Nathan Bransford, Author

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Will the Piracy Threat Resolve Itself?

As e-book adoption steadily increases, I think writers and artists have a very good reason to wonder if easily pirated e-books are going to do to the publishing industry what Napster did to the record industry. With news that Dan Brown's last novel was pirated within hours of being released and with e-reader adoption growing steadily, it's a serious concern.

I know there are lots of bitter types out there who would love nothing more than to stomp on the grave of publishers, but if they fall it's going to have a profound effect on the quality of books.

Now... There will always be books. Publishers or no publishers, agents or no agents, paid authors or no paid authors, people are going to write, and some will write very well no matter what. But I think the overall quality of books would suffer tremendously if very few people can make any money doing it. Not only because there wouldn't be publishers to edit and copyedit and market, but the fewer people who can make any money or spend any time writing books because they have no hope of getting paid will result in lesser the competition and lesser the choice and lesser the quality.

This isn't the music industry - no one is making money on an author tours or Ian McEwan t-shirt sales no matter how many I personally would buy.


Lately something has happened that made me wonder if perhaps my worries about piracy might be somewhat overblown.

There's a site that I'm not going to link to or name because I don't want to give them any traffic at all. Let's call them FakeTorrent. FakeTorrent is a site that purports to contain all sorts of pirated material, including books, that you can download very easily and holy cow thousands of people have already done it. All you have to do is install the right software.

And, of course, the software is a virus. Or they're phishing for credit cards. Or some other nefarious activity. I didn't stick around long enough to find out. But! There's nothing being pirated. Essentially: they're scamming pirates.

Could this be the future? Since pirates are already downloading files from dubious sites, is lacing a highly sought-after file with a virus or ads or scams a sufficient growth industry to actually deter piracy?

Now... don't get me wrong. I'm not some starry-eyed Pollyanna who thinks piracy is going to go away entirely.

But I also have been around the Internet long enough to know the life cycle of user-generated websites, whether they be eBay, Friendster, Myspace, Craigslist, or a file sharing site. First the early adopters come along and everything works great. Very exciting! Then comes mass adoption, which strains the site's capacity to keep everything running smoothly. And then, inevitably, come the spammers and scammers to ruin it for everyone. Once they arrive, using the site becomes tremendously annoying.

The only user-generated sites that have had any longevity at all are ones that have successfully kept the spammers and scammers at bay. And it takes an incredible amount of resources and ingenuity to stay ahead of them and sort them out from the regular users. (Twitter is on the cusp of the spammer/scammer wave, incidentally, and it will be interesting to see how well they handle it.)

I wonder if we're going to see a similar life cycle in Internet piracy. Any piracy site or sharer that has built sufficient users and resources to ensure quality control will also (hopefully) be a big enough target that it can be taken down by lawsuits (see, incidentally, the Scribd lawsuit over its laissez faire policy regarding the uploading of possibly copyrighted material). There's also, I think, a significant business opportunity for companies that specialize in reducing or eliminating piracy.

Obviously someone that is truly motivated will find a way, and pirates may adapt to new challenges and barriers. But I wonder whether mass piracy is really in our future.

Essentially: my hope is that pirating material will be a sufficient pain in the ass that people will just go ahead and buy through trusted and legal sites that can guarantee quality control. Maybe that's overly optimistic, but you can bet I'm counting my lucky stars as an agent and author that e-books weren't all the rage in the year 2000 when many of us had vastly underdeveloped Internet consciences.

What do you think? How big of a threat is piracy? Should I be worried?


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Travener said...

I think it's kind of inevitable but likely to affect only mega-sellers like Dan Brown and Stephen King. And since I'm not too worried about being in their shoes, I'm not too worried about piracy, either.

Scott said...

I wonder what the percentages are of pirated books versus purchased books. Stealing is stealing and it sucks, but if it's low enough, than there still may be ways to make up the difference with special editions or some other marketing gimmick.

And as Travener said, this is happening to the big boys. Just as in Hollywood where you're nobody until you have your very own stalker, I'd take piracy to mean you're doing just fine otherwise. :^)

dan radke said...

I don't think it'll be that big a deal. Five years ago I downloaded everything. Music, television, hacked software. All free.

But it got old. Watching Christopher ice a guy on a 17" monitor. Ridiculously awesome music in ridiculously crappy quality. Not to mention the occasional virus.

But then I grew up. Got a bigger tv and decided HBO was worth it. Started using iTunes with an iPod (soooo much faster). And as much as I'd like to think I'm a unique snowflake, I'd venture to guess that your average pirate goes through a similar evolution.

D said...

Here's a little known fact, one that the music and movie industries absolutely refuse to acknowledge:

Pirated Copy of Media != Lost Sale

People who pirate movies/music/books, for the most part, are totally normal people and tend to fall into two categories:

1. They download something to test drive it and will pay for it if they really like it.

2. They download basically everything and never had any intention of buying that media to begin with.

The former situation is much more common and applies heavily to music and movies (although maybe not as much to e-books). As Dan mentioned above, you can download a movie, but it sucks watching on even a fantastic computer monitor when you have a nicer TV in the house.

The latter situation applies to a pretty small breed of people who are basically media anarchists. These are the "free flow of information" people...they'll download something and distribute it to others simply because it's popular and forbidden. They were never going to buy that item. Therefore, no sale is lost when they touch it.

In short: quit worrying, it's really not that big a deal.

Jeff said...

There is already mass piracy of material, from movies to games to books. The issue isn't so much the pirates(not that they aren’t a problem) but how businesses reacted to it.

There are always going to be people that want stuff for free, or who think things are over priced and want to try before they buy. Its not going away anytime soon. But what killed the music industry is how they went about it, they attacked their customers and began to hire companies to spy on them. They also fought the way the market was going, there were no online stores for music at the time of Napster and you had to buy an entire CD for one song. People wanted the choice to buy one song, which as you see they are willing to do with iTunes, even when its easier than ever to pirate.

With video games, the draconian DRM pushed a lot of people to pirate because the pirates were offering a BETTER experience than the companies who had you jump through hoops.

But my point is really this, piracy isn't going anywhere, books are already pirated by people, and viruses are just part of the ecosystem of pirating and always have been so that's not much a deterrent. But people, in general, don't want to break the law and as long as e-books provide a good user experience then people will buy, which is why game companies like EA have gone slack with their DRM on their computer games and have in turn sold more copies.

Laura Williams said...

I think part of this depends on what the legitimate publishers do. There are already cases in the software and the music world where the legitimate users are penalized, for instance when a form of DRM is no longer supported and anyone who bought content with that DRM can't access it any more.

If I can pirate something, and be guaranteed to be able to use the file I get, or I can buy something and hope the content provider doesn't later remove my access, then from that perspective, the pirated version is the 'better' product. (Moral issues and other risks aside)

As well, piracy isn't that new. People have been pirating software for decades, and it's still a very common activity. There are scammers and spammers in that content area as well, but they haven't, in my opinion, made much of a dent.

I'd like to see less piracy, more money going to content creators AND those who work to make content accessible, but I'm quite skeptical that this is a passing trend.

Nathan Bransford said...


Honestly I feel like that's something that people who pirate media try and convince themselves of, but there's no evidence to support it. Look at the music industry's revenue since 1999, when, coincidence coincidence, music industry revenue peaked before falling off precipitously, never to recover.

I don't think one pirated copy = one lost sale, but sales are absolutely still being lost to piracy.

Lydia Sharp said...

As long as we have the internet, this is going to be an issue. I don't think it's so much a worry as it is a frustration. We'll figure out how to work around it, but in the meantime, my eyes are bleeding and I'm getting a migraine from thinking about it.

Nathan Bransford said...

And in case it isn't clear, I'm appalled that people can make a case for piracy. There is no case for piracy - a book I stole from a book store is a "better product" in the sense that it's cheaper than if I had stopped by the register and paid for it. Doesn't make it right.

Scott said...

Good points here. I thought of a couple more to add:

1) Haven't we always borrowed books from those who have bought them and then passed them around? Nearly half of the books I've read in my lifetime have come from other libraries, as that's how I got introduced to them in the first place. Better marketing of an author and a book may beat my neighbor to the punch.

2) I'm convinced that soon our computers and TV's will operate under the same systems, and therefore media will be exchanged. So pirating films will likely offer the same experience as selecting them On-Demand or purchasing/renting a DVD. That said, never before to my knowledge have kids and film buffs been so into movie and memorabilia collection. So much money is spent outside the theater in relations to a property that I can scarcely believe new, younger audiences aren't making up some incredible numbers.

wickerman said...

One thing publishers can do is to allow for some kind of extra value in what they sell. If every 'legit' copy sold has a password for the authors website that you can use to access otherwise unavailable content, that encourages you to buy a legit copy - e-version or physical.

If that 'special code' can be used to enter yourself into a contest to win free books, a phone call from the author or the ARC for the next novel, it's worth going the legal route. if the code only works once, stealing a copy of my e-book isn't going to get you anything.

Is this perfect? No. Some people will be willing to pass up some extra value to get their hands on a free book. Those people as many posters above mentioned, are going to steal it no matter what. The industry needs to offer something to folks who are on the fence.

Nathan Bransford said...

Also I didn't mean that last comment in reference to anyone in the thread, just in general.

SZ said...

If you are a big author, cant you hold off on releasing the E copy ? It would be interesting to see if the book sales waned, though with that large a fan base, I think they would do well.

As e books get popular, even a new author may want to hold off.

MBA Jenna said...

There does seem to be a strong age/maturity element to the level of piracy in any given market, so if your content (movie, book, music) is attractive to 18-25 year olds (esp. boys), I suspect that you will experience a fair bit of piracy. No matter what.

For all the other consumers, I think it's mostly a matter of price: the higher the price, the greater the temptation for even people who know better to pirate a work.

If you keep the price points close to what the customer thinks is the "real value" of the work, they will be more likely to pay rather then take the legal/karmic risk of piracy.

Making piracy continually more technically difficult is a necessary basic defense, but there will always be bored or rebellious people with the time and inclination to create the next piracy platform.

iTunes is a great experiment in using pricing and accessibility to combat piracy. Three years from now, I bet 75-90% of music content piracy will be confined to the teenage boy content.

D. G. Hudson said...

There will always be scam artists, people who want to get something for nothing, and who relish the idea of beating the systems set up to thwart them.

I think all artists (writers, musicians, etc) have to be aware of the threat, but it may be hard to prevent theft or duplicity occurring in such an open field as the internet.

I'm hoping someone will develop a means to police the ownership of book rights, but even that smacks of 'big brother watching' a la 1984.

This is something I think publishing should be concerned about, as it affects the industry as well as the creators -- the writers and the people that support them. IMO, that is.

L. T. Host said...

The thought of you in a gingham dress with a scarf 'round your head and stars in your eyes made me giggle, a little. Hope you don't mind.

At any rate, piracy is a tricky issue. I think the pendulum will eventually switch back the other way, only because the internet conscience is starting to appear now. People are starting to realize that when you pirate something, you are hurting someone else. It may be easier to do because it's online, but it's still a form of shoplifting. It will (hopefully) become harder for them to access content physically, technologically, and morally. But I have discussed this with my boyfriend, that if my books ever get published I would be really angry if they were pirated. I hope that the personal effect it would have on me/ us would show him how wrong it really is, as he's indifferent to the situation currently.

L. T. Host said...

*Pendulum would SWING, not switch. Ugh, I'm still sleepy, apparently.

Kristi said...

Does anyone know the percentage of people obtaining pirated books versus pirated movies/music? This will sound a little Pollyanna-ish but I would like to think that it would be less for books. Given the time investment in reading a book vs. watching a movie/listening to a song, I'd think there would be fewer people looking to scam the system for a book. Either way, unlike my young son - I don't like pirates.

JamesHutchinson said...

I bought every single Sherlock Holmes book for my Kindle for $3.60. Amazing. That's how you beat piracy.

Laura Martone said...

Maybe you ARE a starry-eyed Pollyanna, Nathan, but I still hope you're right. Pirates will always find a way, of course, but I hope that mass piracy doesn't ruin publishing for everyone... and I'm saying that as an unpublished novelist who hopes to make a living from her fiction someday. If the pirates win, the quality of content will surely decline - there's no doubt in my mind.

Annalee said...

Well, you do have to download software to use torrents. I don't know if you were on a particularly seedy (no pun intended) sight that was doing something weird, but most torrent sites will tell you to go download BitTorrent or an alternative.

Also, as others have already noted, downloads do not correlate directly to lost sales. Economic analysis has shown that most people who download work wouldn't have paid for it anyway.

In fact, SF writer Cory Doctorow gives every one of his books away for free online as soon as they're published in print, and he says it's done nothing but wonders for his sales. He's got a great article about it here:

Publishers trying to figure out how to stop file-sharing are asking the wrong question. They should be trying to figure out how best to take advantage of it.

Anonymous said...

anoys tomas here ... the comparison of music with books is fundamentally incorrect. One listens to music & pop songs max out at, maybe, 4 minutes. Books, one must read: it's a different engagement process. And - this is just me - I can't stand, CANNOT - ereaders. I've asked random youngster (18-24 yo) about the book vs. the reader machine & what's curious is they all liken reading on a kindle'ish device to reading on the computer. something surprise, they're not eager to do. since this is the same bit-torrent/apple apps gen everyone's worried about, a dose of research, something, might be useful. also, aren't most e-books romance novels, a genre that lends itself i.e., high purchase rate / turnover, to device reading?

onefinemess said...

I've never been convinced that piracy seriously affects sales.

