Saturday, August 18, 2012

Rrrrr You a Pirate?

"Rrr ya sayin' I'm not entitled to free books?"
"Damn right. Savvy?"
This week's proven interesting in several bookish debates. One of which occurred when I received a Google Alert about A Ranger's Tale. Someone had asked for it on a forum that hosts e-book sharing. After doing a bit of searching, it appears the site once hosted actual book files, but now only facilitates sharing between site members.

A few more threads from their moderators suggest how wholeheartedly they feel their methods are justified, even going so far as to claim that the extra exposure of proliferating e-book sharing will help authors in the end, lead to more sales, and get this...even movie deals.


And e-book sharing is not pirating, they say, because no one's making actual money from the trade. In fact, they're very supportive of authors and want to facilitate author/reader connection. 


If that is the case, then why did the person requesting an illegal copy of A Ranger's Tale (or the site administrators) not contact ME directly? Or the countless other authors whose work they're sharing with all the sad souls who can't afford books (in support, of course)?

Here's my message to them, since they never bothered to contact me:

If you were to take a poll of the readers/reviewers of my work, I guarantee the vast majority received a free copy from me either in return for a review or as part of a giveaway. My books are not locked in some holy Ark of the Covenant which only the richest reader can access. From my own experience, most up-and-coming authors are more than happy to communicate with readers. If they're not running free downloads on Amazon, they are regularly offering up their books through giveaways and giving out review copies if you request one. 

Book sharing sites like these may not be selling pirated copies, but by allowing others to share unlimited e-copies of any author's work, without the express consent of said author, are perpetrating the illegal trade of copyrighted work. I'm sure there are authors there who regularly interact with the members there, but I am not one of those, and to see a request for my book pop up there is surprising and annoying, considering how easy it is to contact me online.

Many authors argue that every instance of file sharing is another lost sale. In my (and in most writers') cases, we're NOT reaping huge profits from our work. But, the point is, we have a right to control the distribution of our work. And yes, writing IS work. Most books take months, years, or even decades to be completed, so we deserve to see something come out of it, even if it's simply a review from a book we've given out for FREE. When you facilitate or participate in e-book sharing on sites such as this, you're disrespecting that author's time and efforts.

"How's about a free book? No one
needs to know...."
The argument was also posed that one can share a print copy with no repercussions, so why not-ebooks? Sure, it's easy as pie to email a file. No postage necessary. You don't even have to meet in some dark alleyway. But, you see, when you share a print copy, unless you've snatched it from your local library or a bookstore, SOMEONE has purchased it. The author has been compensated for that copy. Pass it around to your neighbors and weird aunts for all we care. In fact, I welcome that sort of sharing. You can even share a purchased (or rightfully obtained free) e-copy, if you have an e-reader, and hand it over to your daughter to read--that's great! 

But, as soon as you duplicate that e-copy and start sending it out to people without the author's consent, you've crossed the line. 

The way I see it, if you cannot afford to buy a legitimate copy of a book, you have a few options. Take notes if you need to:
  1. Borrow a print copy from a friend. Many libraries even have e-book lending now!
  2. Borrow a copy from the library.
  3. Search Google for your favorite author or book, find his/her blog/Facebook page/Twitter, etc and see when they'll be hosting their next giveaway.
  4. Contact the author you're interested in by email (you can contact me via the contact tab at the top of my website or via any of my social media buttons at the bottom of my website) and ask them for a review copy. And you know what? Writing a review really isn't that hard. You can even ask me how if you're not sure. I'm kinda nice like that. I enjoy helping people, as do most writers.
  5. Last but not least, and this one is hard to swallow for our "I have a right to something for nothing" society, DO WITHOUT. Seriously, most people, if they can't afford a car, don't go to a car lot and just drive off with a new Honda, while asking, "How else am I going to get one?" They walk, or ride a bicycle, or take the bus, or carpool....get my drift? 
Let me end with a story from my childhood. Growing up, we were poor. My parents could barely keep a roof over our heads. And I LOVED to read, particularly during the summer when I didn't have a thing to do because they couldn't afford to send me to camp or take vacations. Granted, we didn't have e-books back then, but you know what my mom did? She called our county library and asked for the Bookmobile to come to my house. Every week, I could barely contain myself when that blue and white truck pulled up in our drive. And the driver knew what I liked, so he kept my favorite books stocked. I read just about every book that Victoria Holt wrote that way and returned them so others could enjoy them, too. 

