Book Piracy – You should be Flattered

“being well-enough known to be pirated [is] a crowning achievement.”
Tim O’Reilly from the essay, Piracy is ProgressiveTaxation,

Book Piracy is not bad
Microsoft Royalty Free image courtesy of NVTOfficeClips

I get asked by Booktrope authors quite often “I just found out my book is being pirated on this site, what should I do?” My answer – celebrate and be flattered.

I have a feeling I may anger some people with this post, but you know what, I am OK with that. This is my opinion, of course, but it is also supported by some other people who are far smarter than I am, not to mention more famous and financially successful.

But first, an exercise:

  • Do you borrow or loan friends books?
  • Do you borrow books from the library?
  • Do you ever go to a used book store?
  • Do you give or receive books as gifts?

If you answered “yes” to any of the above, you have already participated in a “free” reading scenario – it is just that these are socially acceptable forms. The above is quite close to the example that Neil Gaiman has used in his own talks on the topic. You can see him describe it himself in this video.

Have you ever thought of piracy this way?

  • Someone thought enough of your work, that they were willing to commit an illegal act.
  • Someone thought enough of your work, that they think it will drive traffic to their website.
  • People who frequent piracy sites were never going to buy your book. If they can’t get your book for free, they will read someone else’s instead. They are fundamentally opposed to paying for books, or they would not be using a piracy site to begin with.

In other words, you should be flattered that your book has been pirated. You should be thankful that one more person has been given the opportunity to tell others how amazing your work is.

“My fans’ tireless evangelism for my work doesn’t just sell books–it sells me.”
– Corey Doctorow – Author and Editor of Boing-Boing

One of the most outwardly supportive of book piracy is also insanely successful, author Paolo Coehlo. He not only defends piracy as a legitimate method of art appreciation, he has been known to actively pirate his own work. He was especially vocal about the issue when SOPA was making the news in early 2012, but continues his stance to this day. In fact, he is a very active user on Wattpad (where authors share their work directly with other authors and readers). Important note – Wattpad is not a piracy site. Authors who post their work there must have the appropriate permissions to do so, and/or own their work.

“As an author, I should be defending ‘intellectual property’, but I’m not. Pirates of the world, unite and pirate everything I’ve ever written!”
– Paolo Coehlo – Author

Disagree? Don’t hesitate to tell me about it.


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