Tuesday, January 05, 2010

The Lamest Excuse for E-Piracy I've Ever Heard

If you've read my previous blog on this subject, or any other author's blogs, or excellent articles like this one or this one or that one, you may have heard that ebook piracy has become a major problem for authors. We, and our publishers, lose many thousands of dollars in revenues from books sales every year, because our books (even those that are already available as low-price ebooks for Kindle, Sony Reader, or Nook) are being illegally converted to downloadable format and distributed for free all over the Internet. What this means is we (and our publishers) can either spend tons of time and effort to send "take down" letters to these file-sharing sites threatening them with legal action (which is kind of like squashing cockroaches - as soon as you crush one, another pops up, and for every five you see, there are probably another five hundred hiding inside your wall), or we can ignore them, and freely allow ourselves to be exploited.

Well, this past weekend I received yet another Google Alert of yet another illegal download of ALL FOUR of my books, so instead of simply reporting them to my publisher's legal department, I took the time to speak up publicly on the file-sharing site's forum about how I felt about what was happening.

I thought it might be fun to share with my readers the reaction I got when I did. :-)

Here's my first comment, in reply to the posting of the illegal downloads:

I hate to be a drag, but my books are not freeware. This is stealing. If you like my books enough to read them, you should pay for them (the Kindle/Sony/Nook versions are very inexpensive).

Why? Because pirated downloads like these not only take money directly from my pocket, but they do not count toward my "publisher-recognized" sales, and if they don't know my books are selling, they're not going to pay me to write more.

Boom. No more books by Terri Garey, or any of the other authors you might like but download for free because you think it's okay.

Tell me this - would you work for a year (or more) for free? Because that's how long it takes to write a book.

Terri Garey (the author)
Apparently, hackers are not used to actually being called on their hacker-ism, and I wasn't believed, as evidenced by this response:
OOOOOpppppppsssss !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

this does beg the question, is this an early april fools day trick by or, what is dear ms garey looking 4 on this forum ?
To which I responded:
Ms. Garey has a Google alert set up to notify her when her books are being pirated for free on the Internet. She usually just reports sites like these to her publisher without speaking up publicly, but she's pretty darn tired of dealing with ebook piracy, so tonight, she decided to speak up. In third person, even.

Terri Garey (the author)

(So what do you do for a living? Feel like doing it for free for the benefit of your Internet friends, like those in this forum? If so, you're a better man/woman than me.)
Strangely enough (or perhaps not strangely at all), it turns out that guy who questioned my response was one of the forum administrators who routinely posts these illegal downloadable files. Here is his completely lame and laughable response, in which he basically says that he does it out of the good of his heart, and that no one bothers to download them anyway. (So, um... like WHY DO YOU DO IT THEN?), and then turns me over to one of the other administrators to be "dealt with". (*Note* "d/l" stands for "download"):
i do it for free, converting ebooks for my internet friends. lot of noise at the moment while the publishers realise there is no place for them anymore, they are going to lose all those profits. but in reality the dl's don't justify the noise. just look at how many times ur posts are d/led, not viewed, but d/led. not many and this forum has a high number in comparison to some. most people don't know or are too scared to d/l from a forum. hell who cares as long as we enjoy our selves and the viewers keep coming.

have a great week andree, i'm off to the beach for a day or so, you can "deal" w/Terri.
By the way, the way I was then "dealt with" was by being blocked from the forum. LOL! Bad author! How dare you speak up for yourself?!

Anyway, one final comment before I step down from my soapbox: Downloading books for free instead of paying for them hurts the reader just as much as the writer in the long run. Publishers will not continue to pay authors for books if they can't make money on them. Your pool of quality reading material will shrink to next to nothing, because the good authors will still expect to be paid for their work. (You think Stephen King or Nora Roberts or J.K. Rowling are going to start writing for free?)

What about Charlaine Harris, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Yasmine Galenorn, Jeaniene Frost, Larissa Ione or any of your other favorite Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance authors? If no one is willing to pay for their books, why should they bother to write them?

Think about that.


Monica Burns said...

I feel your pain. I went on a forum once, and was told that it was the same thing as getting a book from a library. One person seemed to get what I was saying, the rest said I was making the big books and that a couple of free downloads does not hurt me.

