Monday, 22 September 2014

Seven steps to strangling pirates.

Pirated books are ‘a fact of life’ for authors. But that doesn’t mean we have to like it. And it doesn’t mean I have to stop fighting to stop it.

I don’t care that Neil ‘Himself’ Gaiman thinks piracy is ‘an incredibly good thing’. I am not Neil Gaiman. I can’t afford to live by his principals, I can only afford to live by mine.

I don’t have Neil Gaiman's profile, nor his sales, nor his adoring hordes of fans. If my books get ripped off, I do not see a corresponding bump in actual sales. I see a drop in sales because people are getting the book for free. Books that, I might add, are available for incredibly reasonable prices of .99 and $2.99 and $4.99. But pirates still see fit to steal these and make them available for free.

What piracy does is remove choice. The choice of the author and/or the publisher to release something for free because they want to promote it. Piracy takes my hard work (and that of other authors) and forces me to work for free.

Piracy cannot survive unless customers create demand. This is where YOU the reader come in. Readers have the power. Readers have the power to shut down piracy by cutting off demand for stolen books. Together, readers are invincible.

1. Buy your books from reputable retailers. For example, your local bookstore may have the book priced at $35 (if you live in Australia, this is a regular thing). If this is too much (for me, it is!), look elsewhere for a legitimate lower price. Ie, department stores, authorised online retailers (Bookdepository, Amazon etc.) Sure, this is for paperbacks, and most book piracy involves ebooks. Which means if you buy paper books, you’re already cutting pirates out of the loop. Onya!

Bonus: new hardback/paperback books bought from legitimate retailers return a royalty to the authors.

2. Buy your ebooks from reputable online retailers. There are plenty of them. Amazon, ibookstore, nook, kobo (is kobo still a thing?) etc. I have various apps on my ipad so I can read multiple formats. I shop around for the best price. I spend around $5 per book. That is an absolute BARGAIN.

3. Prioritize your spending. If you honestly believe $5 is too much for an ebook, (and there are millions of titles available for less) then have a think about how you earn and spend your money. Go into the hall of mirrors and take a good hard look at yourself. Go on, in you get. Do you like what you see? A $5 ebook returns a royalty of between $0.50 and $3.50 to the author, depending on whether they are traditionally or self-published. They get less if they are traditionally published because the publisher has taken on all the risk and costs associated with bringing out a book. The self-published author has editors and book designers to pay before they bring their book out.

4. Avoid ebook retailers who charge a subscription in exchange for ‘all you can read’. The odds of them turning any of your subscription into author royalties is somewhere between slim and none. They’re making you pay and they’re ripping off authors.  Same goes for ebook ‘libraries’. They are not libraries. They operate in almost the same way the subscription stores work. They charge a fee and pretend to be a library. Have they paid for the books in their library? I doubt it. Are they giving a royalty to the authors? What do you think?

5. Try not to buy second hand books. This is contentious. On one hand, second hand books are a great way to discover new-to-you authors so you might legitimately buy their future books or their backlist. However, second hand book dealers do not return royalties to authors.

6. BONUS! You will avoid viruses. I can’t tell you the number of pirate sites that are absolutely crawling with viruses, just waiting for you to ‘free’ download a book which turns out to be a) filled with malware and b) not actually a book at all.

7. Try your local bricks-and-mortar library. They still exist (for reals) and you’re already paying for them in your local taxes. Local/school/municipal libraries pay extra for the books they buy so that authors get HIGHER royalties. Oh yeah! Plus, in some countries (like Australia, “a nation entirely populated by criminals” according to William Goldman who wrote The Princess Bride) we have a Public Lending Right and an Educational Lending Right that gives authors royalties based on the number of their books in public and school libraries. More people using libraries creates more demand for legitimate books. Everybody wins.

8. OK, I said it was seven, but now I have an 8.

Geographic blocking.
This is something that drives Australians insane and contributes to piracy. I mentioned above that Australia is entirely populated by criminals. Australians, in general, are magnificent thieves. We have a small population in an isolated part of the world, and for that we are punished with higher prices and delayed movie/tv/book releases. But we still get social media (when the internet is working) and see what everyone else is getting. We also have many shows ‘spoiled’ because it can take anywhere from a week to several months for shows to make it here. We know what we’re missing out on and we get mad.

Here’s how to get around geographic blocking, so you can buy a legitimate copy of the book/movie/tvshow all the while making sure the authors/creators still get paid.

Install Chrome as your browser
Install an app called Hola
Use Hola to tell the internets that your computer is actually in the USA.
You can now purchase legitimate downloads and be reading your book or watching your show within minutes.

Piracy - every reader can play their part.

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