Thieves and ignorance.

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Sommer Leigh
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Thieves and ignorance.

Post by Sommer Leigh » January 20th, 2011, 8:59 pm

A few days ago author Saundra Mitchell wrote a post called “Free” Books Aren’t Free and highlighted the incredible damage book piracy has done to her career in an effort to educate those who try to rationalize the behavior. This was in response to an author friend of hers getting a tweet from a fan who happily told the author she'd just illegally downloaded a copy of her book and was excited to read it and then became perplexed when the author did not respond positively to this announcement.

Saundra's post is stark and sad and scary and created a ball of anger and sickness in my stomach. It is terrible to read posts like this by authors I love. I actually won a signed copy of Saundra's book Shadowed Summer, loved it, went out and bought a new copy to give to a friend since there was no way I was letting my signed copy out of my office.

As usual when a story like this comes out there are many responses by other authors, particularly with YA authors who seem to possess a furious communion when one of their own is threatened or harmed. I've been reading a lot of those responses tonight and I'm weary because I don't understand people. Wait no, I do understand the powerful human ability to rationalize away all bad behaviors, but I still hate it a lot. Thieves suck.

I wanted to post a link to Saundra's blog and ask that you read it. I realize it is a bit like preaching to the choir - we all know the implications of e-piracy, but there is a stark reality in her post that we publish-hopefuls will never see so public and honest until it happens to us some day.

http://anywherebeyond.livejournal.com/342581.html



On a personal note, I got into an argument with an acquaintance once - not a very close one, at least, not after this conversation - where she gleefully told me about a site where she'd just downloaded ten recently released YA books and did I want her to send them to me? At which point I angrily let her know how incredibly inappropriate that was and how damaging her actions were to the authors she was purporting to love so much. She sighed, actually sighed, like I was the one who was a little slow, and asked me if I realized that creating e-books was practically free and publishers had no right to charge 9.99 for them. E-books were all profit, she told me, so it wasn't really hurting the author, just the publisher.

So I said, "Ok, I can knit a scarf in about five hours. I can make it the size and shape and color I want. A skein of my favorite yarn costs $4.99. So in five hours, while watching episodes of Dollhouse on Netflix, I can have a scarf for $4.99 instead of going into Target and paying $27 for a knitted scarf. That's highway robbery. Target should at least charge closer to $4.99, less if it wants to compete with me and five episodes of Dollhouse."

She then said, "Yeah but, Sommer, someone has to actually knit that scarf. That's why it's $27."

"Yeah," I said, "someone has to write that book, too."
May the word counts be ever in your favor. http://www.sommerleigh.com
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Re: Thieves and ignorance.

Post by Robin » January 20th, 2011, 9:12 pm

Sommer, unfortunately thats the nature of the beast nowadays... The movie and music industries have been battling this beast for years. So frustrating and sad that people actually think its okay to have something for free.
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Re: Thieves and ignorance.

Post by steve » January 20th, 2011, 9:32 pm

I don't know anything about this writer or her book, but I can make a few guesses about her situation from her blog post:

-She's with a major publisher and not an independent
-She doesn't appreciate having readers that have read and presumably enjoyed her book via downloading it
-She believes that readers should support an author's lifestyle (I find this belief hilarious)
-She's going to influence how people use technology by complaining about it instead of embracing it

Maybe I'm wrong.

Sounds like she wrote a good book. Good for her that people like it.
Read one of the best stories by Borges.

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Re: Thieves and ignorance.

Post by Claudie » January 21st, 2011, 12:38 am

steve wrote:Sounds like she wrote a good book. Good for her that people like it.
It'd be kind of nice if she could make a living from it too, don't you think?

To be honest, I'm not surprised at this post. Things like these were bound to happen from the moment the first books were numerised. It doesn't make them any better, but I don't see it getting any better, anytime soon.

People don't realise what hangs in the balance. They download, thinking one more or one less won't make a difference. What's 5 dollars to an author, right? The thing is, when you pile it up to hundreds of dollars, it can make or break a debut author.

And Sommer, I don't know what you acquaintance was thinking. It made me facepalm.
"I do not think there is any thrill [...] like that felt by the inventor as he sees some creation of the brain unfolding to success... Such emotions make a man forget food, sleep, friends, love, everything." -- Nikola Tesla

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Re: Thieves and ignorance.

Post by Margo » January 21st, 2011, 2:02 am

steve wrote:-She believes that readers should support an author's lifestyle (I find this belief hilarious)

0_o

You don't work for a living? How do you support your lifestyle? How does an 'author's lifestyle' differ from anyone else's lifestyle? How would an author's right to be paid for her labor be any different than a farmer's right to be paid for his?

I find the view that author's should not be paid for their work when it is specifically intended for sale perplexing.

If someone does not believe an author should be paid for their work, they should read the work of authors who specifically and intentionally produce their work for free. All indie books are free, right?

