Pirates

The kind without a parrot.  The kind that, in this case, pass around copies of e-books.  recently, Mysti Parker pointed out a website that had a request for one of her books.  I went and checked them out, and have engaged some of the self-described pirates in conversation.

The owner of the website has stated that he takes a very strong stand against ‘libel’.  I find that somewhat amusing, but I will play along.  Everything I say about copyright violation should be assumed to be alleged and potential.  I’m sure that in actuality, Cory Doctorow, Stephen King, Anne Rice, and all the others have actually gone to the site and uploaded all of their own content to be distributed for free by this one particular website.

The site bills itself as “The Ultimate E Book Library”.  tuebl.com is where it is hosted.

Here is a link to where the current owner explains himself.  I find the appeal to moral law a bit… Ironic.  Nevertheless, there is his viewpoint.

The discussions have been interesting.  I’ve found that you won’t get much traction using words like “theft” or “steal”.  Instead you’ll get dragged into a philosophical discussion that is a waste of energy.  I’ll summarize the view point:  If they take something without paying for it, but it doesn’t deprive you of the actual thing taken, then it isn’t theft.  I don’t get it either, but that’s what they say.  I’m fairly certain that the satellite television industry already fought this fight for us, but it is back.  They have not yet found a rebuttal to saying “take what isn’t yours without paying”.

One idea that I had presented to me was intriguing.  It is similar to Netflix, only for books.  What if there was a way to subscribe to a service that would allow you to borrow books based on a monthly fee?  They would say that it should let them download it and keep it, but I don’t think that compares.  Netflix and Rhapsody both require (as far as I know) ongoing subscription to continue using the product.

This would require some infrastructure changes.  Ebooks would have to be allowed unlimited loans.  Time limits could still be enforced, but the one loan only would have to be lifted.  Licensing would have to be arranged.  A website to support it would need to be set up.

So, writerly friends, if such a thing existed, would you be interested?  How much would you need, financially, to support such a system?  Would you want a  single, large payment, or a small fee per loan?

I’m thinking this:  $10 per month gets you unlimited book loans, two or three at a time.  Loans last 2 weeks, but can be renewed indefinitely as long as there is no waiting list.  The copyright holder gets 50 cents to a dollar per loan.

Thoughts?  Suggestions?  Hot shot web programmers?  The idea has intrigued me enough to think about it, anyway.  Netflix and Rhapsody have made it possible for those that think they are on a moral high ground to stop pirating.  Obviously those that are using excuses instead of reasons will still pirate, but it gives a legitimate channel for a pay per read system to those that would pay.

–j–

5 thoughts on “Pirates”

  1. How is this different from the ol’ Mid-Continent public library? One can get ebooks through that institution, correct? And it costs nothing.

    I’m not sure comparing the writing industry to the movie industry is apples-to-apples. Movie watchers far outweigh readers. How do the profit margins compare between authors and movie producers?

    That said, as a soon-to-be indie author, I’ll just be happy to see my debut novel being read and recommended. But I’d want to track its momentum and feedback. Pirating takes away the means to do that.

    To answer your question, the fee isn’t important if this loaning system brings more readers. If the book is enjoyed, it’ll be recommended to friends, and to their friends, and so on. Eventually, the fans will buy. It’s a marketing tool, in my opinion.

    Fantastic post.

  2. E-book lending from libraries is somewhat sketchy. Some have a good set up, some… Not so much. I can get videos and audio CD’s from the library too, but Netflix and Rhapsody have a far larger selection and are much more popular. I’d think it could work out similarly.

    Author to movie producer profits? I haven’t even the faintest idea. I’d have to find some indie movie people to make a real comparison, I think.

    I guess I’m still hung up on the principle of people taking what doesn’t belong to them. Maybe I’m dated and out of touch, but I don’t even lie about my kids’ age at the movies or restaurants. I tell my kids that integrity is what you do when nobody will know better. In that sense, my integrity is worth more then the $3 I would save at the theatre, or the $5 I would save stealing downloading a book.

    I wouldn’t even begin to know how to set something like this system up. (OK, yes I would, and have even thought about it. I quickly conlcuded that it is beyond my skill level and attention span.) This is more a hypothetical at this point. Still an interesting mental exercise, IMHO.

    Thanks for stopping by!

    –j–

  3. I have no problem with a Neflix-type system, as long as I know where my work is and how it’s being distributed. .50 to $1 per loan is fine. Even less is fine. The profits for me are completely irrelevant at this point. E-Book sharing and pirating, however, lowers my potential to increase future profits, which is something I’d LIKE to see come out of my writing before I die. 🙂

    Thanks to you and Aaron over there on the PTS board–both of you made completely valid arguments that were, of course, completely ignored by the freeloaders. Until higher powers step in, I don’t see any way to stop them, except to just keep informing the public about the harm of such websites.

  4. I think the idea of a Netflix style sight would be a pretty good idea. Heck, I’d sign up for it like that. It would certainly require a lot of changes, but I think it is possible.

    A good idea and one that I would support. Anything to try and crack down on this piracy problem.

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