There was MY option. Now, in our digital age, finding a book to read is easier than ever. Yet, we don't have to resort to stealing them in order to enjoy our favorite authors. Most of us are just a click away. We love and cherish our readers, for without you, we'd just be writing for ourselves. Taking our books without our permission and without involving us in any way means that's what we're reduced to--just writing for ourselves. 

And what's the point of that?


  1. Thanks for posting this Mysti. I doubt I would have been half as nice about it as you have been. :)

  2. You've made some great points, Mysti.
    I also read many library books growing up :) I have also give away many copies of my books in giveaways, off amazon, or for review :)
    Don't forget my review copy of SS, when you have a minute. :)

  3. I wholeheartedly agree with this Mysti, readers can find me through my blog, facebook, twitter and I'm open to supplying a copy in the required format to someone who cannot afford to pay.
    I don't think a review in trade is always the best option, that is down to the people involved, but they can at least make mention of the author and their work on whatever social media they're involved with.

  4. Mysti,

    Very good post. I remember when this issue came up about music sharing. Some of the same arguments were voiced and rejected then. I believe if you can't afford something, then do without. I have lived by that for a long time and have no doubt will have to do without the latest movie or best seller or whatnot in the future. It's a part of life.

    Thank you for posting this. I will have to check into those google alerts.


  5. Fully agree. I'm a big participant at which makes it easy to legally borrow and lend Amazon Kindle ebooks. Now I'll add the suggestion that borrowers leave a review. =)

  6. As an author myself, I will gladly share my work with those who want to see it -- If I'm asked! I had a person who lost a copy of my work, so I sent them another copy of it. They purchased, I felt it was something I could do.

    Unfortunately, since I've lost my HD with the work, it's only available on the web, now. I've had 20% of the buyers give a review (Doesn't say a lot if you consider number of sales), but I think one review was merely a "revenge" tactic. I can't disprove this being an honest review, however. Considering that a person must wait 2 days before giving a review on Amazon, it may have been an honest review.

    I would not give a one-star review because I didn't like the person. Unfortunately, too many people don't think that way.

    Some day, someone may kill off the publishing/writing industry. I pity the people who will never tell their story. I pity those who will never hold a book in their hands because of a few morons/pirates. People will wonder what it was like. And they will never know.

  7. The music industry went through a similar battle a few years ago. Musicians were lambasted because they had the audacity to expect people to pay for their music. Sites like Napster are now defunct because of legal difficulties they had over copyright infringement. I hope these 'e-book sharing' sites figure this out before they get hit with their own lawsuits.

  8. As best I can tell, Perusing is just a front end for the servers that host the potentially and allegedly copyright violating material. (I'm being careful because I have an account there wher I am communicating with some of the potential and alleged pirates, and the site owner has stated he is very aggressive against 'libel'. Therefore, everything is potential and alleged.) Where was I?

    Oh yeah. The servers where material appears to be hosted are at TUEBL . com

    If you go there, search for author name or book title. You'll see a list. If you follow the links, it will offer you a downloadable file you can save. The material is hosted on thier site.

    Also, they are in Canada, so there is a slightly different approach to sending them take-down notices. Read the legal page on the TUEBL site for details.


    1. Let 'em come at me with libel. I'll come back at 'em with THEFT!

  9. As someone who spent more money being a published author than I've earned, and that I'm unable to even get an affordable apartment within reach of my other job, much less a car, yes I agree with the fact "sharing" ebooks eats at my chance to earn a living.

    It's one thing to forward a printed copy, but in practice you don't share an ebook. It becomes a copy of a file, leading to more copies than before.

    There's no way we, as authors or the publishers, can verify that an ebook was ZEROed off, not merely erased from one hard drive or memory stick once digitally written onto another.

    So to all you scurvy swabs sailing the digital seven seas don't be plundering our treasure. Many of us are already in troubled and turbulent financial waters.

    1. I know exactly what you mean. If I didn't have a husband with a good-paying job, ain't NO way I'd make a living solely by writing at this time. I can only hope I'll make at least enough to cover promotion costs as time goes on, but if people are snatching up copies of my work for free without me knowing it, that won't ever happen, will it?

  10. How do we know if a site is offering pirated books?

    1. If you go to a site and they are "giving away," sharing, or uploading book files that you can find on Amazon or other legitimate retail sites, the site is a pirate. If you pay a membership fee to a site, but can get all the books they have for free, it's probably a pirate site.

    2. That's a great question. I don't think it's particularly easy to determine sometimes. There are a lot of "trolling sites" out there (I think that's what my publisher called them), that list your book for sale, but if you click the links, it takes you back to Amazon or B&N, or some other legitimate book seller.