Huh?? At the time
I was writing for my first ePub and I made LESS than $2K that year. That's not poverty level, that's sitting on the corner shaking a can for change.

Natasha (Wicked Lil Pixie) said...

Well done Terri! Pretty pathetic that they banned you, but what can you expect from a bunch of morons who probably don't even read what they post!

I have noticed at least once a day, someone comes to my site by a search "free (author name) e-book download" it's driving me nuts, because I have no idea why they'd end up on my site that way.

Terri Garey said...

Hi, Monica! The "library book" comparison is ridiculous, isn't it? When you get a book free from the library, that's ONE book. Even if you kept it, you could only pass it on to ONE person. Digital downloads are copies of your book that are multiplied and distributed all over the place (and they'll tell two friends, and they'll tell two friends...) like spiderwebs!

And hey, congratulations on the release of KISMET! Such a beautiful cover, and I've been waiting for this one - I just ordered my copy!

Terri Garey said...

Hey, Natasha - I take no offense at being banned, I found it funny, and very juvenile!

Most sites will take you down if you request it, but most of them force you to fill out a form or send an official take-down letter, and swear in blood that you're the author of "said works" and that you own the copyright.

It's illegal, it's unfair, and it's a pain in the *ss, quite frankly. :-)

Monica Burns said...

Terri *blushing* thanks.

Dorthy said...

umm ok so this might sound stupid, but why do we even have e-books?

I have an e-reader, that I won from a contest on WildRosepress.com, and I do have some books on it, 75 infact.

I will admit that most of the books that are on it I got for free.
Now wait a min before you start throwin those rotten tomatoes and banning me from here.
I got all my free books from legit sites.

Wildrosepress.com has some free books, and if I liked the author, I did go back and purchase some of their other works.

eharlequin had 17 free books last year celebrating their 60th anniversery.

Barnes and Noble had some free books.

my sony ereader site has some free books, and I know that amazon has some free books for the kindle.

Also one of my authors posted in facebook how Smashwords (think I got that right) had his book for free till the 15th. I picked it up too.

anyway, like i was saying, WHY do we have e-books?
yes I have an eReader, but I hardly use the thing. it ONLY has 75 books on it. My TBR pile that is sitting on my dresser has 147 books. The shelf behind me has 31 books on it. The shelf over my bed has 43, the book shelf on the wall next to my bed has 31 (that's the one I keep my favorites on, and yes if you were wondering its where Terri's books are, and there's room for Sammy's books once they are out too. :-) )
Those aren't the only books in my house. They also aren't all my books, I have huge rubbermaid tubs filled with books in my storage unit.
I like books. Not just stories, but the best books have great stories in them. ;-)

So, why do we even have ebooks? Why can't we go back to regular books. Cut down a few more trees adn enjoy the feel of a book in our hands? And if people are worried about the trees, then heck lets print books on the same paper that we do US currency...oh yea, that's cotton.

Do authors get to choose if their books go into print as an ebook? I think they should.

There should be something that can be done to teh manuscript when it is illigally downloaded.
Remember when people used to try to record movies off each other's VHS? The copy would have a line run through the screen the whole movie.
There should be something that takes a manuscript and after it has been downloaded a certin amount of times from one place, lets say 3, it turns into computer talk, in DOS mode, all 1's and 0's.
And then to top if off the site that it is downloaded from will send an urgent msg to the publisher or something that informs them of the computer's whereabouts and then that person can be fined or thrown in jail.

There should be a warning or something like there is on Movies.

FBI WARNING...if caught with illigally downloaded books you will face a fine of $200,000 and/or up to 5 years in prison.

and of course they will catch you, because when you downloaded it, the urgent msg was sent with your computers location and what not.

All in all though, I think the easiest thing to do would be get rid of ebooks all together. heck it seems that since the whole ebook thing started there have been nothing but problems in the publishing industry.

sorry, I guess I'll step down from my soap box now.

Terri Garey said...

Whoa, Dorthy, how do you really feel? :-)

E-books, and e-book readers, are here to stay, just like cell phones and the Internet. And yes, there are plenty of free e-books out there - SONY gave away 250 free E-Readers that came pre-loaded with my second novel, A Match Made In Hell, as a promotional tool, so don't feel bad for downloading free books from reputable sites.

