Friday, February 05, 2010

book piracy examined further

I can't have a conversation with a book publisher these days without e-books, electronic price-points, and the issues of online piracy and illicit file-sharing entering into the discussion. If anyone doubts this industry is actively trying to offer their wares to digital consumers as seamlessly and freely (free as in "free of unreasonable constraints") as possible, they should sit down for a chat with an actual publisher.

But for a small segment of society, it seems, honest attempts at innovation and business adaptation can never move quickly enough, and some products can never be free enough (free as "hey, look what I just found -- since no-one is right here beside me claiming ownership, this thing must belong to me").

Thanks to QuillBlog and IP lawyer Barry Sookman for the link to these "Confessions of a Book Pirate."

Some snippets:

"I do not pretend that uploading or downloading unpurchased electronic books is morally correct, but I do think it is more of a grey area than some of your readers may."...

"In truth, I think it is clear that morally, the act of pirating a product is, in fact, the moral equivalent of stealing… although that nagging question of what the person who has been stolen from is missing still lingers. Realistically and financially, however, I feel the impact of e-piracy is overrated, at least in terms of ebooks."...

"I’ve debated doing some newer authors and books, but I would need to protect myself better and resolve the moral dilemma of actually causing noticeable financial harm to the author whose work I love enough to spend so much time working on getting a nice e-copy if I were to do so."

Please note: I personally disagree with all of the shaky moral and ethical rationales presented by piracy advocates. I link to this "confessions" article as information only.

As the writing and publishing industry spreads itself more and more into the digital marketplace, the lost sales and financial harm resulting from book piracy will presumably become more "noticeable."

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Joe Clark said...

John, you always start out mere inches from a good idea, then your cannonball ejaculates from its tube and you end up somewhere off the event horizon.

“Book pirates” do not believe whatever books they can find are “theirs,” especially not the ones who scan and copy-edit or just retype them. They are responding to market failure. One of the markets that fails consistently is run by your friends in the publishing industry, who refuse to acknowledge the attested fact that free distribution of E-books does not harm P-book sales. Nor need such distribution interfere with paid sales.

Just for once, stop being so high and mighty. I don’t think even you know what you’re trying to stick up for half the time.

John said...


So the market failure in the Stephen King example is that the Under the Dome e-book is not distributed for free? In that case, wouldn't all theft be simply a response to market failure?

How exactly is your fact about no harm coming to physical books through e-piracy "attested"? I've heard it claimed many times, but has it been proven?

I must insist that book pirates do claim illicit ownership, certainly the evidence of this confession suggests that. Whether or not he can justify it morally by referring to market failure, this pirate claims an IP right that does not belong to him.

Re: being high and mighty -- I won't criticize your hobbies if you don't criticize mine.

Unknown said...

I spend a lot of money on books, there are over 10,000 books in the house, and another major expense is bookshelves (IKEA loves me).

One of the big issues with Ebooks is Digital Restrictions Management. That is the reason that I will not buy a Kindle, however I'll happily buy just about anything published by Baen (in many cases you get a CD in the book, with copies of all that authors books, which has lead to me buying more books by that author from Baen).

The point being, I can take a hard copy book anywhere, and read it anytime. With an EBook on the Kindle, I have to take the Kindle with me. With an EBook from Baen, I can use in on any of my three personal laptops, which run three different operating systems. Which makes more sense?

Finn Harvor said...

" One of the markets that fails consistently is run by your friends in the publishing industry, who refuse to acknowledge the attested fact that free distribution of E-books does not harm P-book sales."

Why assume all worthy e-books will necessarily appear in print format?