Pub Rants

21st Century Whack-A-Mole

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Status: I conked out early yesterday before I could blog.

What’s Playing on the XM or iPod right now? WHITER SHADE OF PALE by Annie Lennox

In this digital age, pirating is lightning fast. Mari Mancusi’s NIGHT SCHOOL literally went on sale yesterday and within hours, you could illegally download it in a pirated digital edition. We clocked it.

And even though it feels futile, like 21st century whack-a-mole, authors can’t afford being complacent when it comes to pirated digital downloads. Literally.

Best defense is to track via something like Google alerts then notify the publisher. Most have a division that notifies infringers and gets the sites removed. (Yes, I know a new site will appear within a day but it still disrupts them.) If there are advertisers on the site, notify them of the copyright violation. I know that legit advertisers have pulled out of sites that are violating the copyright.

Also important is to educate fans. A lot of young people, in the age of napster, see it as a victimless crime. It hurts the livelihood of artists and that is a detriment to all of us in the long run.

If fans abroad are having trouble legally downloading an edition, check with your publisher or agent on where the digital edition is available and get proactive on disseminating that information. At some point, even loyal, ethical fans can get frustrated enough to buy the non-legal version. I get that so do what you can to help the situation. In general, publishers are moving on territory restrictions and availability issues but they are having trouble keeping pace with almost weekly change.

13 Responses

  1. Martinelli Gold said:

    Amazing! So interesting to even clock it…
    I think your advice is spot-on. There is such an entitlement among my peers, that the whole world should be available to them for absolutely nothing. It’s all about turning one ethical lightbulb on at a time.

  2. Miriam the Mommy said:

    Having just gotten a Kindle, I was curious how many Kindle books from authors I like I could find online for free.

    Three clicks.

    Holy flipping wack-a-moley. It’s beyond absurd. Between Google finding peoples’ publicly stored files and sites like Plunder where people ‘share,’ it’s a pandemic, and truly tragic.

  3. Elizabeth said:

    There’s a website I found early last year that has a paranormal YA series posted in its entirety, something like eight books. I emailed the link to the publisher, emailed WordPress about the copyright violation, and nothing ever came of it. The website’s still up. I just checked it. The newest book is now up.

    And this isn’t a download site. It’s a blog that someone has set up for the sole purpose of stripping ebooks and posting them there.

    I guess it really is like whack-a-mole, but in all honesty, it left me wondering what’s the point? If the publisher can’t be bothered enough to care, why should I?

  4. littolearnby said:

    I was thinking/fretting over this just the other day. It’s good to know advertisers are legitimately doing something about this issue, and hitting them where it hurts.

    (Also, dudes, what is up with the font?)

  5. Anonymous said:

    What I don’t get is that if people want it for free why not just get it out of the library? Or borrow from a friend when they’re done with it? That’s how we did it back in the day. I mean if I had the money to afford every book I want to read, I’d use it to buy a condo instead. But stealing it online just seems petty. Book sharing, via friends, family and public libraries is the more honest way of doing things. But I guess the electronic world’s ruined that too. Everything has to be instantaneous – I need it NOW. Instant gratification. Just silly.

  6. Nathan Major said:

    My friends and I actually had an extended discussion about pirating eBooks on New Years. My wife and I, as well as several of my friends, all got Kindles for Christmas. The issue was that, in many instances, the eBook format cost as much or more as a paper format. The price was also not standardized (for example, The Android’s Dream by John Scalzi costs just as much Kindle format as it does paperback, while Incarceron by Katherine Fisher is a whole $5 less if you buy Kindle). A quick search of a well known pirating site revealed a single torrent with over 10,000 kindle e-books in it…for free. So my friends and I wondered: how can authors and publishers combat this?
    We are no experts of the industry (and I’ll spare you the extended discussion) but the idea was to do with eBooks what iTunes did with music: set a standardized price. Right now, publishers set eBook formats, which mean some are $15 (despite eBooks costing next to nothing to produce and distribute) and some are $5. That would be like iTunes charging more for a Taylor Swift song than for, say, an Offspring song. It really makes no sense. Also, Kindle prices seem to be delayed when it comes to “depreciating” value (books dropping in price over time), and never get to be part of sales.
    The point is, it’s horrible that people are pirating books, but the eBook scene is just an enormous mess right now from a consumer’s point of view. Pirating is going to happen no matter what we do (the RIAA has been fighting music pirating for how long and nothing has really changed?), but I think having an eBook market that is inconsistent with pricing and offers no discernible discount for those who chose eBooks over actual physical copies (that cost more to produce) is hurting both customers and publishers.
    Just my personal $0.02.

