The effects were instant. The forums and sites exploded with bewildered activity. Fans asked if anyone had managed to find a link to a legit pdf. Dozens of posts appeared saying that since they hadn’t been able to find a pdf, they’d been forced to hit up Amazon and buy the book. And we sold out of the first printing in two days.
Stiefvater revealed that she is now writing three more books set in the Raven Cycle world, but that the new trilogy nearly didn’t exist because of piracy. And already I can see in the tags how Tumblr users are talking about how they intend to pirate book one of the new trilogy for any number of reasons, because I am terrible or because they would rather die than pay for a book, she wrote. As an author, I can’t stop that. But pirating book one means that publishing cancels book two. This ain’t 2004 anymore. A pirated copy isn’t good advertising or great word of mouth or not really a lost sale.
According to the Intellectual Property Offices latest study of online copyright infringement, 17% of ebooks read online are pirated around 4m books.
Ebook piracy is a very significant issue and of great concern to publishers, said Stephen Lotinga of the Publishers Association, which works to take down and block pirated ebooks links and sites. As an industry we’ve not had the situation that the music and film industries have gone through, Lotinga said. But that obviously is 4m ebooks that authors and publishers aren’t getting paid for and should be getting paid for, and its a particular worry for publishers at a time when ebook sales are slightly in decline.
Last week, a poll on piracy from Hank Green, the brother of the bestselling novelist John Green, was responded to by more than 35,000 people. Just over a quarter (26%) said they had pirated books in the past, while 5% said they currently pirate books.
Samantha Shannon, the author of the Bone Season series, said that attempting to stay on top of pirated editions of her books was a Sisyphean task. I think all authors experience it to some degree, unfortunately. Its a reality of modern publishing, she said. I don’t often look for pirated copies of my books, as I find it too dispiriting, but I do batch-send links to my publisher now and again in the hope that they can remove some of them.
Shannon wrote on Twitter that the thing that’s really exhausting about piracy is that authors are often not allowed to be upset by the theft of their work. If we ask people not to do it, no matter how courteously, were told we should have more compassion or be grateful we even have readers. Outside the creative industry, people broadly dislike theft. Within the creative industry, it becomes a grey area where people aren’t sure.
Authors who ask you not to pirate are not attacking people who are too poor to afford books or people who genuinely cant access libraries, wrote Shannon but Lotinga at the Publishers Association said that those people were not often the perpetrators. Ebook pirates tend to be from better-off socio-economic groups and to be aged between 31 and 50-something. It’s not the people who cant afford books, he said. It’s not teenagers in their rooms.
Novelist Laura Lam wrote on Twitter: I’m personally not bothered by the small percentage of readers who pirate because they have no access to books any other way. But for readers, I think that’s a small percentage. I’m more heartbroken by those who can easily afford books but pirate anyway. Any sales lost via those readers will have a very real impact on my career.
According to a survey carried out by the Authors Licensing and Collecting Society, the median income of a professional author in 2013 was 11,000, a drop of 29% on 2005.
Lam said that she had a trilogy canceled by her first publisher three weeks after book two came out. That’s an instance where if even a couple hundred had pirated instead of buying, it had repercussions. Long-term, that publisher went bankrupt and I re-sold it to my new publisher, but it was still a challenge at the time. Not everyone gets a second chance.
Fantasy novelist Tom Pollock said that readers needed to be aware of the consequences of pirating In an economy based on market signals, the signal being sent if people pirate rather than buy or borrow is: Nobody wants this.
He added: There’s an argument that you sometimes see that a download is not equal to a lost sale, because that person wouldn’t have bought it anyway, and there’s varying evidence on that, but its very much a static analysis of a dynamic problem, because if you normalise the practice of pirating books, you erode incentive for people to pay for them, so eventually, people who would have bought them stop doing so.