I came across an interesting argument going on between a writer and a reader this morning on twitter around the issue of illegally downloading a book because they couldn’t get it from amazon in the format they wanted. “I’ll buy it when amazon finally gets around to making it available to me.” The names are irrelevant here, so I’m not going to mention them, but the issue is for many a writer. Piracy is an issue, and likely will be for the foreseeable future. I know my book is going to end up on some torrent site somewhere for people to download. Some asshat will make copies available on ebay. The publisher will lose sales, and more importantly, so will I.
We live in an age where tons of content is available for free on the internet. You can get music and movies all over the place. And these people lose money too. There are all sorts of reasons and justifications for it being done. It can’t be purchased legally in the buyer’s location. The format isn’t going to be available for another three months. The legal price is more than it should be. The list goes on. Too much of the “I want it, and I want it now” mentality in our culture. Technology has driven patience out of cultural psyche. Somehow, waiting has become an unacceptable state of being. For anything. The point is however, sidestepping the legal channels is more than just sticking it to the corporate powers that be who are trying to maximize their profits. It hurts the creators. There’s no way around this. If you don’t pay, the creator is not compensated.
In publishing, which runs on such a tight margin, losing sales, even a small percentage can sometimes make or break you. Many readers don’t quite get just how tough it is for writers to make any sort of living at it. It’s also a matter of respect. If you have respect for the artist/craftsperson, why would you want to take their creation without paying for it? There certainly is no inherent right to get books or music or film for free. Artists don’t create simply for the pleasure and convenience of the consumer. One thing that really gets under my skin is when readers (or any other consumers of artistic creations) claim that the artist should just be glad more people are experiencing their work. Because? It does the artist no good if they have no time to create because they aren’t being adequately compensated for their efforts. The growing problems with privacy leaves me with the niggling feeling that our culture has/is declining in its appreciation for artistic endeavors, that somehow the consumer has a right to it, and the artist should be happy with the mere fact that people even desire it.
I’m getting a bit ranty here, so I apologize. Personally, I expect to gain compensation for my efforts. It’s a lot of work to create a story that people will desire to read. Publishers are in the business of finding stories people will not only want to read, but be willing to invest their time and money in. Pirating a book is saying that the reader believes the work isn’t worth compensation or not worth the compensation desired. While the feeling may be that one is telling the publisher that they are demanding too much compensation for the work, it is a huge slap in the face to the writer. It’s saying the writer isn’t respected enough to compensate them for all of the hours and effort put into creating the work.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit, I want as many people to read my stories as possible. Part of the reason I write is because I want people to read and enjoy my stories. I do however, want at least a bit of respect for the time and effort that has gone into my creation. If I were to break it down, I won’t likely even make minimum wage for my books when all is said and done. Am I looking to get rich off of my endeavors? Obviously not. Very few authors do. I take my craft seriously though and would hope that readers believe books are worth taking seriously too. If you pirate (and not saying anyone reading this is) it tells me you don’t take books or my efforts seriously at all, and I’d rather you didn’t read my book if that’s the case. So, please, don’t pirate. Have a bit of respect my work and for the art of storytelling as a whole. To me, it’s worth the money (how much money is a whole other bucket of worms).
Note: for a great look at how it can really effect an author, read this: http://anywherebeyond.livejournal.com/342581.html