Thursday, June 9, 2011

A Plead to Book Pirates

(Image Copywrite: Media Bistro)

I don’t venture far without my Kindle. So while visiting a work site last month, I was trying to catch up on my recent page turner during lunch when a colleague approached and asked me about my Kindle. You know the usual conversations that come up when someone isn’t familiar with ebooks. “How does it work?”; “How do you get the books on there?”; “How much do the books cost?” etc…

I am usually more than happy to explain my memorized Kindle speech, until the innocent colleague says, “You should go and talk to ‘so-and-so’ because he can give you a site where you can get all kinds of big name author books for free. It’s illegal, but it’s so cool.”

So my usual Kindle sales pitch died right there, and instead the unsuspecting colleague ended up with a ranting diatribe on stealing, piracy, authors eating Ramen noodles, and that literacy thieves like ‘so-and-so’ are going to hell in a hand basket.

Quietly my frightened colleague backed away (obviously to avoid the foam spewing from my mouth), and once I calmed down enough I went back to her to apologize.  She smartly decided not to start up a debate with me and instead she just said, “No worries anyhow. I like to hold books whenever I read.” I was itching to renew my Kindle sales pitch again but since she already thinks I am a bit mentally maladjusted, I left it.

But the ‘conversation’ (a term I use loosely) never left my mind and it has been niggling at me ever since. The whole nonchalant attitude some book readers take towards book piracy just doesn’t sit well with me.  “Grace” who happens to be another book blogger and an inspiring librarian has views on book piracy that startles me. She writes, “If the author is dead, go ahead and pirate. If the author is really famous/rich (eg. J.K. Rowling), go ahead and pirate. If it's a new author who doesn't have much publicity, buy the book and encourage others to do the same.” However misguided Grace’s views are, sadly her honesty is similar to how most pirates feel.  
Nationally Best-Selling Author Lauren Dane wrote on her blog Jan 10, 2011 a really great summary regarding the people who support book piracy: “Don’t do it and call yourself a fan or a booklover. You can steal an MP3 player from Best Buy and call yourself a fan, but you’re still a thief.”

As an avid reader and a huge support to my beloved authors, I wanted to do something more to sway those folks over from the eye patch-wearing dark side. I’m not a techy girl so I can’t infiltrate the pirate sites with nasty viruses. I also didn’t turn Catholic ‘til my mid-twenties so the heavy use of guilt doesn’t come easy to me. So what’s a girl to do? Hopefully I can offer you some alternatives that may entice you.
So let me start by making myself 100% clear that I am a reader. I am not an author (or even a person with hopes and dreams of being published) so this blog post is not about funds being stolen from me and the injustice of my work being whisked away from me or my publisher without permission. My goal is to hopefully offer an educational piece to the readers of the world (ok I admit to having big aspirations saying ‘world’), to hopefully sway any of you that may be illegally downloading, and to offer you some suggestions or alternatives. 
1.    Ok, so first alternative is a no-brainer. How about you just purchase the ebooks? I know that there can be an entire discussion inserted here regarding the pricing models, formats, the economy, poor students, availability, yada yada yada. Gotchu. I understand. Whatever sugar-coated word you want to insert for downloading an ebook that you didn’t pay for that wasn’t blessed by the author or publisher is out and out stealing. It really doesn’t matter if the author is a super-rich big name or the little guy starting out; it is what it is: stealing.
2.     Let’s move over to some non-paying alternatives. Check out Smashwords, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, All Romance Ebooks (a massive list of sites can be inserted here), wherever you can purchase reputable books online, and take a peek at their freebies. I got Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander for free! I’ve gotten Lorelei  James, Robin Kaye, Shelly Laurenston, & Eloisa James (just to name a few) all free. Go back and check often. Check weekly. I found new awesome authors like Susanna Fraser and Ally Blue just by picking up a free book. Many times these sites will offer the first book in a series for free. Are you catching my tag word “free” here? And as a double bonus, these books were legal.
3.     Another non-paying alternative belongs to one of my favourite places on Earth: the library! Did you know that you can sign out an ebook? Yes, you can! You’ll have to check your area but you can sign out an ebook for up to 3 weeks! You do need to see what reader device is compatible with your local library. When I checked my library the compatibility devices ranged from laptops to iPhones and pretty much every device in between. Also, my library even offers FREE workshops to show library goers how to download if they are unsure. The library is making it as easy as possible to check out free books so take advantage!
4.    Are you on Twitter? Well, hop on! There are about eleventy billion bloggers out there that give away books daily/weekly. Yep, just give them away. Many times all you need to do is read their nice book review, perhaps be entertained by an amusing author interview, and leave a comment. I have won excellent books this way. Leave a bot unfriendly email address in your comment and fingers crossed, you’ve got yourself a deal! Many new releases are usually given away for free by this method. Enter as many giveaways as you can. Your name is bound to be drawn eventually. Sometimes bloggers give away ebook gift cards like Amazon *points to current contest page*, and then you can buy the books of your choice. Just this week I won a Vicki Dreiling, Lily Harlem and Lauren Dane books. JUST THIS WEEK!
5.    Speaking of Twitter, follow publishers. Samhain, Ellora’s Cave, Turquoise Morning Press (and the list goes on). Many others post a Tweet blast when they have a special free ebook special. I have picked up an absurd amount of free ebooks this way. Many are still sitting safe on my Kindle just waiting for me to get to them. I actually have a two page queue of books waiting to be read. I squealed out loud when The Bronze Horseman was given away for free. That was a $9.99 savings! If you get a Tweet notifying of a free publisher’s ebook Give Away, RETWEET people. (And make sure I am on your followers list because me wants!)
6.    Still on the Twitter band wagon, there are even Twitter sites set up strictly for freebies. Build yourself up a queue of free books so that you have lots ready when you are in the mood. Like I indicated earlier, I have two pages on my Kindle.  I am never stuck for reading material. It takes no time at all. 
7.    Are you on Goodreads? Join and then join a Book Discussion group. You don’t have to actively participate in the forums if you are more of a lurker. No problem at all. But when you join discussion groups, many of these groups have book lending forums. If you’re looking for a certain author or title, simply mention in the appropriate Discussion Board section and in no time at all a member can lend you the ebook. Discussion boards are great because you can find others who dig the same genre as you do. Such an easy hook-up.
8.    If you are on Facebook, “friend” or “like” some of these authors that you are interested in. Not only do they give great info links to free books, contests, and blogs they are visiting, many fill their newsfeed with personal snippets about what’s going on in their lives. You’ll get to know them as authors and as real, everyday people. I have a few on my friends list and I wouldn’t dream of stealing from them.  They too need to do kitchen renovations, pay for their kids’ tuitions, replace their crapped out laptops, etc. I don’t envision a PDF file with their faceless name on the front cover anymore. Instead, I picture a person that needs to get to the bus stop to get their kids, find their lost dog, or someone who looks forward to a weekend getaway with their girlfriends.
So there are 8 ways I go about getting my freebies. I am sure there are many other options out there, and I’d love for you to add them to the comments.  Even if I have swayed just one person to try out one of my suggestions and discouraged them from visiting illegal download sites, I have succeeded.

