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I grew up in Colorado at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, then lived in Denmark and traveled throughout Europe before coming back to Colorado. I have two adult sons, whom I cherish. I started my writing career as a columnist and investigative reporter and eventually became the first woman editor of two different papers. Along the way, my team and I won numerous state and several national awards, including the National Journalism Award for Public Service. In 2011, I was awarded the Keeper of the Flame Lifetime Achievement Award for Journalism. Now I write historical romance and contemporary romantic suspense.


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Friday, December 19, 2008

Book pirates

Thanks, everyone, for sharing your Christmas traditions. Not long before Christmas is here! I haven’t decorated anything, or baked a single cookie, or bought a single gift, so I’m going to be busy.

I’ve spent the past several days protecting myself from pirates. Yes, book pirates.

It seems that out there in cyberspace, some people have decided that stealing novels electronically is the thing to do. They have hundreds, if not thousands, of titles available for immediate download by anyone with Internet access. Among the titles of mine that were available was one that hasn’t been converted to e-book format yet, which means that either someone forwarded an electronic ARC — or someone scanned it.

One of the women who was “sharing” books posted on her blog that she didn’t see what was wrong with “sharing” books and that she was tired of getting threatening letters and emails from publishers about copyright infringement and that she would continue to “share” books.

I wrote her a personal email and explained exactly what is wrong with stealing — not sharing — books in this way, and that’s what today’s post is about. This post isn’t directed at the FOPs — that’s Friends of Pamela — because I know they wouldn’t steal anyone’s books. Their respect for authors and for the work that goes into fiction writing is too high, and they’re also wonderful women. This post is directed for the many faceless Internet users out there who are engaged in book piracy.

Let me explain why it’s wrong to share electronic versions of books.

When you download a book off the Internet without paying an authorized bookseller, you deprive the author who wrote that story of money that would otherwise compensate her for the hard work that went into writing that book. You also deprive her of credit for that sale. The publisher won’t count your download toward her sales record. When they go to decide how much to pay the author for her next contract, they’ll pay her less than they might otherwise have done, thanks to you.

Much of the world operates under the misconception that all authors are millionaires. Most aren’t. Most hold jobs and struggle every week to carve out writing time in order to craft the stories that readers enjoy. Taking income from these writers is like stealing food from their refrigerator. Even if the amount of royalties they might have earned from your single download is small, that’s still stealing. Because you’re not the only one stealing, it adds up. But even if all authors were millionaires, stealing from them is still wrong.

The publishing industry doesn’t have a huge profit margin, and right now it’s struggling. Each publishing house employs lots of ordinary, everyday folks whose job it is to edit, lay out, print, box and ship these books. When you pirate books or download them illegally, you hurt not only the author, but these people, too. As more and more people pirate books and download them off the Internet, more and more money is lost, meaning that publishers are faced with printing fewer titles — yes, fewer books — paying authors less, and cutting back on staff. So not only does your illegal file-sharing hurt the author, it hurts a chain of people you don’t know and will never meet whose job it is to prepare these novels that you so enjoy.

It’s illegal. Would you walk into a store and steal stuff? Would you expect to be able to get your groceries, your gas, your clothes for free? Then why do you expect to get books for free? Illegal file-sharing and downloading books for free is just as wrong as stealing something from a store. And, yes, you could get busted. If you’re not clear about what it means to spend time in prison, please read my book Unlawful Contact. Based on four real-life investigations and my own time as a journalist going behind bars, it will highlight some of the more exciting possibilities for you.

It’s immoral. A lot of us live with the attitude that we are entitled to whatever we want. If we want something, that justifies what we do to get it. But we’re not entitled to anything. The world does not exist to meet our every whim and expectation. Wanting something does not justify stealing it. If you want it, earn it. Work for it.

I know as much as anyone how tough it is to make one’s way in the world. As a single mother, I was forced at one point to rely on food stamps and Medicaid for my kids. I know what it’s like to stand in line at the grocery store and have people sneering at you because you’re paying with food stamps. I know what it’s like to struggle to pay rent and utility bills and medical bills. But I didn’t steal to solve my problems. Being poor doesn’t justify stealing. My solution? I worked my behind off.

I still work very hard, both at my day job and as an author. I don’t have television. I rarely go to movies. I rarely go out with friends. Because my dream is writing fiction, I spend every spare minute I have writing stories. And when you pirate my books and share them with people illegally, you spit on that hard work, even while you enjoy the benefits of it.

