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There has been a lot of talk this week in the blogosphere about book piracy.  It is a subject that has been burning in my mind too, and not in a good way. 

Many of my thoughts have been echoed here,  Book Pirates Suck  by Laurie Halse Anderson, and again here in her follow-up, More Thoughts on Why Book Pirates Suck.

And also here by Sara Zarr (scroll down) who has more thoughts on why book piracy is wrong.

They have covered a lot of points on why downloading pirated books is wrong and just plain stealing,  just as surely as if I snuck into your house and slipped a dollar from your wallet--and then I invited all my hundreds of friends to do the same.  How long would it be before you couldn't pay your rent?  Exactly.  But I have one more reason why it is wrong and bad for the reader.

There is a site where my book has been downloaded 900 times without my permission.  Figure in the exponential factor of how many of these downloads have been passed around to other sites and your head could spin.  I am not even going to get into the lost sales.  I think Laurie and Sara covered that quite well.  It hurts authors.  There is no sugar-coating or rationalizing that fact away. But here's the clincher:

On this site where 900 of my books have been downloaded, right under the copyright notice it tells the potential downloader:

You are free:
  • to Share — to copy, distribute and transmit the work
  • to Remix — to adapt the work
Yep.  You got it.  The book that simmered in my head for years, and then took more years to write, and then more years for a publishing team to help me get it to the point where I was ready to share it with the reader, is now up for grabs to be "adapted."

And you think they won't?  Anyone who traffics in stolen property is not suddenly going to develop integrity when it comes to the content of a book.  Maybe they want the language stripped squeaky clean?  Maybe they want to change certain scenes that made them uncomfortable?  Maybe they want to change the ending?  Maybe they want to make it their own version of "better."

Or maybe they're just in a hurry and they don't want to bother with all those annoying meticulous details like punctuation, or italics, or page breaks when they scan your book--all those details that can affect the pacing, the enjoyment, and even the meaning of the story.

Be aware.  When you read a pirated book, you may very well not be reading the REAL story.  You may have invested hours in a book that is not really the one you wanted to read.  Get the REAL book.

And I will echo one more time, what book pirates do is illegal.  They are thieves, plain and simple. 

Go to your library if you can't afford a book.  Read a different one if they don't have it. But don't download a pirated copy.  It is stealing.  And if it doesn't stop with you it won't stop anywhere.

Edited to add:
Authors who speak out against piracy on their blogs (I will continue to edit and add as I hear of more blogs) :
Sara Zarr
Laurie Halse Anderson
Cheryl Rainfield
Tess Gerritsen
Cinda Chima
Ellen Hopkins


I'm on your (our) side

What you've said here is spot-on. But . . . the new generation has been raised with different *everything*, it seems to me. Or maybe they were just raised by daycare (rotating caregivers, never any consistent "this is morally right, this is morally wrong" instructions or examples to live by) and television (don't get me started). For whatever reason, they believe that all info should be free, that they are entitled to EVERYTHING just because they exist (this, IMHO, is a result of the self-esteem building that replaced merit rewarding in schools thirty years ago), and that there is no value to the idea of intellectual property or copyright. One manifesto says, "There is no such RIGHT as copyright." It's very difficult to get across to them that what THEY do does count . . . they'll say, "Oh, well, one more won't hurt." They can't see past what benefits them and what they want to do, and therefore they do what they like. So . . . good luck convincing many of these people (many of them younger) that there is any moral point to respecting copyright. They do mash-ups of songs (what a DUMB term, but that's what they call it) and they sample others' songs to build their own, so they extend this idea to prose texts. They simply have not had any respect for others' work or creative vision instilled, the way we did. I don't know why this is, and I mourn. But I think the rock is rolling down the hill, and we're going to be flattened as we shout, "But it's wrong!" (sigh)

Re: I'm on your (our) side

Thanks Shalanna, I appreciate your thoughts and support. One thing I wanted to say was I don't think piracy is limited to one age group. I think many of these hackers are older techy types who want to show off their techy prowess and it becomes an ego thing trying to prove that nothing is beyond their capability of access. And of course, beating the system is a power trip. I don't think it has anything to do with wanting to "help" everyone get access to books.

Thanks for taking the time to post this, Mary!
Thanks, Jo. I think the word needs to be spread that it is NOT okay, and authors and ultimately, readers, will suffer because of it.
Great post, Mary. I can't get over the way people rationalize away stuff like this. Your book. YOU should decide if it can be shared or remixed. This is pretty straight forward stuff.

How I wish common sense actually was common.
Thanks, Karen. Yes, you would think it was pretty straight forward, wouldn't you? Bring back common sense!