I just read this piece
, one author's view on how illegal downloads of books may be hurting her career and her ability to get more work out there.
And I got to thinking. And since it's a snowday, I might as well think out loud.
Numbers below are rough estimates, and I may be completely deluding myself in one direction or another.Library books
-- I borrow, on average, about 5 library books a week. This includes at least 2 ILLs a month. Working in a library is very bad for my self-control! Note, I do not read 5 books a week. I read a little over 3 books a week total. Some of these books go back, eventually, unread, or barely skimmed, or begun and abandoned. -- The author has gotten paid for these books, albeit they would have gotten more if I'd bought my own copy. However, in 90% of the cases, if they weren't available through the library, I wouldn't have had enough interest in them to buy them.Library e-books
-- I borrow, on average, hrm, 1-2 ebooks a week. I only get 2 weeks to read them, as I can't play the renew/don't return game with them. They expire in 2 weeks if you don't return them before that. Because I can only have 3 checked out at a time, and 5 holds, these tend to be books I want to read. I tend to make more of an effort to read them. But I still do not read all of them. Maybe 2/3rds? -- The author has been paid for these books (or their publisher is screwing them!). If they weren't available as library ebooks, I would have borrowed them as regular library books. I probably would not have bought any of them. I may or may not have cracked the DRM on some of them. These hypothetical books would have been ones I already owned physical copies of and had already read. So, hypothetically, the author had already been paid twice by me and my (very hypothetical) tax dollars.
In both of the above cases, I'm contributing to stats. If the book is circulating well, another copy will be bought. In the case of physical books, if they wear out or get damaged, a replacement copy will be bought.Used or remaindered books
-- I buy.. a lot of these, in fits and spurts. I just bought maybe half a dozen from Amazon and most should arrive today, all in separate packages, snow-willing. Included in here is bookcloseouts or overstock.com or half.com or Amazon marketplace or is it bookdepository.uk, something like that. Also included are library booksales, the Used Book Superstore down the street, stores that happen to have random used manga, etc, etc. I do not end up reading like 95% of them. But they where cheap, dangit! -- The author is not getting paid for these. The ones that are out of print, the author wouldn't get paid for in any case, unless and until they were reprinted. I'm a little hard-pressed to say how this helps the author in a direct or closely indirect financial way. Though it might make them feel better to know people are still buying their books and if supply exceeds demand, the used book price will go up, another ego-boo. But.. still.New books bought!
-- Yes, I do buy books and I buy them new! I have not yet bought an e-book, so these are only print books. Do I average maybe 2 a month of these? If I'm at a con, such as Wiscon in particular, I might buy 10-15 of them, until I start to realize I need to lug all this home in my luggage. I will buy from small publishers directly. I will buy from independent bookstores (A Room of One's Own in particular). I will buy from Amazon, especially when it comes to pre-ordering books. I will buy from Borders or Barnes and Noble if I have a gift card or a good coupon. How many of these
books do I read? Theoretically these are books I really want. Yet I have no deadline for reading them. So the library books weigh heavily on my mind, as well as books I'm due to review on Triple Take
. I think it'd be pushing it to say I read a third of these. Though I always intend to read them all eventually! -- The author has been paid. And if they're new releases, they've been given stats at the very best time to get them.ARCs received
-- I get very few review copies. Yet I have gotten some from Netgalley and LibraryThing. I struggle with the obligation to review them. I would've reviewed them anyway, since I try to review everything I read, but now it's a review I have
to write, or that I strongly should
write. And that makes me not do it. Sigh. I also don't read all of them. When it's a DRM PDF with BAD FORMATTING, then I'm not going to bother. If you're going to take the trouble to put them on Netgalley, make them readable, please. --- I don't believe authors get paid for these in any way, but ARCs are part of the accepted system. They go to reviewers and bookbuyers and help get the word out. They lead to sales. If it was a book I was going to buy anyway, I'll still buy it when it comes out, to have a nicer copy.Ebooks legally downloaded free
-- I think it's great when the first book in a series is provided free and easily online. I think it's great what Cory Doctorow's trying to do. It's a model that's working for him. I have downloaded ebooks from both of these scenarios. I have also downloaded public domain works, but nobody expects to be getting checks there. -- Authors aren't directly getting paid. But they've agreed to this and they or their publisher/agent believe it will lead to more sales. And I tend to agree.Ebooks illegally downloaded
-- Apart from the hypothetical DRM cracking, I have not done this. I have poked around and tried to find sites to do it on, but not found one with the content I wanted. -- If I were to do this, the author would not get paid.. except for the initial book the scan or crack was taken from. Would I have bought the book anyway though? Probably not. Or I might read it and really like it and buy a copy after the fact. Would this has come from the pool of books I borrow from the library? Probably, yes. These would be books I'd be taking a punt on. A no obligation, no fee punt. I might like it, I might not, I'm not obliged to read it.
