Saturday, May 26, 2012

Thoughts about Ebooks

This is something I wanted to bring up to make someone think twice before they went to a website for an illegal download of a book in order to get it for free. This was a big issue years ago with music, but what differs between writers and musicians is that writers do not make as much money. If CD sales slow down, recording artists have a multitude of other avenues to earn money: iTunes, concerts, appearances, endorsements, royalties, public performances, rings, etc. You'd be surprised at how many avenues there are to earning money for a recording artist. For a writer, it's book sales. We are not rock stars.

With the increasing popularity of ebooks comes the increase in theft. You wouldn't walk into your bookstore and tuck a book into your purse, so why would you do it on the internet? (Not to mention many of those sites will put viruses on your computer) The problem is, it's not "just one person". Each person adds to the total, and those reduce sales for the author. If one person stops, it makes a difference, because odds are others have also stopped. Why is that such a big deal? Well, I'm not one of those authors who charges $35 per book. Even then, their percentages from that book are slim. I've heard people say they can't afford to buy all the books; but often they are accumulating more books than they'll ever read. I've always saved my money for things I really wanted, added items to my wishlist, and budgeted myself.

Reducing sales reduces funds that are needed by authors for editing services, proofing, marketing, cover art, and other expenses entailed in the process of making a book. You're essentially stealing from the "book fund jar". If the jar becomes low or empty, exactly how is that author going to continue to publish more books? How will you tell that aspiring 9 year old writer when they grow up they'll have people steal their work and won't get paid for it?

I think for indies, it's particularly pocket pinching. It may take us anywhere from 3 months to 2 years to write a book, and they're available for extremely reasonable prices compared to traditionally published books. So when 99 cent or $2.99 books start appearing on free download sites, exactly how much of a pinch in the consumers pocket is that 99 cents for a book that took 2 years to write? You can't even buy a hamburger for that money.

Each time you purchase a book, you are supporting the artist in not only the work they have done, but helping to secure future book releases.

And remember, there are a ton of books you actually can download for free on Amazon, not to mention your local library! Check 'em out. :)


  1. finish the graphic on the play test kit
    * kim walk through - instructions on what I need to do

    simple mockup/skin for our web site

    phase 3 of video - help show/teach/do intro (far future)

    KickStarter starting by middle of June (running through end of July)

    I understand your concern, but if it will make you feel better, all the research seems to be saying that piracy tends to increases overall sales, and the most egregious pirates also tend to be the biggest fans and some of the biggest purchasers.

    An example of such research that got a fair amount of exposure is in in the music industry: , but we're seeing this same behavior in other publishing media, like movies, books, and games as well. So it may feel like every pirated book is coming out of your pocket, but indirectly it's putting more in that pocket.

    And as to your analogy about stealing physical books, there is a difference. A physical theft both is a loss on the money to produce and distribute the object and also means that that object won't be present in the store for someone else to purchase. It causes clear harm.

    With an electronic copy, this is a bit murkier because you see neither of these issues. The only potential loss is a "lost sale". This presupposes that the pirate would have purchased the copy, but chose to steal instead. The RIAA and other industry organizations like to do some funny math with these sort of assumptions research doesn't seem to back them up.

    My personal assumption is that with physical copies, the sort of person who now pirates may have loaned and borrowed books or bought used books or sold them to a second-hand books store when they were done. Or just read less. If you were selling physical books, none of that behavior would have gotten you any money either, and so it may hurt less to think of their behavior in those terms.

    And for the record, I *don't* pirate, so I'm not saying this as a rationalization for my own behavior. If you look at Amazon, my review for Twist is an "Amazon Verified Purchase" (I'm Catherine Burkholder - right now it's the second one).

    1. This of course is the contention of some authors. However, I'm also of the camp that if 1 person illegally downloads, they'll show at least 3 other people how to do it, and they'll pass it on and so forth. I think it differs where authors are concerned because we don't have the avenues that many artists do in accruing sales.

      While an e-copy is always available, the direct pain is in the extensive amount of time it took to write the series, prepare it for publishing, and the cost of publishing. Sales also account for covering the cost of future releases, but if anything it is a show of support for an author by paying for services rendered. I can't imagine going to work at my 9-5 job and my boss saying, "Well, this month I'm just going to give you about 1/3 of what I normally would. I think some of the services you provided should be free and I shouldn't have to pay." I would

      With the post, I just want to make people think a little bit about the behavior of stealing. It feels okay because it's in the privacy of your own home, and most people only get a virus from the attempt and no legal action against them, but it's still wrong. You can't stop piracy, it's out there and will never be controlled as long as something is in electronic format. I have so many people who wind up on this blog because of keyword searches unrelated to my book, so it's always an opportunity to express how I feel on a particular topic. I think a lot of authors feel the same way, and usually has little to do with the loss of compensation so much as the principle.

      I do wonder in 10 years time if it continues this way and there is not the same control over it as with what occurred with the music industry, how it might impact authors, or even future wannabe authors.

      Thanks so much for sharing your opinion; it's one of those sticky topics that I think we can see both sides of the coin on. And of course I do appreciate the review, it means a lot to receive the support :)

  2. Piracy is stealing, and stealing is WRONG! People who do that are not saying they are a fan of a writer's work, they are saying: "I take what I want and I don't have any regard for no one else's efforts". It makes me sick!