Shiver Me Kindle (AKA “Please Don’t Pirate My Book” Day)

I talked, at length, because of Chuck Wendig’s post on e-book pricing last year. The sonofabitch never commented on it. I’m not really suprised. unless I’m waxing about how I’m being stalked by a denizen of an 60-year abandoned tuberculosis hospital, my readership is in the low-dozens. Which is fine.

But, here, Chuck brings up the issue of e-book piracy. And, quite honestly, he hits it pretty much on the button, and how I feel about it. Some of his points? Well, I’ve addressed e-book pricing in that other post, and I ranted pretty good on it. But the piracy itself?

Well, like he said. If he’s going to make February 6th “Please don’t pirate my book” day, and all he asks is that you talk about the idea of piracy, and your views on it? How can I say no? I mean, I LIKE to talk.

First though, go back to that link, and read his “25 thoughts”. Hell, I’ll make it easy, and just put it right here, again, for you: 25 thoughts on book piracy. I actually want to thank Chuck Wendig, a creator, for writing a well-nuanced, honest, both-sides-of-the-coin piece. More discussion like this, instead of one side or the other jumping up and down screaming the same shit that has been accomplishing nothing for fifteen years, is what we need.

Of course, it’s possible he’s just looking for people to admit that they pirate shit. But I don’t think so.

So, he did twenty-five points on the subject. I want to address a few of them, that I think are most important. In fact, they’re central to my argument about why and how people pirate.

First, this is how well he gets the internet, and the various industries (music, film, literary) need to pay attention to this one:

4. Except It’s Kinda Not Theft, Exactly
It’s easy to call this stealing, but it’s not. Stealing is the act of taking something that does not belong to you — and here, “taking” implies that the other person does not get to keep it. This isn’t stealing. This is getting water on Gremlins. This is doppelgangering. This is motherfucking multiplication. That’s not to say it’s right or fair or legal, but you cloud the issue every time you call it “stealing.” Yes, it feels like stealing. But this is copying. Illegal duplication.

This. Exactly. it definitely goes hand in hand with his point 18. Our Primary Source Of Revenue Is Our Books And, Oh, By The Way, We’re Fond Of Not Starving And We Also Like Paying Our Mortgages And Feeding Our Kids And Sweet Jeebus This Header Really Got Away From Me Didn’t It?.

And the answer is that I WANT to pay the guys I like, be they bands, artists, authors, film makers, the works. I also need to eat. And there’s an awful lot of well-marketed shit out there. In fact, that was, for years, the music industry’s business model. Market a song, sell an album of shit. You’ll all have to pardon my if I’m now pretty fucking cynical after paying eighteen bucks for album after album, and finding out the single was the ONLY good track. I’d refer you to 8. Theoretically lost revenue rather than actually lost revenue on this one. I definitely download music. Regularly. If I like it, I then GO AND BUY IT. If I don’t, I delete it. That’s pretty simple, eh? But the industry seems to treat that as ACTUAL lost revenue. Because that was their model: sell shit packaged with a modicum of sugar. But, if i’d have heard the album to start with, I WOULDN’T HAVE BOUGHT IT, BECAUSE IT WAS SHIT. We know damn well the music industry (and the rest, I’ll spread the blame around) most likely consider that “theft”. I don’t. I consider “try before you buy” just fucking desserts after twenty years of not having the ability to do so. I do the same with books. I did it with The Magicians. I also got six chapters in, decided I loved it, went and bought the hard cover. I also bought it for my dad (additional sale) who like me, bought the sequel (two additional sales). I also know a large number of my friends group bought the same books (at least ten additional sales) because one or two of us pirated the book in the first place. Try before you buy is great. So are libraries, and so is lending of the physical product. You know. Two things that the (music and video) industry would desperately like to go away. Because almighty dollar.

And I think Chuck gets this, as it’s the heart of his points 15. Downloader as potential fan, 10. Piracy helps some authors

Chuck, if you’re reading this? I’ll be honest. I stole pirated your book. I’ll even tell you which one.

It was Blackbirds. I missed the discounted (or free: I can’t remember which) by a really short period of time. But, I was interested. So, I went and torrented it (Because of COURSE it’s out there).

Then, I got half way through it, and much like Lev Grossman’s book, I went and bought it (on kindle, this time). I also bought both ShotGun Gravy, and BaitDog, and then Mockingbird when it was released, and DoubleDead in paperback/trade. Oh, and the kindle version of Irregular Creatures.