Look at the comic book industry. Almost every single book is "pirated" and available 0-day. Yet their sales still follow the same old predictable pattern. If anything, I'd say the piracy helps sales... if only based on anecdotal evidence of people saying "I bought this because I downloaded it first." I rarely see "I downloaded this so I don't have to buy it."

The masses still seem to favor hard copies of things - some just take extra effort to get their money's worth. Of course, some just weren't going to spend any money anyway, so they pirate all kinds of things (that's my general take on most "serious" pirates: the vast majority of the things they pirate are not things they would buy anyway).

NOW, once that paradigm has shifted to digital copies as the favored medium... then maybe I'll worry a little.

Dori said...

Piracy is one of those problems that just never goes away. People will always want something for nothing, regardless of the harm it causes.

However, as time has gone by, pirates find new ways to steal and the owners find new ways to thwart them.

Should we be worried? Of course. This is ours and others' incomes. Should we try to prevent it, yes. But is it the beginning of the end? No. It hasn't been in the past and won't be in the future. The music industry has had to change its model but it hasn't ceased to exist. Nor will it.

Liz said...

I think all the stats and figures and comparisons to the music industry circa 1999 make the issue of book pirating look like a much bigger problem than it actually is. Here's what I mean:

I have over a thousand books in my library. Not every book I've ever read is here; not every book here is one I've read. It works out to be around the same figure, more or less. Of these thousand or so books, I would say I bought 25% of them new. Another 10% were gifts. The rest were either bought remaindered, at deep discount, from a used-book or second-hand store, from garage sales, stolen from public libraries, or borrowed from friends and never returned. Yes, I am THAT person.

So if you're looking at pirating from a profit-loss standpoint, I'm already not paying for a good portion of the books I read. And since I donate, sell, and let borrow books from my library, I'm passing the savings on to others. If I were to steal anything (which I don't do and don't condone), it wouldn't affect a publisher's bottom line in the least, since it's money they wouldn't be getting out of me, anyway.

I think if publishing can survive libraries, used book stores, paperbackswap, ebay, Amazon's used marketplace, et cetera, it can survive ebook pirating. Not only is music more ubiquitous than reading, making the comparisons between them apples to oranges, but I don't see the demand for an eReader ever rivaling that of an iPod. For most people, the convenience of paying for a paperback, even a used one, will outweigh any desire to download a book for free that can only be read on their computer.

More than anything, though, I think publishers need to take a closer look at why people don't want to pay full price for their products. I have a hard time justifying the price of a new hardcover, even at 40% off, and that's for books I really want to read. I think if I were ever forced to pay retail price for every book I read, my taste level would increase substantially. Just because I sometimes get off on reading crap doesn't mean I don't recognize it for what it is, and I'd rather go without reading Evanovich's latest homage to elementary school fart jokes than pay twenty-eight bucks to read it.

Susan Quinn said...

I think piracy's biggest effect will be on price point. Ebooks too.

Piracy = zero cost
Ebooks = much lower cost

Assuming the industry reacts reasonably (and doesn't start attacking its customers), the lower cost of pirated books and e-books will put a downward pressure on the price of wood pulp kind.

Just my 2 cents.

Karla Doyle said...

People who download/steal content may not have been potential purchasers, but what about the half dozen or more friends they copy it for? I'd hold each pirate responsible for that many copies, at least, given the wave effect.

Emily White said...

No, I don't think that piracy will ever come to an end. These websites that provide pirated material and the software to download them will merely adapt to spammers/scammers the same way Myspace, Facebook, etc. has.

That being said, will book sales suffer to the extent that movie and music sales have? There are still a LOT of people out there who are turned off by ebooks, even if they could get it for free. There's something about actually holding a book that many people find appealing.

Also, is there anything the publishing companies can do to counteract piracy? It's very discouraging to think that you can work hard your entire life to get to point of becoming a household name, only to then have your work stolen.

Thermocline said...

I wonder if the moral imperative to not pirate books is as strong as with other types of media since anyone can legally obtain a free copy of a book. The rationale that a library book isn't any different from a torrent download since I don't have to pay for either probably seems reasonable, especially to someone who doesn't generate salable content.

Marilyn Peake said...


I'm in the process of reading your blog for today ... and noticed what might be a little Freudian slip. In the third paragraph, you wrote: "paid authors or paid authors". I think you meant "paid authors or no paid authors". LOL.

Anonymous Internet Coward said...

I didn't STEAL my copy of The Lost Symbol... I just borrowed it... from a friend... okay, a big group of anonymous friends... in PDF format.

I have read all of Dan Brown's books. One came from a library, two were borrowed from friends, and one was found in a hostel. I think his prose is garbage, but I'm intrigued by anyone who generates this much press and controversy, so I spare a few hours of my day to skim one of his books.

I can't afford to pay for all the books I read in a year, so I borrow from friends, and they in turn borrow for me. Will the digital age change this behaviour because of the easy of copying rather than loaning? Yes. Will the publishers need to adapt their business plans to accommodate this shift? Yes.

Do they seem to be doing so now? Not really. I recently considered an eReader purchase until I learned that the digital copies of some of the books I was interested in cost more than their hard copy counterparts at my local discount book shop. Pissed? You betcha. Why pay more for a crippled (read: DRM) copy of a book? Why support an industry that seems to want to find new ways to restrict your usage of a product as they move into a new a technological frontier?

I'm an anonymous internet coward, and I enjoy pirated reading material. I may start doing this more often.

Nathan Bransford said...


Ha - wishful thinking on the part of my subconscious.

Nathan Bransford said...


And we all think you're REALLY cool. Really.

There are kinks still to be worked out. I'm pretty sure Yoda said: self-righteousness this does not justify.

Nathan Bransford said...

And btw, people don't really think pirating is like going to the library, do they? Surely everyone can see the difference between one book that is checked out sequentially at a library by a limited number of people vs. lots and lots of people downloading the same copy that may not have even been bought in the first place?

AM said...

Piracy will always be an ongoing concern, but it will only be a major threat in the interim while we wait for the industry’s protection technologies and protocols to catch up with the new distribution technology.

As with all new technology, there are security loopholes that crooks are exploiting. However, as the mainstream market adopts the new technology and the industry understand the security threats more clearly, the industry will design and implement the necessary infrastructure (technological and procedural) to protect the profitability of their products – in this case, eBooks.

So, yes, eventually the pirating threat will be resolved (for the most part), but not by itself. Nevertheless, it is always a boon when other crooks rob the crooks. At least it may act as a speed bump and slow the industry’s losses in the interim.

Ken Hannahs said...

Back in the day (which was subsequently a Wednesday) I used to download free music. It wasn't bad, at least nobody told me it was bad, and there was essentially no ramifications to it. Then artists came out and pleaded with the public to stop, and I thought about my impact on the community of people who live on sales revenues (it's not just the artist... it's also everyone that works for the producer and even the shop that you got your music from before) and I stopped cold turkey. Now I get all my music on iTunes and it's pretty cheap. Only asshats still pirate music, and if you pirate a book, you're just a total skeezeball.

I recently bought Pat Conroy's SOUTH OF BROAD on my Kindle, and I have read it now for approximately five hours of my life... I'm about half way done it (give or take... it's a really long book). Putting this into perspective, the book was $10... the same price as your new Beyonce or Pearl Jam CD on iTunes. Now, do you think that you will spend 10 hours of your life actively listening to a music CD? You might, but I sure won't. Books are an amazing value. Buy them. Don't steal them. Enjoy them and love them.

AM said...

Anonymous internet coward,

You are not borrowing a book. You are receiving stolen goods.

Eventually, the laws will include prosecuting people who receive stolen eBooks just as they prosecute people who knowingly receive other types of stolen merchandise today.

Anthony said...

The days of piracy for e-books are already here and have been for some time.

"Since pirates are already downloading files from dubious sites, is lacing a highly sought-after file with a virus or ads or scams a sufficient growth industry to actually deter piracy?"

The virus portion of this is a felony in the United States, so no, that won't be done.

There are non-DRM economic models out there that work. e-books will naturally adjust to these models or the publishers will wither and die.

Baen is a good publisher to study on how it all should work, they are very progressive in building and obtaining an audience and e-books are part of their plan to do that.

I have a CD on my desk that has I don't know how many David Weber books on it, and I got it for free. Yet I buy his new books. In hardcover. The day they are released.

There are no easy answers here, but there are some telling ones. For example, iTunes discouraging DRM conveniently after locking in a ease-of-use model through critical mass. Steam is also another interesting subscription service that locks customers into paying for legitimate copies of software games simply because the service is so convenient and feature rich.

Whatever the direction the publishing companies go, if they choose a model that is inconvenient for the reader, it will fail. Piracy concerns are no concern for the legitimate book buyer, but everyone seems to forget that.

Nathan Bransford said...

Honest question: how does the anti-DRM crowd feel about the good features of DRM, such as the syncing between devices that it allows?

A name will be forthcoming. said...

I'm trying to remember what harm Napster did to the music industry. As far as I can remember it forced them to maybe rethink their distribution methods. Or making people pay 20 bucks for wanting two songs.

I also don't think Baen's Free Library has hurt them. I know for a fact that I have purchased books that I wouldn't have because I read them for free and got hooked.

lotusgirl said...

Piracy is such a scary thought. I'm thinking (or is that hoping) that it will resolve itself in the end. It would seem that it would be a whole lot easier to just pay for the book than to be bombarded with viruses, etc. Of course, this coming from someone who wouldn't dream of pirating anything. So... I'm probably not the best judge.

Marilyn Peake said...

Interesting blog post today. Great questions about eBooks and piracy. I think you’re right that businesses will eventually emerge with products designed to protect eBooks against piracy. I don’t think piracy’s going away, but I don’t know how much of a dent it will make in overall sales. Despite the piracy of Dan Brown’s latest book, he still sold 2,000,000 (wow – that’s a lot of zeros!) copies in its first week on the market. Small eBook publishing houses are probably hit the hardest by piracy because they can’t afford the lawyers to go after the pirates. A publisher at one small eBook house told me that his company’s books are wildly popular overseas – all pirated copies that he can’t afford to hire lawyers to protect. He’s been able to go after Internet sites posting the books for sale on the Internet, but not overseas sales that don't involve the Internet.

I agree with you that, if we stop having well-paid authors, we’ll stop having as many good authors. After a certain number of years juggling long hours of writing with life's other responsibilities, most writers get burned out and just can’t keep up that pace. Making money at writing means a writer can finally make writing their full-time job, adding some sort of balance to their lives.

dan radke said...

Just thought I'd share. Maybe illegal downloads didn't kill music industry revenue (I'm sorry, Nathan, please don't kill me).

Ken Hannahs said...

NB - I don't mind DRM because, at the end of the day, I buy my music for ME.

The only reason that I can imagine that you wouldn't want DRM is so that you can burn copies of the files and hand it out to friends. Reproduction of files should always remain illegal. It's not SHARING if both people can experience the content at the same time in two different locals. This is stealing.

Nathan Bransford said...


I remember that study. I'm just not sure that I buy it. How are you supposed to track the impact of what an album's sales would have been without piracy? That's the situation that the study tried to guess at, but that's impossible.

CindaChima said...

This issue is not just limited to mega-sellers. As the author of books that appeal to teen boys (and girls) I can tell you that at any given time my books are available on multiple pirate sites. I don't know what effect that has on my sales, but it is stealing, plain and simple, (as if it isn't hard enough to make a living in this business.) It amazes me when I see people justifying themselves by saying, There's no way to stop it, asnd it's easy to do, so accept that you won't get paid for your work.
I think we should work hard to make piracy socially unacceptable, like drinking and driving. And there shouldn't be a single aspiring author on this list who pirates music, movies, or any other kind of intellectual property.

fshk said...

I mostly agree with some of the things said, but will add: 1) pirating isn't actually that easy; if I want a song, it's much more convenient to just go pay and download it from iTunes, because I don't have to work hard for it. The convenience is worth the price (for me). 2) I read a lot of ebooks from tiny indie publishers, who I am happy to give my money to, and that makes up most of what's on my Kindle at present (which helps with my Amazon-is-a-big-behemoth-conglomerate guilt, although, again... so convenient to just be idly browsing Amazon and then *click* and that book is on my Kindle).

My bigger issue, though, is the way publishers respond to piracy. It sucks, there's not a lot that can be done about it, and DRM sometimes punishes legit customers. I once bought a bunch of ebooks directly from a publisher's website and then couldn't read them for three days because my software wasn't recognizing that I'd bought the books fair and square. Also, I have a bunch of ebooks I bought before I got the Kindle that the Kindle can't read because of DRM/format issues. There are also weird proprietary formats that do the publishers a disservice because it limits the number of devices they can be read on, which necessarily limits the number of people who will buy a book.

I agree that the key is keeping the prices of ebooks low. Higher prices encourage piracy.

S. said...

This has been on my mind for a while.

I've come to think the real thing of matter here is not so much piracy, as why piracy works. The entire Internet emergence thing is one of those turning points in the haphazard timeline of economy, because from now on, the distribution of anything that can be digitized is possible with a near zero cost.

Meaning that attempts to make money off the distribution of digitized contents like the physical scarcity model still applied are eventually doomed to fail. If you try to make money by restricting distribution for a cost, you are competing with the possibility of unrestricted distribution for free. Not a solid proposition either way.

I'm not saying this is either a good or a bad thing, mind you. It's just the way it is, IMHO. And models that fail to account for this may not be sustainable in the long run. Placing an artificial restriction for the sake of monetization is an inefficiency, and capitalism exists to mow down inefficiencies. Not fun, aye.

