Dr. Download or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Book Pirates
Just popping out of summer vacation hibernation (or “writing” as i like to call it) for a quick blog post on the touchy subject of internet piracy.
I meant to post this sooner (but i’ve been writing, see above), following an interesting debate on Farcebook sparked by an alert sent out to a bunch of authors whose books were listed on an illegal download site.
For a long time, I’ve held the belief that people downloading my books for free were stealing from me and taking the food from my family’s table. (and look no further than Brian Keene’s impassioned, insightful post on this aspect of internet piracy)
But i was also painfully aware that piracy is inevitable in this day and age and could, in effect, provide a free marketing campaign for an author’s work. (who else but Neil Gaiman can sum this up for us so eloquently?)
Then author/filmmaker/all-round-mighty dude John “yer pal” Skipp showed me the way, and the light. He said (by the way I, ahem, stole the following quote from the aforementioned Farcebook debate thread):
The thing is: the first time I got file-shared, I went fucking ballistic. I got ahold of the perps, took out my psychic reaming tools, and gave them a good what-for. Once I was done screaming, they kinda shrugged and went, “Okay. We took it down. Didn’t mean to piss you off. Take care.” And by the end of the conversation, I felt kind of like the dad who finds his kids partying in the rec room and loses his shit. They didn’t actually break anything. They just got high and watched TV. I never liked that dad, and sure as shit never wanted to be him. And that’s when my perspective began to change. I guess what I’ve come to accept is that a lot of my readers are outlaws. You make outlaw art, you get outlaw fans. GO FIGGER! (John Skipp)
Outlaw books, outlaw readers. Hadn’t thought of it that way before.
And then Carlton Mellick III added (again, quote stolen from Farcebook):
Two things to keep in mind: 1) these people wouldn’t be buying your book if it wasn’t free. It costs you nothing, but you might gain a reader who might spread the word about your work or start buying your work in the future. 2) most file-sharers are also the biggest consumers. I admit that I download stuff all the time, but I also spend at least $1000 a month on books, movies, comics, video games, and mp3s…mostly by creators I discovered through free downloading. (Carlton Mellick III)
An interesting distinction. These people wouldn’t be buying your book anyway.
I took a peek at one pirate site and one of my novels has had over 1,000 illegal downloads. That would buy a lot of groceries for my family if the pirates were to buy those books. But they’re not. They never intended to buy the book, and if no pirate copy was available they still wouldn’t buy it either. They’d just go on to the next available title.
But now they’ve read it, maybe they’ll recommend it to others, leave a glowing/or damning Goodreads review, or (saints preserve us!) maybe even buy my next book.
That’s how it is now, so maybe we should all stop worrying and learn to love the pirates.
What do you think, me hearties? Yarrrr? or Arrrrgh?
Comments below please – i’d love to read ‘em!