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So, let's talk about ebook piracy. Depending on who you ask, this phenomenon is The Worst Thing Ever and ebook pirates are spoiled, entitled, dirty rotten thieving scum of the earth (I have a vague recollection of a rather Big Name SF author who once said on Usenet that he thought all ebook pirates should be raped, but I won't name names because I don't have a link and wouldn't want to put such inflammatory words in someone's mouth based on shoddy memory - but no, surprisingly enough, it wasn't Harlan Ellison), or it is the brave new conjunction of electronic publishing and social media.

Now, let's be honest, some of you have done it. Are doing it. You are reading pirated ebooks right now.

Don't you feel ashamed?

Maybe not.

Arrr, Matey!

Where I Stand



Before I present the pros and the cons and the poll, I'll make my position clear:

I don't think you should pirate ebooks (or anything else). I think especially that if you can afford to buy it legitimately (i.e., you have no basis for pleading poverty), then you have no excuse. That said, I don't feel motivated to be overly judgmental towards those who do pirate. I think epiracy should be discouraged and kept underground, and certainly not made an "approved" thing, which is why you may have seen me jump down the throats of those who occasionally post here or in other book comms chirping that they'd like to know where they can get a free (i.e., pirated) copy of Latest Bestseller. Kid, seriously, if you're too fucking hard up to pay for it, at least don't be too fucking lazy to find it on your own. It's not like Google is hard to use. Yeah, I'm not a fan of "sharing" sites, but we all know they're out there and until the President decides to send the Marines into Russia to stop ebook piracy, they're not going away.

But, I am equally disdainful of published authors who shriek fury and outrage when they discover that 10,000 copies of their book were downloaded last month and that means if not for pirates, they'd be selling ten thousand books a month!

But... waving it in an author's face that you're pirating their book is a pretty shitty thing to do. Hence, my belief that if you're going to do it, you should keep it on the down-low. And if you like the author's work, consider yourself in karmic debt.

I do believe (as is so often the case) that John Scalzi says it very well in The Stupidity of Worrying About Piracy and Writing in the Age of Piracy. (Both of those columns are from 2005, but he's written things since then indicating that his position hasn't changed, despite the fact that ebooks are now far more prevalent today than they were seven years ago.)

His position is basically the grown-up one, and mine: I do not support or condone piracy, but I don't think it's worth making a big production over. If you're a published author and you see your stuff being hosted on an illegal file-sharing site, contact your publisher and have the takedown notices sent, but do not freak out on the Internet about how pirates are stealing money from you and OMG why isn't anyone doing anything about this and don't you realize that pirates will DESTROY BOOKS 4EVER!

The Arguments



So, I will now try to address, broadly, every point typically raised both by defenders and critics of piracy.

It's illegal



Well, there's no denying that. And if you think breaking the law is immoral, then that right there is reason enough not to do it. It's obviously not a strong argument for a lot of people, who either think the law is wrong or they put it in the same category as jaywalking or slugging someone who insults yo mama -- things everyone believes should be illegal but no one believes should really be prosecuted.

Some pirates will argue that Intellectual Property law is unfair (or should be abolished entirely). I am frankly not sympathetic to this argument at all, nor those who mindlessly recite aphorisms like "Entertainment wants to be free." If you reference the Mickey Mouse Protection Act, I will be more sympathetic, but I'll point out that has approximately nothing to do with whether or not ebook piracy should be illegal in the first place.

Where legality does enter the picture, ominously, is when stupid ineffective technology like DRM is used, and clueless legislatures enact laws like the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and the Stop Online Piracy Act in a futile effort to stop piracy. These laws in fact do nothing to stop piracy, but sure do help corporations squeeze more money from every single Internet user, and endanger the free flow of information. And frankly, when shit like this gets passed is when I start cheering for the Jolly Roger on principle.

It's theft!



Depends on how you define "theft." It clearly isn't theft in the same way that stealing a book out of a bookstore is theft. Taking tangible goods not only deprives the seller of what you should have paid for the goods, but also prevents someone else from purchasing that item. Whereas an ebook is still available for purchase no matter how many people "steal" it. You have, however, declined to pay for something that the author, publisher, and ebook retailer all expected to be paid for.

An economic, if not moral or legal, question arises when you consider the case of someone pirating a book they would not have bought anyway. If I steal a book from a bookstore and then throw it in the trash without reading it, I haven't "benefited" from my theft, but I've still hurt the store and everyone else who lost revenues from that book. Whereas if I download a pirate ebook and never read it, or if I do read it but there is no way I would have paid for it even if I hadn't been able to pirate it, what "harm" have I caused? From a strictly pragmatic point of view: none. (Now, if I then redistribute it to other people, it becomes a different question.)