So of course this means that money should be made another way, somehow. Not easy. Cory Doctorow's way may be to give out the electronic version for free and invite people to buy the physical version. Then, not everybody is Cory Doctorow.

And that's the reason why I don't think the music industry, in particular, can 'recover', as such. Music has become a commodity. Thousands of great songs from what we still call amateurs can be legally had for free. (Today's favorite: Carl Sagan - Glorious Dawn, by Colorpulse. Check it out.)

Once more, this is neither a good or a bad thing. The context of our measly existences is just changing, as it has always done. Industries rise and fall and don't have an immanent right to make money.

Myself, I think that we should do for music what I understand was done for music scores in the past: mandatory licensing, where anybody can distribute anything so long as the rights owners receive a fixed price. I'll bet you donkeys to donuts that new economic models would sprout around this like mushrooms. (Personal favorite concept: music dice, tiny ultra-cheap plastic cubes with a single jack and one song or album inside. Plug earphones, music starts. Simple, fun, personal. Can be autographed be the artist -- take that, MP3s.)

Where books in particular are concerned, I'm not sure, because ebooks may be nice, but a paper book does not require batteries and smells nice and feels nice under the fingers and can be taken with you while soaking in a nice warm bath and can be loaned or borrowed easily and is too cheap to be worth stealing. Paper books have a value added proposition that can't be digitized; this is something to keep in mind, and the reason I don't think the publishing business will suffer as badly as the music industry.

That, and I think readers establish something of a personal connection with authors; books are personal in a way music may not be. For this reason alone, books will keep selling, I suspect.

Just so long as the emergence of ebooks doesn't turn books as a whole into an anonymous, industrialized product, just an interchangeable piece of data you feed into an apparatus to make entertainment happen, things ought to be fine.

Or so I like to think.

Anonymous said...

I am not here to make the case for piracy, but I think people have really lost sight of some things in this new digital age.

To me, it seems, that an author no longer wants sell somebody a book....they want to charge for reading their story.

It may sound similar, but it is quite different. It use to be you purchased a book. It was yours. You enjoyed the story countless times and maybe even shared it with your friends. When you grew tired of it you may have donated to your local library, where other would read it. You paid for a tangible item, not exactly the story inside said item.

Now we have ebooks. These are not really tangible items. They are just 1's and 0's written to an electronic storage device. They can be erased with a click of a button or a untimely bolt of lightning (do ask LOL).

Basically an ebook is the reader paying for the chance to read the authors story....nothing else. Just the privileged of reading it. Something, that for most of history, was never charged for. The tangible was always charged it a book, a newspaper, or a phonograph.

To many people, pirating an ebook is no different than checking out a hard copy from the library or reading a newspaper in the barber shop. To them it is not stealing, because they are not taking anything tangible.

I can see both sides of the debate. An author wants to get paid for his work and a reader wants to know if this story is good enough to occupy a place on his shelf. There has to be a middle ground.

An author cannot expected to be paid every time his/her story is read or partially read. That would get rid of all libraries and put books in cellophane at the bookstore.

On the other hand readers need to realize that if they do not buy the actual book, the author can not continue to entertain and inform them.

AM said...

A Name Will Be Forthcoming ( a shorter name, I hope 8-) ) has a point.

Industries and our laws have historically allowed a certain amount of illegal activity to occur either to standardize (e.g Microsoft) an industry or to speed up the public's adoption rate of new technologies and products.

However, I wouldn't want to be someone, who has been receiving stolen goods that can be traced back to them in surprising ways, when the inevitable Lets-make-an-example-of-these-thieves phase begins. It will not be surprising to see people facing extraordinary fines for each offense.

Anthony said...

Ken writes:

"The only reason that I can imagine that you wouldn't want DRM is so that you can burn copies of the files and hand it out to friends. Reproduction of files should always remain illegal. It's not SHARING if both people can experience the content at the same time in two different locals. This is stealing."

This analysis is flawed and you are painting with a broad brush. For example, let's say you have an e-reader. The e-reader fails and you have to replace it with another.

Yet your book doesn't transfer to the new device without a lot of hassle.

That's just one example of why DRM is disliked by legitimate buyers. There are hundreds of other reasons.

There is nothing good about DRM to a person who does not pirate. Nothing at all. Yet, somewhere along the line, the DRM will fail somebody who paid money for something they now want to use, but can't.

Nathan Bransford said...


Actually, I disagree that readers have always paid for a physical book. Charles Dickens' novels were first serialized in newspapers, which, presumably, didn't last terribly long. The book as tradable artifact is a pretty 20th Century phenomenon - before people simply didn't own many books and weren't readily passing them around.

It would be one thing if people were passing a digital copy around one at a time. That's not what's happening with piracy, and I don't see why people fail to see that.

Not to mention that libraries BUY BOOKS.

Marilyn Peake said...

Caught up reading all the comments so far and would like to respond to a couple of points.

I watched a TV show a few months ago in which a musician in a popular rock band talked about how digital downloads have severely impacted how much money musicians can make from albums. He said that he needs to be on the road, making money from tours, in order to maintain the income he made prior to the digital age. He has a young family, is on the road over 200 days per year, misses his children’s birthdays and lots of other important stuff.

Knowing how hard it is to make money as an author, I’m completely against pirating any published material. I often go in the completely opposite direction – buying multiple copies of an author’s book: one copy for me, additional copies to give as gifts or donate to the public library. Authors don’t usually make much money at all per book.

Ken Hannahs said...


"Once more, this is neither a good or a bad thing. The context of our measly existences is just changing, as it has always done. Industries rise and fall and don't have an immanent right to make money."

I would imagine you are referring to the idea that they don't have a right to make money if no one buys what they sell? Industries definitely do have a right to income when you consume their product.

S. said...


You can sync between devices even more easily without DRM.

Let's be honest, DRM has no positive sides for the customer. That's not exactly why they exist. I understand the motivation, but in the end they may have been a shortsighted move. Time will tell, as ever.

Nathan Bransford said...


Again, there are good things about DRM, and not just that it's intended to protect authors. As someone with both a Kindle and an iPhone, I can pick my Kindle and pick up where I left off on my iPhone.

It's the whole principle behind cloud computing, and as we want access to all of our files now, DRM is going to be what makes that happen.

ryan field said...

I spend hours each week checking for pirates and sending in abuse forms. I've seen hundreds of copies of my books pirated for free. You can actually watch the download numbers rise on the web site.

I'm part of a yahoo group that works every day to stop this. We contact each other when we see our books being pirated and we try hard to stop them as fast as we can.

The people that download the books for free on these sites have actual communities, where they leave reviews and tips for each other on the next book they are going to steal...always under anon names like "booklvr"

It never ends. I found one of my books being downloaded for free on a ring tone site. I was shocked.

It takes a great deal of time to police these things, and I don't see it going away any time soon. The good thing is that when you file an abuse complaint (and only the author can do this) the book is taken down quickly. But in most cases it just winds up going to another pirate site and you have to start all over again.

Anthony said...

Nathan asks:

"Honest question: how does the anti-DRM crowd feel about the good features of DRM, such as the syncing between devices that it allows?"

These features are not DRM features. There's even an entire software category for syncing information between devices, all feature rich and easy to use (well most of them that is).

Anonymous said...

I'm with the anti-DRM crowd. I'm happy to buy an eBook. But only under one condition. I want to be able to read it just as long as I can read a paperback. So I have Tolkien books going back to 1979 (very tattered...). Give me an ebook that I can read for that many years, and I'll be happy. I won't have to dust them!

But. I also work in the computer industry. Formats change. Not too long ago I invested in eBooks from a now failed company. Their reader was great until I shifted from Windows to Mac and lost my ability to read my whole library. The most expensive part of digital reading isn't your computer or your reader. It's the library itself. I will never make that mistake again.

The only way to protect yourself from losing your material to a change in format is to buy a universal - which means DRM free - format. In 5 years getting something that can translate an eReader format might not be possible.

So. What do I buy for my iTouch? Baen books, which are all DRM free. I download books from Project Gutenberg. If I'm going to read something that only comes in DRM format, I choose
1) Buy hardcopy to either reread myself or share with family/friends
2) Borrow from the library.

I won't be losing a whole library next time we have a major shift in file formats.


Anonymous said...

Nathan, not trying to be argumentative here but when Dickens novels were first serialized in newspapers...the buyer was still purchasing something tangible.

But I do understand the sharing with a millions friends though. Good point.

Nathan Bransford said...



And the customer is not always right. The customer wants everything for free, now, immediately. That's not a business model.

Honestly, I think people get a little too self-righteous about DRM. People dislike it a lot more in theory more than practice. It shouldn't be unduly restrictive, but I think people have come see it as a matter of principle rather than practice, which I can't really relate to.

Nathan Bransford said...


It was tangible, but it expired. People weren't paying for permanence.

Ken Hannahs said...

A change in the way DRM works... a format very similar to the way that Steam works would be spectacular for books.

The anti-DRM crowd is caught up in the fact that you will eventually need a new ereader or other device and DRM restricts this movement... Steam would keep a profile with all your previously bought books (could cover multiple sites as well) which would allow you to buy books from various sites and store in the same cloud where you could sync with a new e-reader. I think this would be a pretty solid solution.

S. said...


Of course I didn't mean people have a right to get the an industry's products for free. Heavens. But neither do industries have a right to good sells.


Syncing features have nothing to do with DRM. Although I do now think of a possible positive side to DRM: free replacement at no cost for the distributer in case of contents loss. Does any distributer do that, though? Last I heard you were supposed to buy your lost DRM'ed music again.

Nathan Bransford said...


No, if you buy something on Amazon and delete it off your Kindle or lose it they still know that you bought it and can download again.

And as you can tell I'm not an expert on the actual nuts and bolts on the technical side, but my understanding is that syncing between a different external devices requires proprietary software because of the way the server has to recognize where a person left off? But let me know if I'm mistaken on that.

AM said...

Anon 11:31,

You’re kidding right?

You didn't buy a "book". What you bought was access to the content that was distributed in a book format.

After all, you were not interested in the cover and paper inside the cover - were you?

Today, when you buy a physical book, you have purchased a product that you are licensed to transfer as you see fit (one at a time).

However, if publishers could have devised a means to limit your licensing rights to transfer that book over and over again, they would have done so centuries ago.

Now they do (or will) have a means to control transfer.

This is the other side of the eBook technology issue, which readers will be facing in the futures.

Licensing will control how a reader may transfer their product rights to others and, I imagine, the maximum number of times that a single product may be transferred.

This is in the future - authors need not throw a party yet - but it is the future .

Anthony said...

Nathan writes:

"It's the whole principle behind cloud computing, and as we want access to all of our files now, DRM is going to be what makes that happen."

Sorry if I am being confusing. To me DRM and features based on identity technology are two seperate things.

For example, there is a huge feature benefit for me, right now, because I have a digital key that verifies who I am. This is what lets me use a fairly advanced collaboration software between dissimilar technologies (my PC at home, my PC at work, a mobile device, a PC someone else is using to work in my workspace, a PC not logged into the network but actually attached to the internet wireless through a cell-phone provider, and several others).

Now, I can select a person in this workgroup and restrict their access to certain files I've shared.

Is that DRM?

The action of restricting access to those files (KEEP OUT YOU) It's like DRM, sure, but only in the sense I've denied them access.

I've denied them access in a way that is similar to a bookstore wanting you to purchase the book before leaving the bookstore.

However, back to my model, once I grant access, that file(s), if they copy it somewhere else, is not of my concern, because my access rights are granted on a trust relationship (from a technology perspective, based on their digital key).

Thus, I am using the Cloud, but I am not using DRM. All I am doing is verifying Joe Smith is Joe Smith and not Betty Sue.

If Joe Smith now took my file he got from the Anthony Cloud and gave it to Mary without my permission, I would be annoyed if I found out, but there is nothing built into the file that would prevent him from doing so. This access model is not DRM.

Now I could build in a key relationship that is file based. And that would be DRM. And my workgroup would hate me.

Hope I am not totally confusing here.

Anonymous said...

Does Barnes and Noble aid in piracy?

A person walks into B&N grabs a short kids book off the shelf and sits down in one of the many chairs provided for looking at books. She reads the entire thing and decides she doesn't wish to purchase it.

Did she just pirate that book? Did B&N assist her in accessing that content without compensation? If that book never sells and gets returned to the publisher did the author get ripped off?

Just wondering how far we stretch this access to content for a price thing.

Nathan Bransford said...


Makes sense. I think I'm confusing matters by using "DRM" as a catchall for proprietary formats -- which, if I'm not mistaken, you do need for the identity technology to work.

And since you need someone tending the "cloud" in order to make this work, you're essentially getting de facto DRM. Presumably this will both make controlling piracy a lot easier (because people are using proprietary formats that are easier to track) and also allow the type of home use sharing that won't annoy customers.

Let me know if I'm mistaken on any of this, I'm still trying to improve my understanding of the technical side.

Mary said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nathan Bransford said...


If someone has the time and inclination to sit down and read an entire book at Barnes & Noble without buying anything they have bigger problems than whether they should be considered a pirate or not.

Mary said...

I read recently that the majority of under-25s (I think) believe they should never pay for music, that it’s meant to be free. Given that they’ve grown up in the age of file sharing, it’s not surprising they hold this view. So to end piracy, or put it more significantly in its place by deterring site users, the risks would have to run high.

But Internet security is becoming more highly developed and beginning to be taken much more seriously. Students of ethical hacking are being made offers they can’t refuse, before they even graduate. Which leads me to agree about a potential growth in specialists who reduce and limit piracy. And it’s that that will make the difference.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

I think the solution to simple piracy, on an individual author's level, is to go the Doctorow route. Every word he writes is available for free. You can download all his books, read his blogs, even his publisher is putting his latest book, chapter by chapter, online before the hard copy comes out.

