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Let Us Talk About Piracy

Sadly, I am not talking about movie pirates of the Errol-Flynn-Johnny-Depp-you-can-buckle-my-swash-any-day-if-you-know-what-I'm-saying variety, or historical pirates of the Grainne the Irish queen of the seas type, otherwise known for bonding with Queen Elizabeth and delivering the immortal break-up line: 'Honey, back from the war already? So many things have happened since you were away! Like, I divorced you. And, this is my castle now!' Nor am I talking about mermaids who take to a life of crime, swimming the high seas delivering the ultimatum 'Your money or your lives!'

Today Ally Carter the Wise was on twitter talking about internet piracy, and it reminded me of Ally's Post About Internet Piracy, which is one of the best posts she or anyone else has ever made. It explains what book piracy is, and why it is a Terrible Idea. And it offers the fact there is an obvious alternative - Merpirates of the World, go to your merlibrary!

There are other alternatives: there are perfectly legal ebooks one can buy. When travelling, I have got into ebooks myself, though I still love the paper kind best. And there's borrowing books from friends. Libraries will take note of books taken out, and buy the next one. Ebooks mean sales for the author just like real books. Borrowing books from friends is awesome, because it gives you a chance to talk about books with your friends, which makes everyone like books better, and because the friend's reaction will be to buy the author's other books. I love loaning people books: I have been known to force them on people. I matchmake people with books. I only have space on my shelves for all my books because I keep them in circulation. I loaned my flatmate the Durham Lass some Kelley Armstrong books, and now she buys every Kelley Armstrong book the day it comes out. I loaned Cassandra Clare's City of Bones to a friend this week and the next day she called me in the bookshop asking for the title of the sequel.

With illegal downloads, zillions of people can do it, not just the few people even I can loan books to. And if someone reads an illegal download, instead of thinking 'Gosh. Sarah will want this back. I will buy a copy. Or, I will buy the sequel, because I want it right now!' They think, 'Gosh. I sure will illegally download the next one.' Meanwhile the author starves to death. Readers are sad and puzzled that there is never a next one.

I like stuff being on the internet for free. I think fanfiction is generally awesome. I love the side stories to Kelley Armstrong's Darkest Powers series she writes in chloe_saunders. I write free companion stories to my books myself here. What is the difference between those things and illegal copies of one's book on the internet?

It is the difference between giving someone a present and having someone break your window and steal your TV.

It is absolutely horrible for anyone's book to get stolen. No matter whether they are J.K. Rowling or Stephenie Meyer: one still shouldn't do it. The fact that half of Stephenie Meyer's fifth book got stolen and put on the internet unedited gives me horrors and chills, and nobody in the whole world could blame her for not being able to write the rest.

For a debut writer, the whole thing is very traumatic because a) it is one's very first time and it is a terrible shock, b) you are in a fragile state of mental health anyway and c) with a first book your career is in its most shaky state possible since you are a total unknown and bad sales can kill said career dead in the water, like a innocent murdered mermaid.

And so a personal tale. Before my book was ever published, someone got hold of an Advance Reader's Copy and made it available for download on the internet. That sucked. I got it taken down.

It kept happening. Way more than was normal for a debut book, because I'd had a blog on the internet for years, and some people had decided they didn't like me, or wanted me punished for something or other, or just knew who I was and decided they would like to read the book - for free, please. There was a group of people who kept putting it up, with the avowed intention of ruining my career.

This not liking me/wishing to punish me for, uh, no crimes that I can remember committing was also the cause for my email getting hacked into and all my emails deleted, and my blog getting deleted, a few days before my book was published.

This is obviously terrible behaviour. Not liking me is quite fair. I am not the World's Most Perfect Person. But when you do not like someone because they, say, ran over your puppy by accident, the proper thing to do is sue them for irresponsible driving. It is not to punch them in the face and steal their purse.

Book piracy in a widespread sense is like that. Doesn't matter if you don't like the author: it is not okay to steal someone's purse because they're being a jerk. Doesn't matter if you'd really like to read the book: it is not okay to steal someone's purse even if it's a really nice purse.

Obviously people who download my book illegally in order to upset me are not going to be stopped by the news I am upset. In fact, they are more likely to look at their day's To-Do List, smile and write a big tick next to No. 1, Upset Sarah, and proceed on to No. 2, Do The Laundry.

This post is written for those who didn't think about it much, or thought it was okay, well, because... I've seen people write recommendations for books, and put up illegal download links. I've seen people saying they really wanted to read a book, and someone else saying 'Oh, it's great!' and passing along an illegal e-copy. Do think: think about the author crying enough tears to provide housing for a gang of merpirates (I did) and about, you know, the way illegal downloads is no way to get new books in the long run.

It is not okay. Not even for mermaids! Not ever.


