Book Piracy is Stealing

Monday, November 7, 2011
This year, an author will spend hundreds of hours writing a book that you will download for free.

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.


  1. I agree entirely. Artists should be supported. The idea that e-books should only be $0.99 is also stealing from the author. Basically, it's the idea that the writer is somehow obligated to entertain the masses for free.
    It's all just wrong.

  1. If I like a book enough (like yours), it makes for an excellent holiday gift. So I buy another copy.

    I had no idea this happened to you. And I completely agree. Stealing is wrong in all its formats.

  1. Oh man - that is messed up. I feel for you girl. That is frustrating. I wish people would be more considerate of the time and work that goes into these things.

    And BTW - Amber Smith does NOT sound like a porn star! lol :)

  1. Andrew: It bothers me that someone people feel entitled to books. Like we fell asleep on our keyboard and when we woke up, our face had written a book.

    Mike: At least someone does. ;)

    Dave: This is true. Everyone should buy at least 5 copies, am I right? ;)

    Abby: No really. There's an Amber Smith who's a porn star.

  1. Shanella said...:

    wow, I'm so sorry to hear that someone who was suppose to help you promote the book actually pirated it. That's just a horrible thing.

    I agree with you that content is NOT free. It's just so easy for people to forget this, especially in a digital world.

  1. Oh, man! I wish my face could write books while I'm asleep! I'd sleep with the keyboard every night and have someone slap me in the morning if my face didn't meet its word count!

  1. GO Amber, you chew those crazies out!

    I wish you the best of luck. If it helps you feel better, I still haven't read your book because I haven't gotten it yet. (and I do promise to read it when I get it for christmas.)

  1. Shanella: I'm considering not even doing a blog tour next time. We only sent it to book reviewers, and they're the ones who downloaded it.

    Andrew: Isn't there an app for that? ;)

    Mel: It makes me all tingly inside to think that people are getting my book for Christmas. :D

  1. An app that will slap my face? Hmm... Probably. There's an app for pretty much everything.

  1. Why haven't that girl been arrested yet?

  1. ** said...:

    I was lucky enough to get a copy of your book for review Amber and it pisses me off that someone would abuse that privilege and pirate it.

    It leaves a bitter taste in the mouths of the honest ones of us out there.

  1. Whoops sorry...that last comment was me.....
    I wasn't logged into my blogger account, I was on my daughters ;P

  1. That's horrible!! Why would a reviewer do that? I can't even fathom that. I'm so sorry it happened to you *hugs*

  1. Andrew: if there isn't, I'm sure you can find someone willing to slap you in the name of art. ;)

    Chris: Ya, I wish.

    Cath: I know who one girl is who pirated it too. I won't say her name, cause I'm a better person, but it's tempting. Needless to say, I'll never send her another book.

    ABS: Thanks. It was hard. I'm not even sure I want to send ebooks out for review because of it.

  1. LOL
    I'm sure I can find any number of people willing to slap me. It doesn't have to be in the name of anything.

  1. I'm sorry that happened to you. And while I understand your anger about what happened, I really believe that most book reviewers wouldn't do that. The sad fact is, even if you don't do a blog tour, it is likely that if someone wants to pirate your book, they will, just later after its published. So not doing a blog tour really doesn't prevent it from happening, it just prevents the possibility that it would happen from that source. I am not at all saying that you should just accept it and do nothing. You absolutely have the right to demand that your material be removed from any website that does not have the right to it.
    I think most book bloggers do their best to run their review blogs with integrity. There will always be those that try to take advantage though.

  1. I totally agree. I love your solution-- for people to stop stealing! So blunt, yet exactly right.

  1. I don't think people are just going to stop stealing, but it's a nice thought. Also, if all those people were checking your book out at the library instead of downloading it from online, would you still be upset that you're not getting those sales? I've thought of that before and had some interesting viewpoints come about from it. :)

  1. On another point, though, reviewers who signed up for your book and then stole it - that's simply ridiculous. They are so blacklisted.

  1. Booker: I totally agree with you. Most bloggers wouldn't do it, but it only takes one or two to ruin it for everyone else. Going forward, I think I'll only send books to reviewers that are under my blog tour coordinators. And yes, it will happen regardless, but this way at least it's after the launch so it's not undermining my sales before the book is even available.

    Peggy: Sometimes people don't realize their actions hurt another person. They steal a book and never see the consequences. Through this, I hope people understand that piracy DOES hurt someone.

    Michelle: Education is important. People need to realize that piracy actually hurts authors. As for the library thing, did you read my whole post? I talked about the library thing. Here it is:

    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.

  1. Libraries do eBook lending, though. And they only pay once.

  1. Yes, but they pay for a lending license, so it's quite a bit more. Plus, libraries are a huge boon for authors. Pirates are not.

  1. "Consider that public libraries make up 10% of all book sales in the United States each year."

    "Several large publishing companies have yet to make eBooks available to public libraries. Those that have sold eBooks to libraries set limitations on how they can be loaned out. For example, one electronic copy of a book can be taken out by just one reader at a time. Some companies limit the number of copies of a book they'll sell to a library. A few have set a limit on how many times a book can be downloaded."


    That's for the quotes above.
    Here's another one:

    Libraries purchase licenses for the books they lend, which limits the number of digital copies that can be "checked out" at the same time.

  1. Haddock said...:

    No doubt about it.
    Stealing in any form (or format) is wrong.
    Just reminded me of the movie I saw yesterday.
    Before the movie started there was a warning on the screen "copying this in any form in the theater with a movie camera or otherwise is illegal and punishable"
    The movie was Tintin by Spielberg.

  1. I'm infuriated to hear of a blogger on your tour pirating your book! I'm seeing lots of pirate links to my own novels lately and it really rankles because it's not like I'm making much $. Less than minimum wage. If this continues unchecked I think many writers will be forced to reconsider their careers, no matter how much they love writing. I just don't know how we can change the mentality of people willing to download pirated material - it seems the attitude that it's no big deal has already taken hold in too big a way.

  1. Haddock: It happens everywhere. Maybe it will get to the point where all ebooks are free, but you have to put up with ads when you're reading.

    CK: I know who she is too. As for making a living at this, maybe that won't be possible anymore. Don't they realize that they're shutting down author's careers?

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