  7. Kristin Laughtin said:

    The Google Alerts idea is a good one, and I must research to see whether it would catch torrents as well. Of course, there’s still the issue of the file being named something innocuous to avoid detection, but if it’s being advertised somewhere, I suppose the name would come up in an alert somehow.

    @Nathan: A friend and I had a similar conversation lately, although when we searched Amazon, we found that an issue we had noticed a few months prior, where some mass market editions cost less than the Kindle version, had vanished (at least for the few titles we checked). Most prices were equal to the mass market price, and definitely less if the book was published in trade paperback or hardcover. I then ranted about paying authors for their work, the costs of producing e-books, etc. It was glorious.
    @Anonymous: Working in a library and being in library school, the biggest reasons I hear why people don’t borrow from libraries are 1) laziness (they don’t want to take the time to go in) and 2) waiting lists. Most libraries try to meet demand and order multiple copies of popular books when they can to combat this, but the last few years have not been kind to library budgets.

  8. Robert Michael said:

    I would wager that when “used book” stores first opened, there was similar distress. But this pandemic is far more damaging to authors, agents and publishers. It is their livelihood being jeaporidized for no gain to both the pirate distributers or the end user.

    I go back to the lesson I had to teach my children when I caught them “sharing” thier cd’s and borrowing music from the library and downloading them on our computer. They didn’t see what they were doing was wrong. I had to give them an example that was personal for them to realize that what they were doing was criminal.

    But these pirate sites are more malicious. I cannot understand the reasoning behind it. No monies are exchanged? Why bother buying a copy (or hacking a site where you can access it) if you aren’t receiving compensation? Anarchy? Entitlement? Infringement? Just because you can? Just because it’s there? I don’t get it.

  9. Marilynn Byerly said:

    For any author, agent, or editor who wants to learn more about how to fight ebook theft and share site information with other pirated authors, I suggest they join the Yahoogroups, AuthorsAgainstE-BookTheft.

    I have written several blog articles specifically for educating readers on copyright issues, and anyone here is more than welcome to use them on their websites, blogs, or whatever.

    Go to and click on the copyright label. Of particular use are my blogs on readers and copyright and on “The First Sale Doctrine” and ebooks.

    @Robert Michael, these pirate sites make a great deal of money. They are all anti-copyright and anti-establishment to their uploaders, but some of them are making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year on the advertising, etc.

    @Elizabeth, only the copyright holder or his legal representative can issue a takedown order. Next time, contact the author.

  10. Liz Kreger said:

    It is a huge problem and something every author should be aware of. I try to teach my daughter that pirating is actually stealing. I don’t care if something can be downloaded for free (or whatever), I’ll still pay the price required through a legitimate source.

  11. annebingham said:

    There was a discussion about this on the Blueboards a few months ago, and one opinion was that a lot of the pirates wouldn’t have purchased the book anyway; they’re downloading it just because they can, for the thrill of getting away with something.

    If that’s the case, it might be less of a hit to the bottom line than it appears at first glance.

  12. Patrice said:

    I’m an intellectual property attorney, and I have tried to educate my kids (with regard to music sharing) about the economic realities for artists. But just like the music biz, I think the publishing business is in a period of enormous (and sometimes painful) upheaval. We don’t know exactly what form the new publishing model will take, but it will certainly be different.

    Though I’m not the first to make the comparison, I think that the seismic shift soon to take place regarding books and writing is going to be as big as the change from handwritten manuscripts to printed. A lot that we now value is going to be left behind.

  13. Anonymous said:

    I live in eastern europe. I download books — mostly stuff out of copyright from project gutenberg or free books that authors themselves have put on their websites, but i’ll admit i’ve downloaded some pirated stuff too but i try not to do this to living authors.

    also, if i have bought a book legitamitely in one language i don’t want to pay for it again if i want to read it in a different language.

    Many of the books i’m interested in will never be translated into my language and if i wanted to buy them in English it would cost about a week’s worth of food money, not counting shipping costs. if some day i have ~$20 to spend on a book, and i will go to a bookstore and buy one like a good citizen, maybe one i previously downloaded pirated and really loved, but maybe something new.