E-books, Used Books, and Piracy

Jolly Roger Pirate Flag

A terrific essay on authorial control by Cherie Priest, posted on her blog and reprinted with permission at SFWA. I was especially delighted by what she has to say about libraries and used books, since recently I’ve seen an awful lot of doom, gloom, and anger from some writers about not getting a second royalty on used books, resold:

If your friend has a copy of a book and loans it to you, that’s awesome. If you enjoy the book, maybe you’ll even go buy some other books by the author. However, I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that you likely won’t pass that book around to a few thousand of your closest friends. Due to the restrictions of the space-time continuum, a physical object is unlikely to find itself enjoyed by more than a handful of people. The same principle applies to used bookstores. Really, at the end of the day, a used bookstore is just a borrowing service that comes with a fee.

Ms. Priest offers quite a good list of things authors can reasonably expect to control with regard to the books we write, and things writers simply cannot control no matter how badly we might wish we could. She also links to a thoughtful post by Nicole Peeler about e-piracy—a subject nearly guaranteed to send many writers into foaming-at-the-mouth, incoherent fury.

Then I found a site for fans of paranormal romance and urban fantasy. It’s a pretty, pink site with links to authors websites and contests, along with reviews and lots of excited discussion of new series, or new books coming out, or old books recently discovered. In other words, it’s a pretty typical fan site for readers of my genre. Only with one difference: this website also offers our novels, free for download. The authors of this site even ask those who download a book to leave a comment, to let them know that “their work was appreciated.”


My first thought was, “Oh my God, how could you! You say you’re fans of our work and then you’d steal from us?” My second thought was, “Where is my downloadable form from Hachette’s legal department, so I can get their lawyers on this shit.” My third thought, after I’d filled out and sent the required forms, and cleaned my bedroom to cool off, was, “Okay, let’s say they are really fans of our genre, as they claim. That means they are not doing this piracy to hurt us. They don’t know what their actions mean.”

Both posts are well worth reading.

5 thoughts on “E-books, Used Books, and Piracy

  1. I was reading throught some of the posts and i locate them to be altogether attention-grabbing. sorry my english is not exaclty the actually best. would there be anyway to transalte this into my vernacular, spanish. it would in reality better me a lot. since i could compare the english lingo to the spanish language.