( 232 comments — Leave a comment )
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Dec. 4th, 2009 02:34 pm (UTC)
Even online books leave me cold - to me, there's nothing quite like curling up with something tangible to read. It's not the same curling up with an online reader as holding the pages in your hands and feeling the texture, and even the smell of a book. Couldn't and wouldn't download a book, just on that principle alone.
Dec. 4th, 2009 02:37 pm (UTC)
I agree, but I admit my Sony Ereader and I got very comfortable in Japan when carrying a pile of books around was impractical. I still mostly use it to read my friends' manuscripts, though, which I must read before they are in paper form so they can be Edified by My Comments (read: totally mystified by the strange things I have said to them, and why I love the character I do).
(no subject) - fyrie - Dec. 4th, 2009 02:50 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kissormiss - Dec. 4th, 2009 02:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 4th, 2009 02:36 pm (UTC)
Maybe the mentality of the douche-y individuals who did this stuff was that they didn't need to / shouldn't have to pay for your book is because you achieved some degree of internet fame writing fanfiction? I one hundred percent personally don't agree with that view, but I know a lot of people think its ok to pirate Cassandra Claire's book for that reason. It makes zero sense to me, but it seems to be a mindset in the minds of some people.

For the record, I bought your book last week in a tiny little bookshop in Auckland, New Zealand while on holiday, and I look very much forward to reading it.
Dec. 4th, 2009 02:41 pm (UTC)
I imagine so, though I find it even more mystifying. 'So someone gave you a lot of presents, and then you broke their window and stole everything in the house?' Okay then... good way to prevent anyone, ever, from writing fanfiction. I have to say that while there were a lot of things I enjoyed about it, I sometimes wish I hadn't.

P.S. I hope you'll like the book. ;)

Edited at 2009-12-04 02:42 pm (UTC)
(no subject) - lavinialavender - Dec. 4th, 2009 04:31 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sarahtales - Dec. 4th, 2009 05:04 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - lavinialavender - Dec. 4th, 2009 08:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - polly_oliver - Dec. 5th, 2009 09:08 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - polly_oliver - Dec. 5th, 2009 09:15 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - tsubaki_ny - Dec. 4th, 2009 07:14 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - dharma_slut - Dec. 5th, 2009 04:44 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bluevanilla - Dec. 7th, 2009 06:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 4th, 2009 02:43 pm (UTC)
Semi-tangentially, students in my country are moaning about having to pay for textbooks and illegally downloading them when, you know, we don't pay tuition. Textbook authors also need to eat! Also, you can't mark up your pdf copy the way you can your own, with little sticky notes and stuff. Less learning (or possibly just less fun).

Also, no, making a living on literature is notoriously underpaid. I don't understand downloading books, I just don't.
Dec. 4th, 2009 03:09 pm (UTC)
Actually you can, Adobe Reader lets you do exactly that with notes and circling and so on. Just so you know!
(no subject) - harborshore - Dec. 4th, 2009 03:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - willowgreen - Dec. 4th, 2009 09:16 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - endlessfire - Dec. 5th, 2009 02:49 am (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 4th, 2009 02:45 pm (UTC)
I have to come clean and confess that I've downloaded illegal copies of the Harry Potter books. But honestly, I've bought, like, eight different versions of each book in the series, and I only downloaded them because it's easier to find information quickly and I needed that to edit a Harry Potter wiki. :D

I may have done the same with Lord of the Rings for similar purposes—it's been a while since my OCDness contaminated my Tolkien-reading experience, but really—I'd never download a book I haven't already bought and reread a thousand times. The only thing that would make me prefer reading a book on my computer would be the need to check it a million times a day; anything else makes me cringe.

That being said, yes, downloading books is evil, books are gorgeous and there's nothing prettier than loads of pretty bookshelves! Why would anyone want to deprive themselves of that?
Dec. 4th, 2009 03:36 pm (UTC)
I downloaded an illegal copy of one of the Harry Potter books, too - for some reason I couldn't get a hard copy when it came out (can't remember why) and I didn't want to wait until I had a chance to go to a book store. But I went out and bought it properly later. (I am a re-reader of epic proportions.)

(I think one time I also downloaded one so I could check out the ending before I bought the book mail order - I have some issues and didn't want to buy it if it was going to upset me because someone died or it ended badly. So I skimmed the end, found out what I needed to know, and deleted the file. Basically what I would've done at a bookstore had I been able to look at the book in person - check it out, and either buy it or put it back on the shelf.)

