Ebook Lending Versus Ebook Piracy

I haven't posted in a while, totally focused on getting my next series out, Clash of the Otherworlds.  Good news is, Book 1 will be ready soon!  Bad news is, my web site has become very boring.

I thought I'd kick things up a notch my talking about a somewhat controversial subject: ebook piracy.  Another author cautioned me about posting anything, saying pirates can be hackers who will get into your business and life with the sole purpose of destroying you – and he would know, since he worked for the government as a hacker himself.  But I decided to do it despite his sage advice, first, because if we don't talk about the problem and try to find solutions and educate the public, the problem will just keep getting worse, and second, because I never listen to anyone anyway.

File sharing … Harrrr, me maties…

I recently found a site offering pirated copies of my books (again) and another with members of the site asking for others to email him or her pirated copies of my books.  I think this person got the first book free during a promotion and liked it enough to try and find the other two books in the series, albeit for free.  While I appreciate having a new reader and a fan, I don't appreciate that they like my work enough to keep reading it, yet don't feel the need to support me by investing in it, even when I give them some for free.  Does this make me greedy?  Read on…

After I contacted the internet service provider of the site to get the offending posts taken down, I was confronted with the attitude from the owner about ebook authors being “greedy” and how piracy should be allowed, presumably to punish authors for not giving their work away for free.  I read other posts on this site, posted by members arguing that ebooks should be allowed to be copied and shared just like lending, buying, and selling used paperbacks are.  They even say that authors should thank them for pirating and sharing their books because it gains them new readers.

Here was my response:  “Say what, now?”

If you go on these piracy/ebook-file-sharing sites, you'll see long posts from angry readers who honestly feel that they're entitled to make copies of an author's book and give it to thousands of people for free; they're angry because authors have had file-sharing sites shut down for copyright infringement.  They argue that they get new readers for the authors through their actions.  Authors should thank them, I guess, for stealing and giving our stolen merchandise to other thieves.

And yet, I fail to see how having thieves of my work gets me new sales of my work.  If a person steals book 1, isn't he going to go steal books 2 and 3 and so on?  Why would a person ever pay for a book if he has no problem stealing them and there are other pirates out there willing to provide him what he wants to steal?

Splitting hairs … uh, no.

Some pirates like to call themselves “ebook sharers” and not pirates, but common sense and the law says they are one and the same.  I'm calling shenanigans on any person out there calling himself or herself a file-sharer while also denying being a pirate.

NEWSFLASH:  You are a pirate if you copy a copyrighted ebook and give the copy to anyone else without the copyright owner's permission.  You are also a pirate if you receive one of these copies.

Ebook pirates refuse to acknowledge that making a copy of an ebook is different than selling a used book or giving a used book to someone.  The pirate-minded don't get the difference: that when you sell or give away a paperback book, there is still only one copy of the book out there and that copy was paid for at some point – and once given away, cannot be re-read by the original purchaser.  This is obviously not the case with a copied ebook, where the original buyer keeps his copy and gives a free one to anyone else who finds it online.  The author is only compensated for one copy, not the thousands illegally copied.

Constitutional law tidbits

The former law student in me, who got a special thrill studying U.S. Constitutional Law (which I've since learned is studied all over the world as a shining example of law designed to promote freedom and intellectual advancements), wants to point out the reason behind copyright protections.  Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 of the Constitution is known as the Copyright Clause and empowers the US Congress “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”

I'm going to repeat one part of that:  “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts…”

Here's the deal, in a nutshell:  People create useful things (books, medical devices, medicines, etc.) because they can earn a living from it.  If they cease to earn a living from it because no one pays for it, they have to go get jobs that take them away from that activity, so they can survive.   Then the creation of great things ceases.  No more great books, no more artificial hearts, no more life-saving drugs, and no more slankets.  Do you just read that?  No. More. Slankets. People.

The Founding Fathers knew this, and so made it a priority to ensure U.S. Citizens and the United States of America could excel in the sciences and the arts by making it possible to earn a living from it: aka “copyright and patent protection”.  And it's worked!  Some of the best literature and most advanced science comes from countries where intellectual property protections exist, and where the creators of those works are protected from the free sharing of their work, being financially compensated for their time so they can keep doing what they do best.

