Pirates Ho! On Book Pirating

That's rather too gleeful a pirate illustration for what I want to rant write about today--book pirating. Galley Cat had a thought-provoking recent roundup of Why Readers Pirate eBooks , plus I've had a few writer friends talking about book piracy on Twitter and Facebook (they're against it, for the record).

But what really disturbed me was talking to a family member last weekend and in discussing our Kindles, he said, "I have like a thousand books on mine. All pirated, of course."

My jaw dropped and I stared at him, speechless, before I got out, "That's not the kind of thing you tell an author."

To make up for it, he said, "When I buy your book, I'll buy it from you so I'm not giving money to those publishers." The last word said with deep loathing.

"Hey, I won't get free books, so they'll still be getting their share," I countered.

Then we dropped the subject, because I was upset but I also know he's a "stick it to The Man" kind of guy. And it's obvious that's how he sees this--a way to hit the publishers below the belt. With very little thought of where the author falls in that metaphor. (eww, that sounded more lewd than I meant--you get my mixed metaphor, right?)

Plus, he said it like the publishers are stealing from, or taking advantage of, authors. But guess what: those of us who choose to work with traditional publishers know how much we're going to get when we sign that contract. It's a tradeoff, a gamble that the power of the publisher's name will get our book in more places than if we self-published. We may not like it, but if we absolutely don't agree with those terms we have that option of self-publishing. Or getting an agent to negotiate better terms.

I am currently looking for an agent, so I'm obviously choosing the traditional publishing route. But, I spend a  lot of time writing each week, and when I do eventually get my books published, I expect to get paid.

This family member happens to be a gold miner/prospector on the weekends, and I imagine that he would be pretty angry if someone came across his sluice and cherry-picked all the nuggets he'd just spent hours separating from the rock and sand. I'm not sure he would see writing a book and gold mining as comparable, but it's the same in that someone else is benefiting from your labors. Labors that you expected would give you a monetary return at some point.

It seems pretty obvious to me, but I've also seen writers who freely share their work and/or maintain a dialogue with pirates. It's obvious there is more than one answer. So where do you stand on book piracy?

Image source


Kate Coursey said...

Book piracy makes me so mad. My little sister said the same thing the other day...she was like, "Oh, I think pirating a book is totally moral. After all, the author already got paid when they sold the book to the publisher."

Christina Mercer said...

Ignorance perpetuates the piracy problem (a bit of alliteration here, ha!) Seems many people haven't a clue that the author is "robbed" right along with the publisher when they get their books that way :-(

Angelica R. Jackson said...

@Kate: I had a friend who thought shoplifting from chain stores was okay, but was morally against shoplifting at a Mom and Pop store. Um?

@Christina: Or they think that giving a pirated book a good Amazon or Goodreads review is payment enough. Can I buy groceries with that? Or pay the mortgage?

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