- About the wiki
- How this wiki works
- NEED HELP?
- Art and Artists
- All Gay Fiction ... our new blog!
- Free Gay E-fiction
- Book Launches
- The Booklovers' Lounge
- Cover Art Gallery
- Professional Services
- Publishers Now Reading
- USER FORUMS
- New Members
- The Press Room
- Advertise with us
- Terms Of Service
Will sets out to help Takoda and his tribe preserve some of their identity... and ends up finding his own. More...
People confound young, brilliant, college professor Brendon, including his boss. So when Josh, the assistant football coach, pursues him, Brendon isn’t sure what to make of him. More...
The love of men for men in the harsh yet magnificent world of historic America: here is a tale of passion and power, ambition and treachery in the beautiful Sangre de Cristo mountains. More...
Why Pirating Small-Press Ebooks Threatens Digital Freedom.
(A semi-paranoid and quasi tongue-in-cheek look at ebook piracy)
You take the blue pill, and all of this goes away….
Didn’t you ever wonder why corporate publishing houses don’t vigorously enforce their copyrights over pirated ebooks? Did they ever come after you when you posted their cracked-DRM ebooks to Limewire, Megaupload, Livejournal, Yahoo Groups, and the like? Do they even notice? Have you heard, well, anything about Random House or Bantam or Dell or Tor or Baen suing some poor basement-living schmuck who distributed 312 copies of one of their dark fantasy titles on Megaupload? Sure, every now and then you hear of Bloomsbury or some other big company threatening a copyright lawsuit, but does anything ever come of it? Tell the truth, in all your little pirating lives, none of you have ever been threatened by lawyers or served with a C&D, have you? And you never will, so long as you keep right on doing what you’re doing.
According to all outward appearances, Corporate publishing houses just do not seem to give a flying damn if you steal the digital versions of their titles. Despite their expensive use of DRM, which they know perfectly well does almost nothing to deter you, they keep using it and making angry, growly noises in the media when they have a chance to. It’s called misdirection, my little hook-handed pirates. You’ve been labeled. Publishing conglomerates have stamped and stereotyped all readers into 2 classes: the inactive/disconnected and the active/connected. If you use an ereader and you’re inactive in things like TV forums and Facebook, you don’t bother trawling all over the web to get your swag; you buy the ebooks through the regular channels and Corporate gets your money that way. You’re also probably not active in fandom, because if you were, you’d have known where to get that ebook for free. The money corporate publishing gets from the inactive/disconnected is probably all the money they can get from them, and they know it.
Now, if you’re active/connected and you use an ereader, you were never going to buy that book anyway. You illegally download your much-awaited ebook and read it gleefully on your monitor or cracked Kindle, satisfied and happy in the knowledge that you have royally shafted the system with your superior intelligence and awesome, anarchy-loving, rebellious slyness.
But while you sit there congratulating yourself, the machine churns on. Unknown to you, you’ve swallowed the blue pill. Your pockets may be too empty to pick, but you can still be made to service the machine. The benevolent machine has tolerated your theft because they can get mileage out of you another way. Your designation is now "buzzmachine."
You (the buzzmachine) have not paid for the merchandise you’ve taken, but all those ebooks you stole and are talking about and blogging about and making websites for and icons for and using your cracked CS3 to make banners for and making Yahoo Groups for and demanding a movie for are –thanks to your tireless and enthusiastic internet efforts - FLYING off the brick bookstore $helves.
Flying, dudes. Like Neo over Chicago flying. (*note, this essay reads better if you now start to hear Morpheus’s voice in your head):
“You may believe that you’ve committed all these actions by your own choice,” (says Morpheus) “but you’re wrong…”
All you’ve done, coppertop, is mindlessly chase the latest shiny in pop culture that you’ve been programmed to pursue. If one of your friends likes it, you hear about it on their MySpace or FaceBook. They get you to read it. If they blog, you blog. They cast an imaginary movie from the book, you come up with a different one. You make a Quizilla about which character you are most similar to in the book. You make the book cover one of your icons on Dreamwidth. You add it to your favorites. You add it to Shelfari. You bookmark it on delicious as “AWESOME_READ!” Best of all, you share the pirated ebook with your buddies, and the cycle goes on and on and on. In the meantime, people are getting rich. People who aren’t you.
Well, some people anyway.
I have to say, it really chaps my ass when they slap the label of pirates on you guys. Pirates are cool. Pirates are smart. Pirates question things. Pirates buck the system in ways the system hasn’t thought of yet. You guys? Not so much. You’re more like nanos.
Basically, you’re not the pirates. You’re inside the Matrix, sedated, cooperative, and working hard for the machine.
I’m the damn pirate.
Me, the small press ebook author, participating in undermining the superstructure of corporate publishing one dollar at a time, refusing to sit on my hands and wait on a single manuscript while some editor in a skyscraping office takes his sweet-ass time getting back to me over the course of an entire fucking year. Refusing to contribute to the slushpile, refusing to believe “it’s who you know, not what you write”, refusing to draft query letters , refusing to write a CV, refusing to network, dumping my subscription to Writer’s Market, dumping Writer’s Digest magazine, dumping my agent. Me, who was producing free ebooks, free content, free ezines, and free fiction for years before Stephen King’s 1-dollar-a-download model.
Me, whose little fandom hobbies helped define the current usage of Fair Use Copyright. Me, the author of transformative works, derivative fiction, fanfiction, manips, icons, fanpages, fiction archives, webrings, songfic, filk, drabble, darkfic, smutfic, flash, slash, spoof, and my own damn stuff.
Even though I create the same works as the coppertops, and even though I fondly consider you, the coppertops, as my brethren and brothers in arms against all things corporate, airbrushed, labeled, and Generally Accepted, the machine no longer recognizes me as belonging. In fact, the machine would very much like to stop me and the legions like me from producing any ebooks at all, and the real kicker here is that the machine is going to use you to do it.