So, as you can see, and a lot of other people have talked about, i … buy… things… because.. i… try them… first. I don’t see the artist losing an awful lot in this equation. Unless, of course, what they’re producting is unmemorable crap. Which, obviously, you want to sell before people realize that it is crap.

6. It’s The Internet’s Fault & 9. DRM Probably Creates More Piracy Then It Deters & 13. Sometimes It’s About The Cost

Look, it’s EASY, as Wendig notes, to make a duplicate of a file. REALLY easy. That’s not a bad thing. Oh, it’s a bad thing if you only give a shit about every single nickel you can wring out of a product. But it’s an awesome thing if you want to make your money on volume, rather than individual sales. If you want to sell a brand, and create a following, rather than a unit. It’s why I continually commend a ton of authors for occasionally just.. giving their shit away. I’ve already given a few examples. And, I stand by ’em. I’ve talked about DRM only hurting the ‘legitimate’ consumer before: I had to “steal” a copy of an album I’d bought, because the site (HMV) kept aborting the download. But still counting the download as one of five I was ‘allowed’. Two weeks of tech support, and I finally had legitimate access to the music I’d bought. Of course, by then, I’d torrented it, so I could listen to it. DRM is fucking balls, ok? In fact, if most of these organizations were to drop their DRM budgets, they’d be fucking rolling in cash. And what do they get out of it now? it takes someone four minutes to copy a file, instead of thirty seconds. Unless, of course, you’re a ‘legitimate’ consumer, in which case, the DRM stops you using your thing (reading a book, in thise case) where and when you want to, and ever, if the company the file ‘checks in with’ goes out of business.

Also, if I buy a hardcover? I very often go and download the ebook. For free. From ze torrentz. Again, I don’t feel I’m STEALING anything. I’ve paid for the book. The format is irrelevant. It’s just me using it. But, this is something that needs to happen five years ago.

I’ll go one further. How many times have I got to buy the same thing, so I can watch/listen/read it on the new “standard” technology? I realize it applies differently for books, but DAMN.

I mean, how often did I buy the fucking Ghostbusters franchise?

Yes, I said Ghostbusters.

  • I saw the movie, in the theatre ($5), in 1985.
  • I bought the soundtrack, on vinyl($13), in 1985.
  • I bought the soundtrack, on tape ($14), in 1987.
  • I bought the movie, on VHS ($20), in 1991.
  • I bought the soundtrack, on CD ($20), in 2001.
  • I bought the movie, on DVD ($20), and the sequel on DVD ($20) in 2002
  • I replaced both DVD’s because they disappeared in a move ($40) in 2009

    So, that’s what, a total of … $152 actual dollars, of mine, on two movies, and a soundtrack. Fuck an industry that says I need to pay for that AGAIN on bluray, or pinkdisc, or ULTRAFUCKWEWANTTHEMONEYDISC. I’ve paid my god damn dues to the Ghostbusters. I may even have had the coloring book at some point. I’ll never tell.

    Point is, I do this a lot. And now, I don’t have to. If I spend $25-40 on a hardcover, yeah, I’m gonna go download the ebook. At the very least, it’s way easier to read an ebook on the shitter, but I want the damn hardcover on the bookshelf. Fingerprint-free. You know what I’m sayin’. Which leads us to…

    23. Combat Piracy By Adding Value

    This. THIS. FUCKING THIS. A THOUSAND TIMES FUCKING THIS: “Buy a physical copy, also get a digital copy.” (More publishers need to be doing this, stat.) . I LOVE that when I pre-order something from Scott Sigler, the day the hard cover ships, everyone gets an email saying “your dead tree version will be with you shortly: we understand you don’t want to wait, so please download a digital copy here”. This is how shit should work. And the grand thing is? It keeps the customers and fans happy, and BARELY COSTS A FUCKING THING.

    So, Ok, point 25. the whole point of this post, technically, it’s about why you’d like people to pay for your book instead of, say, just taking it.. And I know, this is from the point of the consumer. But it’s important to keep stating, much to the chagrin of the industry wonks, that the consumer isn’t a greedy fuckknob, who doens’t want to pay for anything. We’re just tired of getting ripped off, tired of being taken advantage of, tired of being a product to the industry, in general. I know there are performers, artists, writers, who get it. There is a happy medium, and it doesn’t include the assumption that all consumers are thieves.

