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Old 02-18-2010, 11:31 AM   #1
Randolphlalonde
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EBook Piracy & The Indie

I'd like to open this topic with a simple principle demonstrated on a balance.

Positive: Piracy implies popularity and can lead to greater popularization.
Negative: For Indies, piracy really does equate a lost opportunity in revenue.

In this blog post I explain which side of the balance I land on, and why: http://randolphlalonde.blogspot.com/...rd-fringe.html

For those of you without patience or time to read the post, I'll just say that I land on the side against piracy. There's more to it, including what I had to do about my books being pirated, where the pirated copies came from and where they were being hosted, but I'll leave that to the blog post to explain.

So, what I'm looking for in this topic are your thoughts on the balance posted above, other points about EBook piracy.
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Old 02-18-2010, 12:39 PM   #2
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It seems to me that you're doing all the right things with your books in that they are easy to find (on Amazon and smashwords), convenient to get, reasonably priced, and DRM free. People who won't pay in that scenario are, it seems to me, unlikely to represent a lost sale - they just aren't going to pay. So, I'm not sure to what extent it really does lose you sales.

I wouldn't argue that piracy is a good thing for independent authors, but it is perhaps an inevitable thing.

One thought that occurs to me: many smashwords titles have a blurb at the beginning which says to buy your own copy etc. Why not put a page in at the end which says "if you enjoyed this, why not try my other titles at <url>" and perhaps "if you obtained this copy without paying, please donate at <url>". Placed at the end of the book, this might be more persuasive, as people have just had the benefit, rather than being about to enjoy it.
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Old 02-18-2010, 12:43 PM   #3
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I'm not so sure that piracy = popular. Piracy simply means that one person liked it and made it available. Or that the work was available to be pirated and adding another pirated item to one's list of pirated goods gives one greater stature in the pirate community. Or . . .

My point is that it is a big jump to equate piracy with popular, especially when no one knows how many downloads of pirated books actually lead to the book being read.

Similarly, it is not possible to equate piracy with a lost sale. I would be more inclined to make that equation if your ebooks sold for $30 and were only available for a closed system, but even then there is nothing to equate piracy with a lost sale.

This is a puzzle that is not easily solved when it comes to books.
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Old 02-18-2010, 01:28 PM   #4
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It seems to me that you're doing all the right things with your books in that they are easy to find (on Amazon and smashwords), convenient to get, reasonably priced, and DRM free. People who won't pay in that scenario are, it seems to me, unlikely to represent a lost sale - they just aren't going to pay. So, I'm not sure to what extent it really does lose you sales.
This, exactly.

I guess I am not sure why writers keep trying to make it like 'professional writing' is different or special compared to anything else. People steal candy bars from the local grocery store, and it hurts the little corner store guy more than it hurts the major grocery chain. It's wrong, and most people don't do it, but it happens. Such is life. The only way to have total control as a creator is to stick it in a drawer like Emily Dickinson did...
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Old 02-18-2010, 01:33 PM   #5
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I'm not so sure that piracy = popular. Piracy simply means that one person liked it and made it available. Or that the work was available to be pirated and adding another pirated item to one's list of pirated goods gives one greater stature in the pirate community. Or . . .

My point is that it is a big jump to equate piracy with popular, especially when no one knows how many downloads of pirated books actually lead to the book being read.
I think this is the fundamental issue. I think a few years ago it was the case (who was trolling USENET downloading every pirated book they could find?) but anymore it's more along the lines of "it's there? I'm grabbing it" whether they'll read it or not. I remember file sharers in the dorms back in the late '90s where some of these kids had hundreds of thousands of MP3s. They were clearly not listening to all (or even most) of them but pirated them anyway. I'm sure there are folks with thousands of pirated books on their computer who will not read a fraction of them.

You can even see some of this mentality evidenced in the Freebies forum on here:
Quote:
Yup, it's free on Smashwords, I've had it in my library for a while. If anyone has read it please let us know what you think.
While the book in question isn't pirated by any stretch, it's still along the lines of "it's free? I'll take it."
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Old 02-18-2010, 01:38 PM   #6
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It would be interesting to hear from someone who has free and priced items on Smashwords or some other site, what the ratio of free downloads to purchases they see. For roughly equivalent items, of course.
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Old 02-18-2010, 01:44 PM   #7
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I think this is the fundamental issue. I think a few years ago it was the case (who was trolling USENET downloading every pirated book they could find?) but anymore it's more along the lines of "it's there? I'm grabbing it" whether they'll read it or not. I remember file sharers in the dorms back in the late '90s where some of these kids had hundreds of thousands of MP3s. They were clearly not listening to all (or even most) of them but pirated them anyway. I'm sure there are folks with thousands of pirated books on their computer who will not read a fraction of them.

You can even see some of this mentality evidenced in the Freebies forum on here:

While the book in question isn't pirated by any stretch, it's still along the lines of "it's free? I'll take it."
If I find a title of an author on USENET or through IRC channels that I cannot find in e-book format on the commercial sites, I grab it. And, if I see an interesting title on those sites, I grab it. If it's an author I've never read before and I enjoyed the read, I then put the author on my "buy his/her works" list. Of course, I've got a B-H/H-W list that is far larger than the available titles on the commercial sites. Yes, I always first check out Amazon - and if the title is not available in Kindle, I click the 'release it in Kindle' link. And if it cannot be found after six months, I download it from the dark-net sites. Sorry, but if the publishers cannot find the time, energy or money to make the back-list titles available, I'm not going to deprive myself of an e-book version. Their loss.

Now the interesting point is that I have made it a habit of those ebooks I read more than once, if they become available commercially, I buy them. Why? Because I prefer to know that the authors are being compensated.