I would direct attention to this quote from the author in question:

And let me tell you guys… the sales figures on SHADOWED SUMMER had a seriously detrimental effect on my career. It took me almost two years to sell another book.

So the readers pirating her books because they love them so much but can't be bothered to buy it (or borrow it from a library that has purchased it) are actually raising the chances that she won't have another book published. Way to think things through.

Edit: A post from another author in the exact same position. The third book in her series may not be published because more people have illegally downloaded a pirated copy of her book than actually purchased it. With fans like that, who needs enemies?

http://www.kimberlypauley.com/2011/01/1 ... mina-book/
Last edited by Margo on January 21st, 2011, 2:38 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Thieves and ignorance.

Post by Margo » January 21st, 2011, 2:26 am

Did anyone notice the links to other author's blog posts about this in the comments? A quote I love from Lilith Saintcrow on the excuse about stealing helping a writer's career in the long run:

This is like saying car theft increases brand visibility, so nobody should be worried or upset about it.
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Re: Thieves and ignorance.

Post by Cookie » January 21st, 2011, 7:55 am

I understand that people are poor and can't afford to buy things as much as they used too (hello me. But my sad finances do not stop me from buying books), but haven't any of them heard of a library? That's where I go to pick up a copy of a book when I can't afford to buy it. And if it's a new release that is not available at the library, there is such a thing called waiting. The library will carry it eventually, especially if it is a popular book.
I work in the music industry and I've had talks with a friend of mine about illegally downloading music. She made the comment that the artist can afford it, and I said no, not really. I told here the artist that I work for doesn't make as much money as people think. Artists in general do not make as much as people think. And having done royalties, I can tell you that it's not very much. She responded by telling me that she wouldn't illegally download music from the artist I work for because he is indie and doesn't sell as much music as say Bruce Springsteen. But illegally downloading Bruce Springsteen's music is apparently ok.
I admit, I have illegally downloaded music before when I was so poor that I could barely afford to pay my rent, however I made a vow that one day I would buy the music. And I have, not all of it, but a good deal of it I have gone out and bought. I felt terrible doing that, even though I knew that one day I would own legal copies of the work.

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Re: Thieves and ignorance.

Post by Sommer Leigh » January 21st, 2011, 8:22 am

steve wrote:
-She believes that readers should support an author's lifestyle (I find this belief hilarious)

Sounds like she wrote a good book. Good for her that people like it.
You mean the lifestyle of buying groceries and paying rent? Because writing a book is a job. It might not be a writer's only job, but it is still a job and they deserve to be compensated accordingly.

She wrote a very good book.
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Re: Thieves and ignorance.

Post by Sommer Leigh » January 21st, 2011, 8:48 am

I realize that this is something that happens and that it is unavoidable, but I think talking about it is important. Keeping the concept fresh in everyone's minds because it isn't a universally held belief that stealing is always wrong. My husband and I got to talking about this last night and we disected the reasons why people in general view the value of digital material to be nothing despite how much they want it. No one would ever think to walk into a store and demand their purchases for free, but for some reason if it is available on the internet it is worth less. Or that all the costs that go into producing a thing, like books or music, disappear when they are put on the internet.

I hope that as libraries turn to providing their stock for check out via download onto an e-reader some of the illegal downloading will go away. I hope. Probably not, but I want to believe it will help. My public library is already offering this service. You don't even have to go into the library to check something out.

I'll throw another awesome post onto the pile, this one by Seanan McGuire (also she is Mira Grant if you read her YA)

http://seanan-mcguire.livejournal.com/288301.html
And a follow up: http://seanan-mcguire.livejournal.com/288670.html
May the word counts be ever in your favor. http://www.sommerleigh.com
Be nice, or I get out the Tesla cannon.

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Re: Thieves and ignorance.

Post by steve » January 21st, 2011, 11:15 am

Claudie wrote:
steve wrote:Sounds like she wrote a good book. Good for her that people like it.
It'd be kind of nice if she could make a living from it too, don't you think?
It'd be nice if I could make a living playing my kazoo; I can't so I have a day job.

Most writers have day jobs. Maybe she has one.
Margo wrote:
I would direct attention to this quote from the author in question:

And let me tell you guys… the sales figures on SHADOWED SUMMER had a seriously detrimental effect on my career. It took me almost two years to sell another book.

So the readers pirating her books because they love them so much but can't be bothered to buy it (or borrow it from a library that has purchased it) are actually raising the chances that she won't have another book published. Way to think things through.
Book sales are that important to major publishers? I thought major publishers loved books and authors?

Seriously, better authors have been treated worse by publishers, way before the era of downloading.
Sommer Leigh wrote:I realize that this is something that happens and that it is unavoidable, but I think talking about it is important.
Sommer, I hear you. I think it's a great topic.

