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When my novel, Transcendence,came out a little over a year ago and was immediately pirated, I went through a little crisis. I ended up fighting the pirates by giving it away, myself, because I figured if people were going to take it for free, they could at least get it from my website and thereby get to know me a bit more than they could via some random torrent site. Also, I was following Cory Doctorow's theory that giving away your creative work leads to more sales - and at the very least, more readership, who'll be looking for your next book.

How did it go? Well, it's been downloaded at least 3500 times (no way to know how many downloaded from direct link to the .pdf or .epub versions), I got a few dozen PayPal donations, including one just this week. And I certainly got some publicity out of it, especially for a first-time author whose book came out in November from a small press - two huge strikes against it.

Will it help with my next book? We'll see!

In the mean time, ebooks have only become more popular, piracy has not abated, and the debate about copyright and ebooks has only heated up. Here are two videos that represent two facets of the debate.

First up, "Copying Is Not Theft," by Questioncopyright:

Um, yeah. Good luck copying that bicycle, dude. Maybe once we all have nanofactories, but now? Not convinced.

Next up is Stephan Kinsella Houston's Public Affairs Public Access Live program, talking about intellectual property. When he first mentions "business models," I want to punch his smug face.

He has some interesting (and wrong, in my opinion) ideas; unfortunately, most creatives are not businesspeople, or else they'd be in business. They're also often introverts, which makes his ideas impractical for most writers and artists and so on.

Finally, to clear the palate, we have Neil Gaiman providing wisdom on copyright and piracy:

I find tend to agree with Gaiman; well, you kinda have to, because part of his talk is about his personal experiences and how giving it away has helped spur his career. Gaiman isn't talking about eliminating copyright; instead, he discusses how giving away his books has helped grow the audience (and market) for his copyrighted, printed work.

At least, I hope that's how it works!

Especially convincing is the idea that almost everyone found our favorite authors by having a book lent to us from a friend or the library. Does that = getting a free, pirated ebook?

Your thoughts on where copyright and the publishing industry is headed?



( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 4th, 2012 11:52 pm (UTC)
books borrowed from friends or the library
I'm going to jump in and say that no, I don't think that borrowing the book from friends or a library in any way equates with a pirated copy. In the first two circumstances, the book was acquired through legitimate means with the author's knowledge (albeit indirectly through the publisher). Aside from the fact that pirating a book is gypping the author out of whatever royalties zie might get, acquiring books through legitimate channels allows the author and zir publisher to track how many books were ultimately acquired...and therefore how potentially marketable would future books by this author be?

Admittedly, the number of times library books circulate may not feed back to the publisher, but it does allow the libraries to decide what to buy. Dunno how you'd figure that out for "loaning to friends" though. Sorry.
Apr. 5th, 2012 03:21 am (UTC)
Re: books borrowed from friends or the library
...and of course there are used bookstores.

I don't know - it's all uncharted territory here.
Apr. 5th, 2012 06:15 pm (UTC)
Re: books borrowed from friends or the library
I don't know about loaned from friends, but I'd bet that libraries have records of how often their books are checked out....
Now, getting ACCESS to those records, and getting the numbers back to the publishers, may be a whole 'nother thing.

Have you ever read the introduction to the Baen Free Library by Eric Flint (I suspect this is a REALLY stupid question)?

If not, here:
Apr. 5th, 2012 12:56 am (UTC)
Not so long ago Jonathan Coulton posted his thoughts on music and piracy (different medium, but exact same piracy issues). Basically, he said that people steal what they can't easily get through legal channels. So if you plaster your stuff up on every webpage, store, event, whatever, people will see it easily available and get a legal copy. If you make it difficult to get, people will resort to less legal options. And I agree with him completely.

I can personally attest to resorting to watching legally questionable streaming video for tv shows that were not on the station website, not available through netflix, not available at the library, not available through hulu.com, not available through whatever other legal channels I could possibly think up. I already know I'm not going to purchase dvds of let's say "Revenge" (a show on abc, watchable for free on hulu). I absolutely do not mind sitting through ads on hulu to watch it. I think that's a fine way to enjoy the show. It's easy and the only cost to me is indulging some advertisers. And it's totally legal. "Big Bang Theory" on the other hand is NOT so easy to watch online. If I were in different financial circumstances, I probably would buy the dvds or digital copies. But that's only after watching it on the aforementioned legally questionable streaming websites and realizing how totally awesome it is. It is WAY easier to get access to it now, but when it was new it was impossible to find legal copies to watch.

And your closing statement is dead on. The entire reason I have read anything by Terry Pratchett or Neil Gaiman is because someone gave me their copy of _Good Omens_ years and years ago. (I quickly read that book to death and had to replace it. Twice. So the first hit was free but I purchased two additional copies plus several other books by both authors AND I tell everyone I know they should read it AND it's my favorite book ever AND I will probably also end up purchasing the audiobook at some point not to mention all of the tv shows and movies based on things by both authors that I have seen/bought/recommended, and a community theater version of "Mort" many years ago...I could go on.)

Dishonest people will always look to dishonest means. Honest people will use dishonest means as a last resort. I'm a dippy-hippy-utopia-everyone-is-awesome-until-they-aren't sort of person, so I like to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. I realize I am somewhat self-delusional.

Wow. That was a lot of typing for me. What was the question? Did I at least stay near topic? :P

(oh, also, I didn't bother watching any of the videos, sorry)

Edited at 2012-04-05 01:00 am (UTC)
Apr. 5th, 2012 03:27 am (UTC)
I think you're spot-on about human nature - that unless we're talking criminals (and there's no controlling what criminals do), people want to acquire things legally.

If they like the things they got for free (lent to them, borrowed from the library, viewed or listened to online, or so forth), they'll want to make sure the producer gets something from that. It might be donations to the creator, watching ads, buying "real" copies later, or so forth, but I believe human nature includes fairness.

Have I made 3500+ sales or gotten 3500+ donations? Of course not. I bet that most of those who downloaded my book probably haven't even read it yet. However, I know that my novel has found many more readers this way than it would have by simple word-of-mouth advertising.

Yes, you stayed right on topic, thanks for sharing your thoughts!
Apr. 5th, 2012 07:36 am (UTC)
Agricultural production in America is already so efficent that it needs government support or it would have gone out of business ages ago. Now the Internet makes the distribution of information so efficent that it is harder to make a profit. Next all we need are robot factories and cheaper energy and we'll all be living on the dole.
Apr. 5th, 2012 09:16 pm (UTC)
I can't think of anyone whose books I have purchased after first having someone lend them to me, or borrowing from the library. The books I have borrowed form the library are all by people whose books I have purchased before.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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