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On Pirating Fiction

I'm working on a number of short projects right now; the next story in the alphabet series of anthologies, an ebook and audio release of "Grandmother Mælkevejen's Belly", a second edition of The Ruin of Beltany Ring and a possible science fiction and fantasy collection in the spring. I'm still a small player in the writing community, but it occurs to me that some of these short projects and the bigger projects that follow might find themselves on free download sites in the months to come.

That's okay.

There are a ton of reasons why people download free fiction, and it doesn't matter to me which reason motivates someone to download my work. It matters to me that it found a home. That's why I write the stuff to begin with. So download it, fill up your hard drive, your e-reader and your iPod. Give it a spin and see if it sticks. And if at some point you feel inclined and have the financial means to do so, buy me a cuppa for my trouble. I've put a donation box right on the home page of my web site.

Happy reading, everybody!


Re: On Pirating Fiction

I came here from the Writer's Discussion Group posting on G+, but I can't post there as I'm not a member (and until I at least get something into shape *to* publish, I'm not going to join).

There's several viewpoints - Doctorow's belief that information should be free, Lowell's comments about not wasting the time to play whack-a-mole, etc.

Of course, it might be worth contacting Eric Flint at Baen Books, and see if he can do some kind of update on the sales figures and such that he published in his Prime Palaver articles in the early days of the Baen Free Library - but I note that 1) Baen had the opportunity when they did a big shake-up to start offering books on Amazon to add DRM - and didn't, and 2) TOR experimented with not putting on DRM, and I believe they found it successful enough to continue doing so.

One big I didn't see, in the legalese over theft vs. infringement, is the nature of sale vs. license in the e-book market. For the most part, when you go to buy an e-book on Amazon, the button you hit says "Buy" - it doesn't say "License". But - you only have the book as long as they let you. They can remove it from your Kindle Library at any time (and boy, removing 1984 was not the wisest way to introduce the feature!) Unless you know the magic words (Simultaneous Usage: Unlimited), you have little way of knowing if an e-book on Amazon has DRM, or not. In the case of "not", you can easily convert the book to EPUB and remove it from Amazon's reach.

But it's a license, and that means the First Sale Doctrine doesn't apply - you can't transfer your e-book permanently to someone else, even though the DRM technology of Amazon makes it quite possible from a technical standpoint - add to one Kindle Library, remove from the other. And that changes the economics quite a bit in the favor of the publishers. No DRM effectively turns it back into a sale - and I find that a nicely morally superior position!

Re: On Pirating Fiction

Hi Tara Li,

"They can remove it from your Kindle Library at any time (and boy, removing 1984 was not the wisest way to introduce the feature!)"

I remember the 1984 debacle quite clearly, and while I didn't have a Kindle at the time, I was outraged on behalf of my fellow readers (also, the irony!). Worse, the distinction between selling and licensing is still unclear to most ebook fans, since people are conditioned by the majority of their sales interactions to believe that when they pay for a thing, they own it. Incidentally, it occurs to me there might also be an argument for lower prices on licensed ebooks because the license can be revoked. Can't do that with the paper dictionary sitting on my desk.

FWIW, I've found DRM obstructive and know it can be easily cracked, which means paying readers are made to suffer for what amounts to no good reason. I'm also a notorious multiple purchaser of media I love. I'll buy an ebook from Amazon or a comic from Comixology, get hooked on the series and pony up for the hard copies (this is especially true of comics for me).

So the creation and sale of digital media doesn't just open the way for pirating; it also opens the way for readers to buy/license what they love more than once, in more than one format. But I don't see that side of the conversation much because it doesn't support punitive action against digital piracy.

"No DRM effectively turns it back into a sale - and I find that a nicely morally superior position!"

I agree completely. What's more, since I'm a lover of books, music and movies, I believe I ought to treat any readers I'm lucky enough to have in the same way I would want to be treated; with DRM-free books, sample chapters and a reasonable approach to the whole piracy thing. Readers are good people. I believe in them.

Thanks for your thoughts, and best of luck with your writing!

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