So, taking all of the above.. for the authors, in decreasing order of bestitude, it's best if I:
1. Buy new, especially right when it comes out, especially in hard cover.
2. Borrow from the library. In print or ebook format.
3. Get ARCs or legally download for free, because it's legal and it gets the word out and leads indirectly to more sales.
4. Buy used/remaindered books.
5. Illegally download books for free.
And I kind of have a hard time seeing why 5 is vastly worse than 4. 4 could be lending support to libraries (booksales) and small bookstores, which are both good for authors in a wide-lens view. And somehow it's legal and not stepping on copyright. Somehow. Not that authors have actually signed something to say they agree to have their used books sold.
With 5, you're doing something people generally accept as illegal, against copyright. And most authors haven't agreed to it, though some tacitly approve.
I guess my point in all of this is that people, at least me!, get their books from various sources and for various reasons. And that just because I might have gotten the book through methods 5, 4, 3, or 2, doesn't mean I'm stealing a sale away from the author, because I would not have bought my own, new copy.
And that all the methods, even 5, contribute indirectly to help the author, even financially. No matter how I've gotten ahold of a book, if I read it, I will likely review it. I'll at least list it on my list of read books. If I liked it, and it's part of a series, I'll read more in the series. If I liked it, I'll try some of the author's other books. If I liked it, I might buy my own copy. If I liked it, I might buy a copy for someone else. If I liked it, I might recommend it to someone else. If I liked it a lot, I might check out your author blog and start keeping up with what you're doing and thinking currently.
So what I'm saying is that yes, we should all be buying as many new books as we believe we can afford and have room for. And when we can't, we should be borrowing from the library or trying to get our hands on review copies (not an option for most people!). But that we shouldn't blow the illegally downloaded books all out of proportion. Some people download them because they can. Some like having a big virtual library. They're hoarders. They're not actually reading your stuff. They would not have bought your book. And those that do read this illegal copy of your book may then go on to do all or some of the things I listed in the above paragraph.
But I do agree in general with the essay I linked to above. As readers, we should all be aware of where the money goes. How our actions impact the creators of the works we love. If you want to read more awesome stuff, they need to get paid! And if you can't afford to pay them, do everything you can to make sure SOMEONE is -- your library, the friend you convinced to buy a copy, the 10 people reading your review you convinced, et. al.
Tangential thought.. that J. K. Rowling, Stephen King, other mega-bestselling authors, and ABC construction Richard Castle, are leading people to think that most authors are well-off, if not rich, and so you're not really hurting anyone. It's like stealing from Walmart or an insurance company, right? They'll hardly feel it. Fight the rich author stereotype!
Thanks for reading.
If you'd like to support ME as an author, then please consider contributing to Clarion
. I'm trying to pay it backwards. And you'll be supporting future awesome sf/f writers.
P.P.S. (I left out books borrowed from friends. I only read one of those a year maybe, though I'll be doing it for a TT review shortly. There's also BookCrossing, but I've never captured a book from there. And oh, Christmas and birthday presents. And.. well, other methods, in which the author got paid at some point, but not by me.)