Almost every day I see someone posting online about reading my books for free as eBooks, uploading my books so that other people can read them for free, or actively ASKING someone else to upload the books for this purpose.
This is something, again, that I see every day.
And every day it makes me want to cry.
Of course, I’ve written about this before (go read this post for my in depth thoughts on the matter).
But one of the things that continues to astound and amaze me is how many people either don’t know (or choose not to think about) the fact that this is both wrong and illegal. Now, we’re not talking about a technicality here. It’s not some obscure law that makes epiracy essentially a victimless crime.
When you upload a book (or any copyrighted material) for others to read for free you are taking someone’s property (my books) and distributing it to people without paying for it.
I know that becuase we’re talking about an electronic file that you read on a computer or iPad or something, it feels different from, say, walking into Barnes and Noble, shoving the book down your pants and running for the door…
It FEELS different…
But it isn’t. You are doing that, but worse. You’re actually potentially taking thousands of books. THOUSANDS because for every file you upload those files will be downloaded by many, many more people. Some of those people might post them to other piracy sites, and then things spread like wildfire.
So let’s say that I get paid $1 for every book that I sell. Let’s say you upload my books to your site and then 10,000 people download it for free (a very, very conservative number I’m using here. Actually, it’s far higher.). That’s $10,000 that I should rightfully have, so there is a victim–me.
And not just the author, but this also hurts publishers, editors, agents, bookstores, and even libraries. (Again, go read this to get more detail.)
If you really want to read a book and you don’t have the money to buy that book, I understand. Boy, do I ever understand…
But that’s what libraries are for. If your library doesn’t have the book, that’s when you ask your librarian if they could possibly order it (I’ve met a lot of librarians in the past 5 years, and they all assure me that they always try to accommodate these requests–in fact, they love getting suggestions from readers.) If your library can’t order their own copy, almost all are hooked up to some sort of interlibrary loan system, so they can borrow it from another library for you to read.
See? There is a way, and it doesn’t involve stealing.
Just ask yourself this: would I shoplift this book from a store? If the answer is no, then don’t download it online. And please don’t upload or scan your copies for others to download.
It hurts, folks. It hurts more than you can possibly understand.
PS: EDITED TO ADD…
Some people have expressed concern about whether it’s okay to loan books to friends or not. To this I say, “absolutely!” Once a person has purchased a book it’s their right to do with that book what they wish–loan it, sell it in a garage sale, donate it to a women’s shelter, whatever! Because that book is just that: one book. If you were going to fire up the Xerox machine and crank out thousands of copies we’d have a very different situation, but the key is that book is still just one book.
It’s like this… Say you go toa diner and buy a club sandwich. Say you only eat half of it and you decide to give the rest to your friend. Have you stolen from the diner? Nope. You paid for a sandwich and you got a sandwich–who enjoys it after you is up to you.
But say instead of giving your sandwich away you break a window in the back of the diner and hang up a sign that says “Crawl through here to take free sandwiches! (But please support the diner…)”
That’s the difference.