Digital age = Digital pirates

But the digital age has added a wrinkle to these protections, not because the law is no longer valid or no longer applicable to our society, but because the law has become much harder to enforce against determined thieves who operate from their living rooms in secret, hidden behind their computer's nearly anonymous IP address.

Enter the pirates.  They feel as though they are somehow entitled to ebooks because they are easy to copy and send via the Internet.  Many say they don't have enough money to buy books (or music for that matter, because ebook pirates are often music pirates as well); and so, because they cannot afford it, they should be able to steal it.  And make no mistake, when a person takes a pirated copy of someone's work, it's stealing.  It's not just me saying so; it's the law. So even if you are not the copier, if you receive a copy, you are a pirate too.

Give me those pants, dammit.  I want them.

I often wonder if these pirates have the same attitude at Target or Macy's.  Could you imagine?

“I cannot afford those pants, so I'm just going to take them and not pay for them.” 

or this:

“I cannot afford those new fancy pants at Macy's.  Luckily, my friend stole a pair for me.  I'm so happy to wear my stolen pants.”

I'll bet most of them wouldn't say this to themselves.  Most realize that if they cannot afford the pants, they cannot have them and that it's wrong to take stolen merchandise … that they must save the money and buy them when they can afford to or just learn to live without.

But why?  Why would they steal an ebook but not a pair of pants?

Maybe because it's easy to get caught stealing pants, and the stealing process is harder.  You have to get that pesky security tag off the pants and get past the guard at the door or the cashier, that bulky thing in your purse easily giving you away.  But the crime is the same, isn't it?  The person is taking something he or she did not pay for, and the person who owns the right to sell it wants to receive the money for it – and in fact, expects to and is supported in this expectation by the law of all civilized nations around the world.  Gah!  Can you feel my righteous indignation yet?!

Greedy bastard authors

I've heard from one of the companies hosting one of these file-sharing sites that ebook authors are greedy, so they should be punished by having their books copied. (Yes!  The owner actually said this to me in an email!)  But I look at the industry and I see the opposite – ebook authors are not greedy.  They offer the best bargains in reading out there!

Ebooks are usually a minimum of 50% cheaper than paperback books, so ebooks make reading more affordable.  Printing is expensive, as is mailing heavy books.  Greedy would be charging the same for an ebook as you do for a paperback, and there's only one group of industry players doing that – the Big 6 Publishers, not indie authors like me and many others.  And not all of those Big 6 do it, nor do the violators do it for all their books.  Sometimes it's just the ones like J.K. Rowlings' work (Shame on you! $17.99 for an ebook!)

Lending ebooks

So, what's the solution?  Well, it's easy.  Aside from more frequent and stringent punishment of violators, and better education of our youth (by far the biggest group stealing ebooks), it's ebook lending.  Ebook lending is not file copying, it's file lending, and it's perfectly legal per Amazon's terms and conditions, something all authors who host their books there agree to if they accept the larger royalty option.  You can go to lending sites like www.LendInk.com and find books to borrow and put up your own purchased copies to loan.  It's like loaning out your paperback, because while your book is being lent, it is not available on your e-reader for you to read.  It disappears for 14 days from your library while the other person has it, and then it reappears in your library after the two weeks expires.  No one is copying the file and no one is violating the copyright.

Ebook lending is a win-win, for the author and the readers.  The authors get new readers who might buy their other books, and the readers on low incomes get to try a book before they decide to purchase anything.

File-sharing sites exist to make income from their ads on their sites.  It would be SO easy for them to become lending sites, I don't understand why more of them don't do it.  Maybe because there are more pirates out there than people trying to do the right thing, so if they switched, they'd lose ad revenue. (Ironic, isn't it?  I'll bet they expect to be paid for having those ads on their sites.)

Hope for the future

I, for one, hope that changes in the near future and more pirate sites transition over to legal operations that support both authors and readers.  I'd love to be able to write full time, and the only way I will be able to do that is if people buy my books and lend them, not make copies and give them away.