    At the end of the day, and I say this everytime I get ranty on this subject, I want to give my money to the guys who are worth it. I want to pay them. It’s totally selfish. I mean, I don’t REALLY care if Chuck Wendig eats, or can feed his children. I don’t know him, I’m just a fan. But I do care that, knowing he’s going to make a conscious decision to make money so he can feed himself and his children, he might as well do that doing something that benefits ME. Which means, if I give him money, he doesn’t have to work at BurgerMac’s flipping tacos, and he can spend his time providing me with entertainment. Which is the important part.

    Seriously, I’m not kidding.

    I’m REALLY selfish like that.

  • 11 Responses to Shiver Me Kindle (AKA “Please Don’t Pirate My Book” Day)

    1. Chuck Wendig says:

      I think I’m supposed to say “first!”


      If pirating my work was what drew you to more of my work, I won’t complain. And I’m happy you were honest about it. I don’t get particularly worked up over individual instances of piracy, though once in awhile there’s a twinge in the gut. Those irrational “hurt feelings” I was talking about and so forth.

      All that being said, the “try before you buy” reason doesn’t exactly hold a lot of water in this day and age — music services make listening to the whole album very very easy (Spotify, f’rex), and you can sample several chapters of a book through the various distribution services.

      THAT ALSO BEING SAID, the point about Ghostbusters is an interesting one. Because the movie is separate *in the long run* from the physical medium on which it arrives, and yet *in the short run* our media is tied to the distribution and medium.

      Hope you enjoyed all the books!

      — c.

      • markramsden says:

        I must admit, there is some difference between the US and Canada in terms of “try before you buy”. Spotify and the like don’t work for shit up here. We don’t get Hulu etc as far as video is concerned, and for music purchasing? Well, it’s pretty much iTunes… or iTunes.

        So, my ranting may not be applicable to everyone. But the resources that music, video, and even books DON’T put towards sales in Canada is epic. Although, it’s good to see that Amazon/Kindle does work up here. Amazon MP3, and google music/video do not. Unless you buy a $100+/month cable subscription you don’t get streaming options.

        It’s a good conversation to have though, and your attitude is.. damn, we need more who look at the situation objectively.

        Thanks for takin’ the time to read the ranting too.

      • MDK says:

        He’s not kidding, Chuck, he may not care if you pay your bills but you CAN NOT PUT OUT ANY WORDS without all his friends hearing about it.

      • markramsden says:

        I should also add that what ACTUAL drew me to you (not your work) was twitter: Sigler, Lafferty, Hutchins, Wallace, Rossi, Scalzi, Wheaton, Hill. That whole cabal kept refering to, and talking to, this GUY. And, your twitter is really active, funny, and informative.

        Then, like I said, I missed the ‘freebie/cheapie’ version of Blackbirds. THEN torrent, and then, within an hour or two, purchase at normal price.

        Oh, and the spotify comment is legit… In the states. Sadly, here in Canada, our streaming media is constrained to say the least. (I went and checked Spotify again after you mentioned it. But this is a standard complaint of mine with Canada vs all the media industries. It’s just DIFFICULT to buy things digitally here, because no one looks at us as a big enough market, and we’re ‘regionally’ different than the USA, despite being part of the continent.

        Also, your linking back to me has blown the shit out of my blog today. 😀

        • I don’t even want to know how DVD Region 5 must suck. It’s basically “The Rest”, with lots of African and Asian states that couldn’t be more diverse.
          On the other hand, Region 6 (China) might suck even more.

    2. Shecky says:

      “Try before you buy” NEEDS to be a standard feature. We can sit in bookstores, libraries, a friend’s living room, etc., thumbing through books there to see how they taste. Heck, I even remember good record stores (back in the Stone Age when we CALLED them records, you whippersnappers) where they had listening rooms, places you could sit with headphones and ask the attendant to play thus-and-such album for you. Bought a good number of LPs as a result of that, I did.

      Yeah, some individual authors (or their publishing houses, depending on the phase of the moon and how many left-handed wombats are mating under it) put sample chapters out on their site or something similar in the weeks before releasing a new book. That’s fucking awesome of them and you can’t help but like them for it. But it needs to be a feature of ALL e-books. Hell, I got into Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files because I picked up STORM FRONT in a Burns and Nibbles and read one chapter. It ended with “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean there isn’t an invisible demon about to eat your face,” and I was hooked.