I can't afford them



Because of the aforementioned IP law idiocy, people in the U.S. may not appreciate how hard it can be for people in countries outside the U.S. (and especially in countries outside of North America or Europe) to buy ebooks as cheaply and conveniently as we can. There are countries where many ebooks simply cannot be obtained legally, and books in general are too expensive for the average person to afford.

While the degree to which you believe poverty mitigates "stealing" things you can't afford is up to you, I don't think many authors do (or should) fret poor people downloading ebooks they would never be able to afford and thus becoming fans who, someday, in hopefully less constrained circumstances, will be able to actually buy their books.

That said, I cast a jaundiced eye at privileged high school and college students who can afford their monthly WOW subscriptions and Starbucks but plead poverty as an excuse to pirate everything they read. And it also bears mentioning that, you know, even if you legitimately can't afford your favorite author's latest release, one usually doesn't argue that one is entitled to have anything one wants regardless of ability to pay for it.

Ebooks are too expensive



Avast, ye scurvy readers!

Let's dispense with the myth that ebooks are "too expensive." A few anomalies aside, ebooks are very rarely more expensive than the print version. Most publishers sell the ebook for a little less than the hardcover price when the hardcover comes out, then drop it to be comparable to the paperback when that's published. A lot of publishers sell ebooks at steeper discounts.

Ebook prices are still in flux and have yet to stabilize at a price acceptable to both publishers and consumers. The throwdown between the Big Six publishers and Amazon that resulted in the agency pricing model will probably be renegotiated eventually. There are fears from a lot of publishers and authors that ten million self-publishers throwing $0.99 Kindle books up on Amazon is resetting the public's expectations of what an ebook "should" cost to an unsustainably low price point. Eventually, I think ebooks will be the norm and they will be priced significantly lower.

I do, however, admit to failing to understand why $10 is "too much" for an ebook which will entertain me for many more hours than a $10 movie ticket.

Also, consumers need to realize that the assumption that an ebook is much, much cheaper to produce than a print book is a myth, at least if you assume an ebook that has been edited, proofread, formatted, and marketed to the same degree as the print version. The cost of physically producing, transporting, and storing paper books is actually a relatively small percentage of the overall cost of producing a trade published book. (The estimates I've read indicate that the "fair price" of an ebook, discounting all costs associated with paper book production, would result in perhaps $2-$3 per book in savings that should be passed on to the buyer.)

Illegal downloads = lost sales



This is the biggest myth authors trot out, usually in the midst of a towering rage upon discovering that their book is being pirated. They see the huge numbers of downloads of their book, compare it to their last pitiful royalty check, and see dollars vanishing from their bank account like water swirling down the drain.

It's easy to feel sorry for them. Most authors are not Stephen King or J.K. Rowling. Even authors you might consider to be pretty "big names" don't make huge earnings. And the publishing world goes through periodic contractions and mercilessly cancels series that don't sell. When your economic well-being happens to be tied to your creative efforts, you've got self-esteem and livelihood wrapped up in the same product, and seeing people taking it without paying for it feels like a kick in the teeth.

Authors, however, need to understand that a lot of downloaders just suck everything in a torrent onto their hard drives. Only a tiny fraction of those downloaded ebooks will actually be read, and an even tinier fraction would have ever bought the book in the first place.

The only way actual economic damages from ebook piracy could be calculated would be if you could tally up (a) the number of people who illegally downloaded a book (b) who would have paid for it if the download were not available.

This number is certainly very small, and no author or publisher has ever been able to demonstrate actual lost revenues from ebook piracy.

Complicating that calculation, though, is the fact that of those who do illegally download a book, and read it, some fraction will probably buy books by that author in the future. And/or tell their friends about it, some of whom will buy books by that author. These second and third-order effects are almost impossible to calculate, but this is essentially the "Cory Doctorow argument."

The Cory Doctorow Argument



Cory Doctorow, science fiction author and editor of Boing Boing, has been advocating a radical new paradigm for epublishing for years: free.

I'd do him a disservice by trying to summarize his position here, but he puts his books where his agenda is; they are all available for free online. And the one to read to get his entire argument regarding epublishing is ©ontent.

It works for him. But he already had a following, and BoingBoing.net is a big platform with which to build a following. Whether or not all (or most) authors can succeed following his model is debatable, but he makes many persuasive arguments (and some less persuasive ones).

Doctorow is not the only author who releases free ebooks, though. John Scalzi has done it, Charles Stross has done it, and a growing number of authors are finding that making the first book in your series free or very, very cheap is a good way to get people to buy the rest of the series. So as both publishers and authors become more savvy, I think we'll see less author outrage over torrented ebooks and more authors who figure out how to take advantage of it.

It's no different than reading a library/used book



A common defense of ebook piracy is that there's no difference between reading a pirated ebook and borrowing it from the library or buying it used. The author doesn't make any money in those cases either.