And he seems to be doing all right with his career.

Kinda makes piracy obsolete, doesn't it? And yet... I have a Google alert on my blog. It's frequently pirated and syndicated without my permission. And, uh, btw, my blog is free for anyone to read. BUT, and it's a big one, they're pairing my content with advertising that I'm not seeing a dime of.

Unfortunately, that's sort of evolution I think piracy will take. It's still people using our content for their gain with no compensation for the writer, just with an Internet twist.

I don't think borrowing books equals piracy, btw. At some point someone paid for the product. But it's one of the reasons I don't use the library often and I don't tend to lend out my books. You want it, go pay the people who built it.

Anonymous said...

I think there is some really good commentary in today's post and its responses.

Thanks for the great discussion and thought provoking post Nathan.

AM said...


DRM is procedural (industry changing) concepts that include how the world views content ownership, licensing transfer, and the use of certain digital products that distribute content. The emergence of new products leads to a vast array of new technologies and legal issues.

With the evolution of the DRM technologies used to protect the licensed used of products, certain technological benefits (or features) are also provided to the licensed person (in the case of eBooks the reader).

I imagine that in the future the licensing rights will be imbedded in the product ( the electronic copy of the proprietary product) itself and be will transfer with the eBook - once the industry decides if the standard eBook technology will be VHS or Beta - if you understand what I mean.

As the basic eBook technology standardizes, the business-licensing side will evolve seemingly overnight.

The issue with DRM (Digital Rights/Restrictions Management) is getting the licensed eBook readers and distributors to understand, communicate and manage the adoption of both the evolving technology and the evolving definition of ownership (licensing).

So, in the future, how the eBook is transferred will not matter because the licensing right to that particular "copy" of the eBook will transfer with it.

Also, when the technology issues are resolved to the point where the laws can be defined and prosecutors can measure and prove that an individual has broken the licensing law - (stolen and distributed products they did not own licensing rights to) - stealing will be prosecuted as it today with tangible items.

Marilyn Peake said...

ryan field said:
"I've seen hundreds of copies of my books pirated for free. You can actually watch the download numbers rise on the web site."

Yeah, I’ve had my books pirated as well. It sucks. I don’t make that much money per book, and to have my work stolen is painful.

I’m not sure everyone understands that when a book is sold in eBook format, the eBook distributors charge the publisher for their services. After an author spends time, possibly years, writing a book, they receive a very small percentage of sales, with the bulk of the money going to the publisher and the distributors. That’s really only fair, as the publisher and distributors have to set up and maintain the infrastructure to sell the books. My books are sold through numerous distributors, including an audio book through It took me years to get to this point, and I’m very upset when I see my work being pirated for free.

Anthony said...

Nathan writes,

"And since you need someone tending the "cloud" in order to make this work, you're essentially getting de facto DRM. Presumably this will both make controlling piracy a lot easier (because people are using proprietary formats that are easier to track) and also allow the type of home use sharing that won't annoy customers"


As a reader, having a publisher or book store know who I am when I buy the book is OK.

Re-verifying who I am when I want to buy a different reader and move my treasured book is not OK, and very annoying. It's my book. I bought it, it's mine, don't touch it. Don't look at it. Don't even think about it.

I don't spend money to be annoyed. I got married for that.

I kid, I kid. My wife is 75% less annoying than I.

Anonymous said...

I was the Dan Brown thief from the comments section of a post of yours a few days back. Thanks for those fellow surfers who labeled me a 'Thief' ... you guys really can't grasp this whole pirating issue if that is the only response it provokes within.

I don’t have a Kindle or an ereader but I still downloaded ‘The Lost Symbol’ from my trusted friends at www.Your-Teenage-Son/Brother/Nephew-Is-A-Lowlife-Criminal-That-Doesn' ... goodness, the state of the world, these days, huh?

Truth is, I can’t stand reading books on a desktop, I’d prefer to read the hardcover. But that’s beside the point – since I only made it three chapters in to ‘The Lost Symbol’ and have given up.

Would I have bought the book if I liked it? Most definitely because I primarily read for enjoyment. Am I going to buy the book? Not a hope. If the Amazon excerpt had of been longer I would't have even bothered downloading the pirate copy.

My download habits: I watch two TV shows a week when in season … because I can’t get them legally without waiting 3 to 6 months after the season’s premier. I’m not exactly a heavy user of torrents, but I will use them to satisfy my entertainment urges.

Nathan, as for the can’t-be-trusted community of pirates, well, that’s not really a problem for anyone who knows these sites. That’s the power of a community.

Will pirating affect the industry? Sure, if you’re a publisher of huge blockbuster novels. Will it affect mid-list authors or low sell-through debut novelists? Ummm, you're not serious are you?!
Aren't these the same authors that are already giving away their ebooks in a desperate attempt to lure readers in?

Which brings me to this point: give an ebook away to hook a reader and you may possibly create a precedent with an expectation that your work should always be free.

Linda Godfrey said...

Piracy is theft. I have a friend who is a well-published midlist sort of author in a certain genre whose publisher brought out her recent novel as an e-book first, then hard cover. She recently discovered the e-version had been swiped and posted on a pirate site, and so far the publisher has done nada. She sees herself losing income, and does not blithely view it as cool, fun, or the inevitable way of the future. She is not as big or successful as Doctorow and did not choose this path, and it hurts her. I can't see this as a good thing in any way.

Anonymous said...


"Re-verifying who I am when I want to buy a different reader and move my treasured book is not OK, and very annoying. It's my book. I bought it, it's mine, don't touch it. Don't look at it. Don't even think about it."

I understand completely where you are coming from there. But as you can see from AM's comments. The current philosophy is moving away from believing the purchaser "OWNS" anything.

We are moving toward licensing. Where everything you "buy" you are just licensing to use or read. Basically renting. This of course allow the actual owners to sell more because your copy can not be recycled or reused.

Great when the item is digital, not so great for your landfill when the item is more solid. I am sure one day I will not buy a spatula, I will license it for use in one kitchen.

Pepper Smith said...

Piracy is something small epubs have been dealing with for many years. You do not have to be a Dan Brown to be pirated. You just have to write well, and write something people enjoy reading.

One thing to remember about the core group of pirates is that they're usually tech savvy and can find their way around DRM protection very, very quickly. They're not going to be stopped by it, or even slowed very much.

The idea that some sort of spyware or malware might be attached is one thing that keeps me from downloading software from sites that legitimately offer free downloads. If enough pirated ebooks start showing up with malware attached, it will make the whole thought of free books a lot less attractive. On the other hand, people have to be aware of the danger to avoid it, and there are an awful lot of people out there who are ignorant both of the dangers of malware and viruses, and of the fact that what they're doing is illegal.

The idea that it's no different from borrowing from the library is appalling, but I've heard it a bit lately. Some folks don't see the difference between being given something for free that they can keep, and borrowing an item that they have to return. With the library model, if you like the book, you can always go buy a copy. With the piracy model, you've already got a copy, so there's less incentive to buy. Plus, people who are hard-core pirates wouldn't have bought the book to begin with.

Not a criminal said...

I'm at the point I would consider downloading pirated ebooks! Why? Because newly imposed "geographical restrictions" mean I can no longer as an Australian legitimately purchase any NYT bestseller or any of the other books I want to read:

And when you read “Fewer than ten percent of our titles are restricted in any way”, don’t believe it.

To date I’ve purchased over $2,000 of ebooks, but if the publishers now don’t want my money what am I supposed to do?

Nathan Bransford said...


Legal excerpts of THE LOST SYMBOL were not hard to find. Parade had exclusive rights to the first chapter (which I'm sure they paid handsomely for) so you were stealing from both Parade and Dan Brown and the publisher. It's a trifecta!

And piracy affects everyone. All authors are pirated, not just the bestsellers. Just ask Ryan Field, Marilyn Peake, and others here.

Anonymous said...

And yet, I suspect almost every single person here has watched a clip on youtube that was shown without the musician/film-maker's permission.

Nathan Bransford said...

not a criminal-

Speaking as an agent, territorial rights are really challenging to keep on top of because publishers may or may not have the rights, and quite honestly, because the UK and Australia are behind the US in terms of e-reader adoption it doesn't create much incentive to resolve those issues when there are so many pressing technological issues in the US to deal with.

But hopefully this all will be resolved before you go rogue.

Anonymous said...

Nathan, you have to relax on this.

No matter how much you hate it, people will not stop downloading.

Change focus (and business models) or you will be left behind.

AM said...


First of all, anyone who walks into a bookstore and reads an entire book, had already decided to steal the content of that book without paying for it - before - they walked into the bookstore.

She did not technically 'pirate' the book - she stole the content by reading the book in the bookstore without paying for it.

As with everything else, we will stretch 'this access to content thing" all the way to the bank.

The more technology enables authors to protect their content (their stories) from people, who are not paying for it, the more people will either pay for access to the content or refuse to pay for licensed access to the content - and they will not have access to the content - unless they are hackers that continually working to stay ahead of the security technology.

Anon12:40 - all new technology is annoying until the kinks are worked out - and - everyone has adapted to what they are now allowed and not allowed to do with the new technology.

Imagine the poor technology guys - no one is ever happy with them. They are either not protecting the product fast and well enough - or - the users hate adapting to using the technology - has anyone thought about the poor technology guys? Huh, anyone? No?

Yeah, that’s the one thing EVERYONE can agree on – they hate those technology guys.



I don't want to be a blog-hog, and I've got work to do.

Thanks Nathan. It's always fun to have a forum to talk (a lot) about evolving technology and business.

Marilyn Peake said...

Anon @ 12:06 PM –
Piracy often goes way beyond the situation you’re talking about. I know an eBook publisher who confronted a woman selling copies of his eBooks on eBay. She was making money on each and every eBook she sold. When the publisher told her to cease and desist because that’s illegal, she became furious, saying that she bought one copy of each title and felt that she had the right to do whatever she wanted with those titles – including selling additional copies! Oy!

sex scenes at starbucks –

Cory Doctorow is in a unique position. A very popular sci fi author, his following most likely includes lots of techie fans who are willing to buy several versions of his books, even if they get a free digital version. For most new authors, they’re lucky if they can give away free copies of their books, never mind sell the same books in additional formats.

In regard to Twitter, Neil Gaiman and his girlfriend have become a kind of Twitter sensation, even inspiring a comic about it. After Neil Gaiman posted Twitter messages asking for increased following, he more than doubled his followers to 1,134,516! I’ve seen new authors make similar requests and get 10 followers! New authors will probably have a harder time than established authors making money in a digital age that doesn’t regulate against piracy.

Nathan Bransford said...


Thanks for the advice, but I'll opt for stigmatizing piracy and practicing vigilance.

The business model is changing and I am a part of that transition. Giving away the farm to pirates is not part of the model, or at least not a model that has any hope of succeeding.

Leah said...

"No, if you buy something on Amazon and delete it off your Kindle or lose it they still know that you bought it and can download again."

Unfortunately, this is where you're somewhat wrong. Every book you purchase via Amazon for the Kindle has a limited number of devices that you can download it to. The amount varies for every book. It can be as few as three. So say I download the book to my PC, my iPhone and my iTouch. Then I buy a new PC. I can't download the book again -- I have to pay for it again. This is one of the reasons why people hate DRM and want to go with open systems, where this isn't a problem.

As for piracy and books -- I don't know if publishers will have to go the full CWF + RTB model (connect with fans + reason to buy) in order to beat out piracy. I can see it working sometimes but listening to music is a different experience than reading a book. I know some authors have started experimenting with it. We'll have to see how it shakes out.

I do think piracy is here to stay. I also think the old publishing model is here to stay. But I think the old publishing model's share of the market is going to shrink, and I think new models will also emerge.

Anonymous Internet Coward said...

Nathan, if publishers found a way to bind printed works to your eyeballs only, do you think you'd be thinking the same thing about restricted usage policies? The ability to access your data on multiple gadgets is REALLY cool, really, but you don't seem to understand that metadata to ease syncing, and restriction of usage rights are two separate issues.

I'm of the school of thought that there are nothing more than personal ethics. It's not for you, the church, government, or most certianly not major recording labels and publishing houses to define any single person's ethics. I definie my own ethics, regardless of legality.

In my set of ethics, it's okay to steal music from bands selling millions of albums and worth more annually than my entire extended family will be worth over the course of their lives. If I wasn't stealing their music (which I rarely do), I wouldn't be buying it either. I steal indie music to see if I like it. If I do, I pay good money to go to their concerts, and I buy CDs at the show where the artist gets more of the proceeds. I like to put money towards those that need it, rather than an a bloated industry hanging on to the good ol' days.

I BUY books by new and smaller authors even when I have the chance to borrow them. I even make an effort to buy them in hard cover when those first run sales really matter to an author's carreer. I STEAL books from authors like Dan Brown who will sell billions of copies anyways. I also STOLE Pygmy because I read a lot of bad reviews about it, and at $24.95 for something that's what, 245 pages, I don't think Chuck'll notice the difference.

The system is flawed. The vast majority will go on buying their books and doing whatever the multi-billion dollar industries tell them to. A fringe group will vote with their dollars and just not partake in the services, and another fringe group will steal as their own personal form of protest. We're not questioning the legality of what we do, but we're acting in accordance with our own personal ethics.

