Readers/Writers – How do we all feel about ebook piracy?

Image courtesy of Kirsten McKenzie

 A couple of nights ago my husband and I opened a bottle of wine and sat down for one of those ‘let’s talk about the future’ conversations. You know, one of those discussions where you make a five year plan and then look back on said conversation five years later and laugh hysterically?

We’ve been saving for our own house FOREVER and just as it seems my dreams could become reality we’d been hit by the news the medical treatment I am reliant on to remain mobile had been cut by the NHS without warning (you can read about that here if you want to). We agreed my health must come first and we must use the deposit we’ve saved to cover future medical treatment instead.

As Tim sloshed wine into my glass (hey we can’t cut back on everything) his phone beeped. A Google alert. He has one set for my name. He scanned the message and sipped his drink, not quite meeting my eye.

‘A terrible review?’ I asked.

‘Umm, no.’ He read it aloud. ‘OH MY GOD. This (The Gift) has got to be one of… if not the best book I have ever read. It was written so well and the characters were all amazing.’ 

‘That’s great!’ I said.

And it would have been. If it hadn’t transpired this review, along with others, had been left on an illegal e-book download site, and after the conversation we had just had about our tight finances I don’t mind admitting to feeling winded. Almost as though someone had stolen out of my purse.

There are always going to be those who want things instantly, who want things free, I know. I appreciate that although my books are only £1.99 if you are a quick reader all those £1.99 adds up (although ‘libraries’ spring to mind). Or there’s the argument readers don’t want to invest in a book they might not like (there’s a ‘try a sample’ option on kindle).

I wasn’t going to blog about this, the creative industry is open to piracy, books, films, music but I mentioned it to another writer yesterday and I was surprised by his reaction. He said he wouldn’t mind if his books were on illegal download sites as he felt if this was the case his name would spring up more frequently on search engines.

I don’t know about that but I’m genuinely interested now to hear other writers (and readers) opinions?

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44 thoughts on “Readers/Writers – How do we all feel about ebook piracy?

  1. Argh I hate these piracy sites! My books are on so many of them now. What subscribers don’t realise is that they’re often funding terrorism and criminality by signing up to them. Some readers actually give their credit card details to these sites, as for a small fee they can download pirated books for free. It beggars belief that people would want to give their personal details to strangers. Even if you don’t pay a subscription, these sites often plant viruses on their computers instead. You get nothing for nothing in this world. Everything free comes with a catch. If authors aren’t being paid for their work there’s a risk they’ll do something else instead. That’s why I teach my kids never to support piracy in any form. We pay subscriptions to reputable sites such as Spotify and Netflix for entertainment and I’m only too glad to support my fellow authors when it comes to books.

      • Yes, I learnt this when I participated in a course while I was in the police. Some movie piracy sites are a front for child porn too. Some really awful things go on behind the scenes. I’m sure readers would never participate if they knew. Well done for raising the subject though. x

  2. As a reader I detest these sites and really feel for authors trying to make a living and being cheated. I’m as partial to the 99p kindle offers as the next person but I wouldn’t dream of getting a book illegally. The penalties for piracy for any medium should be so much more.

  3. I tried a pirated copy of a book once recently. Nothing wrong with the copy but I felt like it just wasn’t right and guilty. I’d rather read slower and buy them. Even if it means rummaging around charity sales and libraries if I can’t afford a book at the time!

  4. As a reader, my first preference is to buy, but I’m a slow reader so the cost over time is less of an issue for me. As a writer, I feel a bit sad when I hear of people I know pirating, but I also understand where it comes from, as the cost of living in my city is quite high and sometimes we get shafted in terms of availability. In all fairness, ebooks aren’t such a problem here, but I think the mentality shifts from other types of media to this one.

    So I’m in two minds, personally. Piracy scares me because I’m worried for my future, but there’s a rainbows-and-unicorns part of me that believes art and information should be free, and that we should trade in likes and social karma. Maybe if Universal Basic Income ever became a thing here, that might be feasible, but for now, I’m just hoping for the best.

