What I'm reading: The Bad Kitty Lounge, by Michael Wiley
First: If you didn't check out my guest post at Mystery Lovers' Kitchen yet, please do. There are excerpts and a recipe. What more could you ask for?
I got a Google Alert for one of my short stories the other day. I followed the link, which led me to a website that offers free downloads of books, music, art and the like. Trouble is, that story of mine isn't free. I own the copyright, and unless I give you a copy, downloading it from that site is just plain stealing.
I don't make a penny if someone downloads from that site. The rationale is usually, "I bought a copy, so why can't I share it with my friends? I can give them a print book, right?"
Yes, you can give a friend a print book. Because there's only ONE, and only one person can read that copy at a time. But what about an e-book? I write the book, I publish the book. I expect to make my royalties when people buy the book. But with an e-book, if you "lend" the book by emailing it to a friend, you still have the original on your hard drive. What if you e-mail that book to fifty of your friends. At the same time? Or what if you upload it to a sharing (pirate) website, where anyone can download it for free? Is that fair to the author? Every time someone downloads a copy, the author is losing the royalty they're rightfully owed.
Some of the e-readers, including my NOOKcolor, have a 'lend me' feature. My sister-in-law is waiting for biopsy results, and she wanted something to read. She also has the NOOKcolor, so I used their feature to send her my book. BUT – while she has it, it's no longer on my reader. She can have it for two weeks, and then it'll come back to me. Kindle, I believe, followed suit and also has a lend feature. I know they have a 'gift' feature, so you can buy an e-book for someone else to read on their Kindle, even if you don't have one.
Side note: Have you ever read that bit inside a book about not paying for a book that has no cover? That's not quite the same, but bottom line, the author isn't making a penny off those books. Bookstores work on the consignment model; they have the right to return unsold books for full refunds. But rather than ship the entire book back, they strip the covers off and mail those. The rest of the books are destined to landfill, or maybe into the hands of people who have no right to be selling them.
If you write for a larger publisher, odd are, they have a legal department that deals with demanding takedowns of these pirated books. But if your books are independently published, like several of mine, then the burden falls on you. One of my publishers fights piracy for its authors. Another, with a much smaller staff, says it's up to the author.
How much time and energy should you spend dealing with writing these takedown demands? Even the marketing director at one of my publishers, who is also an author, says she's given up. And so many of these pirate sites are outside the US, so it's even more difficult to track them down and expect them to honor your takedown request. If they were honorable, they wouldn't be posting these sites, right?
Yet there are those who say pirating actually helps sales because it gets your name out there. Frankly, I'm not sure I agree. I give stories away at Smashwords, and have "sold" several thousand downloads. I don't see a whole lot of carryover to my "pay to read" books.
For a long time, I'd hear authors complaining about being pirated, but I'd never found my own books on the sites they'd mentioned. I figured I wasn't well known enough, or marketable enough, for anyone to care. So, maybe I should be flattered that I've joined the ranks of victims of piracy. However, flattered or resentful, the bottom line is that it's not legal. It's copyright infringement. Period.
Another side note, speaking of Smashwords. The 2/3 off discount coupon will be expiring this week. Don't miss your chance to get What's in a Name? for 99 cents. Just remember, that's your personal copy.
And to bring things full circle, tomorrow my guest is Gretchen Craig, who's sharing a recipe as well.