The library argument is weaker. First, while it is (unfortunately) true that authors aren't paid for library checkouts in the U.S., in many other countries they do receive a small licensing fee for every checkout of their book. However, physical books wear out; they are only good for a limited number of reads, and library and used books are subject to notoriously hard usage. Libraries, unsurprisingly, are major book buyers, so when a book is in demand at a library and has a waiting list, libraries will often order more copies. So while a library checkout does not have the same one-to-one purchasing benefit for the author that buying the book does, it still registers as an increased demand for the book.

Now, used books are pretty much a wash for the author, and believe it or not, some (clueless) authors did use to rant that used bookstores were essentially taking money out of their pockets. (And way back in the day, there were objections to libraries on much the same grounds, especially publicly funded libraries that icky non-rich people could use.)

Today, most authors are more clueful about how libraries and used books, while perhaps not putting (as much) money directly into their pockets, have the very important and valuable long-term benefit of growing their readership, future readers who will buy future books. For an author who publishes many books over a lengthy career, the availability of cheap used books and free library books results in more sales long-term.

Eventually, authors will come to an accommodation with ebooks and downloading, realizing that much the same principle applies. However, the flip side of that is that consumers will have to come to an accommodation with authors: if everything you read is a free download, the author will never make any money, and most authors cannot survive on PayPal tip jars.

What say ye, Matey?



I think I have covered most of the arguments that usually surface in discussions about ebook piracy, pro and con, but feel free to add your own in comments.

Note: I fully expect there to be strong opinions on both sides. However, anyone who comes flaming in like a meteorite with either "Fuck you you damn dirty pirates DIAF!" (I admit that I talk like that when I am trying to drive pirates out of public forums) or "Fuck you greedy authors why should I pay for your shitty book?"... uh, well, I can't do anything about it, but you probably won't win a lot of converts.

Here's a poll. Individual votes are screened this time, in case you don't want to tell the world "Yes, I'm a pirate." (I can still see them, because I don't think there's a way to keep the poll author from being able to see how each person responded. But I promise I will totally be judging you don't really care about your individual habits.)

Poll #1810826 Ebook piracy

Do you read pirated ebooks?

Never, or almost never.
81(40.5%)
I have occasionally, but not often.
26(13.0%)
Only if the book is not readily available legitimately.
17(8.5%)
Sometimes, but I also buy a lot of ebooks legitimately.
24(12.0%)
Often. I only buy the ones I really think are worth it or to support the author.
41(20.5%)
I never buy anything I can download.
11(5.5%)

What do you think of ebook piracy?

I think ebook pirates should DIAF.
3(1.5%)
Okay, maybe not DIAF, but it's wrong, period.
25(12.6%)
I think it's wrong, but there are circumstances where it's justified.
49(24.7%)
I know it's technically a bad thing, but I really don't think it's a problem.
74(37.4%)
Meh. Who cares?
26(13.1%)
Free downloads for all! Embrace the future!
17(8.6%)
So, uh, where I can find all these free ebooks...?
4(2.0%)

What reasons (if any) do you think justify pirating ebooks?

If I can't afford to buy it.
91(18.7%)
Because publishers charge too much.
47(9.7%)
I only think authors deserve to be paid if I like the book.
29(6.0%)
I would pay, but I can't get them where I live.
94(19.3%)
The entire publishing industry and IP paradigm is corrupt, so I won't support it until it's reformed.
17(3.5%)
I buy enough books, I don't feel guilty about sampling some for free.
83(17.0%)
If I would have checked it out from the library or otherwise wouldn't be paying for it anyway.
67(13.8%)
I don't feel guilty about pirating, period.
36(7.4%)
Some other reason which Inverarity has not thought of but I will mention in the comments.
23(4.7%)




Previous Saturday Book Discussions.

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Comments

( 178 comments — Leave a comment )
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twasadark
Jan. 14th, 2012 11:46 pm (UTC)
Another well-thought out and interesting post. Thank you!
ashura_oh
Jan. 14th, 2012 11:54 pm (UTC)
I agree. Filesharing in general makes me feel bad for the artist (author, musician, you name it) who's put so much effort into it, and who'll hardly see a penny from the legally sold copy anyway, but will get nothing from filesharing. The idea that every artist gets filthy rich from what they create is simply not true. No money = no more art. So when I like an artist, in person maybe even, I'll encourage friends and family to buy their stuff, or buy the product as a present and in different languages and editions.

However, I won't jump at people's throats, period.
marlowe1
Jan. 24th, 2012 04:58 am (UTC)
Well you aren't the artist, so you aren't losing money from these illegal downloads.
lady_leia_solo
Jan. 15th, 2012 12:17 am (UTC)
Personally I could go either way. I do buy a lot of books in general. Usually if the printed book can be obtained for the exact same price, I'll buy the printed form because I like looking at them on my shelves. But if the ebook is cheaper, I'll buy it. Ultimately I'm a cheap person.