So I ask again:  Am I greedy?  Personally, I don't think so.  But apparently there are pirates out there who disagree.

**This rant is now over.  We will be back to our regularly scheduled programming next week.**  🙂




41 comments on “Ebook Lending Versus Ebook Piracy

  1. You go, Elle! (you greedy bastard – lol) Just kidding…I agree. And would not steal pants from Target and I won’t steal your book. I am, in fact, happy to pay for it so that you’re able to keep writing the amazing fantasies that are my form of escapism. (Is that a word?) Whatever, it’s one of my favorite places to be (Fantasy Land) and you’ve created some of the best!

    • Haha! I know none of my readers on FB are pirates. The dedication and comments tell me they value my work. Maybe I should add a pirate button to my website that says if you pirated my work but feel bad about it now, feel free to donate. lol !!

  2. I absolutely 100% agree with you, Elle! Good for you that you don’t let anyone talk you out of speaking up for what is right.

    I’ll add another point to this. Those who want to support authors also don’t appreciate pirates. Those who pirate are most often the culprit of depriving readers of great books. I’m recalling a certain book that was pirated before it was finished and had a lot of people upset that we may never get to see the rest of it. Not to mention the revenues that allow authors to keep writing. I can only imagine the time and resources it takes to get a book published, ESPECIALLY for Indie authors who do so much of the leg work to get the book out there themselves – not just simply the book writing.

    They could potentially also cost those of us who pay for our books more money with their actions. Do they seriously not understand that it costs money (even if solely from the time invested – everyone knows that time is money) to publish books? They’re just complete idiots if they don’t realize that. If everyone paid for their books, just imagine what else authors could afford to do – like giving away more freebies or discounting their books, etc. Instead, they just automatically assume that all authors would be greedy. *SMH*

    Those of us who pay for our books, think everyone else should too (well, I think most of us feel that way – I sure do!) unless you’re getting a freebie because the author was kind enough to offer it, for which you should be thankful. Guess what, I don’t make money (in fact, I spend it) as a reader and fan of books and I still think you should pay for your books. So, try and call me greedy.

    I actually didn’t know about the e-lending. That’s great! Getting the first book in a series free (as given by the author, of course) quite often gets me hooked on a series that encourages me to purchase the rest. Knowing that I can also borrow books as well to try out an author/series to see if I like it, gives me another fantastic option for finding new series and authors I enjoy reading. Thanks for sharing that 🙂

    I hope you sue that SOB owner of the site who told you that crap. What a douchebag.

    People like these (definitely thieves) give humanity a bad name… tsk, tsk!

    • Three cheers for Laura!! I think I know what incident you’re talking about with an author deciding not to release a book because of pirating of a beta copy. Was that Stephenie Meyer? I was so mad when that happened!! She is such a nice person and trusted people out there online, oblivious to the pirating thing at the time. You’re right. Having your work stolen can just suck the life out of you as an author, especially when you try and deal with it and you get these dipsticks tell you that you should thank them for stealing from you. ???

      • Yep! That’s exactly the one I’m talking about. People either seem to love or hate that series – not much in between there so I’m always hesitant to mention it. LOL

        That’s just the craziest thing I’ve ever heard. Can we go steal all those people’s valuables, share them with the public right under their nose and then ask for a thank you? Wow.

  3. True story, Elle. I got The Changelings on a free promotion and was happy to pay for the rest of the series. I like to share my favorite books with my two best friends and if they had an e-reader, I would have lent them to them. I have no problem with that, as I also know that when they like a series they like to have a copy for their own collections so they probably would have bought them anyway. I looked into buying them e-readers, but couldn’t manage it. Fortunately, you recently announced that the War of the Fae series will be coming out in print. Guess what they’re getting for Christmas? I know I’ve said it before, but keep doing what you’re doing and I’ll keep buying it. Sign me up for the Elle Casey Book of the Month club!

  4. Good post, Elle. Pirates are freakin’ scum. And trying to justify stealing and having the gaul to act as if you should be greateful they’re stealing your stuff is infuriating. These losers need to pay for their stuff, same as everyone else.