I love music, but the music industry is an abusive beast that cares little for it's end users beyond the depth of their wallets. I'd happily contribute to its downfall if it means that they'll have to build back up from scratch in a way that works. There's no point in propping up a dying industry that refuses to adapt in a way that benefits everyone involved. Indie authors and musicians will continue to find ways to get their product out there, and the best sellers will continue to sell in the millions.

I'm not arguing right and wrong, but I sleep fine at night with my choices on who I do and do not support financially.

Nathan Bransford said...


You can access Kindle books on up to six Kindles. Beyond that you'd have to delete it off of one. This really doesn't seem far off from the intent of sharing for personal use. Would you really have need to share a physical book more than six times before it fell apart?

anonymous internet coward-

Ah, I see, good to know that it's okay to steal from the rich. I'm sure if someone poorer than you broke into your house you'd throw in the candlesticks too.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous Internet Coward,

Is your bed stolen?

Anonymous said...

Nathan said: Thanks for the advice, but I'll opt for stigmatizing piracy and practicing vigilance.

The business model is changing and I am a part of that transition. Giving away the farm to pirates is not part of the model, or at least not a model that has any hope of succeeding.

"stigmatizing piracy and practicing vigilance..." Good luck with that, ask the film and music industry how successful that is.

"Giving away the farm..." I don't think the farm is being given away here. Maybe you and I have different needs, you're an agent, I'm just the target audience.

Share-cropping or a reduction in produce price, maybe?

Morgan Xavier said...

Does an author HAVE to publish their novel as an e-book? I guess this is the new trend, but if it makes it that much easier for their work to be stolen, then why not just stick to the old-fashioned method of paper? If the work is good, it will sell.

Nathan Bransford said...


Actually I think we've all come away from the days when piracy (and justifications for it) were mainstream. Studies show that piracy is down - new options for listening to music is a part of it, but I think the idea that piracy = stealing has permeated culture. Like I said, the Internet has grown up a bit. Some people anyway.

Nathan Bransford said...


People in the publishing industry increasingly think that not making a book available in e-book form results in more piracy than making it readily available.

Marilyn Peake said...

To add ironic humor to the conversation: the guys who started TALK LIKE A PIRATE DAY with free pirate speak advice on their website became so popular, they now have books published by established publishing houses. Avast! Don’t be a bilge rat. Buy the books smartly. Arrrrrrrr...

Matilda McCloud said...

I think the music industry has succeeded in making me feel guilty about downloading free music. I don't do it anymore--and the file- sharing sites are now loaded with scary-looking files anyway. I hope that's what happens with books.

Morgan Xavier said...

Nathan, are you saying that if the book is only available as a paper copy, someone will make a digital copy and post it for free on the internet? I'm trying to understand how it could otherwise be pirated...

Nathan Bransford said...


Yeah, exactly. People scan and upload them. On the audio side, for instance, we see a lot more piracy from CDs that have been ripped and uploaded than digital copies that have been purchased legally.

Anonymous said...


That solves it then. It was just a maturity thing.

I best get Mom to lend me her credit card so I can lever the publishing industry's collective heads out of the sand.

And yet, it seems the thousands of dollars I spend annually on books, combined with the odd free download, is only worthy of condescending comment from an industry insider.

Nathan Bransford said...


I'm not even sure which previous comment was yours, but yes - illegal downloading is worthy of condescension in my book. So neener neener meaniepants.

Anonymous said...

"Ah, I see, good to know that it's okay to steal from the rich. I'm sure if someone poorer than you broke into your house you'd throw in the candlesticks too."

That's a remarkably lazy analogy.

Nathan Bransford said...

Actually I thought it was pretty good.

Anonymous said...

Tomas anonys here ... the DRM direction this thread has gone, I'm going to add my two cents. As this thread dives into the rabbit hole of DRM, it seems to be predicated on absolutes ie., "everyone" will forward their new copy of whatever book to their 10K friends (ravenous readers, all. Yeah, right.)

I buy books - paper, hardcover - and I give them to people. I pass along, easily, 200 books+ a year. Is this piracy? The difference between an electronic version - besides the fact that I hate reading on screens & don't see myself buying a "device" - is that the books I like tend to be hard to find &/or weird or whatever. When I give a book to someone, it's a gesture. Pressing "send" doesn't have the same feel.

There's also a matter of wildly divergent tastes: my mom reads Grafton, Hillerman, procedurals. Our tastes rarely overlap - I sent Bangkok 8 and got an, "Well, interesting, I guess." If I were to read this thread, without say, having ever read or suggested a book, I might think, Everyone reads the same thing. C'mon, well all know this isn't true. Dan Brown's best seller status, economically important, hardly reflects the dazzling range of books out there.

Then there's the fact that a book is a tangible, felt thing. An object. Besides the heft (or, slimness), there's a tactile quality to it "DRM" will never, ever have.

This makes me think of one book, esp. a story collection that I love so much, I've probably bought 30 copies over the last 10 years and given it as a gift.

So is there room in this thread for a range of reading / delivery / platforms? I find this DRM discourse totally unrelatable to my book buying/reading habits.

Anonymous said...


The candlestick thing was hilarious. I think Anon1:27 has sour grapes at being one-upped.

Bane of Anubis said...

Neener neener? Isn't Mork and Mindy before your time, Nathan ;)?

I definitely don't approve of pirating (though I think D has a fairly good point, if a bit too generalized), but I find hacking and virus-infesting far worse (and would be prone to using that candlestick like Prof. Plum on any discovered offender)

Ink said...

Anonymous Internet Coward,

Isn't all that just a complex rationalization for being selfish? It's my rights, my money, my entertainment needs and I'll satisfy them how and when I please regardless of who I hurt and yet I have money and sometimes spend it where I want to and that makes it all okay because I give when I feel like it and don't when I don't and it's much more convenient for me, me, me this way...

Perhaps I'm missing something.

The Anonymous Internet Coward said...

Good if you're comparing apples to oranges. You seem to only be able to think in blanket generalities, and freely hand out disdain for anything that falls outside your opinion. There's a lot going on in this thread, but of all the ideas but you fail to see the difference between stealing from an individual and stealing from a corporation.

Are they both stealing? OF COURSE. Do they both have the same end effect on a single person? No. Stealing music affects and industry, it's a collection of people. Stealing from a home affects very specific people.

The Lost Symbol came off the press at 30% off from Amazon. My guess is that publishers gave Amazon deeper buying discounts than the independent publishers. The Lost Symbol would have sold just as many copies whether it was discounted or not, but the whole industry just threw away ridiculous amounts of money that could have been used to infuse a troubled market with some much needed cash. Publishing houses are following in the path of the automotive and music industries and ignoring easy ways to bring in extra money, and they're worried about a handful of people stealing a book they probably wouldn't have read anyways?

How is it fair that struggling independent bookstores can barely survive amongst the chains, and the publishing houses effectively take money out of their mouths by giving the competitive edge to the big players?

This is a multi-faceted and gray issue, and you'll never be able to put into black and white terms.

The Anonymous Internet Coward said...

"Isn't all that just a complex rationalization for being selfish?"

No, it's that I think it's all bullsh*t and I don't feel any particular need to rise above it. I'm not rationalizing that I'm just going to take what I want, but I'm explaining why I think the way I do.

Everyone just wants to think Piracy = Wrong, but not understand why these things are happening. In a better system, I'd happily pay for everything. If the corporations delivering the material don't want to take the best interests of the artist and end user into account, then I fail to see why I should care about their needs.

The Anonymous Internet Coward said...

Also, it's worth noting that I have had my house broken into and my computer stolen, have had my bike stolen on a separate occasion, have had my backpack stolen twice while traveling, and experienced other minor personal theft.

Marilyn Peake said...

I have a question, and I’m sincerely interested in the answer ... Is there anyone here who’s written more than one book AND believes that pirated copies of books are acceptable? With all the painful work that goes into creating a book, I can’t imagine many writers feeling it’s OK if people steal it and don’t pay for the effort and huge numbers of hours spent writing and editing their book. In addition, artists spend hours creating the book covers, publishers spend hours formatting the books in multiple formats for distributors, and distributors spend hours setting up the books for distribution. I’m thinking that by the time most authors struggle through writing a second book, they’re hoping their efforts will eventually lead to some type of tangible financial income. I know that's true for me. :)

Nathan Bransford said...


Ah, I see, you want a breakdown of who you're stealing from.

When you pirate a $30 book you're stealing:

$15 from the bookseller
$10.50 from the publisher
$4.50 from the author

And what's also hilarious is that you're getting into an argument with Ink/Bryan Russell, who is an independent bookseller. Way to defend the little guy, AIC.

Ink said...

Anon. Inter. Cow.,

Now it just seems that you're rationalizing thievery by depersonalizing the victim. "Corporation", "Collection of people"... but who do you think that collection of people is? It's a bunch of the specific people you say you don't want to hurt... at least not individually. But lump them in with some others and it's okay. The more the merrier! So I can spit on a group but not an individual. Let's specify... that rationalization would then make it okay to spit, say, on "the Jews", but not on "Leo Goldstein" because he might be a good fellow and that would be unethical.

Ink said...

And if the big corporations took better care of ME and gave ME everything exactly the way I want it I wouldn't steal from them. How is that not selfish?

If you don't like their process, don't use their product. Simple. But don't steal it.

Anonymous said...

So, as soon as an author becomes successful, that's when it's okay to steal their books? By that logic, all authors must remain poor. Sad, really.

Dan Holloway said...

"This isn't the music industry - no one is making money on an author tours or Ian McEwan t-shirt sales no matter how many I personally would buy"

I'm afraid I think you're wrong, Nathan. I've been arguing for the use of the "merch and gig and free download" model in writing for many months, and the more I look the more reasons I see why it CAN work.

For me the basis of this model is the free e-download. It's that new auhtors in particular can exploit for publicity, but also to build a great platform, and a way of engaging with readers. Let people have your work for free; let them file share - and whilst you're at it use the tech to engage with them - embed easter eggs for them, utilise bluetooth and LAN and other things that exploit the power of connectivity. Make your free downloads MUST HAVE and you will soon have enough readers who WANT TO PAY to make a living.

I'm afraid this is yesterday's argument. And the authors and publishers who still think it's today's argument will, come tomorrow, be yesterday's news.

Anonymous said...

Internet coward does make an interesting point in that stealing from a corporation IS different from stealing from an individual.

A corporation is an entity that is allowed to break many laws that individuals would go to jail for.

If I poison 100 people, I get the chair. If ACE Chem does it, they pay a fine.

So in a twisted sort of way, a criminal is stealing from another criminal. Not saying it is right, but it is an interesting point.

Anonymous said...

The Anonymous Internet Coward said, “you fail to see the difference between stealing from an individual and stealing from a corporation.”

Do you think your Robin Hood!? Do you think you have a right to decide whom you can steal from?

Why don’t you stretch yourself and construct your arguments without tossing personal attacks at others? Can you do it? Because I understood your insults, but not your point?

I hope you were including yourself with all of the other idiots when you said, ‘Hiding behind the veil of anonymity and ripping on idiots everywhere”, on your blog profile.

The Anonymous Internet Coward said...

Ink... I concede your very rational point and analogy, but the difference is that my personal ethic draws a line between corporate and religious persecution. Nice variation on Godwin's Law by the way.

I feel like this has all gotten out of hand, and I'm finding this medium a bit difficult to stay on top of who said what.

What do you think?
I think I've covered that.

How big of a threat is piracy?
Whatever you think of me, I'm a good example of the reasons that piracy won't resolve itself, and I still put more money into the publishing industry than your average schmoe who reads two books a year.

Should I be worried?
Any industry that gets crushed by something as minor as this deserves to go down.

Nathan Bransford said...


I definitely think it can work for some people, and there are authors who are utilizing free to build audiences, especially via the Kindle. But I just don't think it's sustainable for everyone.

Cory Doctorow and Chris Anderson and the other freevangelists are very well poised to utilize free because Cory has a very popular website and Anderson is a speaker, etc.

But what about for the authors who can't afford to devote themselves full time to managing a website or a speaking career on top of writing books? How are they going to see any return on writing?

And how is the infrastructure of publishing going to survive if no one is charging anything?

I think freevangelism is great for the freevangelists. But just because it works for them doesn't mean it's going to work for everyone.

Ink said...

What a philosophy. I can do bad things to people I don't like, but I shouldn't do bad things to people I like.

Apparently I'm going to have to work on my likability.

Nathan Bransford said...


I wouldn't invite AIC to your bookstore. At least, not if he's wearing a large coat.

Pepper Smith said...

I think a major problem with the comparison of giving away a paper copy of a book with giving away an e-copy is that with the paper copy, you're giving away the same copy you bought. With giving away e-copies, you're giving away as many as you choose to make, as well as keeping the copy you bought.

It's the proliferation that's the problem. You can't give away more copies in paper than what you've paid for. With the e-copy, the give-away can be endless, and you still have the copy you paid for. For an author whose work is primarily in e-format, all those free copies can be a career-killer. I know of one ebook author who has prematurely ended a series because the number of pirated copies was greater than the number her publisher was selling.

The folks who are doing the really innovative work in cross-genre fiction often start out in epublishing, and they're the ones who are getting hit the hardest by piracy, often by so-called fans who claim to love their work but also somehow imagine they're striking a blow for the little guy by not paying for it. 'Cause everyone know, of course, how rich publishers are...and how much authors are making.

Only five percent, or less, of authors actually make a living off their writing. The vast majority are just hoping they'll make enough to pay a few bills.

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 1:58 PM,
By that logic, you're saying that, if a big corporation becomes a criminal role model, it's then acceptable for individuals to become criminals as well. In other words, the mores of a culture should be established by those with money and power. If those in power are ethical, everyone else should be. If they're not, it's morally and ethically acceptable for others to be corrupt.

