she had to make this a children's book with a fairy-tale ending. Finally, I'd like to tell her that the leaks didn't kill her book sales at all, and that she - along with her publishers - shouldn't worry about piracy of the Harry Potter books; people will buy them regardless of whether or not they can read them for free. I know I did.
Disclaimer: We at MobileRead obviously don't support the distribution of pirated books. Despite the leak, as of today, Monday 30th July, "Deathly Hallows" remains at No. 1 on the best-seller lists of Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com.

Related: Pirate Bay and the Torrent on Fire, Harry Potter 6 e-book already being pirated!
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Old 07-30-2007, 03:37 PM   #2
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Old 07-30-2007, 04:18 PM   #3
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There's a poorly-disguised piece of fanfiction going around various usenet ebook groups purporting to be Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The one on Pirate Bay seems authentic, though.
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Old 07-31-2007, 02:27 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alexander Turcic View Post
DSB originally had seven members who worked on releasing the first 10 chapters of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows". After that, we sent an email asking people for help. I really don't know how many people helped in total, but about 100-150 volunteered. Of these, maybe 10-15 actually ended up helping.
Interesting. You'd call this distributed proof-reading, I guess. What amazes me is that someone actually sat down and typed the whole thing.
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Old 07-31-2007, 02:28 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Egghead View Post
There's a poorly-disguised piece of fanfiction going around various usenet ebook groups purporting to be Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The one on Pirate Bay seems authentic, though.
Rowling's lawyers never wanted to confirm that the leaked photographs were authentic. But their actions spoke for themselves...
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Old 07-31-2007, 07:20 AM   #6
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We at MobileRead obviously don't support the distribution of pirated books. Despite the leak, as of today, Monday 30th July, "Deathly Hallows" remains at No. 1 on the best-seller lists of Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com.
The first sentence seems fair to me, but the second seems to indicate that, if a book is succesful, it's less faulthy to copy?
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Old 07-31-2007, 07:53 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by dura View Post
The first sentence seems fair to me, but the second seems to indicate that, if a book is succesful, it's less faulthy to copy?
Nope, it is still as wrong to do so. But publishers like to argue that a) e-books are a niche too small to be taken serious, and b) selling e-books will inevitably lead to piracy which would dramatically hurt overall sales.

In my opinion, they are wrong on both accounts. Mrs Rowling and her publishers continue to refuse to accept the fact that people are interested in e-books, despite the recent buzz and the huge amount of downloads of the leaked, transcribed "Deathly Hallows".

The question is how much did the leak hurt or help the sale of "Deathly Hallows". Here a quote from the publisher of Bill Clinton's "My Life":

"I can't think of an example from our publishing list where sales were hurt," says Paul Bogaards, director of publicity at Alfred A. Knopf, which published Clinton's book. "None of the leaks are going to hurt sales of Potter."
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Old 07-31-2007, 08:04 AM   #8
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The e-book scene is nothing new.

A few years ago there was the ebookz.org headquarter (was busted - doesn´t exist any more). Also there were the Wochenpakete ('weekly packets') which contained a package of collected new released e-Books.

I think the e-Book scene is still very small, but will get bigger after reliable e-Book Reader will be released.
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Old 07-31-2007, 08:27 AM   #9
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I agree. Will it have the same effect upon the publishing industry as Napster & Co. had on the music industry? :rolleyes2
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Old 07-31-2007, 09:20 AM   #10
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I guess I shouldn't be surprised that Rowling and her publishers object to free copies of the book being passed around (however short-sighted they may be about the impact on sales). The thing I was disappointed to read about was her reaction to the final epilogue appearing online. I read an interview in which she was quite irate that anyone would want to read the epilogue before reading the rest of the book. She actually expressed a wish that it could have been published separately, to somehow force people to read the book first.

Now, I understand that she's spent 17 years of her life getting to this point, but that seems just a touch controlling. I'm sure most authors would prefer that people read their works as written, and if I had a series with a complicated surprise ending, I wouldn't be any too amused by people jumping into forums and spilling the ending on people who hadn't even had a chance to read the book yet. But honestly, once the book is sent to the publisher, the author really does need to let go. You can't force people to read page by page or whatever.
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Old 07-31-2007, 10:52 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by TadW View Post
Interesting. You'd call this distributed proof-reading, I guess. What amazes me is that someone actually sat down and typed the whole thing.
There are a lot of errors in the typed copy. There is even a case where some of the paragraphs are out of order. Now I know some of the combined paragraphs are due to the shoddy way the PDF was created. It's so shoddy that the first few (or so) paragraphs come out as one in the conversion and that's using Adobe Acrobat 8 to convert. Lots of obvious little typos. Some missed italics, and ... that should have been .... and punctuation errors as well. While it's not perfect, it's a lot better then what I have read about how bad HP6 was when the first scanned/ORCed copy came out. It was a nightmare supposedly.
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Old 07-31-2007, 12:29 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Alexander Turcic View Post
In my opinion, they are wrong on both accounts. Mrs Rowling and her publishers continue to refuse to accept the fact that people are interested in e-books, despite the recent buzz and the huge amount of downloads of the leaked, transcribed "Deathly Hallows".
We may disagree with her decision not to release HP as an ebook, but the decision is hers and hers alone to make. Nobody has a "God-given" right to an electronic version of a book - while that text is protected by copyright, the decision as to whether or not to release it electronically lies solely with the author, and I for one strongly believe that right should be respected and protected.
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Old 07-31-2007, 12:51 PM   #13
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We may disagree with her decision not to release HP as an ebook, but the decision is hers and hers alone to make. Nobody has a "God-given" right to an electronic version of a book - while that text is protected by copyright, the decision as to whether or not to release it electronically lies solely with the author, and I for one strongly believe that right should be respected and protected.
Harry, you are absolutely right. Her copyright is to be respected and protected by all means. And, as you say, we also have the right to disagree with her, and to discuss the possible reasons she or her publishers may have to ignore the e-book. Until recently, the majority of the music industry ignored and condemned digital audio formats; today, it is one of their major revenue carriers (iTunes).
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Old 07-31-2007, 02:56 PM   #14
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I agree. Will it have the same effect upon the publishing industry as Napster & Co. had on the music industry? :rolleyes2
You mean increasing their sales until they force the closure of the service? Probably.
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Old 07-31-2007, 04:04 PM   #15
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I think the e-Book scene is still very small, but will get bigger after reliable e-Book Reader will be released.
Actually, I think we have a lot of reliable e-book readers right now. What we don't yet have is the single overridingly popular format (like music's MP3), which will bring everyone in publishing and reading to the same table, and eliminate a great deal of wasteed time and effort.

We also need the overridingly popular reason for more people to read e-books. MP3s became popular because they were ultimately mobile... but they skyrocketed when Apple created the cool-as-hell iPod that everyone wanted, even before iTunes provided easy-to-get legal content.

E-books need a value-added element... something that makes e-books more desirable to more people (or at least seem better to more people), to spur buying.

If a single reader turns out to have a "wow" factor, like the iPod, that could do it. Or if there is some other desirable content that can be added to the e-book, say, electronic coupons for other products, that could do it. (Imagine if buying an e-book entitled you to 50% off at your favorite fast-food chain or discounts at the sports store... you'd see kids lining up for 'em.)
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