  5. I have freely and willfully bought almost every book you’ve written. The ONLY time I have ever shared a book of yours for free was when you gave it away 🙂

    I can’t wait for more, keep up the good work and POWER TO THE TIM!!!

  6. I agree with you, Elle and I appreciate that your books are affordable and I don’t mind paying for them! I want you to get paid so that you will continue writing and offering them at affordable prices! Go Elle! you are so right.

  7. You’re absolutely correct. Authors put a lot of work into what takes us only hours to read. It’s certainly not greedy to want to be paid for your work. I’m sure that site owner doesn’t work for free, why should you be expected to? My boss wouldn’t expect me to come in to work 40 hours a week for free.

    I don’t know about Nook books, but I know there are so many books offered for free on Amazon that it is ridiculous for people to steal anything. If you can’t afford to buy books, there’s more than enough free ones out there and if you like something that you got for free enough, you should be more than willing to pay for the rest of the author’s work. I got the Changelings for free and went on to buy the rest of the series. Although I work for my copies of your books now, I would gladly pay for them if I wasn’t a beta reader.

    The lending feature on Amazon is great. Friends have lent books to me and I’ve lent books to friends many times. The only problem with it is if an indie book is subsequently picked up by a publisher and reissued, the lending feature disappears (I recently discovered this when I tried to lend my indie copy of Beautiful Disaster). Also, each Amazon account can be connected to to up to 5 Kindles, so if you have multiple Kindles you can share the library between them. That’s like having multiple copies of each book.

    • I did not know this about the shared library thing. That’s very good news. I wanted to donate some Kindles to a school library, but I was trying to figure out how they could all share the library. Now I know! 🙂

      • Yes the library sharing is great. My grandmother has a Kindle connected to my account, so when I find free stuff she might like I can just send it to hers instead of mine. When I couldn’t lend my copy of Beautiful Disaster through Amazon (it was lending enabled when it was indie), I just lent my friend my spare Kindle (yes, I am that much of a bookworm that I kept my old Kindle as a spare).

  8. i agree with you 10000000% elle! i do not think that you are greedy at all and you have the right to get paid for your work! You worked hard for it! It isnt right for you to work that hard for long hours and then get nothing in return. Those people out there just dont seem to see that stealing someones writting pretty much is stealing part of the persons soul without them knowing it. You work hard, people like your books…and it is a job that you deserve to get something back from.(though people say that the wonderful fans are enough sometimes)
    i do not think you are greedy at all and think that it is awesome that stood up for yourself and are trying to get the sites to take down your ‘stolen’ books.

  9. Having found my books almost immediately pirated after I published them, I agree with you completely. The digital ease to steal books, music and movies doesn’t help, and a lot of people just won’t admit that they’re stealing. It’s hard to fight, but one has to do something to protect their work.

  10. While i agree with most of what you said i dont agree with what you said about expensive E Book pricing especially in regards to Rowlings books. For instance on Amazon (where most people will buy them) you have:
    Book 1=7.99/324 Pages, Book 2=7.99/357 Pages, Book 3=7.99/452 Pages, Book 4=9.99/734 Pages, Book 5=9.99/901 Pages, Book 6=9.99/652 Pages, Book 7=9.99/791

    Now compare that to your books Apocalypsis page average about 270 or so, for 4.99. Same thing for your CAll of the Fae series.

    So you books are about 4.99 for 270 pages of writing while hers are about 9.99 for a 601 pages average, going by that who is overpriced?

    • I’m glad you brought this up, Patrick, because it’s actually another one of those frequently misunderstood features of Amazon that readers should know about. I’m probably going to move this comment and yours to an actual blog post because I think it should be discussed in a broader sense than just here.

      First, it brings up the issue of “page count”. Amazon estimates the number of pages that a digital book has using some sort of formula; but it’s highly inaccurate. How do I know this? Because I’ve turned a digital book into a paperback and found their number to be 20% off in my own work.