Unfortunately, technology being what it is, hackers have already discovered how to overcome the digital file protection on books that are NOT free, and that's where I take issue.

How I wish it were easy to catch and stop ebook hackers, but the system seems to work against us authors. We have to find them, notify them by filling out verification forms regarding the copyright, and then wait for the site administrators to remove them.

And gee, you have a lot of books! LOL

Anonymous said...

Hello I'd like to thank you for such a great quality site!
thought this would be a nice way to introduce myself!

Johnie Maverick
if you're ever bored check out my site!
[url=http://www.partyopedia.com/articles/barbie-party-supplies.html]barbie Party Supplies[/url].

Anonymous said...

As your sister, this just enraged me! I want to kick that butt wipe's ass. Sorry about that, I just got a flashback to Sanderson's drug store.
Love you,

Terri Garey said...

Um, gee thanks, Johnie Maverick, but I've yet to throw a Barbie party, and seriously doubt that I ever will.

Monkeys, yes. Barbies, no.

Terri Garey said...

Oh, boy, Sanderson's Drug Store. I was FOUR, Sis. Four, and it was a penny balloon.

And yes, Mom making me return the balloon and apologize to Mr. Sanderson left a lasting impression. :-)

Thieves are evil! Evil!

Saúl Fernández. said...

Let me ask you something: when you say that "downloads like these take money directly from my pocket", are you kidding? Do you ACTUALLY loose any cent for each download? And what's, more important (if I get what you mean): do you really think that each one of the downloaders would have paid for reading your book if it wasn't avalaible for free download in the Internet? Even 1% of the people who ilegally downloaded it?
I'm gonna tell you a story: I hadn't ever read a book written by spanish writer Carmen Laforet. I didn't know about her, nobody could tell me about her. I was unwilling to pay anything to read a book by a writer I didn't know about and I could dislike, so i downloaded one of her books, read it in my ebook, and liked it so much that I bought, in paper, all the books she's written. She happened to be my best writer and the money she's earned for my buying her books (10 or 11 euros each) is due to books piracy. Iwouldn't know her in any other way.
Haven't you ever borrowed a book from a friend, read it and liked it so much that you bought it? This is exactly the same.
If you want to speak up against downloads (which are a way for people to know about your literature), you have to speak up too against borrowing books and public libraries. Have you paid anything for any the books you've borrowed from friends and disliked? Would you find reasonable that the authors of those books complained at you?

Terri Garey said...

Saul, I appreciate you speaking up. You have some valid opinions, but here are the facts from the author's side:

As to your skepticism that illegal downloads cost authors money, let's do the basic math: my ebooks are available for $4.79 (which is already far cheaper than the paperback price of $6.99). At a 25% royalty rate, that's $1.20 a book for me. Multiply that times 1000 illegal free downloads, and that's almost $1200.00. (Multiply that times 2000 downloads... 3000, etc.) Perhaps you underestimate the number of people who are out there downloading for free... I've been to more illegal downloadings sites and forum boards sites in this past year than I ever imagined existed! It's an exponential problem. One hacked file gets put up on the 'web, picked up and distributed to other sites and forums, and pretty soon it's everywhere.

As I stated in my original post, this is not JUST about the money anyway. This is about those same downloads not getting counted toward my "numbers", which my publisher will be looking at when it comes time to buy my next book.

Basic business principles mean that publishers need to make a profit in order to continue to publish more books. (Apply the same math we used above with 75% of those e-book royalties, and see how much money THEY'RE losing.)

I'm sorry, but I want the industry I work in to remain healthy, so I can continue writing more books.

I'm glad you discovered a wonderful new writer after you downloaded her book for free, but did the money she made in euros when one reader (you) finally bought her books offset what she lost in multiple illegal downloads? I doubt it. I'm glad it worked for you, but how many other people out there downloaded her book and never followed it up by buying one?

If I understand you correctly, you're basically saying that free downloads are good publicity for an author, and we shouldn't complain. Sorry, but I already do everything I can publicity-wise, with a website, blog, reader extras like contests, excerpts, free bookmarks, a newsletter, etc. I shouldn't have to give up my royalties, too. No author should.