      Actual book pirating sites will be a site that sells directly through their website (via paypal or whatever they use). Most likely you'll see an ebook version listed for a cheaper price than you'd find on Amazon or the other booksellers.

      Basically, anywhere you actually PURCHASE the book, it SHOULD be about the same price that the publisher sets. In my case, the e-book is $6.99 pretty much everywhere.

      If you run into a website that might have a forum such as the one I mentioned, where people are asking specifically for "a copy of ____" and others are saying "I have 10 PDF's of _____", you've probably ran into one of the illegal file-sharing sites.

      In any case, I'd say when in doubt, check it out. Contact the author or publisher to see if they are affiliated with the website in question. If not, then hopefully your moral judgment will keep you from partaking in their shady practices.

  11. Excellent post. As an author, I'm sharing this on my Facebook page. Piracy is illegal, no matter what the excuse given.

    1. Good and thank you Donya! I want everyone to become more educated about this. Authors aren't out to "get" readers. In fact, we want them reading our books, but we deserve to have a say in who gets them and by what means.

  12. As a pirate myself, (of the political sort, if you've ever heard of them in the US) let me say that we're with you here. While we maintain copyright in its current form must be reformed, we also defend the artist's right to live from his work. One of the paths we follow to achieve this is cutting the middle man, which only makes sense when dealing in digital goods. I'd be interested to know how well e-book sales work for you compared to sales of paper books. Are they more profitable, not as a whole, but per book? If not, why (they should)?

    1. Not sure what a political pirate is. Do you wear an eye patch? ;)

      But as far as e-book vs print, I do earn a higher percentage of royalties for e-books. I think that stems from the prints coming from Lulu, a print-on-demand site, which is more costly for my publisher to produce.

    2. :) This is what a pirate party is
      No eye-patch required ;)
      I'd think an e-book brings more money per unit, as said unit costs very little to produce, compared to print.

    3. Interesting. Especially the ideas of open content, which (correct me if I'm wrong) would theoretically still give the author/creator control over their work.

      As far as cutting the middle man, self-publishing is about as close as we can get right now.

    4. You're absolutely right. Have a look at Creative Commons Licences
      You choose how you want to distribute your work, whether it may be modified or not, for example (for fan-fiction?). And it's not exclusive. So if you publish your work under, say, BY-NC-SA, you can still at the same time make a book deal with a publisher on the one hand and on the other hand allow all your fans to spin new stories out of your work, as long as they don't sell these. It also gives said fans the certainty they won't get sued for their work :)
      Watch out though, CC-licenses can't be taken back! So think it out before you release anything, or just release a short story to try it out. Who knows what might happen... :)
      About cutting the middle man: selling e-books on your own website wouldn't be even more profitable than self-publishing print? I mean per unit of course, as there are probably advantages to being listed on the big sites that offset the percentage they take from you.

  13. These are all good points. I have noticed that Amazon will let you loan your ebook to anyone you want, but its like passing over an ereader because you can't read it while the other person has it and once they give it back they can no longer access it.

    1. And that works. So many options out there for people without resorting to taking the actual book.

  14. Here you said.

    "Book sharing sites like Perusing the Shelves may not be selling pirated copies, but by allowing others to share unlimited e-copies of any author's work, without the express consent of said author, are perpetrating the illegal trade of copyrighted work."

    Well, here's the thing. These sites are legal if they are sharing Kindle (or Nook) versions where the book has enabled lending. There was just a huge controversy about and a book lending site that was brought down by authors who assumed it was illegal. Here ia link more about it..if you haven't heard already.

    1. Thank you Cindy! From what I've seen, Perusing the Shelves does not only participate in book borrowing via Kindle or Nook. People there were requesting copies in PDF and other forms. And Joe a few comments up found their file server at TUEBL. com where it allows anyone to upload book files for others to download.

      A statement in their FAQ's says: "The goal for this site is to allow you to download books in digital format that you already own, or to find new authors and books that you support and would like to read more of."

      The first part sounds pretty nice. The second, not so much.

  15. Yeah, that does sound rather shady. Personally, it doesn't bother me because I'm too unknown to worry about it. If I was a hot selling author, it probably wouldn't matter then either. These people who will only read for free aren't the buyers.

    1. Trust me, I'm not losing any sleep over it. Mostly, I'm just annoyed with society's leeches as a whole--this is just one example of those--and their pitiful justifications for why their actions are ok.