If I do acquire a copy illegally, I use it for preview purposes. If I like the book, I'll mostly likely buy it.
xpaperplanex
Jan. 15th, 2012 01:34 am (UTC)
Hmm, interesting post. I both buy and pirate ebooks, depending on a variety of factors. The main one is usually, can I even buy it legitimately? When I first got my kindle, it caused me no end of frustration to look for a book and get a "This book is not available in Canada" message. Writing to Amazon and the publishers to say that I would really like to purchase this book if you will allow me, please work out your copyright issues, got very tedious, very quickly. I still do it because I think it's important to let the publishers know that there's a market out there, but sometimes I wonder if it's worth it.

The price is also an issue for me. I'm willing to pay $10 for an ebook, but if I do, I expect it to be edited, proofread, and formatted properly for the ebook version. Far too often, I find formatting issues such as incorrect characters and sentences cutting off midway and starting again as a new paragraph. If I'm going to be charged the same as I would be for the paperback version, I want the same level of quality. If the sample chapter looks bad, I'm not going to pay for it.

Another question is repurchasing books that you already own in print format. I've got a lot of books, and routinely reread them, so it would be nice to be able to read them on my kindle. But repurchasing them all is simply out of the question. When iTunes and others started selling mp3s, I don't think anyone expected that people would repurchase albums in mp3 format instead of ripping the CDs that they owned. Now, turning a book into an ebook is nowhere near the cakewalk that ripping a CD is, but it's a similar concept. No one likes to pay twice for something.

That being said, I buy the books that I can, because authors and the publishing industry deserve to be paid for their work, just like anyone else. I do, however, remove the DRMs from any ebooks I buy; I bought them, and will therefore do what I like with them, including reading them on different platforms (the horror!). I think that eventually, things will reach an equilibrium between cost to the consumer and fair payment for the work involved, though I expect a lot more pain before we get there.

Something I think would be really nice, would be if physical books came with a code for a free, or discounted copy of the ebook. I like ebooks best for travelling and sticking in my bag to take to class, but also love having the actual thing in my hands. Being able to have both the ebook and the physical book would be fantastic.

tl;dr I'm waffling in the middle.
darkmanifest
Jan. 15th, 2012 05:06 am (UTC)
Something I think would be really nice, would be if physical books came with a code for a free, or discounted copy of the ebook.

I would love this.
(no subject) - inverarity - Jan. 15th, 2012 05:32 am (UTC) - Expand
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(Anonymous)
Jan. 15th, 2012 02:05 am (UTC)
What are you supposed to do if the publisher just doesn't want your money?

I have all Harry Potter books, in hard-cover and legally bought, at home. Taking seven hard-cover books on vacation isn't very airline luggage friendly, so I wanted to get them as eBooks for my Sony reader. But guess what, it wasn't (and still isn't) possible to legally buy Harry Potter eBooks. And I would have paid for them, even though I already own the paper version. But the publisher didn't want my money, so I went and downloaded some nice, free exemplars. Their loss.
ladysophiekitty
Jan. 15th, 2012 02:36 am (UTC)
I don't pirate books at all, though I'm not opposed to it. I'm fortunate enough to be part of a VERY good library system, so usually if there's a book that I want to read, they have it. If it's a rare enough occasion that they don't and I truly want to read it, I'll buy it. If a friend has it, I'll borrow it from them. I have a few friends who I swap books with on a regular basis. And people know I like to read, so I get gift cards for birthdays and holidays. If it weren't for all those, I'd probably do it because I don't have much money to spend on books and I know that in a lot of places, it can be harder to access certain books.
shinygobonkers
Jan. 15th, 2012 03:12 am (UTC)
keeping in mind that only a small percentage of books i read, i read in ebook form...

it's kinda the same as for music as well, in my case

when i was younger, i had less money than i do now, and also buying legit was more expensive/more of a hassle, so i pirated more.
these days, amazon has a lot of ebooks, especially the ones that i tend to read in ebook form (either something so appealing i dont have the self control to wait to get a hard copy, or so meh its not worth it for me to get hard copy; i stopped using public library because its not cost effective for me most of the time because i can never get myself to return things on time so i end up owing fines...lol life fail) for quite cheap, and with one click downloading and cloud/pc reader very easy to buy...its EASIER for me to pay 5-10 bucks and have it nice and easy rather than go through the trouble of searching, torrenting, virus scanning etc. for pirated copies.

so yes, LAZINESS is a primary reason for why i rarely pirate ebooks, lol.

as for morally...eh. its part of my larger views on theft which are...questionable and weird and contradictory/kinda cognitively dissonant like woah and not goign there here lol, but basically your technically bad but meh poll option covers it pretty well.

edit - though supporting writers i like is a factor to it as well, actually. i've actually purposely gone out and bought a hard copy of an author's book which i had read a pirated copy of because i was so enjoyable and wanted to you know, pay for her work, and so i guess that is a factor in me not pirating much in addition to the lazy thing

Edited at 2012-01-15 03:16 am (UTC)
admnaismith
Jan. 15th, 2012 03:48 am (UTC)

I've never pirated an ebook, mostly because I don't much like the format. I've read a handful of Project Gutenberg books, just enough to realize that if I made a habit of reading my books online, I'd spend so much time staring at a screen that I'd go blind. YMMV.