UPDATE: After this past weekend I need to add one more. I attended the Lori Foster Reader/Writer convention and I came home with 31 books. I bought a few raffle tickets with proceeds going to charity and participated in a book trade and spent $1. Yes, you read that correctly $1. That $1 also went to charity and those books included Julie Garwood, Teresa Mederios, Nora Roberts and  Mary Jo Putney. I now have TOWERS of books waiting to be read and I got them all legally. You can too!


C.J Duggan said...

Your a star Michelle! It's an unfortunate fact that there are Pirates out there, and not the lace and leather kind! Lucky we have devoted readers out there like yourself, who are passionate and aim to educate others, hopefully from the dark side. The very thought of Pirated books makes my blood run cold. This industry is hard enough as it is! Thanks! What a brilliant post!

Heather in FL said...

This was great... it is amazing how people justify downloading illegal books (among other things). Some people say, "Well, it's there, I might as well get it like everyone else." Well, hey, there's a Corvette over there with the keys inside. Are you going to take that? There's no difference between the car and the book except it's less likely you'll get caught with the book because you're in the privacy of your own home. Doesn't make it any more right.

I do wish the agency model would go away though or be modified. It's disheartening when it costs less to buy the paper version. I don't read paper... so I have to decide whether I REALLY want that new $15 book when I could buy roughly 5 (admittedly shorter) books from another publisher. It also seems unfair that some publishers force the $15 pricetag, but other authors (still GOOD authors) can sell their brand new releases for $8. Sort of puts the $15 book at a disadvantage, but I suppose that's a different thing. People will pirate a $15 book and they'll also pirate a $3 book. Heck, some even pirate the freebies!

Anonymous said...

This is a fantastic post, Michelle. *round of applause* You are so spot on! Okay, in reality, we could never do away with piracy, but it's so great to see honest people out there in the world that appreciate the time and effort that goes into writing and publishing a novel. I myself have been trying for many years to become published, and I would die at the thought of someone pirating all my hard work after all my effort.

Anonymous said...

PS...I would follow your blog if the follow thing was actually there! Grrrrr LOL I will come back another day :)

Unknown said...

Thanks for your comments. I hope that if someone knows a person who pirates books, they show them my blog post and they change their mind.

Cheers and thank you all for reading!

Bobbye Terry said...

Good for you posting this! I appreciate it as a writer, because I am far from wealthy off my writing. My co-writer and I (Terry Campbell pen name, one of my three)found one of our books on a piracy site this past week.She sent them a letter requesting they take it down (with all appropriate *legaleze*) and they took it down, but it's only a matter of time before it shows up again since our backlist is doing well on Amazon. For crying out loud, the backlist is only $.99 a book! Certainly most can afford that. It takes a lot of time to stop these sites, time we could be using to write more books.

Bobbye Terry, aka Daryn Cross and Terry Campbell

Margaret said...

Fabulous post. Thank you for saying what needed to be said. Contrary to popular belief, most authors are not making millions of dollars writing books. Most authors work two jobs - the one that pays the bills, and the one that allows them a creative outlet.

Spencer Schankel said...

Awesome, Michelle. Your comments are really terrific. I’ve been following all of this closely because I have an acquaintance who has been hit pretty hard by people stealing her books and putting them on the Net. The person creeping her is from a third-world country and English is not his/her first language. Amazon has been great about pulling the plug on this illegal activity (when they hear of it).

But here’s the jaw-dropper of the day. An author on one site said she *welcomed* her books being stolen because it was at least *exposure.* Go figure!

Thanks again,

ninadangelo said...

As an author, it's tough enough to get into the industry without people pirating. Like you said, you can go to amazon and download the classic for free.

I am a book enthusiast - as a writer and a reader. I have over 7000 books for my kindle. All of which I have either paid for or downloaded for free from legitimate sites such as amazon, Harlequin. Like you said, you can go to many different booksites and you have free books available to you.

I feel the same way about music. I write music reviews so I get a lot of albums for free but the ones I don't get free, I buy.

It's all about perspective and seeing it from an artists point of view. A lot of people who pirate, pirate because they want to stick it to 'the man' but in doing so they actually are hurting the artists who pour their blood, sweat and tears into their work.