      I've heard excuses for bad behavior my whole life. I recognize them when I see it.

  16. I agree...They shouldn't be doing this PERIOD! And as far as the kindle lending library, we do get royalties from the books that are borrowed. Actually, sometimes more than the royalty if it was simply sold. And if someone chooses to lend their purchased copy to a friend, it is only the ONE copy that is being moved around (disappears from the first persons shelf). So the sale of that book is legit and the lending of it that way isn't any different than lending a print book to a friend.
    The pirate sites need to be shut down. It is stealing. And wow to have the PDF's to pass around. Unbelievable! I agree with Mysti, if someone wants to read one of my books and truly can't afford it, then gee just contact me. I'd just give them a darn copy and hope they would be kind enough to leave an Amazon review. Authors give away LOTS of copies of books for promotions, Amazon select to get visibility, or for reviews. Usually, we get something (though not money) out of the deal in the form of better ranking on Amazon or reviews. But, most authors I know would be more than happy to give a reader who really wants to read one of our/their books but can't afford it a free copy.

    1. I couldn't have said it better, Tamelia! Though I do ask readers to consider leaving a review, unless an actual book reviewer has contacted me, I never expect them to review it. I'm tickled pink when they do leave a review, though, even if they just send me a Facebook message or email saying what they thought of it.

      I LIKE the interaction with readers, whether it's actual reviews, message exchanges, or even just seeing my sales rank change. Without even that minimal interaction, I have no way of knowing if my work is being appreciated or not.

    2. Can't afford it Tamelia?


      There are an awful lot of ebooks out there for US$0.99, mine included. Someone can't afford ninety-nine cents, but can afford access to the internet?

      I think its that they simply want something for nothing. We writers spend months bringing those books to the world. We get nothing for our labours until the book is made available. The royalties hardly make up for the many months of hard work involved.

  17. Good article Mindy. I encourage everyone, authors, readers, and the general public to get educated on this issue. I did a blog series on this just over the past month. You can find it here (I hope it is okay to post) ...

    Part 1 - Point/Counterpoint: A Brief Look at Eight Arguments of Pirate Site Supporters

    Part 2 - Does Piracy Help or Hurt the Publishing Industry? (A Response to a Comment from Part 1)

    Part 3 - A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Case of

    Part 4 - Straight From the Horse's Mouth: An Examination of One Site

    The one site I did look at in Part 4 was TUEBL as a matter of fact.

    I also am in a discussion on Perusing the Shelves on this. Not everyone that does this is a bad person. I believe there are people that simply don't know the difference or the impact.

    1. Thank you for the links, Aaron! I think you're right about that. I'd say a lot of those people don't realize that they're doing anything wrong. After all, it's so easy to go to those sites and just "get" a book. Most of them probably assume that the authors are ok with it.

      It's good to learn more about it so we can discern what is legit and what is not.

    2. Yes we do need that discernment so another LendInk doesn't happen.

  18. Hey Mysti :)
    I totally agree with and support where you're coming from :) You've busted butt on these works and you should reap the benefits from them. It's a shame that there's sites like that out there and no easy way to stop them without having some sort of 'net police' tracking everything we do or say online because of all the red tape involved with filing complaints and such...good luck and as always, happy writing ;)

  19. MF Burbaugh

    Like Movies and Music, a lot of time and effort and even money out of our own pockets go into our works and just like them the authors should be protected from 'sharing'. The Fed's are cracking down on the music and movies, maybe we need to inundate them with email about why they aren't doing the same for books.

  20. Tricky one, this. It's so difficult to control the piracy of any material on the net, books, music or films. I have long ago given up any idea of making any money out of writing. Like John Steiner, I am actually out of pocket. But I do want my books to be read. Like you, Mysti, I regularly give away books and will happily give away review copies to anyone who asks.
    What interests me is, what's in it for the pirates? Are these just lending and swap sites? Or are some of them actually selling ebooks?
    Incidentally, if the pirates really look like Johnny Depp I may have to change sides

  21. Great post Mysti. I'm gonna link to this one on my FB page so others can read it!

    This is such a hard subject, but I have to say I agree with you on pretty much all points. Heck, the musicians of the world had a hard time with this when Napster let them download stuff for free (which was stopped thanks to bands like Metallica), but in this day and age it's just so easy to get stuff for nothing. Not saying I condone it, it's just the way it is.

    Respect for speaking out against it though!

  22. You present this is a great way! Thanks for it! I'll bookmark it and share it on my sites as well. Sorry you (and all of us!) have to deal with this.


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