The Anonymous Internet Coward said...

"Why don’t you stretch yourself and construct your arguments without tossing personal attacks at others? Can you do it? Because I understood your insults, but not your point?"

I actually think Nathan has made more personal attacks than I have. If I've thrown them at him, it's only in answer to his self-rightous tone.

Anonymous @ 1:58... all I'm looking to do is put out an alternate interesting point of view. This is the internet, and one of the problems is that it's too easy for like-minded people to gather together and pat each other on the back. Thanks for regonizing as much.

Dan Holloway expressed some of my sentiments quite well. Not necessarily what I've voiced thus far, but if I could have written just one post on this blog, I would have liked it to be his.

Anonymous said...

My guess is that the publishing industry will destroy the scourge of Internet Piracy.

They will succeed where no other creative industry has.

Torrent sites in their droves will bow down to the might of the literary lash and remove all ebook torrent links.

A newly crowned king, an authorial Arthur, will stand atop the body of the fallen and rejoice in his vigilance in the battle to stigmatize piracy.

Then some kid will post a google docs link to Jacob Wonderbar on his iphone's facebook app or just email the whole file to his fellow gangstas in year four.

These children will be identified and shot.

We're sorry, but it's for the greater good.

Ooops, it was just a moronic dream. I thought I was still in the 90s.

Ink said...

Anon. Inter. Cow.,

Well, you can spit on some vegans, instead, if that would make you and Godwin happy.

For what it's worth, I don't hold anything against you personally (you haven't stolen my book yet), and I do think it takes a certain chutzpah to come here and say what you're saying. You've had a few interesting points, too, but I just can't help but feel the moral logic behind your argument is fraudulent and utterly self-interested. I'll pay when I want to pay... not exactly the most civic-minded philosophy in the history of the world.

The Anonymous Internet Coward said...

"And how is the infrastructure of publishing going to survive if no one is charging anything? "

This is your problem. The infrastructure is outdated and you refuse to accept it. You see a limited scope of options and fail to see that there are other business models where everyone can win.

I'm off stealing (it's wrong)now: Should the industry create authors who are excessively financially compensated, and barely support others? If all that matters is what the general public wants to read, then who will support quality writing even though it's only read by the minority? Literary fiction will never approach the sales figures of thrillers and romance. Does that mean literary writers deserve to barely eke out a living because you can't buy their paperbacks at the airport?

I just don't understand why so many people cling to this business model.

Nathan Bransford said...


The only personal attacks I have leveled as far as I can see is calling people who admit to piracy "thieves," and one "neener neener meaniepants."

I know that's cooking with some very hot fire, but...

Marilyn Peake said...

Dan Holloway –
You recommend "merch and gig and free download". I know LOTS of new authors who tried that. None made money. Many went broke and stopped writing. Do you know any newbie writers (not older writers, already established through old-fashioned hard cover and paperback sales) who have succeeded by that method?

Anthony said...

Anon says,

"We are moving toward licensing. Where everything you "buy" you are just licensing to use or read. Basically renting. This of course allow the actual owners to sell more because your copy can not be recycled or reused."

I would disagree with this statement.

You cannot compare a book to software, in so far software is licensed. But even if you did comapre the two, I believe you're missing key elements:

People like to buy things
People like to license things
People like to use a service

There are price points for all of these, with different production costs and different types of cost to a consumer (on-going vs. one time).

But let's say "lets pretend a book is leased." I would assert something like this has been tried. And it failed several times.

Take Divx for example. Not the codex, but the movie watching system in which a consumer would "rent" a movie. When they were done with this movie, it would not play after a certain number of re-viewings.

The model was people would buy into this because the initial movies would be cheaper.

And that was just ONE thing wrong with Divx. It was a massive study in DRM FAIL.

If Disney can't do this with movies, I can hazard a bet no book publisher, no matter how big, can do it with books.

Anonymous said...

"But what about for the authors who can't afford to devote themselves full time to managing a website or a speaking career on top of writing books? How are they going to see any return on writing?"

They're not. Was there any guarantee of that written anywhere in time?

"And how is the infrastructure of publishing going to survive if no one is charging anything?"

Nathan, it survives by evolving.

The 'stop piracy' argument is redundant. You guys are really missing the point that AIC is trying to make.

If people like AIC and myself are downloading content the piracy problem is way beyond being stopped.

Nathan Bransford said...


I think the infrastructure will change and is changing. But it should change to fit the needs of legal paying customers, not to ward off the barbarians trying to tear everything down.

And I think it's extremely disingenuous for people to claim that the industry is blind to change. The publishing industry has been planning and preparing for the e-book era for 15 years. You can legally download millions of books on multiple devices instantaneously and wirelessly. Think about that for a second! It's never been possible before in the history of the world. And everyone wants to complain because they can only e-mail their new e-book to six people instead of ten?

There are some kinks yet to be worked out, but come on...

Nathan Bransford said...


One of the ways the industry will "evolve" is by putting a big dent in piracy. So... I'm not too worried.

ted said...

Having arrived late and read all the comments at one go, it's pretty easy to characterize AIC and fellow Anon sympathizers with a single word: juvenile.

Piracy and the self-justifying theories that condone it are for people who don't have much experience with the world. As these people mature, most of them develop a sense of empathy, values, etc., and evolve beyond piracy, the same way most people evolve beyond behavior like littering and line-jumping.

There will always be people who don't make it past adolescence, but authors/publishers should be able to make a living with the majority that do.

The Anonymous Internet Coward said...

"I'll pay when I want to pay... not exactly the most civic-minded philosophy in the history of the world."

Not what I'm saying, although I entirely see how it comes across that way. I started this conversation with a more flippant tone, and I'm regretting it now.

This argument is easier in the music industry because the disparity is much larger. I've only ever downloaded four books. Harry Potter 7 (experiment to see what was out there, and what I'd get, and because I was curious what the Potter fuss was about. I borrowed 1-6 and then 8 from a friend). The Lost Symbol (curiosity about the book based on publicity and controversy), Pygmy (which I hadn't decided whether I'd read or not yet), and Doctrow's Little Brother. Beyond that, I've done my share to stimulate the industry. I really don't intend to continue to download pirated books.

My way of thinking with music and movies, is that these industries produce some of the most obscene wealth in our society. Celebrities living lives of excess, while incredibly talented actors and musicians barely eke out a living. Studios, producers, execs, all profit from abusive contracts and business models.

The problem is that enough people don't care, and will continue to throw money in these directions without regard for the impact. A new Kanye West is created every day (can't wait to buy his new book). I have three choices…
1. Continue to pay into this system.
2. Vote with my dollar and abstain.
3. Pirate and allow myself a bit of pop-culture enjoyment without supporting the industries, and harming some innocents along the way.

I generally refuse to go with 1, I most often stick with 2, and sometimes succumb to 3.

That's why I seek out pirated goods.

Anonymous said...

"I think the infrastructure will change and is changing. But it should change to fit the needs of legal paying customers, not to ward off the barbarians trying to tear everything down."

As a consumer I lose no money when I download, unlike the publishing industry. My job security isn't threatened unlike publishing employees (authors, agents etc).

I play basketball with you, I share the same interest in film, we grew up together at school, I worked summers on your family's farm, I married your pretty cousin from Virginia. I'm the everymen - hardly a barbarian consciously tearing down the establishment.

Ask yourself why I'm downloading the content. Is it simply because I'm a 'thief'? If you think so, then the problem already has you beat.

Anonymous said...

For those who say it's okay to steal e-books from corporations because it's their fault they haven't yet built in protections against it, does that mean it's morally acceptable to break into department stores during a flood (think back to those who did that in New Orleans) or to steal from those living in tent cities without doors that can be locked? Robin Hood stole from the rich to give to the poor, not to enjoy the stolen goods himself.

Anonymous said...

if piracy was just a juvenile phase that is grown out of like line jumping, then why is it making such a dent in the bottom line?

It is not juvenile, it is a philosophic disagreement. It is not a bunch of teen stealing movies it is millions of grown adults that think there is nothing wrong with it.

Marilyn Peake said...

The Anonymous Internet Coward said:
"That's why I seek out pirated goods."

There’a another way to change the current corporate structure. Buy lots and lots of indie books. There are MANY struggling indie publishing houses that close down every day due to low sales because they can’t afford advertising equal to that of the large publishing houses.

Anonymous said...

I am an author, and I think piracy is stealing. You don't have to use what I created, but if you do, you should pay for it. This argument by freevangelists that you should give your work away in order to make it more popular is like the old joke that I may lose money on every sale but make it up in volume.
People steal books and music because it's easy and they're unlikely to get caught. Period. It hurts authors, believe me, and we're about as far from "corporate" as we can be. If you want to "battle" corporate American, why don't you walk into Wal-Mart or Best Buy or your local car dealer and steal a car. You don't do it because you don't want to be punished. Plain and simple.

The Anonymous Internet Coward said...

To eradicate an issue, you need to understand the root cause. I'm not going to change Nathan's point of view, and he's not going to change mine.

By the way...

"And, of course, the software is a virus. Or they're phishing for credit cards. Or some other nefarious activity. I didn't stick around long enough to find out. But! There's nothing being pirated. Essentially: they're scamming pirates.

Could this be the future? Since pirates are already downloading files from dubious sites, is lacing a highly sought-after file with a virus or ads or scams a sufficient growth industry to actually deter piracy?"

This is laughable. This has been the state since the dawn of sharing serial numbers, and piracy continues to spread. The answer lies not in foiling the pirates, but enticing them back to your higher quality product.

Anonymous said...

AIC said, “I just don't understand why so many people cling to this business model.”

It’s the word 'business' in business model that does it for me.

It is about business. Business is about making money.

I still don't get your point/solution. Are you suggesting that someone set a salary cap on something? I suppose you want the job at deciding what that cap will be?

And about all of the thing that were stolen from you (quite an impressive list), what, have you decided that if you can't beat them, join them?

No, really, please, one more time, without calling everyone greedy capitalist, explain your defending stealing from people or corporations who employ people . I am trying to get it, but I’m starting to think this more about your political views – are you a socialist?

Anon2:48, Do you know anything about the economy? Also, serial killers are amongst us, what's the point of that statement?

No, I am not going to ask myself. I am going to as you: why do you steal? I hope you are not for real and are pulling chains here. Your creepy.

Dan Holloway said...

Nathan, thank you for responding. I will confess to being one of the freevolutionaries ( - in the Che Guevara AND the Darwin sense.

My point has never been that the industry SHOULD go the free route. My point is always, given what's happening, what can authors do? And I'ma fraid standing still isn't an option. And because I'm against protectionism in any form, I'm afraid that means people will stop being able to make a living who used to be able to do it. But that's always been the way fo things. Until a few years ago, billions of people were excluded absolutely from the publishing industry by dint of being born in "the wrong place". There's still a huge amount of social exclusion on a global level, as I've argued elsewhere, but now it's at least possible for at least some of these to reach readers directly and reap the rewards.

My point is there will always be talented authors who are excluded from teh industry. That's the way it is. I have to say my FEELING is that what people don't like about what's happening now is taht who's excluded is being decided by working class kids in Baton Rouge and not by an upper-middle class elite. And that's exactly what I DO like about it

Michael Pickett said...

I'm in a graduate Publishing and Writing program and we just talked about this the other day. One of the possible futures brought up was one in which the authors basically give their writing away for free, and then have to make their money through other means like tours and other merchandise. Now, I'm with you, Nathan. While I wouldn't mind having a Cormac McCarthy shirt, I don't think they're going to catch on soon. So, I hope that piracy doesn't become too much of a problem, because if it does, I should get out of my program right now.

The Anonymous Internet Coward said...

@Marylin As I mentioned earlier, I do that quite frequently.

Nathan Bransford said...


Actually I feel that precisely the reverse is true. The only people who can afford to write in a world where free rules (and, increasingly, to work in the publishing industry) are the elite because they can afford to write. I would much rather that kids in Baton Rouge have access to the world of books than another preppy Ivy grad because diversity is great for art, but in the free world that you're talking about I don't know that that's the way it's going to work.

Ink said...

Anon. Inter. Cow.,

I see what you're saying, but you're basically admitting three is wrong. But you "succumb" to it occasionally. There's no moral legitimacy, just human weakness. So why bother trying to rationalize that weakness into an ethic? We all make mistakes. We all do the wrong thing sometimes.

I guess I just have more respect for: Hey, I admit I've done it, probably shouldn't, will try not to in the future even though it's possible I'll backslide.

We've all been there. But trying to support a false ethic, one you know is selfish and possibly harmful, seems a little a deceptive (or inherently self-deceptive perhaps).

Anyway, time for me to go home. Indie bookstore done for the day. Though I'll inevitably be drawn back to the siren call of this thread sometime tonight...

Lol, I thought when I read this thread, well, here's a topic I won't say anything about and everyone will have a reprieve from my blather. Oh so wrong. Must find more hobbies or something.

Nathan Bransford said...


You're downloading content because a company built on paying customers and an author counting on paying customers has created a work of art that is appealing to you. But rather than pay for it like everyone else you'd rather steal it.

And, of course, if everyone did what you did, that art wouldn't be around to steal.

You're the person who cuts in line, the person who cuts people off in traffic, the person who wants a free ride while others pay. I get it.

Anonymous said...

"I would much rather that kids in Baton Rouge have access to the world of books than another preppy Ivy grad because diversity is great for art, but in the free world that you're talking about I don't know that that's the way it's going to work."