There's also a finite number of books I want to own, and those are the ones to be read and reread several times in a lifetime. I'm a huge patron of libraries. If they didn't exist, my home would have burst at the seams from book pressure.
count_fenring
Jan. 17th, 2012 03:28 pm (UTC)
I would suggest you take a look at e-ink based e-readers if the screen thing bothers you - they aren't light-producing, and have the same visual impact as reading from paper.

That being said, don't take this as "YOU MUST READ E-BOOKS!" I just see that complaint a lot, and it's specific to light-emitting e-reader technology.
(no subject) - endlessdeep - Jan. 17th, 2012 08:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
l_o_lostshadows
Jan. 15th, 2012 04:39 am (UTC)
I've never been tempted to pirate an ebook, but I suspect it's at least partly a combination of really good library system and I never get seem to get round to reading the handful of legitimate free ebooks I've collected.
little_e_
Jan. 15th, 2012 06:13 am (UTC)
As the spouse of a (former) IP lawyer, I have some pretty serious gripes with IP law. I don't have any objections to the idea of some sort of IP, but I think our current system is so flawed, we might very well be better off without it. I'd much rather simply reduce the scope and extent of such laws (limiting copyright to a decade, say, and decriminalizing non-profit-making activities like fanfiction.)

Personally, I've never DLed an illegal book--I tend to get mine from the library, and like paying the author if I think a work is worth it. I did read the introduction of a book from the 50s once on the internet, though--it would have been very difficult to find the book in any other format, and the author stopped receiving royalties decades ago (being dead.) But if I couldn't get a book from the library, and would have to pay significant $$$ for it, quality known or unknown, I'd certainly consider it. Textbooks are a good example, since I like reading them but aren't in school anymore. Sometimes inter-library loan works out for me, sometimes it doesn't, but I'm not paying $180 for a book. No way. If publishers don't want folks to pirate textbooks, they should stop taking unscrupulous advantage of their buyers.

The fear of illegal DLing has always struck me as massively overblown. Laws, customs, and ethics will always have to change with advances in technology, but that doesn't make those changes bad. Kodak is about to go out of business because people don't use film anymore, but that doesn't make digital cameras bad, just different. Likewise, I can imagine a future in which most books are released for free on the 'net and print publishing is largely dead. Who knows how the money will work out? But morally, it won't be any different.

All that said, I do own a number of CDs solely because I originally heard them on YouTube for free. One of our favorite bands is a South African hip-hop group which we wouldn't have ever heard of without YouTube. I've even bought dead-tree format comics from webcomic creators I particularly enjoy. So that implies that all of this sharing is ultimately good for creators. Long-term, I do think folks are pretty self-interested, and people will take advantage of easily available free content to ease strain on their pocketbooks, but I also think people will consume more content than they would have otherwise, which I regard as a social good.
lirren
Jan. 17th, 2012 12:13 am (UTC)
I'm curious why you would limit copyright to ten years. That seems a very short amount of time to me. Allowing something to go into public domain ten years after it was written would have meant that JRK would have stopped making money off of the first Harry Potter book before she even published the last one. I would think twenty five or thirty years would be more appropriate, so I'm curious about your choice of time frame.
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madeleine27
Jan. 15th, 2012 09:18 am (UTC)
I buy a lot of physical books, but I'm not that much into ebooks. If I had spent my book budget for the month and finished reading, then found something interesting online but couldn't wait until next month... then I would download it. But if I liked it a lot, then I would buy a physical copy as soon as I could. I wouldn't have any problems about borrowing an ebook from someone who has bought it legally... but I would hesitate before lending it to someone else.

