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Saturday, May 04, 2013

Book Piracy Is Alive And Well And Living On Line - An Author Rant!

Earlier this evening, I was googling myself, as you do, in hopes of a new review, perhaps, or some such, when I found a web site called, which was offering PDFs for free - including my children's book, Your Cat Could Be A Spy, which was published by Allen And Unwin in 2006. It was part of a wonderful non fiction series called It's True! The problem with being part of a series is that when the publishers decide it's time to end it, your book goes out of print along with all the others. They printed six thousand copies of my book and sold them all, though most went through Scholastic Book Club, which meant that I got very little in the way of royalties and not a lot went into libraries where I might at least have had lending rights paid on them. But hey, there were thousands of kids who ordered a copy of my book because they wanted it, through schools or school libraries, and there are many writers of adult books who don't sell that well, some literary writers far more famous than me who have never sold more than 2000 copies of anything in their lives. The book is still available from the publishers as POD and possibly under its North American title, This Book Is Bugged! 

As a school librarian working at a school which has distributed iPads to the kids, I have been looking up sites which offer free downloads legally, even if it means classics from Gutenberg which only a few will be interested in or self-published books which might or might not be good. To download someone's hard work for which permission has neither been asked nor given would be unthinkable.

I have no idea who is behind this web site - there's no "About Us", no contact details, nothing. No doubt deliberate. And interestingly, it has a link to Amazon, in case you want to check it out further - why is this? Weird!

 I downloaded the PDF to see what would open up - I know, not safe! But I had to know. It's the whole book, art and all, except the cover. Which means my wonderful illustrator, Mitch Vane, the lady who illoes her husband Danny Katz's articles in the Age, has also been ripped off. She was supposed to get a percentage of any royalties.

I am really not interested in hearing about "freedom of information" so often ranted about by my librarian colleagues. If you've put months or years of your life into a piece of writing or art, nobody has the right to help themselves to it. When someone chooses to offer their work for free, that's fine. I have done so with some of my fiction on this web site, all stuff that has been published already. But if someone grabbed a copy of my ASIM stories or the Chronos eligibles and used it for their own benefit without asking me, that would make me see red. Heaven knows, there are plenty enough of online giveaway offers from authors and publishers.


Lan said...

I think I read somewhere that piracy might actually help book sales. I think it was on J.A Konrath's blog. Piracy is terrible but sadly realistic, sometimes, I hesitate to add even necessary. I have heard of instances where people I know have tried in vain to find a book/DVD or other copy of something they want and the only way to get hold of it is by downloading a torrent.

Thank goodness the majority of people who pirate seem to be those who wouldn't have paid for something in the first place. Real readers will continue to be legit.

miki said...

i'm sorry to hear this... i really can't undesrtand why someone would make this.... it's totally unfair to you and all the other persons included he is offering it for free... better than to keep teh momeney for himself but it('s not a justification. books are becoming more and more expensive and it's detrimental to authors but stealing they works makes teh publishers want to get his money back more quickly so book smore expensive

i hope you will find a way against it ( amazon could perhaps since it wouldn't want to be linked to an illegal site)

Sue Bursztynski said...

Miki, thanks for your lovely thoughts.

Lan, I too have heard this tiresome argument about "it helps sales", usually made by the kind of people who don't think they should have to pay for anything. Wait till someone pirates something YOU have worked hard on and see if you feel the same! ;-)

I can remember when the whole music thing was going - Napster? - , one of my students was complaining he couldn't get his favourite music free any more.

"But I BUY CDs!" he protested.I asked him if that included the music he had downloaded for free and he admitted it didn't.

It's okay to offer things free if they're yours to offer - Cory Doctorow does. Baen Books has a free ebook library with books by some writers who have been long gone and others by current writers, but they have asked permission. And maybe when someone hasn't sold much for a while or maybe has a new book coming out and wants people to remember them, that's fine. And, of course, people offer their books for free for a day or two on Amazon all the time. All that might help sales. Piracy doesn't. And my book isn't unavailable. You do have to ask the bookshop to get it in, but it's available.

Would you walk into a shop and help yourself to the goods because you couldn't pay for them?