Yes, your illegal book sharing is wrong and bad and mean. I expect the publishing industry will step up its enforcement as this problem grows. But rather than waiting to get busted, how about you stop it? Take down your sharing sites. Remove the links. And start paying for what you’re taking. If you can’t pay, then check out your library or the local used bookstore.

But don’t steal.

And now back to our regularly scheduled program...


Barbara said...

You know, Harlequin did something that is absolutely genius. In order to read one of their ebooks you must download a special program. This program will NOT allow you to copy or share any of the book.

I have the program, which I actually like so much better than Adobe. But I wonder if when *fingers crossed* I get my ereader for christmas I can tranfer the stories to it. Reading off the computer hurts my eyes too much and it can take me longer than normal to finish a book.

Ronlyn said...

You know my feelings on the subject. I stand behind you 110%

Sue Z said...

Well, said Pamela!

I get my e-books from, and my most favorite place of all for e-books.....My local & state librarie's on-line webistes!

If you want free ebooks...get them from the library! They are free and legal and you have them for 2 to 3 weeks and they simply expire when the lending period it up. Here is a link to check to see if your state had an on-line library

I am sorry that you had to deal with the stress of this, Pamela!

J said...

I have never read an e-book as I assume it would be a tad difficult to roll on my side and snuggle the doona up to my neck with a lap top in my face, but that is beside the point...just tryin' to make you smile, PC, my darlin'!

A well written, thought and hopefully conscience provoking essay my dear. Let's hope it falls on the right ears.

I didn't know these sites existed. The whole e book thing just doesn't appeal to me, mostly for the doona reason, but I also just love books.

Now, my eyes are blurring, I am so tired, so I must go, but take care and have a great Christmas won't you? Love always, J xx

JennJ said...

Oh Hon I'm so sorry this has happened to you and to any author. AMEN to what you said! You go girl. What they are doing is just plain wrong. Unbelievable how people think that it doesn't hurt people or mean anything. I personally don't like eBooks I like to have one I can take and curl up on my couch or in the bed and read but I know it's a growing thing and getting bigger all the time. I pray this part of stealing them doesn't grow along with it. That is really a big shame. Shakes head.

Tena said...

that is not right if they want to share loan their book out to a friend not copy it to take from the author hope they fix it and if the want to do it do it right where you get money for them copying it

Tena said...

that is not right if they want to share loan their book out to a friend not copy it to take from the author hope they fix it and if the want to do it do it right where you get money for them copying it

Lori said...

A lot of authors are posting about this right now. I'm so sorry that you are one of the affected authors.

And Barbara, yes you can transfer your Harlequin books to an ereader. There are programs that convert .lit files. Or you can buy it in PDF and convert the PDF. Pretty simple.

Barbara said...

Thanks for the info Lori. I have quite a few books and I'm happy to know I will be able to put them on a reader. :)

Anonymous said...

Great post but that's a shame you actually had to write it. You know I'm behind you on this. I'm sorry you have to go through all this.((hugs))

I don't read ebooks...I need to feel the book, the pages, to smeel it, to cuddle on the couch with it. Might sound weird but I know I'm not the only one in that case.

Like J I didn't know such sites existed until you mentioned it. And I don't understand why a reader would go through the process of scanning a whole book...

I had a talk on more or less the same subject with the kids I work with a week or so ago. They steal music, downloading it from the internet. And I had a hard time trying to make them understand how unfair for the artists and how disrespectful of their work it was. And I'm still not sure I got the message through...

I wish some action were taken...and not just a slap on the hand. Maybe it would frighten the others into stopping stealing books or music? Or maybe i'm just a tad too naive...


Debbie H said...

I say string them up! I hate that people are doing this and thinking there is nothing wrong about it. So sorry it happened to you, sweetie, and other authors like you, who work so hard to give us a wonderful escape.


Zeek said...

It is stealing and you have a right to by angry.

(Lynn Viehl just posted on this exact same subject too- and I'm wondering if it's the same guilty party.)

Anyway, hang in there- when they start hitting the big names who can afford to actually do something about it- like Metallica did with napster- it'll stop ... or at least slow down!


Btw, finally got the chance to start Untamed (loving it too!) and am ticked I had to put it down before I finished it. I'm also ticked I haven't had the time to get back to it! I WILL finish it tonight though.. Guarnteed! :D

Amanda said...

Oh my gosh that is horrible, I had no idea this went on! *hugs sweetie*

That is so wrong!! I stand firmly behind you on this matter

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