      If there’s a paperback version and a digital version, Amazon sometimes uses the number of pages in the paperback and shows it on the Kindle page as “actual page numbers”, but again, that’s an inaccurate measure of a book’s actual length because of formatting, which I discuss below. The only accurate measure of a book’s length is “word count” and only when it counts the actual story words and not the other matter you find at the front and back of the books (Acknowledgments, Author Bio, etc.). My books are all 87,000 words and above (I believe my longest is 123,000), and I’m happy to go toe-to-toe against JK Rowlings’ word count any day. Her Harry Potter books, especially the first three, are much shorter.

      Let’s talk now about word count. The only accurate measure of a book’s length is word count. Not page count. Why? Because a publisher can tweak any number of things in the formatting and drastically affect the number of pages a book will have. Examples of those things include: font type choice, size of font, margins (4 different ones to tweak), line spacing, kearning, type of paper. Yes! All of these things will change a book’s length up to 50% or maybe more. My first printing of Apocalypsis was done to keep the price as low as possible. I had small font, a tightly-kearned font, slim margins, white/thin paper and single line spacing. The page count came in low. I asked my readers which they would choose, a book that was smaller and cheaper or one that was bigger and more expensive, taking into consideration it was the same exact book. EVERY SINGLE ONE of them preferred the “bigger looking” book and didn’t mind paying the extra money for it. Seems crazy, but go to your local book store in the YA section and crack open some of the thicker books there. You’ll see the huge margins, larger line spacing and bigger fonts. The Mortal Instruments series comes to mind.

      I read somewhere that JK Rowlings’ Harry Potter Book 1 is 76,944 words. My Apocalypsis Book 1 is 92,127 words long, and that doesn’t count any of the front or back matter, and I am not sure if the word count for the Harry Potter does include that. But let’s assume it doesn’t, so that our two numbers are both representing the same thing: the length of our written work, the story itself. The Harry Potter book will cost you $7.99 in Kindle. My book will cost you $4.99. That means if you buy the Harry Potter book, you’re paying 60% more $ for 20% less book (in word length a.k.a. “the story”).

      Let’s take the JK Rowlings book I mentioned in my post, The Casual Vacancy, which is digitally priced at $17.99 for 512 pages (again, the page count goes off the paperback, and I have no idea how it was formatted, so the “real pagecount” could be anywhere from 350-600 pages). Divide those numbers as Amazon has provided them and you get .03 cents per page. JK Rowlings’ Harry Potter Book 1 is 2.5 cents per page ($7.99 at 324 pages), and please note, the formatting on that baby is outrageous, with huge font, double line spacing, a bigger footprint, and large margins to make the book appear larger than it is (it would be about 210 pages, if you removed all that crazy formatting, which would make the price 3.8 cents per word!) My Apocalypsis book in paperback is 320 pages with formatting not nearly as agregious as the Harry Potter book. Divide that by the price of $4.99, and you get 1.5 cents per page. If you formatted my book to be exactly like the Harry Potter book, it would probably be about 400 pages, which would make the price 1.2 cents per page. What a bargain! (cue Eddie Murphy here)

      So no matter which way you cut it, my books are a better deal if you’re looking strictly at paying per word (which was the gist of your post). And my opinion is that anyone charging more than $10 for a Kindle version of a fiction book that is 85,000-130,000 words in length is not offering a fair value to his or her readers. Obviously, some publishers disagree with me, which is absolutely their right. But I like to keep my work affordable to the majority of readers, and so my pricing will continue to reflect this. And my stories will too, as I make sure to put out a quality product that’s been edited at least twice and screened by extremely well-read beta readers.

      In the end, I think the only measure of whether you’ve gotten a good deal is if you felt you got a good read for the money you spent. If I spend $17.99 on a Kindle book, it better be the best book I will ever read in my entire life. If I spend 99 cents on a book, and it wasn’t that great, I’m not going to feel ripped off. I believe my books are a good value at $4.99 based on quality and quantity. And based on my returns (the low level, specifically), I believe my readers agree with that statement. JK Rowlings writes amazing books. So people don’t mind paying more for them. But to say they’re a better bargain dollar-wise than my books is not really true, and I guess that’s my point.

