Thursday, March 22, 2012

Pirates.

There was an interesting article in one of the weekend papers about pirating ebooks - something I've never given any thought to before but I keep coming back to it now, not least because it chimed with an earlier piece, and my own experience, of shop lifting in bookshops. The gist of the article was that an author had seen somewhere on line somebody offering a reward to anyone who would pirate his new (and I think d├ębut) novel. He wasn't best pleased but attempted to engage in conversation with the would be thief.

The initial explanation boiled down to this: I want the book, I don't want to pay for it, I don't have to, and what can you do about it? Other justifications include 'I've already bought the book in another format why should I pay again', 'it's not available as a paid for ebook in my region', 'it's more expensive than a paper book (which I don't want) and that's not fair', 'I don't know if I'll like it and don't want to spend my money until I know I will', and the one that makes me want to slap whoever says it - 'knowledge should be free'. This is the sort of reasoning that makes me yell at the screen/radio/paper -"What about a LIBRARY you cretin".

The dishonesty involved in pinching something is one thing, but it's also something I imagine we've all done in some form - stationary from work, the thing you borrowed... The souvenir peat from Laphroaig distillery (that might just be me). What I struggle with is how people will try and justify stealing an authors work - there's really no argument against the 'I can and I will' attitude but if you're going so far as to make an excuse you know you're wrong - don't you?

Frankly if you can afford an e-reader (and all the free stuff out there isn't enough for you) you can sure as dammit afford to pay for the books of living authors trying to make ends meet - and if you don't want to do that do without - or go to a library, show there's a need for them and help keep them open. 

I know the genie is out the bottle on this one, there's no going back to a more civilised way of doing business - you know, when we bought actual things with actual cash money (and probably spent time balancing cheque books too) but as someone who works in retail the way people steal things bothers me - it's frightening if people don't admit they're doing it. There's no such thing as a victimless crime, we all pay one way or another, and the more things taken without payment the more those who do pay have to cough up - and that's not fair either. In my own little world,  where books are still strictly the paper sort, most of my purchases are second hand - which isn't great for authors incomes either, but then most the writers I favour are dead so I don't suppose they mind so much (it could be better news for the publishers though) but if this rant had a purpose (and I admit it might not) it's that this has been another reminder to think about how I spend my money.     

13 comments:

  1. The would-be pirate actually advertized for someone to steal the book? That's pretty brazen - he must have been counting on the "anonymity" of the web to protect him, or else he wasn't concerned about the consequences.

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    1. I got the impression that he just wasn't that bothered about the consequences - I got the impression that there weren't really any. I don't think they were looking to make money out of the piracy which is perhaps another reason they don't feel that what they're doing is theft but it must be maddening for the writer (an musicians) who have there hard work ripped off.

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  2. I totally agree with you on this - well put.

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  3. Very interesting. This is something I've never really thought about but in my mind the main appeal of ereaders is the access they give you to out of print books - about as far from pirating new releases as you can get!

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    1. With such a vast quantity of free stuff out there it does look greedy to want more. I gather some established authors aren't to bothered about piracy (Neil Gaiman was mentioned) but he's reached the point in his career where his income won't be unduly threatened so he can afford that. I don't buy into the argument about free publicity either - it doesn't help if everybody knows about you but won't pay for your work.

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  4. Very well put, I agree with you entirely. It infuriates me about the illegal downloading of music too. I don't expect those who buy pirated books etc. would care for someone to be removing a lump of cash from their pay-packet each month...

    The trouble is that it's such a widespread problem and so hard at the moment anyway to combat. Our simply saying, this is dreadful, isn't going to be enough. How to resolve it since prosecuting pirates or illegal readers isn't practical is the big question, and it will require great creativity to find this solution. Shaming people doesn't seem to work.

    Helen (gallimaufry)

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    1. PS I'd love to read the article you mention; is it available online?

      Helen

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    2. After a bit of hunting... The article is here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/mar/16/lloyd-shepherd-ebook-pirates-mobilism?INTCMP=SRCH I found the comments (of which there are many) generally more interesting than the article.

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    3. Also, one of the comments said you can borrow e-books from some libraries - which sounds like a brilliant idea. I work in a supermarket (for my sins) and one thing that shocks me every single time I see it is how people will eat as they go round. The honest ones pay for the wrappers but I find all sorts remains shoved behind my wine bottles. It's disgusting, and theft, and like book and music piracy an indicator that we've generally arrived at a point where we just assume we can have what we want, when we want, and regardless of our ability or willingness to pay for it. It's the sense of entitlement that's worrying - and impossible to combat.

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    4. Thanks for the link Hayley! It's often the case that the comments are more interesting than the articles, or at least supplement them - a real bonus to reading online. (Of course, comments can be nasty too.)

      I can understand that sometimes you might let a wailing hungry toddler eat some of your grapes as you went round the supermarket, but adults doing it is just weird - and that's before the dishonesty. This isn't quite the same thing, but sort of is - I remember seeing a piece on the news a while ago about cheap clothing sold in Britain and the poor working conditions in which it was often produced, and shoppers were interviewed to discover whether they thought about the ethics of what they bought and whether they'd be prepared to pay a little more to ensure better working conditions. To a woman, they said they'd rather have cheap clothes. (I mean, they didn't even bother to lie about it to appear socially acceptable.) Perhaps there was bias in the reporting, but a little part of me died when I heard that. I understand now why we'll never prevent catastrophic climate change and terrible poverty will always exist - if you are comfortable and safe and still think that purchasing (in many cases) non-essentials is more important than others' well-being, there really is no hope.

      We can only do what we can I suppose, and fight it when we find it.

      A slightly depressed Helen

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    5. I think it's worse when people do lie about it, but you're right it doesn't hold out much hope does it. On the other hand there are also plenty of people who behave decently so perhaps all is not lost. I hope you've cheered up a bit since this morning.

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  5. I wholly agree, and "What about a LIBRARY you cretin" is my new favourite phrase.

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    1. In the privacy of my own home my language is a bit more Anglo Saxon - but the sentiment is the same.

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