eBook Piracy

In a digital publishing world, how do we deal with piracy? Authors and readers alike have strong opinions about piracy, DRM (a special kind of coding that is added to some eBooks so you can’t do things like copy and paste or print out an entire eBook), and how to stop eBooks from being stolen. And some have more creative solutions than others. The Guardian recently shared this piece about author Terry Goodkind and his own special brand of revenge. After finding a pirated copy of his self-published title THE FIRST CONFESSOR: THE LEGEND OF MAGDA available online, Terry took to his Facebook to out his pirate to fans and publicly shame him for stealing the eBook (including posting a photo of the alleged pirate).

And it worked.

The pirate removed all of his links to Goodkind’s book and Goodkind considers this a victory.

The question is: should we be castigating people who make pirated eBooks available? Or, as Paul Coelho believes, does piracy stir readers’ interest and sales? Goodkind believes it removes any incentive to legitimately purchase an author’s work. What do you think? Should authors put a lot of effort into combating piracy?

5 Responses to eBook Piracy

  1. Kerry Gans says:

    Piracy may stir interest in your books – but if the reader got the first one from a pirate, why would they pay for the rest?

    I’m not published yet, but for me it’s this simple: If I wanted my book available for free, I would have issued it for free.

    Besides, so many authors run promos for their books where you can get them legitimately for free or for reduced prices for limited time, the opportunity for free is still there. And if you get a book legitimately free, that boosts the author’s sales numbers and HELPS the author so they can continue producing the books readers love.


  2. Ryan Field says:

    I’ve been dealing with book piracy for years now. And I’ve yet to come up with any set feelings about it. I have learned that it’s more complicated than we think it is. For example, in some parts of the world e-books are not considered important because they aren’t tangible items. I’ve been told these people pirate e-books to see if they will like them enough to buy the print books. Most claim they do buy the print books as a result.

    I’ve learned from experience it’s virtually impossible to stop pirates, because once an abuse form is filed and the book is taken down, it just pops right up on another pirate site minutes later. And if you have one book you might be able to monitor these things. But if you have many published books out it would become a full time job.

    I do know this. If I were an author with e-books out and no one was pirating them, I would be more worried about my visibility than loss of sales to piracy.

  3. A few months ago I listened to Mark Coker, the owner of Smashwords, talk about this topic. He didn’t come out and say piracy was a good thing or a bad thing but he made me think. You see, I’ve spent numerous hours posting take down notices to pirate sites over the last few years and much to my dismay my books were right back up on three more sites within a week. It was an exercise in frustration. Mark had said that he would love it if a half a million people read his book…even if it was from a pirate site.

    At first I was like, “But you’re not getting paid.” Then I thought wait…if half a million people read your book and started talking about it, this is going to generate sales.

    I’ve come to believe that the people who take a book from a pirate site aren’t going to be the people to legitimately buy your book in the first place.

    I’m still on the pirate fence. Yeah, it would be great if authors were paid every single time their book was read…but that isn’t going to happen.


  4. When I finally published in 2008 (after many years of writing for myself), my first ebook release showed up on a pirate site within hours! I was mortified; afterall, how could anyone take something so personal, so important to me that I’d spent hours and hours writing and put the title pop up on a pirate site? Worse, within a couple weeks (thank you Google alerts!), I came across some “requests” for my ebook from folks that clearly intended to pirate my novella – and they had no remorse!

    Determined to “save” sales, I mounted an attack, joined multiple ebook anti-piracy activists groups, blogs and responded to postings, spent hours producing take-down notices, searching endlessly for the “owner” of said website, searching piracy sites — only to repeat the effort the very next week. I eventually thew cried “uncle”! Too much of my writing time was spent tyring to subvert pirates. I grew tired, dejected and jaded, even considered quiting the passion I have to writer and publish.

    After seeking advice, reading differing opinions from experienced authors/readers facing piracy in the next couple years – the pros and cons – I decided to go with the flow, let things happen as they will. The pirates are most likely folks who wouldn’t consider purchasing my ebooks anyway.

    Yes, I still send take-down notices on occasion and I always alert my publisher(s) anytime I find a pirate site with my title(s), however, I no longer spend precious time fighting what appears to be a losing battle.

    If I happen to pick up a new fan or two, all the better.

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