      • Wholie crap! That is a lot of math! I thought your mind was incredible with your stories you write, then you go and show how awesome you are by all that you wrote just above here. Hands down to you, or hands up…not sure how that goes. My admiration just went up 100 fold!

  11. If you look at just the first few books that makes sense and adds up. However the more books you add from her and take the average of it you get a word count greater than yours. Course thats just using her as an example, i could look into some other big names in various fantasy related genres but sadly i am just far too lazy lol. =P

    • Perhaps. Recall however, that when complaining about the overpricing of books, I only mentioned JK Rowlings’ latest work, which according to that formula I gave is priced almost 3x what it “should” be to be a good value. 🙂 Some of her books are a good value using the formula, but in the end, no formula can replace the buyer’s overall gut feeling: Did I just pay too much for the 3-10 hours of entertainment I received? Yes or no? Hopefully, the majority of my readers say, “NO!”

  12. At first I thought that 4.99 was too much to pay for Book 1 of the Apocalypsis series. It took me less than a day to read it between work and volunteering and sleeping. Then I realized that I enjoyed it much more than its cost! I really got more than $5 worth of pleasure from it. As soon as I finished Book 1, I purchased Book 2!

  13. This is a post I was excited to see! I feel like I’m alone in this sometimes. I hate having to take time out of my writing books to write DMCA takedown notices! I even found a website where a woman was claiming to be the author of my book as well as 1700 other copyrighted works from amazon and all of them were stolen during free giveaways. It makes me sad to see that right after I give a book away for free on amazon, that it is suddenly proliferated all across the internet. =( Thanks for being brave and putting your opinion out there. You always have the most inspirational posts for me.

    • I know exactly what you mean. I spend too many hours a week dealing with the effects of pirating. Those are hours I could spend writing another book. It adds up. I’d estimate my readers lose out on at least 5 books a year, based on my word-count-rate. I’ve heard people justify pirating work based on having gotten it for free on Amazon (the argument being, “Well, you gave it away for free so you must want everyone to have it for free.”), and I have two responses to that: (1) legally speaking, only the copyright holder has the right to make a copy of a copyrighted work, so they are violating the law by uploading copies to the Internet or by downloading copies from the Internet. Period. And (2) I do promotions on Amazon specifically so that it affects my ranking on their site, bringing my book to the attention of new readers after the promotion is over, which results in sales of my work. That is not the case with pirated copies. They have zero effect over at Amazon except to stifle sales. But seriously, it doesn’t matter how well-reasoned my arguments are. Pirates don’t care about my intellectual property rights. They don’t care about the time I put into my work or the value it holds for me. They feel entitled to receive my work for free for whatever reason they’ve rationalized in their heads, and until they are punished or have some creative work of their own stolen, they probably won’t ever “get” it. And what are the chances these pirates will ever write a book, a piece of music, or invent something valuable? Probably slim.

      • I’m right there with you. It hurts so bad that it’s hard to take a step back and look at it logically, at least for me. My books feel like little pieces of my soul and when they’re taken like that, I feel violated in the worst way. One thing I have noticed however is that the shorter my giveaway is, the less often I see pirated copies. I did a five day giveaway once and it was like all heck broke loose. I just did two one day giveaways on separate books and I have yet to see those…fingers crossed that I don’t. I thought you might want to know that when I was reporting copyright violations on Mobile 9 (horrible site for pirated stuff), I found some of your books. Specifically, My Vampire Summer. I reported them as copyright but they generally ignore that unless you send them a DMCA notice. =( Again, thanks for responding to my post. =)

        • Thanks for telling me. I just had my entire War of the Fae series and Apocalpysis removed from there. And I ended up having a conversation with someone posting on there about my books. A college student who loved my work and said after pirating the books she bought them. I find that some pirates feel entitled to take my work because they have a limited budget, as if that makes it okay. ?? I just hope my article is read by one person who pirates and it makes them stop. That means it would have been worthwhile writing it. 🙂

  14. I am so sorry to hear about the pirating! That is the most low down thing. I can’t believe how up beat you still are!It tells a lot on who you are. It is good to see there are others standing with you so you can give each other support. ” Never give up, never surrender ” (Galaxy Quest)

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