The kids will always have access to the written word. Will they want it? Maybe. Does it have to be a book? Probably not.

I don't pay to read blogs. There's a lot of great writing out there that isn't tied to the mainstream publishing industry.

If you write to earn money and you can't paid ... maybe the future looks bleak. You may have to write for free... or not write at all.

Either way, it won't throw the world off its axis.

Haste yee back ;-) said...

Let's talk stealin' big time...

Google, Matt Taibbi Goldman Sachs

Please read all seven installments of THE GREAT AMERICAN BUBBLE MACHINE!

Haste yee back ;-)

Nathan Bransford said...


I agree to a certain extent and said in my post that the world of books would go on, but books won't be around in the same quality or quantity, and I think that would be a shame. The end of the world? No, but what we have is important enough to guard against with a great deal of energy and attention. Luckily I think all will end up being fine.

Anonymous said...

Well if you want to get right down to the economics it. Downloading a pirated copy of an ebook makes much more economic sense for the reader.

The chance of getting caught pale to the economic windfall of stealing it. It is really just simple math.

Either make it impossible to steal or make it easier to catch those that do it.

Until that is done, don't count on the goodness in people's hearts to do what is right...because what is economically right for them, is to get it at the smallest possible cost.

Dan Holloway said...

AIC, thanks. Feel free to help yourself to my ebook :-) (It's on the link). Seriously, I know I acn afford to say this because I'm a newbie and I don't have a huge following, but I hope if I ever do make it, I will say exactly the same - people have my position to bring my words back to haunt me should I ever "turn gamekeeper"

The Anonymous Internet Coward said...

Anonymous @ 2:37, here's what you don't get. It's not my job to create a solution, and it's not like I said it would ever be easy or succinct. I can't begin to understand the root of the problems in the publishing industry and therefore can't come up with realistic ways to address them. This needs everyone involved to start thinking about radical ways to resuscitate the industry.

Nathan mentioned that publishers have been preparing for eBooks for 10 years by developing technology, but they've only been moving towards technological inevitabilities rather than making real changes that will affect their ability to continue to make money.

I'm an unpublished writer. It's a pretty scary place to be right now, so I'm keeping an eye on what it takes to make it work in this business. Only time will tell if I become successful or not, but you can be damn sure I'm not going to move forward with the mentality that piracy is wrong and good will triumph over evil! No way, no how. I'm going to take advantage of every edge that I can and make current buying and usage trends work for me whenever possible.

I have plans to meet a friend for a movie (at the theatre… where I'll be paying $12) in a few minutes, so I'm going to have to end my input here.

Anonymous said...

"You're the person who cuts in line, the person who cuts people off in traffic, the person who wants a free ride while others pay. I get it."

This laughable assumption is exactly what makes you the person least likely to instigate truly successful change.

Can someone who actually thinks outside the box please stand up and take the floor? Nathan, you may as well take a seat back in your rut. You're just hindering us in finding a solution to the problem.

We download, but we are authors too. Do you think we aren't trying to address the piracy issue? We're on your site ... commenting with failed explanation. Please tune in.

The Anonymous Internet Coward said...

Dan: I already have your book "bookmarked" for future reading.

Nathan Bransford said...


Some people are actually swayed by the morality of the situation. But for those who strictly want to look at it from a cost/benefit standpoint, yeah, I agree that it comes down economics for these people, which is why I hope that it will be a sufficient pain in the ass to pirate that it will be more productive to spend their time elsewhere. How much money is it worth for someone to search for hours for something vs. just buying it legally?

Like I said, I don't think you'll be able to eliminate in entirely, but make it difficult enough vs. the ease of just paying and I think it will be enough to discourage mass piracy. Some more scammers scamming the pirates wouldn't hurt either.

But don't knock the moral argument. The more people who understand that this is theft, the smaller the number of people who will be tempted to pirate.

AstonWest said...

Joe Konrath has had a few blog posts on what he considers the future of e-books, and his thoughts on the "piracy threat"...good reading if you get the chance.

Start here and then continue here

Nathan Bransford said...


That was a metaphor, actually, mimicking anon@2:28's everyman declaration: "I play basketball with you, I share the same interest in film, we grew up together at school, etc. etc."

But hey, if being opposed to piracy makes me a Luddite I'll proudly start complaining about the damn kids on my lawn.

Anonymous said...

Dan -

I was once a working class kid, but in this free, capitalistic society I was given the opportunity to advance myself. Now I might be considered to be one of those elite you talk about. You sound like you are more about the repression of others.

"There's still a huge amount of social exclusion on a global level, as I've argued elsewhere, but now it's at least possible for at least some of these to reach readers directly and reap the rewards."

I am now certain this is no longer about the publishing industry and has become about politics.

"but I hope if I ever do make it, I will say exactly the same - people have my position to bring my words back to haunt me should I ever "turn gamekeeper"

Recommendation: Stop using your name (if it is your real name) in polarized discussions. If you are as young as I suspect you are, then I am certain your views will change.

Besides, there are some really creepy guys lurking around - you may even be playing basketball with them.

Dan Holloway said...

@ Marilyn - no, not at present (I'm deliberately avoiding using the music indsutry for examples). I AM, from Sep 1, running a monthly audit and publishing all my figures and findings, so people can see if I'm basing my arguments on rubbish ( I would say that I'm talking about previously unpublished writers - but not people without a following. I think you need to build a following first.

On torrent sites - I don't see these as the way forward in themselves - I see them as the back-office on which highly sophisticated front portals will be built that are run by passionate readers searching out and recommending the best free content within highly refined genres.

@Nathan - I guess only time will tell which of us is right about who will be able to write in a "free" culture. I used to agree with you, but since I got involved with people in the music industry, I changed my mind. People who argue that "paying only" means democratisation have a prima facie case but miss the many hidden exclusion factors - people from poor backgrounds are less likely to have access to the means to ehlp them prepare a great pitch letter, and so on. And I just don't buy the idea that because people get something for free they won't pay for a premium version if they love it. I don't expect to make vast amounts of money, but I'm with Kevin Kelly that 1,000 true fans who will pay are enough. Like I say I may be proven wrong. I've always said I'm happy to put any of my predictions up for a 10 year review.

Thsi is a great thread - tahnk you Nathan. I'm in the UK so it's bedtime but I'll be back tomorrow to read with interest

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Nathan Bransford said...


I feel that that mischaracterizes AIC's argument, and per my "stricter on anons" policy I deleted the comment.

banana_the_poet/Michele Brenton said...

If all that is of value in a book is the words in it - then piracy is a big problem - because it is easy to pirate words.

My theory is that artworks are rarely pirated because a print out of a picture or poster isn't as aesthetically pleasing or satisfying as the 'real' thing.

So the answer maybe lies in making a book more than just about the words in it.

The book needs to become an object of desire in itself as a whole unit - one part of which is the words contained within it.

I am trying to make my series of poetry books (there will be 7 and the first one just arrived today for me to proof it) something fun to own and enjoy even if a person never even read the content :)

I hope they will read the content and the fun design aesthetic will be the side bonus rather than the main impetus - but the whole thing will matter.

I'm going to issue embossed certificates of authenticity as well - like the Cabbage Patch Dolls had birth certificates LOL

Buying a book should be a burst of excitement and happy ownership - if that can be added into the purchasing equation to make the buying a satisfying experience then maybe pirating will become lacklustre in comparison.

Oh and my books are all going to be less than nine dollars for a paperback too.

Anonymous said...

Nathan - Fair enough. His comment on his profile may have me misinterpreting his attitude.

Nathan Bransford said...

I don't know that you misinterpreted his attitude, actually, just trying to keep things even. Thanks for understanding anon.

Annalee said...

Nathan, back to piracy causing loss in sales again:

You first said that the music industry has been on a steady decline since 1999, which you attribute to Napster and other file-sharing sites.

But you're also pointing to studies suggesting that piracy is down. If piracy is really responsible for the music industry's troubles, shouldn't the decrease in piracy be paired with a corresponding increase in music sales?

I don't mean to stand here and say "I think it's ok for people to steal money out of writers' wallets." I pay for my books. The ones I don't pay for, I check out of the library. I got over downloading music without paying for it around the same time I got over boy bands (eighth grade).

But as a writer, I sincerely hope that the publishing industry chooses to work smarter instead of harder when it comes to facing the challenges of changing technology. The industry can invest significant time and energy in a pointless battle against filesharing, or they can invest time and energy into turning new technologies to their advantage to make buying books more appealing to more people.

iTunes did that when it figured out what people loved most about Napster (instant a la cart access) and monetized it. E-readers are taking advantage of cloud computing (which, for the record, is possible without restrictive DRM) to offer people yet another value add over print books. And while you may not agree with Corey Doctorow's specific method, it's hard to argue with his point that the biggest thing standing between a writer and more sales isn't piracy, but obscurity. You've discussed on your blog some of the myriad ways authors are leveraging the internet to get their books out there--if the industry is smart, it will start looking for more.

There comes a point where rolling the boulder around the mountain is more efficient than trying to push it up the mountain. I think the statistics indicate that we're well past that point with filesharing.

Francy said...

I'm just going to dive right in even though I'm so new to the computer and to the business of publishing our first novel that I hardly care about pirate books. Allan Ginsburg once told me that authors make about 8-10 grand a year and that you've got to teach to stay alive. I have no academic hookup except when they pay me for readings so I guess I have to hustle harder than people with a job. As I understand everything that goes out on these waves are owned by the cybernuts or undergroud threads anyway they're never lost. I 'm still getting e-mails about the reading topic yesterday. And good ole anon/I loved it when at the end of the anon blog Day/he said that he had to tend to Mr Lederman/that was touching to my heart and justified the unpleasant blogs previously. Working in a psyche ward to keep the wiki up has to be gods 'work. As for me/I'm trying to cut down on slashes/I will never use a quotation mark again and dream only of queries.

Kristi said...

Okay, I don't usually comment twice in a day, but are there really people who don't think piracy is stealing? Seriously? Why do you think it's called piracy and not borrowing? Okay, I'm done but I also want to say that I like Nathan's fiesty side which has come out in full force today. :)

Erick Stone said...

piracy is a bad thing, kind of.
i have my reservations about it, but Dan Browns 'The lost symbol' was pirated hours before its release. didn't he still break a sales record or something?
piracy hasn't really even effected the music industry, artists don't seem to be struggling.
the real crime, and i am pretty sure i am alone in this way of thinking. is the price of the albums, books, and movies we all have to buy.
and yes i am an aspiring writer, who wants to sell books and i think this way.

Nathan Bransford said...


Digital music sales are increasingly actually, and I would hypothesize that a lot of those sales are from people who previously might have pirated.

I don't mean to suggest that piracy was the only problem facing the music industry - much like the publishing industry the transition to digital means, inevitably, lower price and broken business models.

But at the same time, I do think piracy took a huge chunk especially during a time the industry needed to be innovating.

I share your hope that the industry will be smart about how it modernizes, and agree that much of this will be through making e-books available easily and cheaply. But I also think it's important to both stigmatize and fight back against piracy. Margins are really tight in a digital world.

And a final point on free: should we close bookstores and Amazon? Freevangelists are riding on an infrastructure that is built by paying customers. If no one is going to pay for anything: who is going to get the books to customers? Are we all going to be reading Word docs with a million typos?

Nathan Bransford said...


Yeah, I try and keep things on an even keel, but as you can see the piracy thing gets me riled up.

S. said...


About Amazon letting you download again: that's a most excellent move on their part, and probably an interesting marketing angle for the Kindle as well.

About syncing: I'd say you are slightly mistaken on two counts IMHO, one explicit, one implicit. The first one is that transferring the information of, say, where the reader left off, requires proprietary software. All it does require is a convention on how to transform that information into 0s and 1s, and on how to pass it from device to device. And that convention may very well be a completely open standard. The second possibly mistaken assumption, if I got you correctly, is that DRM is necessary for the exchange of that information. It isn't. This is what I was going on about in my above lengthy comment: the transfer of digital information between computer-like devices is something easy and extremely cheap. This is what computers exist for. That's neither a good or a bad thing in itself, once more; just a particular cat that is out of the bag for the time being.

About customers not necessarily being right, wanting things for free, etc: oh, that's an excellent point. Actually, I was basing the last part of my comment on the assumption that a significant percentage of all potential customers will be glad to pay to support an author they like, regardless of the availability of other means to obtain the book. You know, reading is a personal thing, in my, err, book. Maybe I'm wrong in this assumption, though. Nevertheless, I may be wrong, but a business model built upon the view of the customer as an antagonist doesn't sound terribly sustainable either. This is tricky, alright. Damned if you do, damned if you don't. Maybe the Doctorow approach is right after all, who knows?

And about DRM self-righteousness: you have a good point about it more or less working out in practice; the resentment, I think, simply boils down to the simple fact that people instinctually like getting something tangible in exchange of their money -- or more precisely something that's under their own control. Whereas the purpose of DRM is, by definition, to withhold some of that control. Hence, resentment. Just a hunch, anyway. I'm no psychologist.

Anyway. What will be, will be. Presumably the better approach will be a careful balance between the carrot and the stick, as usual. By which I mean, it won't work very well, but going to the extreme in either direction would work even worse.

As usual.

S'okay. I'll keep writing either way.

Nathan Bransford said...

Thanks for explaining further, S. I wasn't aware that there could be both a means of syncing devices as well as an open format -- could you accomplish this with the common ePub format or do you mean that there could be an open format that accomplishes this in theory?

Add this to the list of things I never thought I'd need to learn when I became a literary agent.

Thomas Burchfield said...

Me, I'm looking for the Thomas Pynchon t-shirt (with a blank, black silhouette).