Piracy is not really OK, but I don't think it's as much of a crime as some people make it out to be. People who pirate should not be too blatant about it, and should at least buy one item for every bunch they download. Authors/artists and companies should try to give people more motive to buy legal products and avoid stupid desperate moves that only anger and provoke people.
marlowe1
Jan. 24th, 2012 05:05 am (UTC)
http://www.ebookr.com charges a fee for a subscription service to pirated works. None of the money goes to the writers, publishers, etc. All of it goes to the assholes that pirate these books. As far as I'm concerned "raped in prison" is too kind a fate for these people.
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kith_koby
Jan. 15th, 2012 12:04 pm (UTC)
Nearl all books I buy are physical. I like it a lot more. But for example, I was trying to get the Kushiel Series for the longest time, and I couldn't. I even tried ordering it from a bookstore near me, and they didn't have it. What was I to do? My friend had a collection of pirated E-books on his flash drive, and I 'borrowed' the first trilogy. Of course, I loved it. So next time I got to the US, I bought the second trilogy. But I still wanted a physical (and properly edited and formatted) of the first trilogy. So I bought it as well.

Essentially, I only get e-books when I can't get them here, or I can't get them anywhere (old D&D sourcebooks, for example). Those which I can't get here but can get elsewhere, I will usually buy anyway, because I prefer reading physical books. There's also the matter of sequels. If the last book ended in a cliffhanger, and I know I won't be getting the next book any time soon, I'll download the pirated e-book version. But the moment I can, I will usually get the physical version.

There is one more instance where I allow myself to download pirated e-books: If I already bought the book. For example, I still keep the pirated (first Kushiel trilogy on my flash drive. Why? Because I am often discussing the books on forums, and need to look up some part of the book. Same thing for LotR. I'm not going to lug around all those heavy books every time I go to college and back home, so I got e-book versions of them.
fiveforsilver
Jan. 15th, 2012 12:39 pm (UTC)
I've downloaded a lot of ebooks (legitimately and not) but I've never paid for any of them. I don't feel guilty about it because either I already own the book, I read part or all of it and delete it, or I read it all the way through and then buy a paper copy. For me, reading a book once (not just a few pages, the whole book) is "taking a taste" because if I like it a lot, I will buy the paper copy and reread it, but if I haven't read it all the way through, I don't know if I want to own it or not, and I have little enough money that I can't take that chance.
vorvolaka
Jan. 15th, 2012 12:52 pm (UTC)
I'm fortunate that I have a) an excellent library system and b) can (mostly) afford to buy books. I'm not rich, it's just that books are a priority for me, way above Starbucks coffee and cinema tickets.

That is not to say I haven't illegally downloaded books. I have. It has always been pretty rare and usually when I was wavering over whether I was going to like the books or not. So I'd DL the book, read a bit and decide whether I was going to buy it. Then free sample chapters came along and I no longer have to do this, I can do it legally. I'm not saying it's right, I'm not saying it justifies what I've done, expecially as you can get most paperbacks for £5, but I've done it and will admit to it.

And then some books aren't available to those outwith XYZ. Which really annoys me.

So, yeah. I think it's wrong but I've done it. And felt guilty for doing it.
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asliceofthemoon
Jan. 17th, 2012 05:44 am (UTC)
your icon is so cool! :D
alicetheowl
Jan. 15th, 2012 08:17 pm (UTC)
A point about music versus books that I haven't seen mentioned: songs are short, and best consumed in repetition. If you illegally download a song, then decide to go to that artist's concert because you like the music, that artist benefits. Most people only read a book once.

I'm glad to see so many people in comments remarking they'll buy a book if they like it. What I object to is the sense of entitlement in book piracy, especially when the argument starts to revolve around price. I do understand about living on an extremely limited budget, which is why I go to the library and save up my pennies for being able to go to the bookstore. Just because a book is out there doesn't mean I have the right to take it. The author deserves to get paid for the work he or she put into the book.

Imagine if it worked this way in any other profession. Imagine if a movie theater employee's pay was docked for every person sneaking in without paying, and there were message boards devoted to how people deserved to sneak into movie theaters because movie tickets are so expensive.

My objection isn't to the existence of pirating or that people do it, so I'm not taking anyone here to task. My objection is to the entitlement inherent in the pro-pirating arguments. A person doesn't deserve to cut into another's livelihood, full stop.
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beckalex
Jan. 15th, 2012 08:40 pm (UTC)
I've pirated ebooks many times and I don't feel guilty about it. Here are my reasons:

1. Some of the books I've pirated have been books I would have never bought in the first place. I would have either sat and read them in one sitting at the bookstore while drinking a coffee or checked it out of the library. The author was never going to get my money in the first place.
THAT SAID: If I find I really, really enjoyed the book then I buy a physical copy of it. I've done that with books I've read at the bookstore in one sitting and books from the library.

2. Some of the books I've pirated have been books I've already purchased but are huge too cumbersome to carry around. I bought both Patrick Rothfuss's The Wise Man's Fear and George RR Martin's A Dance With Dragons in hardcover. They're both huge, heavy, and well over 1,000 pages. So I pirated the books so I could read them on my kindle. I've purchased multiple copies of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings and since I travel frequently I like to have them on my kindle. So I pirate copies for that purpose. My justification? I already purchased them in the past so the authors are not losing money from me.