    This is a really fascinating conversation topic, btw. I’m looking forward to reading what more people have to say. 🙂

  5. I am not in favor of any operation, individual or organized corporate stuff, that deprives creative people of the proceeds from their very hard work. I don’t know how anyone can come to the conclusion that it isn’t stealing.

  6. I haven’t experienced piracy in writing but I did have one of my photos used without my permission and found myself a bit angry. Then, I felt it was out of my hands. I was a silversmith jeweler for over 28 years. A common problem with that was design copying. Another jeweler would send a friend or family member to ask about an item and either memorize the design or purchase it so the culprit would have a sample to copy. Cads!!!
    Sorry about this happening to you. Hope you’ll be able to resolve it. Do post how it goes.
    Isadora 😎

  7. Unfortunately piracy is rampant on the internet. I have read “original” content on the net that is nothing but a straight copy from elsewhere. I feel I am nowhere close to calling myself a writer at the moment. I am just a blogger who is fortunate to have some of his stories published by an indie publishing house. But as a blogger, I created this talking dog, ‘Nawab’, who figured in many blog entries. It was quite popular on a site that I used to frequent. So when I found that another person had taken this fictional creation of mine and was using it without permission to compose and post stories on another site, I found myself getting a bit angry. So I can imagine that you must be pretty angry as your original work is being stolen (which is what it is) and in your case it directly affects your pocket.

  8. There is actually very little that can be done about this. It’s just something we are going to have to learn to live with. If Hollywood and the music industry have been unable to curtail rampant infringement, then realistically what chance do we stand. For every sight that is closed, another ten pop up overnight.
    Does it cost you potential sales. Yes, definitely, but remember someone might read your work off one of these sights and then be forced into purchasing the rest of your work, or new books, from a legitimate sight I tend to look at it from the no press is bad press point of view.

      • It’s interesting how it often does lead to sales. Take the music industry. I will often download tracks off these sites from artists and if I like what I hear I purchase the album on iTunes. I know many of my friends do the same. It would be interesting to find out how many ebook readers off the dodgy sites actually purchase a physical book.

      • The problem is that normalising it in this way makes it seem OK but it’s not. It’s theft. It’s illegal. I’m not having a go at you as it’s an interesting point of view, but I would be very happy if these sites were stamped out for good, then people could turn elsewhere to download their content in a way that could benefit all.

      • Agree 100%. Sadly our best friend, the internet, is also our worst enemy. It’s just human nature. Remember sitting in front of the radio as kids with the tape deck to get that song you wanted to listen to? 😀

  9. I remember the first time I saw one of my books on a pirate site. I quickly learned there are two kinds of sites, the ones that actually allow an unauthorized free download of your book and those that are just clickbait with no actual book download available. Both scenarios made me angry at first, but then I realized that the first type of site was kind of like a library. I have my books in libraries and, beyond the first payment, I don’t receive royalties. What I do receive, however, are new readers that might purchase and enjoy my other books. I have tried to be diligent about having my books removed from the clickbait sites, but I’ve ignored the other type unless it’s a fairly recent release that is clearly being pirated for profit.

    • I think ebook piracy sites are for profit aren’t they? I think you have to put your card details in. I think with libraries we get a payment every time someone borrows. We’re all entitled to our opinion but I don’t think we can compare library users to those who, in essence, are stealing books but loved hearing all the varied opinions.

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  11. I recently came across a video by Neil Gaiman about piracy and found it quite intriguing. I wasn’t sure what to think about ebook piracy, a part of me wanted to be mad/upset, but seeing this video got me thinking. He talks about ebook piracy and how it changed his view on it. He also poses the question to audiences about who discovered their favorite author by being lent the book vs going to the book store and buying it? After watching the video, I’d say that if I had my Brooks pirated, it would be a good thing. Some of the piracy Gaiman talks about is how his book was translated into a Russian where his books aren’t readily available, and later saw sales growth in his books as a result. Below is the link to the video and I do recommend watching it. He has some good stuff to say and I recommend watching it, just to hear him out.

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