And, yes, it is stealing no matter how you look at it. There are a couple varying opinions on the subject of book piracy. The most popular, of course, is that these sites suck and people who partake in them are taking money out of the pockets of authors who have poured their souls (and money) into turning their stories into polished pieces, worthy of being read by the masses. The other opinion is people who steal ebooks never would have bought them in the first place, so who gives a shit? I lean more toward the first opinion, though I understand the second and have felt myself swinging that way at times because I do agree that most people who steal, wouldn't legitimately buy it in the first place.
But here's the thing... There are readers out there who are actively participating in the pirating scene, and they straight up don't even know they're doing anything wrong! Those are the ones who would probably obtain ebooks the proper way if they knew what they were doing was illegal. This is why awareness about the issue is crucial.
So, how do you know if you're doing something illegal? Well, I'll tell you.
1. If you are visiting websites that aren't major retailers (Amazon, iBooks, B&N, AllRomanceebooks, Smashwords, etc.) of ebooks, whether you are getting them for free or even paying for them, you're doing it wrong. There are sites who charge for books that look half-way legit, but all you're doing is putting money in the pocket of the site owner, not the author, who deserves it for their hard work. Many authors legitimately offer some of their work for free so you can get a feel for their story telling abilities. Hell, I even have Craving perma-free for this same reason, but that doesn't mean that we want to or should give all of our work away just because you'd rather not fork out a couple of bucks to read it. And the excuse that there are soooooo many books you want to read and you just can't afford them all doesn't fly. Make a book budget, and prioritize the books you want to read.
2. If you receive ebook files from ANYONE other than the author, you're probably doing something wrong. There are cases where someone is managing a book tour who has been authorized to deliver files, but for the most part, you should only be getting free ebooks from authors directly, especially if you don't own a blog who works with book tour promoters or publicists directly. Also, no one should ever ask you for your Kindle address to send you a file unless it is the author of the book. This means the person is sending you the file directly from their own computer. More than likely they've obtained the file illegally or maybe even won it in a contest and don't have authorization to give it to someone else. This is one of the reasons I have cut back on book donations for events. It seems like it's getting harder and harder to decide who one can trust anymore. I gift directly from Amazon, B&N, or iBooks now, which costs me money, but I'd rather do it that way than to give someone a copy of my book that they can easily do as they please with the file. A lot of other authors have started doing this as well.
3. If you purchase a book, read it, then return it. YOU ARE STEALING!!! Sorry for shouting, but I feel like screaming every time I see where someone has done this, or when it has happened to me or authors I know. Do you ask for your money back after you watch a movie in a theater? No? Didn't think so. Doesn't matter if you liked the book or not, you read it, which means you did what you intended to do with it when you bought it. Let's face it, most retailers have an option to sample the first 20% of the book before you buy it. I've used this feature many times, and generally, I can get a feel for whether or not I want to read the rest of the story. I will admit, there are a lot of turds out there (and I'm sure someone thinks my books are turds, too, before anyone thinks I'm trying to act like I'm hot shit, haha see what I did there?), but that doesn't make it okay to steal.
And just to drive home the fact of just how much theft of ebooks sucks, let's paint a picture. You go to work and put in your hours for the pay period. On payday, your boss decides to say, "You know what? I liked (or maybe didn't like) your work . Even though you did what you were supposed to do, I don't feel like paying you, so I'm going to cancel your paycheck before it hits your bank account." You'd be pretty pissed, too, wouldn't you? How dare that asshole boss not pay you for your hard work, right? Yep.
Most authors aren't in it for the money. If we were, there'd be a hell of a lot less of us because this is not an industry where most people make tons of money. Just because someone is doing well in ranks at times, doesn't mean they're rolling in the dough or are worth millions. If you can make somewhat of a living from book sales, then that's pretty freaking awesome, but a lot of us never even get to that point. So when you pour yourself into a story, sometimes revealing bits of your soul that you try to keep mostly private in the process, it feels pretty damn dirty when someone decides $2.99, or whatever the price may be, is too much to pay and they choose to steal those sacred bits of you instead.
I think part of the problem lies in the fact that an ebook isn't a tangible product and people tend to think it's okay to not pay for them. However, the contents are exactly the same as a paperback version of the same book. Would you walk into Barnes & Noble and just take a book off the shelf and walk out with it without paying? Nope. Well, maybe some would, but most wouldn't. The same time, energy, and money went into it, regardless of the format it's delivered on.
I just want to say thank you to all those readers out there who get it. You know what these stories mean to us and you see the value in what we do. Without you, we'd be nothing. So thank you!
I'd love to hear opinions from readers, bloggers, and other authors, so please don't hesitate to leave me some comments. Feel free to share this around as well.
Until next time...