Digital piracy is something many people are familiar with. Whether it is ebooks, films or music, there is this assumption that pirating doesn’t hurt anyone. That it’s okay.
I’ve heard many people talk of illegally downloading ebooks, many, many ebooks and often never even reading them. They seem to feel that it doesn’t hurt anyone. Despite many ebooks costing only 99 pence or a couple of dollars anyway it is still a very pirated form of literature. Then there’s the companies asking for extremely cheap labour who want ebooks written quickly and for no rights, no recognition and only a lump sum payment of about $10-20. I have read these adverts myself repeatedly. I have seen what they are asking for first-hand. This is a real problem. Here’s why these things are very bad for creative writing and writers in general.
1. The writer doesn’t get paid!
There’s this illusion that writers are rolling in money, that they are rich. Some are but they are the exceptions. They are the bestsellers with movie deals, the J.K Rowlings. The reality is that writers can barely find anyone willing to pay them a penny for their writing and digital piracy and online demand for ebooks has made it worse.
If you have an ebook on Amazon, for example, and you are a new writer you can barely get your book visible on the site to start with because you are not established and when it does sell a copy they take a fairly high percentage and only pay you when you get a certain amount of sales. Someone then digitally steals your book, that’s minus one sale. They then transfer it to all their friends who may not even read it. That’s several more lost sales and then someone pirates it, puts it up on ebay or on a free ebook site and your chances of sales have disappeared into nothingness. Everyone who might have wanted to buy it now has it for free. Imagine if you built and designed a chair and you paid for the materials to do so – with writing you might pay for software or an ebook cover design or an editor to check it or even marketing services. Imagine all the time and effort you put in making that product. Imagine someone comes along and is able to use a device to reproduce it in seconds, as many times as they like , without any time, effort, cost or skill and then they sell it or give it away for free and no one buys your chair. Do you think that this fair on the original creator? Do you think the creator will be able to work on their craft fulltime with no income from it? Who is going to create you new things if they have to give it up or stop letting people buy it. Should they give it to you for free? Would you work for free?
2. Quality suffers when ebooks are rushed.
One of the key conflicts in creative writing is between the writer’s desire to write a book they enjoy and that they want to be of good quality and the pressure of making money. Many companies are now jumping on the ebook bandwagon and trying to make regular income from having several titles out there. Often they don’t really care what the ebook is about or if it is even good. They just want the sales and they want the writers to do it for very little money and foe no rights. This means that the ebooks are written in about 1-2 weeks. I have seen adverts asking for 20000 words in a day! The quality, the passion, the actual artistic nature of the literature has then been completely destroyed. It is no longer art, it is a product. Yes writers need to make money and do often need to consider these things but I can’t believe that the quality of these ebooks wont suffer under such extreme deadlines.
Another problem here is the lack of rights. The author has no rights and no reconition, so how they progress in their career and develop a profile. Someone recently asked me for a ‘live example of my paid blogging work’ a phrase I found a little strange, and then I realised that evey freelance job I did was uncredited and that I didn’t even know where they were being posted. I wrote the article, sent it to the client and got paid. Writers are not being fully credited or recognized in these instances and so don’t gain a name for their work in the same way as a traditional journalist might.
3. Piracy breeds excessive consumpti0n
I’ve heard this phrase before, ‘I download thousands of ebooks but don’t read them. Why download so many then? Download ones that you really want to read. Or the opposite, ‘I’ve read tons of free ebooks’. Ok but about 99% of those writers didn’t get paid for that. You are using their services but not paying them! It’s liking having someone decorate your house and then refusing to pay them or like going to a play without ticket.
I’m not getting at people who do this. I’m not trying to shame people. I realise that most people think piracy is harmless but it isn’t. You are making someone work for nothing. You are hindering their career, their passion and their income. If all those writers who really care about their work suddenly can’t afford to write and you only have those who care about making as many ebooks as possible even if they are of bad quality, you will suffer too because you’ll be overrun with hordes of terrible ebooks.
One of the most frustrating things I saw ,when I tried releasing my own ebooks, was a copy of my own books that I had spent so much time on, being sold by another person who has never paid for a single copy from me. I’m not saying they’re good ebooks. There’s probably a million things I could’ve done better but I was trying something new and hope that I did a good job. If no one buys your ebook then you have to go back and rethink what you could do better but if they are stolen where is the feedback for the writer? I created them and put so much effort in to them and then someone comes along and steals it and redistributes them for people to download for free. How could it not make someone a little angry and frustrated?
The point is that every time someone downloads someone else’s copyrighted work for free, they are refusing to pay someone for their work. They are disheartening and demotivating some already underpaid writer. I don’t mean this to be a rant but do people really not understand that paying 99p for an ebook is fair yet they are happy to paid up to £5 for coffee with a brand name on it?
To all the passionate writers out there. I’ll pay 99p. I’ll even pay £2.99. Some people will pay for your work and do appreciate your efforts.
Keep working hard and keep enjoying it!