3. I feel that pirating books is a great way for free publicity. There have been a lot of authors I've discovered through downloading and from there I purchase their books, go to signing, follow their blogs, etc. I feel I never would have discovered the authors otherwise.

So in short, I download ebooks very frequently but I am still spending no more, no less than I ever did before.
longstrider
Jan. 15th, 2012 09:28 pm (UTC)
You missed one big justification, already owning the book in print.
two_eyes
Jan. 15th, 2012 10:17 pm (UTC)
This. I pirated the Patrick Rothfuss books last year because I was going on vacation, wanted to reread them, but didn't want to lug two paper bricks with me when I did.

I pirated the Hunger Games trilogy awhile back when I wanted to see what the fuss was about but couldn't get my hands on a library copy because teenagers had descended upon northern New Jersey libraries like a plague of something less cliche than locusts. With Harry Turtledove, though, I'd bought Guns of the South after browsing at my university bookstore, liked it, bought another one of his books, didn't like it, pirated some of his massive alternate history books to see if those series were worth picking up, and decided against it.

Lois McMaster Bujold made basically the entirety of her Vorkosigan Saga books available for free online. I read them, loved them, and have since been buying them piecemeal when I have the opportunity. I love her to pieces (inverarity, have you read/reviewed The Curse of Chalion? I think you might like it).
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eruditeviking
Jan. 15th, 2012 11:22 pm (UTC)
None of these are justifications, they're excuses that make you feel better about what you're doing. Good old fashioned rationalization. None of the reasons provided above (or in the comments) makes this legal under the law. When you purchase a book you're purchasing a single copy, not the rights to additional copies, be that electronic or audio unless the distributor made such concessions. This is why most e-book contracts are separate from print contracts in terms of the rights and royalties. They're not the same thing.
(Anonymous)
Jan. 17th, 2012 02:10 am (UTC)
When you're purchasing a physical book, you are also purchasing a Right to First Sale, which isn't possible in digital format. That means with a physical book, it's perfectly legal to profit from reselling it, to lend it to an unlimited number of people, to read it out loud over the phone to your grandkids, to line the bottom of your rat's cage with it, or whatever. Yet, for the same price, ebooks do not come with that right. They also frequently do not come with the same quality control, or even a proper fucking book cover.

No one here is arguing that piracy is "sort of" legal - it's pretty clear everyone knows it's against the law. The question isn't legal, it's ethical/moral. And those are frequently not the same thing.

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im_writing
Jan. 16th, 2012 04:28 am (UTC)
I've never actually had a pirated copy of a book (mainly because I barely have time to read the books I have, let alone illegal books) but at the end of the day, you can't stop the free flowing information.

Amazon ENCOURAGES the book sharing. If you have a kindle you can register more than one kindle on it. You can put your friend's kindle on your account but just make it so they can't buy books with your credit card. They then have access to all of your books. So in reality, Amazon is encouraging people to give out multiple copies of this book. It's one copy that was paid for but a ton of people are reading it. You can even go on amazon, register your kindle, download what you want and then deregister your kindle. As many times as you want and still have the books you want. If a major corporation is basically encouraging the habit, how can I come in and say, "No, you shouldn't do it?"

Personally, I won't got looking for pirated books. But until it becomes cut and dry in terms of the laws, I'm not going to judge anyone else.
marlowe1
Jan. 24th, 2012 05:15 am (UTC)
The term "Information should be free" does NOT refer to my books. Nor does it refer to your credit card number. I would love it if Identity Theft criminals would make the same justifications that you make. Information should be free. Hey, they gave their credit card information to everyone else. It's not like they need the money. And besides, the more people who know about the credit card, the more popular the person is.
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count_fenring
Jan. 16th, 2012 05:28 am (UTC)
I mostly agree, except for this:

I do, however, admit to failing to understand why $10 is "too much" for an ebook which will entertain me for many more hours than a $10 movie ticket.


The problem here is that $10 is, in fact, WAY too much for a movie ticket - there's strong indications that movie theaters have been essentially coasting on America's cultural addiction to the movies for some time, and charging more than the market would really bear if going to the cinema wasn't a cultural institution. Also, movie tickets have always fallen into that nebulous category of time-determinant entertainment - first-run movie theaters are more like concerts or events than they are like novels or other bought media. This can be demonstrated by the dramatic drop in price that occurs when movies hit second-run theaters.

E-Books aren't as good a risk/value proposition as paperbacks, in the consumer's mind, for several reasons. One, you're giving up several rights and abilities you get with the physical book - namely, actual lending and resale. The second of these directly affects the economics of book-buying; if you can't sell or trade lemons, the risk of purchase goes up. Convenience still makes purchasing e-Books worthwhile, and for many people preferable, but there's still a reasonable basis to consider an e-Book as riskier and thus less valuable.

