Anyone who knows me personally knows that one topic that will turn me from a smiley vegetarian peacenik into a rage-fueled, frothing rantmonkey is creative piracy.
It seems like a victimless crime. Who’s to know? And there are certainly no penalties for it, so it must be OK, right? I mean, who’s getting hurt?
I’ll tell you who: artists.
Anyone who knows me personally is tired of this story already, but here it is again. If everyone who had downloaded an illegal copy of Porcelain Dog on one specific site within the first month of release, had ponied up for a copy, I’d have earned out my advance at that time.
That was almost four years ago, and guess what? Still not there yet.
But don’t you want the exposure?
I can’t even.
But I must.
This argument is the weakest of the weak, and it comes from an entitlement mentality that does not value art or the work that goes into it. It comes from the mindset that artists basically play around all day and don’t really work and should be grateful for the few crumbs of attention they might get when someone casually mentions that they stole some book and liked it.
It takes about a year for me to write a book, and this doesn’t include the outlining and research that take place in the year prior. So maybe two years of my life. Then I have to sell the book to a publisher, which, believe it or not, is harder than it sounds. Then someone downloads it illegally, depriving me of payment, and I’m supposed to be grateful?
Artists don’t owe content-thieves anything, least of all gratitude for doing them the favor of picking their pockets.
But I’m making a statement! I’m sticking it to the Man! Content should be free!
No, you’re not. You’re sticking it to artists. We have families. We have expenses. Most of us are too smart to think we’re in it for the money, but the truth is, we can only keep working without pay for so long. And when thieves steal our work, we are working without pay.
And “content should be free”? Why? Oh, yeah, because artists don’t really do anything, they just spend their days faffing around while everyone else does real work.
Please see the previous argument.
But your books are so gooooooood and I just can’t afford books right now.
You know what? I like electric cars. It’s kind of a fetish, really. But I can’t afford one—ironically enough, in part because of book piracy. That doesn’t mean it’s OK for me to break into a Tesla dealership and give myself a five-finger discount.
Of course a $5 ebook isn’t a Tesla, but the analogy holds. Do you steal your groceries? A frozen pizza costs about the same as an ebook. Would you steal that?
Look, if you’re reading this, you have some sort of Device. Ebook apps are free. Ebooks cost about the same as one or two foofy coffee drinks. Or a box of fish sticks. Or a six-pack of domestic beer. So, please.
My books are in libraries—in both the print and ebook collections. Who can’t afford a free library card?
Also, there are a number of monthly streaming services that allow people to gorge themselves on books for less than the price of a single ebook from a major publisher. My books are in these collections, too. Interested? Check out ScribD or the Kindle Lending Library. I’m sure there are more. At least the authors you say you love so much will get a piece of it.
Look. I love what I do. But just because I don’t hate my job doesn’t mean it’s not work, and it doesn’t mean I shouldn’t get paid when someone avails themselves of it.
OK, I’m feeling the stirrings of guilt. Now what can I do?
Let’s make a deal. You and I both know that people can steal content more or less with impunity. If your shoes are feeling tight right now, you might have even stolen some of mine. I’m not happy about it, but I am willing to offer a means of mitigating the negative karma.
If you steal a book, why not hop over to Goodreads, Amazon, Librarything or similar, and give it a review? Only if you liked it. If you didn’t like it, review something that you did like. Reviews sell books, which is why publishers and authors shower reviewers with free books. Review the damn book. That way, even if you didn’t pay for it, someone else might.
If you can’t give money, you can give time. Start a review site, or volunteer for one. Popping out 200 words of opinion isn’t that hard, is it? Most people write more than that on Facebook every day. If you won’t pay for the book, giving the author a little free promotion (you know, exposure) really is the least you can do.
If you’re really ambitious, you could start your own review site. Putting up a website is free and easy. Authors and publishers will fight to get you free books. If you build up a significant readership, you can choose your free books through NetGalley.
If you don’t want that kind of responsibility–and I understand, I do–why not volunteer for an existing review site? Many of them struggle under the weight of the FREE BOOKS that need reviewing. See? No need to steal. Everyone wins.
Just please, consider the kittens.
Peace and Warm Fuzzies,