(And yes, I'd love a donate-to-the-authors clearinghouse for titles the publishers just "can't seem to get around to e-booking". I think a $1-$3 donation choice would be fair compensation.)

Derek
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Old 02-18-2010, 03:00 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Randolphlalonde View Post
So, what I'm looking for in this topic are your thoughts on the balance posted above, other points about EBook piracy.
If you want to be successful, worry about improving the value that you provide to your customers. "Pirates" are not your customers, so don't waste time/effort worrying about them.
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Old 02-18-2010, 03:12 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Randolphlalonde View Post
Positive: Piracy implies popularity and can lead to greater popularization.
Negative: For Indies, piracy really does equate a lost opportunity in revenue.
Just out of curiosity, what if "lending by public libraries" were substituted for "piracy"? I'm not defending piracy, but it seems that your arguments apply to both.

Of course, one can regard libraries as legitimate on traditional grounds, while still wanting to minimize losses where possible...
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Old 02-18-2010, 03:34 PM   #10
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The answer to the main question is easy, I come down on the "piracy is bad" side. It is stealing, people are taking something that they did not pay for - whether they read it or not, intend to pay for it later or not, or are doing it to teach someone a lesson, it is still wrong.

With all that being said however, there is no way to measure, unfortunately, how much piracy impacts sales. The only way to answer this would be poll a sizable percentage of pirates and find out why they got the pirated version and what they intend to do with it. For every answer you get that is "I took it because it was there" that is not a lost sale, however every
Quote:
Originally Posted by delphidb96 View Post
...if it cannot be found after six months, I download it from the dark-net sites.
, or similar answer, is a lost sale.

I'm not sure what the answer is, or even if there is one, until then though you have every right to continue to protect your sales by issuing take down notices.
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Old 02-18-2010, 04:27 PM   #11
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Just out of curiosity, what if "lending by public libraries" were substituted for "piracy"? I'm not defending piracy, but it seems that your arguments apply to both.

Of course, one can regard libraries as legitimate on traditional grounds, while still wanting to minimize losses where possible...
Libraries purchase one or more copies or, perhaps in the future of eBooks, the rights to them. Those copies are loaned out and after a time, they're taken back. If the work is good enough, a certain number of people (the percentage should be available from some publisher who did a study, I'm sure), buy them for their favorites shelf. I know a lot of people who actually still go to a library and, to my surprise, they all have a favorites shelf and it's pretty well stocked.

I hope that, when digital library subscriptions are commonplace world wide, the same system or a donation system takes the place of the favorites shelf. I suppose time will tell.
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Old 02-18-2010, 05:00 PM   #12
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The analogy still holds true. Pirates also purchase one or more copies - someone normally buys it to either strip the DRM or scan it. If the work is good enough, some of the people will buy the book for their favorites shelf. Lots of book pirates have bookshelves that are pretty well stocked.

The only difference is the idea that libraries loan books which are taken back after a period of time. The impact of that difference, especially as libraries move to lending multiple copies of e-books, may not be substantial. Books are unique because for most people, once they read the book, they're archived or deleted and not used again. That fact makes the impact of "returning" a book after its read pretty negligible.

And that's where books differ from MP3's that will be played over and over.
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Old 02-18-2010, 05:53 PM   #13
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If you want to be successful, worry about improving the value that you provide to your customers. "Pirates" are not your customers, so don't waste time/effort worrying about them.
Sure, write off the vast majority of the market because they've downloaded some random MP3 once.

...

Sigh.
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Old 02-18-2010, 06:07 PM   #14
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The answer to the main question is easy, I come down on the "piracy is bad" side. It is stealing, people are taking something that they did not pay for - whether they read it or not, intend to pay for it later or not, or are doing it to teach someone a lesson, it is still wrong.

With all that being said however, there is no way to measure, unfortunately, how much piracy impacts sales. The only way to answer this would be poll a sizable percentage of pirates and find out why they got the pirated version and what they intend to do with it. For every answer you get that is "I took it because it was there" that is not a lost sale, however every
, or similar answer, is a lost sale.

I'm not sure what the answer is, or even if there is one, until then though you have every right to continue to protect your sales by issuing take down notices.
It is. And that is the sad part of piracy. But what makes it more so is that for a very small investment on my part, I can skip dark-net downloads completely, take my very capable 5MP webcam and a $0.50 paperback and create my own version in just a few short hours - all without putting a dime in the author's pocket. And I recoup much of the dead-tree investment simply by trading it back to the used-book store. (10%-25% of cover price in store credit around here) Or, if I want to do so, I can just check the book out from my local library and accomplish the same thing. Yet another failure to put money in the author's pocket. But who's to blame, the 'pirate' who just wants to have an electronic version of the novel, or the publisher for failing to follow through with digitizing the backlists???

And I note that in the U.S. there's no real legal backlash against copying for personal use. Sure, it's against the law to *sell* that digital copy, but as I'm only seeking an e-book for personal use...

Again, in a perfect world, all backlist titles would be rapidly digitized and marketed by the publishers - for a reasonable price. Too bad the publishers refuse to work towards making this a 'perfect world'.

Derek
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Old 02-18-2010, 06:51 PM   #15
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And I note that in the U.S. there's no real legal backlash against copying for personal use. Sure, it's against the law to *sell* that digital copy, but as I'm only seeking an e-book for personal use...
Hmm....

::contemplates buying used books, digitizing them to read, burning the digital version to CD in several formats, deleting the copies on my hard drive, and selling the used books w/disc attached.::

Nah. Don't have the free time for lawyer-invoking hobbies. But fun to think about.
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