If you read my Twitter, you've seen me weigh in on "e-book piracy" once or twice. (Or a lot.) I lean toward the idea that the word "piracy" is a stupid word to describe semi-legal downloading (it depends on which country you are in), and I am not entirely against it, anyway.
People who can afford to pay for a book and download it from Demonoid instead are jerks; I feel the same about music and TV shows. Some people can't afford it, though. Some people live in countries to which Amazon doesn't deliver, or even a used book costs more than a week of lunches, or it is illegal to possess the material in a certain book… Other people have written better summations and criticisms of this go-around than I can right now.
did a great linkspam
a while back, and I'm sure there have been more posts since then.)
On my Twitter, I encouraged people to download copies of Salt and Silver
from torrent sites. Frankly, Kat and I were both thrilled that it showed up on torrent sites -- it was popular enough that people wanted it! How neat! And despite promises from our publisher that it would be available in various e-book formats, it ended up only available in Kindle format from Amazon. That, in my opinion, is shitty. I don't have a Kindle, so I can't even get a copy of my own e-book! I downloaded it as an HTML file from a torrent site so I could have a copy. (And this HTML file has a bunch of errors in it from the OCR that really irk me, by the way!) Plus for a while it was $9.99 as a Kindle book, which is just plain ridiculous when you can buy the paperback for $6.99 new.
I also think there needs to be a way for people to be able to transfer their books into multiple formats, although this is less like CDs to MP3s (as I've seen people say), and more like vinyl
to MP3. Still, there's cheapish USB hardware you can plug in to make your vinyl into MP3 (or FLAC!), and there's no equivalent for books you've already bought four copies of in paperback that you want on your e-reader.
Sure, I would love to make enough money from writing that I could, like, pay my car insurance for a year or something. But I don't, and I am mostly okay with that, because if I had to choose between people reading what I write and people not reading what I write because they can't afford it or the material isn't available in their country, I'd choose the former.
I actually have a lot more to say about e-books, and a lot of theories on how to help fix the industry that would actually work if publishers implemented them, but that's not what this post is about. This post is about something I see people saying often about books that I want to debunk, because I haven't seen anyone else doing it.More than I would like to, I have seen comments or heard people say (or have had them say to my face!) that they don't want to pay for books "because that author has enough money."
Anyone who thinks that needs to educate themselves. First of all, it is not up to us to be the arbiter of how much is enough for someone. We don't know the details of anyone's lives. Authors don't get health insurance (unless they live in a country with socialized medicine) or 401(k) plans or pensions. A full-time author only has the money they make by writing -- minus whatever their government takes in taxes. Some authors have terrible health problems; some are taking care of sick and/or elderly parents; some have sick kids or a sick partner/spouse. Some authors aren't full-time authors -- but not all jobs are cushy investment banker jobs where you make millions of dollars and never get arrested for breaking the law. A lot of authors are teachers or librarians; have you ever met a librarian who got rich from cataloging and speaking at ALA? Probably not, right?
Many authors do not get paid nearly as much as you think they do, especially in this economic climate. Authors who once could support themselves writing two books per year now cannot -- they don't get paid the same advances, they don't sell as many books, so they don't get the royalties, and the publishers may not even want to publish two books per year by them anymore, so their earnings are immediately cut in half. (And good luck finding another publisher to publish that second book, especially if it's the same genre.)
Authors, whether they are print and e-book or e-book only, don't get that much money -- 50% of $6 or whatever is $3
, and a lot of e-book-only publishers aren't charging $6 per book. (Not to mention that not every e-book author is the wildly successful dark horse; some just sell a few hundred per title.)
Some authors get 10% on their paperbacks -- but even if the paperback is 9.99, that's only just under a dollar per book. They have to sell 10,100 copies before they even make back a $10,000 advance. Sure, that's easy for Nora Roberts, but it's less easy for, say, Anna Katherine.
Additionally, for a mid-list or new author, if one tiny thing goes wrong, that can send their entire career into the toilet -- their editor leaves, someone goes on vacation so the publisher misses the deadline for sending ARCs to the trades for review, they get shuffled to a different imprint, the cover has to be done twice because sales hates the first one, their book comes out the same week as a much-anticipated release from a bestseller… Anything. Any of those things alone can be disastrous; two or three can make it impossible for the author to sell another book without switching pseuds and/or genres and starting over, unless the sales are tremendously strong anyway.
Here's the other thing to remember when you say stuff like that: The money a publisher makes on, say, a Nora Roberts book… That's not entirely profit in the pockets of the cats who run the world. That goes to fund the marketing and promotion efforts for lesser-known authors. Even just a small percentage of the profit a publisher makes on a Nora Roberts book can fund a couple or three mid-list or brand new authors -- it's advances, advertisements in magazines, promo trips, 4-color ARCs, pens with the author's name on them… You're not just supporting Nora Roberts or Stephen King or whoever when you buy their books -- you're supporting all the authors that company publishes.
(Not to mention the salaries of editorial, production, marketing, sales, art, and all the freelance editors and designers who are hired to do the cover or proofread the first pass or write the cover copy.)
I'm not saying that you should never buy a used book or that you should never go to a library or that you should never download a title from Demonoid (or wherever). But if you can
afford to buy a copy new, whether it's e-book or paper, I'd like you to give a little more consideration to doing that, especially
if your reasoning for not doing it is because you think the author has "enough money."