And finally (I guess my soapbox hasn't been put away yet), your library analogy is one we touched on earlier in this topic. I support libraries because they encourage reading, and have checked out my share of books, but when you check a book out of the library, it is ONE book, and it is a book that has already been bought and paid for by the library system. I (the author) lose no money by it, and that ONE book is going to be in a very limited number of hands - I hope it DOES encourage readers to go out and buy the rest of my books!

Thanks for voicing your opinion, and have a great day.

Saúl Fernández said...

I don't think it's about the amount of people involved in it. Some of your points are standing in this fallacy: "if I earn $1.20 for each book I sell, 2000 illegal downloads will make me loose $2400". This turns out not to be true. I mean,do you really think you would have earned all the money that those 2000 downloads would have costed? The one advantage about free downloads is the "free" stuff. If a user has to pay for something, he wonders if it's worth to pay for it. If it's free and downloadable (I think i've just invented this word), you say, "right, let's see how it looks like". It's not possible to calculate this. But from those 2000 users, and being optimistic, I think it's just 1800 that downloaded the book in order to read it. How many of those 1800 would have paid for it if it wasn't available for free? People involved could think this number to reach, for example, 1000 people. Well, I'll tell you that, based on my experience as music downloader (when I was a teenager a couple years ago, I used to download a lot), I'll tell you than about 90% of the music I've illegally downloaded, I wouldn't have paid for it if I had to. I would just have to live without listening to it.
I think no more than 200 of those 2000 people would have paid for it if they had no other chance to read your book - but hadn't they? About your point «but how many other people out there downloaded her book and never followed it up by buying one?», I have to say this: «how many other people out there BORROWED her book and never followed it up by buying one?»
This is why I don't think downloads are a big deal. You got a lot of different ways to read an author with no paying for it (about the library comparison: okay, they have paid for your book, but the user who uploaded it to the Internet paid for it too when he or she acquired it. Anyway, I think you're right in the libary stuff, so I'm going to let it out). E-books are uncomfortable to read. Much more uncomfortable than paper books. If you like an author you've read, you usually buy a paper book by them.If you read it and dislike it, you don't.
I'm pretty sure that the only money you are losing is than from the readers who are willing to pay for one of your books without knowing you, just in order to see how your writing looks like. Don't you think it compensates the money you earn from readers who get to know your stuff through illegal activity, love it, and then ask their friends to give them one of your books as a birthday present?

Terri Garey said...

Saul, I'm afraid we're just going to have to agree to disagree.

If people truly want to read a sample of my work for free before they buy it, they can do it quite legally through the use of my publisher's "Browse Inside" Widget or Amazon's "Look Inside" feature. (These are both available all of the Internet, and are both LEGAL and FREE.) This is the same principle as going into a bookstore, picking up the book and flipping through a few pages to help you decide whether or not to buy it, which I heartily approve of. Bookstores allow readers to browse to the heart's content, but they would never condone you walking out the store without paying for a book, in the mere hope that you might buy one someday.

Your premise that many of the books and songs you've illegally downloaded were books and songs you would never have paid for to begin with is, quite frankly, pretty insulting, and sounds like yet another lame excuse for illegal downloads.

Until you come up with a valid argument that would make me be okay with money being stolen from people like me(and I'm afraid that argument doesn't exist), there's really not a whole lot more to say.

Btw, I have no idea what you do for a living (or if you draw any kind of salary, anyway, anyhow), but how would you feel if your paycheck was a few hundred dollars short on a regular basis, and your boss just said, "Oh, well. People want everything for free these days, so you can work a few hours for me for free, too."

If you're going to tell me you'd be okay with that, I'm afraid I'd have a very hard time believing it.

Have a nice day.

Saúl Fernández said...

I'll only say one thing before I go to bed (it's pretty late here in Spain, and maybe I'll discuss it tomorrow): if I had paid for all the music I have downloaded in my life:
a) I would have spent $50.000 (which means I would have had to choose what to buy and what not to buy if the Internet didn't exist, as I previously stated)
b) I wouldn't have the musical knowledge I have right now.

Anyway, I hope you acknowledge that not all the people that have downloaded your book would be willing to pay for it if they had to.