Anatomy of a Theft
I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about people pirating my books. I know there are large communities of people who exchange stolen ebooks without regard for authors’ rights or financial bottom lines. But I truly believe that the majority of pirated books are stolen by people who would never have bought them in the first place. That, combined with karmic hacker’s roulette (download the file and never be sure if this the one that carried a bonus malware file that has now infected your computer!) makes me shrug off most pirated versions of my work. Plus, the hours I could spend policing the thieves are hours I spend, you know, writing.
But the other day, I found a post that made me reconsider my stance on piracy.
Like many authors, I receive Google Alerts, daily emails that show me when my name and the titles of my books are being discussed on the Internet. A few days ago, I received a link to a page where I read:
“Mogul’s Maybe Marriage: I want to read this book, but it costs a lot in my country. Where can I download it for free?”
The first response was someone (bless him or her!) who pointed out that authors don’t get paid when files are illegally downloaded for free.
The second response was from someone (more blessings on his/her soul!) who reminded the original poster that libraries are a great resource for people who don’t have money to spend on books.
And the third response linked to a vast library of stolen ebooks, including a specific link to my category romance, The Mogul’s Maybe Marriage.
The original poster commented on the third response, saying, “Thanks! That’s exactly what I was looking for.”
And that’s when I was tempted to reply. I’m not stupid enough to respond on the site — I’ll never change the thief’s mind, and I could potentially invite disastrous attention from folks who want to punish my “avarice” by posting more stolen copies of my work, or by hacking my website, or by worse. So I’ll respond here.
- Category romances are some of the least expensive books available, either in print or as ebooks. My publisher, Harlequin, sets the price of Mogul in all countries where it is lawfully sold. While that price may be high relative to your income, it is not high relative to other books.
- Libraries are a great resource for people who cannot afford to buy books. Many libraries lend books, including ebooks, beyond their geographic boundaries. Most libraries take suggestions from their patrons about how to allocate their admittedly limited budgets. If you enjoy reading category romance, then you need to let your library know your interest, so they can plan to purchase books for you and other similarly situated readers.
- At some point, authors may decide they can’t afford to write. Writing a book takes time, which equates to money. If authors aren’t writing books, they can be working other jobs that earn them money for necessities like food, clothing, and mortgages. If enough people steal books, i.e., steal income from authors, then some authors will be forced to invest their time in other money-making ventures.
I’m not throwing in the towel. I’m not even changing my primary policy about pirates. But I am currently enraged by at least one privileged reader who chose to steal my book instead of to buy it.