That said, I think the best thing publishers can do in this day and age is put up a decent chunk of the book for free as a teaser, to get people hooked. (I mean a whole chapter or two, not two pages and not half the book. Enough that you have a chance to get into the story and get the feel of the style of writing and develop some interest in the characters.) I don't have as much time to read as I used to, so I'm pickier about what I do spend time reading, and getting to read a decent sized excerpt is the best way to get me into the book store with all possible speed to pick up the book. :)
(no subject) - sarahtales - Dec. 4th, 2009 03:37 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - quiet000001 - Dec. 4th, 2009 03:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - live_momma - Dec. 4th, 2009 06:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 4th, 2009 02:51 pm (UTC)
You're sweet for sharing your personal story and this is a much needed post! I don't think authors (or anyone, really) can blog about this topic enough. Thank you, Sarah! I've tweeted this. :)

Edited at 2009-12-04 02:51 pm (UTC)
Dec. 4th, 2009 02:53 pm (UTC)
Ouch. :( My copy of your book was very much purchased legally and is in plain old hardback. Moral and legal issues aside, it's so much more satisfying to read a book and actually hold the pages in your hands - it's far more soothing and encompassing an experience than reading off a computer screen. To me, anyway.

Which isn't to say that the moral and legal aspects should be ignored. Especially not when it's so easy to get free copies; as you said, all people need to do is visit the library. And people out to ruin your career? Wow. That's just - I don't even have words. I'm terribly sorry that this happened to you and if I see anyone ever posting or requesting an illegal e-copy of a book, I'm going to direct them straight to this post.
Dec. 4th, 2009 02:54 pm (UTC)
I definitely prefer something in my hands to read rather than on my computer screen. Recently, this has been in the form of my Kindle, which I adore. I have a few PDFs of books, mostly roleplaying supplements (because they come out far too often for my checkbook to keep up with and I'm paying a monthly fee for access to the same info online anyway, just in a slightly less convenient form) and a few textbooks that the authors have made available on their own websites. A notable exception is my sourcebook for Nobilis. I own a hard copy. I found a PDF to share with friends because the book has been out of print for years and never had many copies printed in the first place. If you're lucky you can find one on ebay for about 10 times what it's worth. The author supports this and suggests those who like her work and wish to contribute just hit the "Donate" button on her website. It seems to be a working system for now.

Also, in regard to my Kindle, the screensaver scrolls through images of various famous authors. Every time it hits Jane Austen I think of you.
Dec. 4th, 2009 02:55 pm (UTC)
(Deleted comment)
Dec. 4th, 2009 03:10 pm (UTC)
Dec. 4th, 2009 03:00 pm (UTC)
I find that sort of behavior reprehensible... it's quite disheartening that people think they know better or deserve more just because there are ways around spending the money. right now, MOST people don't have enough money, but that's no excuse to turn to thievery. I mourn for all author's losses!

I've been considering a e-reader, ebook, kindle, what-have-you. since I'm often reading several books at once, I feel it would be awfully convenient, especially while traveling. I'm encouraged by your recommendation :)

someday, some fantastic vigilante will stop all the piracy. perhaps I should don a fin and pirate hat and take all the book-pirates on myself ;)

Dec. 4th, 2009 03:05 pm (UTC)
Gosh,I'm too ashamed to use my logged in ID so let's keep it anon.
First of all I want to apologize for downloading your book for free. But hear me out first, I did it because I don't have a choice, since your book is not puplished in my country and currently I have no access to buy things from abroad because I don't have an international credit card. Please don't think I did it because I hate you, because I do adore your works and hope to see more. So right now the only thing I can do is promise you that once/if your book gets puplished in my country I will rush out and buy one copy (or two, to make up my wrong and give it to some friend as a gift). And if I ever get the chance to go to other countries, I will buy the first legal copy I see. I'm a fan of real books too, so please don't lynch me.
Dec. 4th, 2009 03:24 pm (UTC)
I wish you had not done it. There is always a choice. Bookshops will order books from abroad if asked, and friends/relatives can order books, and if all else fails, we must do without! I recall in my college days often having to be like 'Only enough money for book or lunch.' Usually I chose book.

I appreciate that you apologised, but the thing is I can't lynch you: I can't do anything. I just have to sit here and get metaphorically punched in the face.
Dec. 4th, 2009 03:11 pm (UTC)
Huh, I just got the mental image of you upsetting the people of internet by driving accidentally over all of their puppies. Not a pretty image.

I really don't understand how so many normal, usually moral people can justify to themselves the illegal downloading books or music, or anything really. I think it's because it's so effortless, and allows them to be far removed from the victim of the crime, it maybe gives them an illusion that there is no victim. I think posts like this and Ally Carter's are great, because they concretise the matter, shows to all that piracy really hurts actual people.
(Deleted comment)
Dec. 4th, 2009 03:25 pm (UTC)
Oh, you poor petal! I feel your pain. (And your fury and killing rage, too. Belieeeeeve me.)
Dec. 4th, 2009 03:22 pm (UTC)
The Merpirates are going to look down at their fins in shame for this, I think. I know I would.

Honestly though, great post. I think people sometimes forget the big name attached to their favorite books-'o-choice are actually, well, real people. I know I do. So, thanks!
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( 232 comments — Leave a comment )


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