The first post deals with her exchange with someone on Twitter that claimed that by pirating a copy of a book in a region where the book is not being sold they were somehow "sending a message" to a publisher on the author's behalf. Rene makes several interesting points. She writes:
1) Book piracy is theft. My exchange with the other tweeter ended with him/her conceding that illegal downloading was wrong, but that "it's understandable since publishers are behind the times." Well, no. Wanting something doesn't give you the right to it. My four-year-old son is beginning to get the hang of this idea; surely an adult can. when you steal these books, you are not sending a message to the publisher. The publisher does not owe you books. The people in publishing are there because they love books, but it's still a business. A publisher tanking means they can't bring you more books. Furthermore, you are stealing money from the author and affecting that author's sales. Espcially for debut authors, this can seriously hurt their careers. You are not striking a blow to the man, you are hurting people who have worked very hard to get published and mostly don't make all that much money.Her second post is about the wealth of legal free online reading already available. She writes:
2) The global market isn't. There may be a global audience, but distribution and rights are still regional. And if sales in a region are siphoned away by piracy, publishers will assume there's no market in that region, because there are no sales. You can blithely wave your hands and say ebooks should be available everywhere, but the facts are more complicated and involve lawyers and contracts.
3)If you really want to convince a publisher that there's a market for a particular book or ebook in your region, the way to do that is not by stealing from them. That tells them exactly nothing. The way to communicate with a publisher is to communicate with a publisher. Not with the authors- as much as they wish they could, this isn't something they have control over: the publisher. Most publisher's websites will have some kind of contact page; write the publisher and tell them you want to see this book in your region in your preferred format. That will have far more impact than illegally downloading a book. Publishers want to connect with readers, both because they are readers and because they want to sell you books. They are not rubbing their hands together going "mwah ha ha" thinking of ways to screw any given region out of a book. They want to get the book out to as many readers as they can.
4)The other way to convince a publisher that there's a market is to buy books in your region. You may have to wait longer- there are books that came out in the UK last year that I'd quite like to read, but I'm waiting until they show up in US bookstores so that US publishers will know that there's a market for British books here. If you really can't wait, buy the book off Book Depository- they ship internationally free of charge. Just know that you're not helping your region get that book (or books like it.) (And I note Book Depository offers some free ebooks, too.)
5)If cost is an issue, there's always the library. Libraries are awesome. If they don't have the book you want, they can order it for you, and the author will see both money and sales figures from that sale.
6)If, at this point, you are still going to say that you prefer to read ebooks, and the ebook isn't available for your region, I'm not sure what to say. I prefer to eat caviar off the hood of a brand new Bentley, but that's not going to happen. Wanting something doesn't make you entitled to it. If you still go out and download something illegally, at least don't try and justify it by saying you're making a statement to a publisher. You aren't. You're just stealing books.
After reading the twitter tag #ebookdownloads yesterday, some interesting things got repeated a lot by those who admitted to torrenting ebooks for whatever reason. A lot of people said things along the lines of "I'll illegally download a book, and if I like it, I'll go buy it," or, "I can't afford a book right now, but I'll pay for it later," or, "I live somewhere where books (or English language books) are scarce/ hard to come by." The thing that gets me about these statements is this: there is an assload of free fiction available on the internets.
Rene then lists sources of plenty of free online content, including (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Strange Horizons, Tor.com), authors and publishers' websites, web-based fiction sites like the excellent Shadow Unit, and all the free books on Kindle and Nook etc. (with a site called Books on the Knob that keeps you up to date on what's free.) None of these outlets are stealing - all these sites are giving you free fiction. Given this wealth of options, Rene concludes:
These are the ones I thought of immediately. I'm sure there are other legal ways to get free fiction. There's no reason to illegally download books unless you are possessed of a vast sense of entitlement and a lack of giving a shit about who you're hurting when you steal from them.