I believe downloading books legally and illegally is going to continue and escalate and perhaps someday dominate how a generation of people read. Smart authors will figure out how to work with this reality.
Read one of the best stories by Borges.

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Re: Thieves and ignorance.

Post by Watcher55 » January 21st, 2011, 11:30 am

steve wrote:
Claudie wrote:
steve wrote:Sounds like she wrote a good book. Good for her that people like it.
It'd be kind of nice if she could make a living from it too, don't you think?
It'd be nice if I could make a living playing my kazoo; I can't so I have a day job.

Most writers have day jobs. Maybe she has one.

I believe downloading books legally and illegally is going to continue and escalate and perhaps someday dominate how a generation of people read. Smart authors will figure out how to work with this reality.
It’s theft!

By your logic I should be able to go to a bookstore, take (not buy) a “bad” novel, fix it and call it my own without being accused of plagiarism. Hey, I liked it well enough to fix it – right?

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Re: Thieves and ignorance.

Post by Claudie » January 21st, 2011, 12:26 pm

It's true that most writers have day jobs. They have to deal with the stress of working two jobs at once. They put time, sweat, blood, heart and soul into creating a novel. They go through the hoops and loops of the publishing industry, learn to deal with rejection and critiques and when finally it works out... it's okay to take all that hard work for free?

Would you steal food? No. People approach music, movies and now books differently because it's a form of entertainment. All they see is the final result, not the incredible amount of work that went behind. They forget the human being at the other end. It's not just a book. It's someone's career and livelihood.

We're all well aware that most writers have day jobs. I fail to see how another source of income makes her work less valuable. She deserves the money from her sales. Nobody has a right to take it from her.

And Sommer, I agree that while this was predictable, it doesn't make it less important to discuss.
"I do not think there is any thrill [...] like that felt by the inventor as he sees some creation of the brain unfolding to success... Such emotions make a man forget food, sleep, friends, love, everything." -- Nikola Tesla

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Re: Thieves and ignorance.

Post by steve » January 21st, 2011, 2:06 pm

Watcher55 wrote:
It’s theft!
Sure it is. No one is saying it isn't.

How do you propose to change the behavior of people who download recent books?

I'd say any effort to change behavior is a futile one.
Claudie wrote: She deserves the money from her sales. Nobody has a right to take it from her.
If she's good writer she deserves lots of readers.
Read one of the best stories by Borges.

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Re: Thieves and ignorance.

Post by Sommer Leigh » January 21st, 2011, 2:09 pm

Claudie wrote: And Sommer, I agree that while this was predictable, it doesn't make it less important to discuss.
Another reason this is on my mind is on a more personal level in that, if I am ever published, this is going to happen to me. And so I try to imagine how it would feel to know people are stealing something of yours and believing it should have no monetary value. That buying a cheeseburger at McDonalds has a higher monetary value than the book I spent two years writing. I can't imagine how painful that would be as an artist.
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Re: Thieves and ignorance.

Post by Margo » January 21st, 2011, 2:45 pm

steve wrote:
Margo wrote:So the readers pirating her books because they love them so much but can't be bothered to buy it (or borrow it from a library that has purchased it) are actually raising the chances that she won't have another book published. Way to think things through.
Book sales are that important to major publishers? I thought major publishers loved books and authors?
Book sales are that important to major publishers? Ummm, is that a trick question? Is it important for a business to sell something they have spent thousands of dollars producing specifically for sale? I'm going to go with D) only if they want to stay in business, pay their employees, support their suppliers, and feed their families. And I'm sure Dell loves computer users and software writers. Should we expect them to give their computers away for free?
steve wrote:Seriously, better authors have been treated worse by publishers, way before the era of downloading.
So it's okay if I kick someone so long as I'm not the first one to do it and my blow isn't the hardest? I'm not sure how the existence of bank robbery makes mugging morally justified. Is outright theft of someone else's labor for convenience and pleasure justifiable on any terms?
steve wrote:I believe downloading books legally and illegally is going to continue and escalate and perhaps someday dominate how a generation of people read. Smart authors will figure out how to work with this reality.
I think you're right about the problem continuing and escalating. We live in a Wal-Mart world where we should lack for nothing and pay for nothing. Of course, I expect a lot of casualties, but so long as we can keep getting as much as possible for as little as possible... And BONUS! we can wrap our behavior in moral indignation and act like it's an actual cause.

Really, I understand why someone would dislike traditional publishers. I understand why someone would prefer small press or self-published books. I understand trying to persuade people to support one and not the other. I don't understand justifying theft because you don't like one of the victims and disapprove of the other victim associating with the first.
Sommer Leigh wrote:And so I try to imagine how it would feel to know people are stealing something of yours and believing it should have no monetary value. That buying a cheeseburger at McDonalds has a higher monetary value than the book I spent two years writing. I can't imagine how painful that would be as an artist.
Yeah, pretty much. But empathy, like respect, is in short supply these days.
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