      It’s a good idea, dammit. Smart marketing, at the least. Ignore the holejacks who are bound and determined never to pay for an e-book because FUCK YOU CAPITALIST DOG-PIGS; they’re always going to find a way around it, because the e-cat is permanently out of the bag on the intarwebz. Focus on the people who WANT to do the right thing. Give them extra value, the chance to take the wurdz on a test drive before bringing ’em home to the Living-Room Nuremberg Loop.

      NB: There’s one part I think needs a wee bit of clarification FGJ. The actual costs associated directly and indirectly with a printed version are shockingly low, while the costs of document prep and dissemination for e-books are equally shockingly high. A free e-copy with every purchase of a p-book is a serious money-loser for the publishing houses, and just like us, they need to eat, too. Maybe we could follow the example set by the video industry with Blu-rays, where they have a couple of different versions for sale AT DIFFERENT PRICES: a BD-only version, a BD+DVD version and a BD+DVD+Ultravioletwhatever version. The combo pack appeals to a fuckton of consumers (myself included; I like to be able to lend out favorite videos, and some of my friends don’t have BD players yet, so it’s nice to have a DVD to lend, and so on). Discounted extra copy = win, while free extra copy = loss.

      I dunno for sure; I just know that wiser heads than mine can surely come up with SOMETHING that works better for more people.

      • I don’t trust sample chapters. I want to choose my own chapter to peek.
        That’s what I do in bookstores. Sadly, they have less and less on their shelves.

      • markramsden says:

        I bought combo packs of KickAss and …. crap.. something else, on principle. It didn’t hurt that they were on sale for less than the BD-only OR DVD-Only versions.

        But, one of the things I try to do is REWARD the guys who are doing it right, and make it clear that’s what I’m doing. And that means buying things.

        Also, I’m not sure (and if you know the logistics better, please fill me in) that a free ebook with the pbook is a loser. It IS, for sure, if they’re not planning on doing an e-version. But I don’t know who isn’t these days. So, if they’re producing it for sale anyway, why not include it. The “how” is more difficult, because I can envision unscrupulous types going through hardcovers in-store and “stealing” the code for that book so they don’t have to buy it, and the consumer who does buy it get screwed. But logistically, if e-stuff approaches profit & cost zero through copying, then it can’t “cost” them much to include one with each hardcover (and, for the moment, I could live with hardcover only for ebook attachment: I actually don’t buy paperbacks much. I buy HC for the shelf, and ebook for everything else).

    3. Jessica says:

      I agree about try before you buy (and I’ve been guilty of the same on occasion where I’ve watched an episode of a TV show and then gone out and bought a DVD box set). One of my favourite ways to find new books is to stand in a bookshop and read the first few pages. If I’m still reading a chapter later, I’ll buy it. I’m with Shecky that it needs to be a standard feature of all ebooks.

    4. Revenger says:

      Just to share my story

      I read books a lots, mainly Science Fiction, it cost about $16 local dollar to buy a paperback.

      Back in 2002, when I come across a book call “War of Honor” by David Weber, I was surprise that the hardcopy come with a CD-ROM with ALL the backcopy of the series. I don’t have a eDevice to read the ebook so I bought all the paperback copy of the series after reading and liking the “War of Honor”.

      Years later, I got my eDevices (andriod, apple and Kobo) Mainly due to I discover Baen book through “war of honor” I had bought ALL david Weber books from Baen plus other authors, I appreciate that Baen’s ebook have no DRM, avaliable for me to BUY from anywhere on earth, and cost lower than most ebook store.

      After starting on eDevice, I discover DRM, and regional restriction, I cannot buy any ebook from Apple and Amazon due to copyrights rule, and my age is catching up that I have difficulty reading deadwood copy.

      So for now, what I do is try to find a books which I like from those site that I can buy from (DRM free) or torrent for those that’s not available.

      It’s not loss sale for those torrent copy, since I’m not allow to buy at all.

      If the publisher/author is not willing to make their work available and DRM free in country too small to be profitable (what market they’re talking about ? it’s WWW, the whole earth is ONE market) then please don’t blame me for torrenting.

      AND the cost is a factor, I was told that a deadwood book cost $16 in my country as there’s a lot of logistic involve, storage, transport of the book, etc, but some of those ebook cost more than the deadwood copy ($25), does that make any sense ?


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