By convincing you that there’s no difference between me and the machine.
Oh, I forgot to mention the other thing pirates do: they look a gift horse in the mouth, because they once heard a story about a tiny little place called Troy. All that free fiction, all those ebooks just floating around. Free as a breeze. Free as a feather on a summer breeze. Sigh. Isn’t this just nice?
Nothing is this world is free, me lovelies. There’s a price for everything. Anyone who tells you different is either trying to get you into church or get into your pants. Possibly both at the same time.
The machine has conditioned your brain to believe that all content is prey and fair game. They do this not to make you happy (and really, don’t you deserve to be happy?) but so you can be utilized to destroy the competition of the machine at present and in perpetuity.
Because, you see, unlike corporate publishing houses where the end-product is a paper novel, there typically is no secondary end-product of a small press ebook. The ebook is the end product, and they usually only go to print – at inflated prices because of the exorbitant fees that Lightning Source and retail distributors (Amazon) demand – once the ebook has proven profitable. The small press ebook threatens corporate publishing revenue because independent ebook companies siphon money away from them, and corporations – being corporations – must expand or die. There is never “enough” money to satisfy a corporation.
So why haven’t they tried to stop you from sharing so many ebooks? It’s not because you’re so devilishly clever that no one can find out what you’re uploading or where. Everything digital leaves a trail. The location of your ISP didn’t elude them, and neither did your brilliant plan of using a public proxy server. You can’t escape someone who isn’t bothering to look for you. They already know you’re working for them, and they know you’ll be back.
Here’s a chart, xkcd style.
Unfortunately, once the small press ebook has been pirated, there is no secondary product or sales venue for the consumer to pursue. Even the Underpants Gnome cannot make cash flow back upward from the question marks of no return. Once an independent ebook has been seeded on the internet in large numbers, it reaches a saturation point and sales usually slow down to a trickle.
But sometimes the underdog wins. Ellora’s Cave, one of the current heavy-hitters in ebook publishing, reports that their website receives 50,000 hits a day and they sell 70,000 books a month. (see *source) Seventy thousand sales a month of what amounts to nothing more, in tangible-worth terms, than digital vapor. Ellora’s Cave can no longer be considered small-press, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have enemies. The machine does not welcome new members, especially not uppity new members with crazy ideas about satisfying a readership outside of the accepted literary mainstream. That’s why Ellora’s Cave alleged in a 2008 lawsuit (see *source2) that bookstore conglomerate Borders tried to put them out of business through a process known as “churning”, or placing excessive orders for paperbacks that Borders (allegedly) knew they would not be able to sell. The paperbacks were returned to EC for credit – after EC footed the printing costs- and EC alleged in a lawsuit that the returns were intended to reduce the amount owed to EC for the books that were sold and create a credit balance in Borders’ favor.
Ooh, naughty. The machine is infinitely crafty, my little nose miners, and it adapts. What (you might ask) is the machine’s purpose in all this?
Pish. I’m surprised you asked. Now I question your dedication to digital freedom. I question your general life experience. I question your worthiness to wear that pirate hat.
Imagine Morpheus coming back into the room now, please. He fixes you with that polished-lens stare and says:
Monopoly. It’s more than a board game. It’s more than just grabbing all the money in the world and stuffing it in your ears and saying PBBBBBT!
If you aid in driving small presses out of business by depriving them of profit or by sharing too many of their titles, that only serves to do the machine’s work for it. Little or no competition for the market share means that corporate publishing automatically gains greater control over how ebooks are produced and sold. A digital publishing monopoly means that not only can corporations determine what will be available for you to read, they can dictate how you’ll be able to read it. What about a world where you would have to crack every single ebook you downloaded, from anywhere? And it would get harder and more annoying to crack, too. What about a world that could send out a computer signal to your ereader to erase or lock you out of your ebooks, because you didn’t pay your monthly subscription fees? What about a world with only one viable ereader on the market? What about a world where ebook chapters are broken up by commercials and ugly advertisements you can’t remove?
Can’t happen? Yeah, right, and Hulu is so awesome that they’ll never make you sit through commercial interludes to watch a clip or a movie. I mean, Hulu are aliens! How cool is that? And Amazon will never abruptly dump every single ebook in their catalog without warning to introduce a proprietary ereader called Kindle. YouTube will never overlay advertisements over spotlight videos or implement a premium service. And Livejournal will never put ads on your homepage.
This is why small press ebook publishers are giving you the Jack Sparrow Fish-Eyed Glare when you pirate their titles and mass-distribute them. They know you’re unknowingly working for the machine. They wish they could free you. They wish they could teach you to check first to see where the content you’re swiping originates, so you’ll know whether to share it big or to share it very, very small. Not just for their good, but for your own as well, for the digital future you’re helping to shape right now, the one that you’ll have to live with one day. They wish they could free your mind, to push you to look the gift horse in the mouth, to question the sweet deal too good to be true, but you just won’t listen.
There are many, many wonderful things about the digital age we live in, but our age is a hungry beast, and you can either to choose to control it or to allow it to control you. Either way, pick a pill, man.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to take my binoculars and go sit in the back yard. Black helicopters usually fly at noon. Hey, how else are they going to test them?
(*Important Note: I've recently had many eye-opening conversations with ebook readers in foreign countries who are forced to download pirated ebooks due to the oppressive political atmosphere in their own countries concerning GLBT books, yaoi, manga, and the like. I would like to respectfully say that this article does not pertain to them in any way, but is addressing those downloaders and sharers in Western countries who have ready access to such content. If you have access to ebooks but can't afford them, well, just remember the Golden Rule of Ebook Piracy: Share small, damage small!)