I've heard all the arguments. Hannah said, "I don't think that a few bites out of the book sales of mega authors are going to make that much of a difference to their profit."
This mistaken belief goes back to the fable that all authors are rich. I see it all the time. My neighbors frequently ask me when I'm moving into my mansion. The truth is that the average American author makes 9k a year. We are not rich. Most of us barely make enough to supplement our income (and believe me, my wallet has felt the thousands of illegal downloads of Witch Song). A few lucky authors make enough to pay their bills without a second job. Only a handful make enough money to move into the upper class.
But let's say you've downloaded some mega author's novel like JK Rowling or Stephanie Meyer. Stealing from them doesn't count because they're already rich??? Sorry. Stealing is stealing. You can justify it all you want, it won't change the truth. It's kind of like the argument that stealing from Walmart doesn't hurt anyone other than some nameless corporation. The truth is that every customer pays for theft in the increased prices from security measures and profit losses. Some writer's book will fail to make it and that author's contract won't be renewed.
I'm familiar with Neil Gaiman's argument that book piracy actually helps sales because it's free marketing and the people who downloaded the book wouldn't have bought it anyway.
I disagree. There's generations of people who believe that content should be free because of the erroneous belief that the content didn't cost anything to create. And in once sense they're right. There are virtually no cost of materials in ebooks.
But what about time? After all, it's the only thing we as humans really have to give anyone. As I said before, authors spend hundreds of hours on their book. That's not to mention editors, cover artists, publisher production costs, etc.
Don't we deserve to be paid for those hundreds of hours?
"Downloading the book is no different from borrowing the book from a friend or the library."
Wrong. The library bought the book. You're friend paid for the book. They can lend it out until the binding falls apart and you can't read past the coffee stains. Though most people don't because they take care of their books.
But that doesn't happen with ebooks. No matter how many times you lend the book, it doesn't age. Meaning you can then lend the book out to infinity. And people do. Lending the book thousands of times, of which the author is paid once or not at all.
With Witch Song, we began to send the book out to book review blogs who requested the book. One of the girls coordinating my book tour contacted me to inform me that someone on the tour had pirated the book. She was appalled and wanted to apologize.
Within a week, the book had thousands of downloads from different file sharing sites. I reported this to my publisher, who went through the laborious process of having those files taken down. The very next day, the same people put the book back up.
I felt betrayed and undermined by the very people I thought wanted to help my book succeed.
So what's the solution?
For people to stop stealing. Seriously, if you can't afford a book, borrow one from the library. If they don't have it, request it. Most libraries are happy to buy books their patrons are interested in.
Book sellers like Amazon need to have the files available in numerous formats to everyone who wants to buy it--this includes all English speaking countries--without any ridiculous fees.
Hosting sites need to be held accountable for the websites they host. If they host a child porn site, they should pay a fine. If they host a site that sells pirated books, they should pay a fine. I understand that they don't have the man hours to patrol all their sites, but after a site has been reported, they should investigate it.
Search engines should block these sites from their searches.
Short story: Piracy hurts authors. Pay for your books.