It's huge subject, but these things I feel are true:

I don't like stealing (especially from me) and I pay for the music, movies and literature I want (though I've slipped up on YouTube a few times and always with a wince . . . yes, Gordon Lightfoot and Ennio Morricone didn't get my money like they deserved).

My Grand Personal Honor Aside, thieves have always been with us (as characters, a good thief can make a story hum as anyone who's read Donald Westlake and Richard Stark (along with Victor Hugo and Dostoyevsky) will attest.

With that in mind, I offer an evolutionary perspective--the more we guard against them, the more thieves find ways to worm around the safeguards and the more safeguards we create in response.

Endless adaptation from both sides: It's a fact of life, but one we have to face up to and deal with, rather than collapse in defeat (quitting writing and editing simply isn't in my DNA).

In the meantime, this week, I wrote about the USS Hornet Museum in Alameda at:

Cheers everyone . . . .

sex scenes at starbucks said...

I'm not trying to be a suck up--Nathan already knows I adore him--but I'm with the straight black and white moral argument. I work damn hard at writing for very little pay. In fact, I'm even an editor who can't pay nearly as much as I'd like. So, pleeeease, don't steal my writing. It's not yours until I sell it to you and it doesn't matter if I've sold millions of books or ten.

Stealing isn't about the degree of damage. That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. You can't make it right, whether it's shoplifting from Target or stealing a little old lady's purse. I wonder if those commenters are parents who will tell their kid it's okay to steal from them...they're rich.

Ah, but then, who cares if someone pirates a book? It's just a damned book. Anyone can write one, right?

AndrewDugas said...

I don't understand your reference to the Scribd lawsuit. I don't have a PM account so I couldn't access the article, but...

If it's the case that Google serves up, the one brought by Elaine Scott, it has nothing to do with "laissez faire" uploading policies, but rather Scribd's filter for PREVENTING unlawful uploads of pirated material.

Your tone suggests Napster-esque wrongdoing on Scribd's part, when they are acting to protect copyright holders.

Is there another care you are referring to, or are you intentionally attempting to cast aspersions on Scribd?

iamfrightenedtoo said...

you cannot compare a media pirate to a man who steals someones purse.
the "you wouldn't steal a TV" adds before movies are ridiculous too.
its bad, and it should be monitored. but obviously doesn't hurt people.
the media industry could make money off the internet, and media pirates if instead of the last 12 years trying to handcuff kids, they would have spent the time researching ways, and becoming imaginative.

honestly, i defend both sides of the fence on this. sometimes "steeling" music online is the only way for some people to get it.

is that an excuse? maybe not, but its true.

Nathan Bransford said...


An author whose work was illegally uploaded to Scribd is suing them (and is seeking class action status) for not having sufficient safeguards in place to guard against illegal materials being uploaded. I'm really not weighing in on the merits of the case as I don't know the specifics, I'm just pointing out that when a site becomes big enough and well-trafficked to matter it becomes a target for anti-piracy lawsuits.

AndrewDugas said...

When it comes to print copies, how many sales are lost because friends lend each other books or buy used?

The real question is how will lost revenue due to the piracy of digital material (which is impossible to share legally) match up to lost revenue due to sharing (or buying used) print material?

AndrewDugas said...

Nathan, your point about size attracting lawsuits is well-taken, but I don't think Scribd has very deep pockets.



Nathan Bransford said...


Yeah, I doubt they do as well. But your point that I didn't summarize the lawsuit quite as accurately as I could have is well-taken, and I adjusted the post accordingly. You're right -- it's not so much about their enforcement of what has been uploaded as much as lack of oversight over what is being uploaded.

iamfrightenedtoo said...

i have another comment, i buy a lot of books from thrift stores. i am not paying the author that money, i am paying some other entity who also did not give the author any money.
and actually at one local thrift store, i actually get them free sometimes.

now, if a kid downloads a song, from an internet user, how is that different than me getting free books from thrift stores because i am a frequent customer?
i know, the size of how many downloads compared to my one store. but unfortunately, that isn't the Downloaders fault.

iamfrightenedtoo said...

i am posting a lot i apologize Nathan but, i have thoughts

it is hard to actually catch those who download. there is a way that is easier and definite to stop downloading. and Nathan i think touched on it (maybe)

punish the people who are uploading, and sharing from their PC's.
that is easily catchable, it would also target a smaller audience, as there are always more downloaders than uploaders. and their information is always on.

Dee Carney said...

I skimmed through the first few comments where the consensus appeared to be that people don't think piracy is that big a deal. As an epubbed author, I assure you, it is. One of my recent releases was pirated 4x more in two days than it sold in a month. This particular book has also been pirated on more sites than I care to count. Getting providers to take down the links is a long exhaustive process that takes away from the time I could spend writing. If you want to read what the owner of a pirate site said was his reason for making my book available, it's on my blog:

wendy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tori said...

The fact is this: people who pirate books will not stop. They have reasons they think are justified and no one can change their minds. I know this because I know people that pirate books.
It is a problem, and one I don't think can be resolved. At least, not right away. It is a very frustrating problem, but one I think the bigger names will have to deal with more than authors at the bottom.

ryan field said...

Below is a creepy converstaion I just read on a well known pirate site. It's one of many I've read.They are talking about one of my books and how they can continue to download it for free. I blocked all the links and names, but otherwise it's verbatim.

"Link is closed."

"Yes, it was reported as a abuse."
I'll try to upload it in another site.

"Please don't feel the need to do so on my behalf, Hon. I downloaded the book for free some time ago."

"Please post the new link, sweetie! Thanks so much."

"Links removed at $%#*@" request -

"did not work..."

"The link is dead. Can somebody post a new one, please? Thank you."

(The new link)

"Thank you so much, Doll, I can't wait to read it!!"


As the author, I decided to join the site and get into the conversation. The owners of the web site blocked me completely after one comment. Evidently, these pirates and the ones who download from them don't like honest confrontation. And, unfortunately hide behind the mask of Internet anonymity.

It's not something I'd ever do, or have ever done in the past.

Whirlochre said...

The moment books flutter from leaf to click, we're all (writers, publishers, readers) at the mercy of the Aaaar Jim Lad phenomenon.

The replicative spawnthrust of the digital age has hoist the sail of many a worthy benefit, most notably Project Gutenberg — a fine resource for text or pdf transcripts of the once creatively active yet now (all too sadly) shrivelled and dead — and Librivox, which, as far as I can see, is a stomping ground for stalwart enthusiasts of the copyright-expired written word whose microphone/throat combo is up for the amateur talking book thang.

Beyond this (for now) you're looking at torrents of scanned books — easily demanding more sweat and toil to render into the ether than transferring the vinyl wonder of Sticky Fingers to cassette or burning its CD mutant CD to minidisk or hard drive.

When books go digital, they'll acquire the transmission potential of Swine Flu (only without the pigs and the coughing, unless it's Animal Farm).

Word will out.

But will it render us speechless?


Other Lisa said...

Well, I'm late as usual.

As a person who does believe that a corporate oligarchy has rigged the system for the benefit of a few against the welfare of the many (and has created a system that does not allow for nearly the degree of the upward mobility celebrated in our national mythos)....

Well, I'm still against the pirating of creative work. Even if that product is being published/distributed by the Evil Corporate Empire. It's still the result of individuals' very hard work and creativity.

If I as an author want to make a portion of my writing available for free, then that's my choice. But don't deprive me of my ability to choose by stealing my stuff.

I will admit, I probably have inadvertently bought pirated stuff before - DVDs in China - but I pretty much only buy Chinese movies in actual stores, so I'm hoping I supported the creators more than I ripped them off.

I think iTunes shows that a well-organized "storefront" where you can buy things legally can compete and win against pirates. I've never illegally downloaded a song - but I've definitely made use of iTunes. If an
"iTunes for Books" is created that works as well as the music version, at an attractive price-point, I think it will succeed.

Add to that the fact that books as physical artifacts aren't going away - I truly believe that though eBooks will increase in popularity and become a significant share of the market, they will not replace paper books in the foreseeable future - and hopefully the publishing industry will avoid the disasters that piracy created for the music business.

As a side-note, I used to work in Film/TV, and the example of what piracy did to the music business was constantly held up as what we could not let happen to our industry. I think this is why the film/TV business has been quicker to adapt to the realities of digital piracy and has moved towards making product easily - and instantly - available to stream or download. The bandwidth required gave them a little breathing room that the music business didn't get.

Word ver: "prolle." Heh.

Bane of Anubis said...

This isn't the music industry - no one is making money on an author tours or Ian McEwan t-shirt

This isn't exactly true -- HP's got a whole theme park going up, Twilight's got spin off merchandise; perhaps not as prevalent as the music industry, but a bit too dramatic.

Ultimately, I think AIC makes an excellent point in one of his posts -- if the publishing industry can't handle the pirates (statically or by changing business models) then it will (I believe he used the term 'deserves' -- too harsh) go down.

Pirates/theft exist/s in every industry. It's not right, it's upsetting (particularly when you're involved in said industry), but, ultimately, you have to accept it (sure, you can devise method A to solve the problem, but the thieves are already on workaround Z, as intimated by Ryan Field's post) and move on.

Just have that candlestick ready in case you meet an acknowledged pirate IRL.

jimnduncan said...

I'm in the "not that big a deal" camp" on this one. It's the least worry to the big sellers, even though they will likely get pirated more. It might be more of a worry to those authors who make their living mostly through digital content. But still, is it going to be a big enough effect on anyone that a pub will drop an author because of it? No.

This doesn't mean it shouldn't be policed, because it is after all, against the law. It's stealing, and folks shouldn't be allowed to get away with it. Period. There will be those that no matter what is put in place to stop them, they will work around it. That's inevitable. The worst thing that can happen is that pubs freak out over it and hamper the general buying public's ability to get books. That's where sales will be truly lost, not from the piracy itself.

kathrynjankowski said...


Great topic. Lively discussion. The justifications for piracy astound me. Taking something without paying for it. Isn’t that the classic definition of stealing?

Oh, wait. I’m missing the point. It’s a philosophical disagreement, a symbolic finger to the establishment. Capitalism sucks.

I get it. I’m a child of the ‘60s. I was weaned on that stuff.

Except you can’t hurt the fat cats without hurting their workers. Think illegal downloads are merely a slap at the status quo? Go back and read Cinda Chima, Marilyn Peake, Ryan Field, Linda Godfrey.

It’s not just business. It’s personal.

It’s not a difference of opinion. It’s theft.

Adam Heine said...

Here in Thailand, there's a joke that there are no copyright laws. When you buy a computer, they'll install any software you want on it -- any software -- completely for free. East of town there's a Hard Rock Cafe, Chiang Mai with bamboo walls, but there is no Hard Rock Cafe, Chiang Mai.

So piracy's as big here as anything. Software, music, movies, everything. When Thais figure out how to make cheap e-Book knock-offs, books will be there too.

But it's been like this forever, and the industries are still around. I don't think piracy will ever go away (even 'legit' pirate sites get stung with viruses; the downloaders just deal), but neither do I think it will ever 'win.'

I think, rather, things will go on as they always have. Pirates will always exist; people will always fight them. Creative content makers will always complain, but most will ultimately lose a small percentage of sales.

Susan Quinn said...

I didn't know Nathan had a fiesty side. Learn something new everyday on this blog. :)

And color me shocked that the pirates try to make a moral case for their thievery. Really?

As for a look at what the "free" world of writing/publishing would look like, check out the fan fiction supposed-nirvana:

Anyone can publish, and does.
Everything is free.

It's extremely difficult to find good works. Of course it's not very original (it's fanfiction ), although there is a lot of original fiction that masquerades as fan fiction. Most stories are never finished. Talented authors are occasionally ferreted out by blogs searching for literary gold, valiantly trying to serve as gatekeepers (gasp!), but in the end, finding good lit is the proverbial needle in the haystack.

(Before anyone gets in a twist, I love fan-club nature of the fanfic world, and it has a positive or benign affect on most authors whose playground the ff writers play in)

sex scenes at starbucks said...


you cannot compare a media pirate to a man who steals someones purse

Are you kidding me? Money is money is money. You steal my book and I don't get my royalties from it, you've just stolen my MONEY. REAL ACTUAL GREEN MONEY.

I just sold a novella for online publication. My opportunity for royalties are staggering in comparison to, say, a paperback, per units sold. IF my piece sells well. IF I actually get the money. IF my novella isn't immediately stolen and replicated to anyone who wants it for free.

And that's just for the product.

How about my time, too? Are pirates compensating me for that? How about you pirates go off to work and tell your boss, "Aw hell, just steal, say, 20% of my work for free." You gonna miss that 20% of your salary? Damn straight you will.

There is no excuse for piracy.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous Internet Coward wrote, "I'm an unpublished writer. It's a pretty scary place to be right now, so I'm keeping an eye on what it takes to make it work in this business. Only time will tell if I become successful or not, but you can be damn sure I'm not going to move forward with the mentality that piracy is wrong and good will triumph over evil! No way, no how. I'm going to take advantage of every edge that I can and make current buying and usage trends work for me whenever possible."

There might be a problem for you if you really do take that approach, at least if you want to make a living from your writing. There's a law that states that, if an author doesn't defend their book's copyright over a certain period of time after discovering that the content's been stolen, they no longer own the copyright and can no longer claim exclusive rights to the profit. In other words, by not defending your copyright, you give tacit approval to give up ownership of your manuscript. By knowingly permitting piracy of your works, you would be putting yourself in a situation of continuously writing books but losing your claim to copyrights and profits.

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