Another reason that people don't want to pay paperback-equivalent prices on e-Books is that, when presented with a good that has cost savings relative to a previous version of that good, people naturally want to share in the cost savings. This is aggravated by the generally inflated ideas people have of the cost-savings involved, and aggravated further by the shell game Amazon has going, where they make it seem like the publishers are the bad guys, because they set the price, while Amazon gleefully pockets most of the savings involved, since they come out of the distribution end of things.

Finally, people just don't value non-physical property as highly, because it feels less real. It's not a sensical reason, but it exists, and has to be taken into account with any property that's not an absolute necessity.
deathjoy
Jan. 16th, 2012 11:56 pm (UTC)
Agree with pretty much all of this. While the production cost of ebooks alone may not be much less than that of a physical book, most of these books already have a print component. To charge 10 dollars for an ebook version is absurd. There also seems to be a more nebulous aspect to ebooks not present in paper books, in that it seems they are more vulnerable to electronic glitches and hard drive erasures. If I run out of batteries or have no outlet I can still read a paper book. I'm not saying I would never pay for an ebook, but it would to be at a far lower price point. The worth is just not there for me.
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deatheater22
Jan. 16th, 2012 09:01 pm (UTC)
Its not necessarily all about fiction and "popular science" books. As a student, I often need access to incredibly rare and expensive textbooks. For example, The Art OF Electronics, though it can be found cheaper, is generally around £100. Another book; the only copy available on amazon was $2000. I download a lot of pirated academic textbooks. Some of these books I can find in the library, but to this day I have never gone in my university library and found what I was looking for. The art of electronics in particular is recommended by a lot of universities - you'd think that the publishers would take advantage, do another print run and sell it for around £30, that way, more people would actually buy it.
agentronster468
Jan. 16th, 2012 10:15 pm (UTC)
Well written post. The point that hit home for me was: "And if you like the author's work, consider yourself in karmic debt," because I always feel like I do my favorite music artists a disservice by downloading their music. It makes me think about how much of a "supportive fan" I really am.

=/
bluebeard
Jan. 16th, 2012 11:09 pm (UTC)
I think there's something missing in this discussion: You. Cannot. Buy. Every. Single. Fcking. Good. Book. Out. There.

If I had a penny for every single book I own or have read but don't own I'd be filthy rich by now. Piracy cannot be stopped nor should it be. It allows people to filter their tastes. And it's particularly important for people like me, on a student budget. I pirated all of G.R.R.M.'s books before I bought them. Why? Well, sorry Mr. Martin, but I can't just run like a crazy bitch to the nearest Coles and buy A Song of Ice and Fire just because my friends think it's the shit. Why, yes, they did sound epic, but I hadn't read them. Now I have, and I bought them. I actually hate eBooks because I hate reading off a fcking screen; it's majorly annoying. I may get a Kindle Fire some day, but we'll see. I certainly need something bigger than an iTouch (but smaller than my Sony laptop) if I am to read electronically, lol. Anyways, I freely admit I'm a pirate and I don't care who condemns me. I can't buy every single book or movie or CD that I think I'll like. Unlike Bill Gates, I'm not fcking made of money. I don't think I ever will be, matter of fact. That's just common sense. I'm addicted to buying books enough as it is; if I actually bought everything I read or listen to... well I actually couldn't. It's not even a matter of wanting to; it's a matter of simply not being able to. It just can't be done. Maybe if I was the son of the president or some big business hotshot I could like, BUY EVERYTHING and import it from every corner of the world, but that's not a reality for us common folk, lol.

Edited at 2012-01-16 11:10 pm (UTC)
marlowe1
Jan. 24th, 2012 05:24 am (UTC)
It's called a library. It has DVD's, books, CD's. You can spend hours in there. As a publisher who makes a very meager living from books (e- and print), I find your pathetic excuses to be beneath contempt and I hope you die of one of the more disgusting forms of cancer.
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mikey_zombie
Jan. 16th, 2012 11:15 pm (UTC)
if you are a fan of a band why would you still from them??? come on people a song is 99 cents.............
bluebeard
Jan. 17th, 2012 02:14 am (UTC)
you mean steal, not "still". and this is a very simplistic comment regarding an issue that is anything but simple.

are you aware that not everything is in iTunes? it seems so, but that's far, far, far from the case. well over 50% of the music I listen to is unavailable in iTunes and would require me to import it from Asia or Europe if I didn't pirate it. whose fault is it that HMV and/or other music stores in my city don't have so-called "foreign" music? mine? surely not. in their respective countries artists like Jay Chou and Lee Jung Hyun are huge. so what's stopping their music from flooding our stores?

you think about things like that before making nonsensical simple-minded comments like "y wud u still from dem if u liek a band???" lol
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