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Article:
  Piracy is Progressive Taxation, and Other Thoughts on the Evolution of Online Distribution
Subject:   Electronic publishing and "piracy"
Date:   2002-12-12 15:33:42
From:   eflint
My name's Eric Flint. I'm a science fiction author myself and also handle the Free Library for Baen Books. I just read Tim's article with great interest. I agree with all the basic points he makes, and have made many of them myself in my own essays (entitled "Prime Palaver") in Baen Books' Free Library. If you're interested, you can find the essays and the Library by going to www.baen.com and then selecting "Free Library."


At this point, something like half of the novels I've written are available in electronic format for free, either in the Free Library or in the CD which Baen included with the latest novel in David Weber's popular Honor Harrington series. And all of them are available in a cheap, completely unencrypted electronic edition. If that's resulted in a drop in my income, it's news to me. In fact, my income as a writer has been rapidly growing for the past few years. I'm not only able to write full time, but I'm earning about twice as much as I ever did as a machinist.


Electronic publishing will remain small potatoes until and unless publishers give up their obsession with encryption and provide their customers with what they want: user-friendly, cheap, and no-hassle electronic texts. If they do that, they will discover -- as Baen has, and O'Reilly also -- that the problem of so-called "piracy" just vanishes as anything other than a minor nuisance.


(And, as Tim says, really only happens on a large scale in countries where people are too poor to be buying your books anyway. So who cares? Hopefully, if economic conditions improve in those countries, you will have built up a potential paying audience down the road. And, even if that doesn't happen, you aren't losing anything anyway.) (Besides, in my opinion you have to be a real jackass anyway to be getting upset over the fact that people whose lives are hard enough already are getting a little pleasure from reading one of your books.)


"Piracy" is a labor-intensive enterprise, even leaving aside the potential legal risks. That's why pirates rob bullion ships, not grain ships. If publishers stop making their product artificially expensive and a headache to use, they will discover that "pirates" lose all interest in them. Why "pirate" something that's already available for no more than $4 a book? (Especially when many of those books can be looked at ahead of time, at no cost, so the potential customer can gauge whether it's something they'd be interested in buying.)


Eric

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Showing messages 1 through 3 of 3.

  • Electronic publishing and "piracy"
    2003-04-28 05:01:14  jwenting [View]

    ""Piracy" is a labor-intensive enterprise, even leaving aside the potential legal risks. That's why pirates rob bullion ships, not grain ships. "

    I've known one person who used 3 PCs to do it for him while he slept.
    2 of them were set to download movies 24/7 and the 3rd controlled them and processed orders via a website. Website was automatically updated from the catalogue of downloaded stuff, script took maybe a few hours to write if it wasn't ripped somewhere.
    All he had to do was burn the CDs and ship them off, which took 2-3 hours a day.
    He's no longer in business, his ISP caught up with him when he got greedy and put a 3rd PC to leech movies causing him to exceed his bandwidth limits so much he tripped a warning several months in a row.

    "If publishers stop making their product artificially expensive and a headache to use, they will discover that "pirates" lose all interest in them. Why "pirate" something that's already available for no more than $4 a book? (Especially when many of those books can be looked at ahead of time, at no cost, so the potential customer can gauge whether it's something they'd be interested in buying.)"

    I've heard (via other software companies I know people in) of people pirating software costing under $5 a copy.
    Some even go as far as to offer illegal compilations of freeware without asking consent from the authors where the authors specifically state that such consent is needed and distribution outside approved channels is not allowed (in this case, the authors can get into legal trouble if their work is distributed commercially because of 3rd party artwork and production tools which are not allowed to be used commercially without consent and/or extra license fees).
  • Tim O'Reilly photo Electronic publishing and "piracy"
    2002-12-12 17:09:39  Tim O'Reilly | O'Reilly AuthorO'Reilly Blogger [View]

    Hey Eric, nice to meet you. Sounds like you're the guy I ought to try to get together with, not necessarily Jim Baen. Maybe you could give a talk on your experiences at one of our conferences...
    • Electronic publishing and "piracy"
      2002-12-13 08:42:23  everdarkliz [View]

      Actually, this isn't news to the thousands of authors who started _out_ being published electronically. Few if any of the successful epublishers--Hard Shell Word Factory, Awe-Struck eBooks, DiskUS--bother with encryption for the simple reason it's a waste of time and money.

      But, you argue, that's not the same as Stephen King or Patricia Cornwell or [insert huge money-making author's name here]. No, it's not. But behaving as if every reader is a potential thief isn't exactly good customer relations. It's rather like a department story insisting on having every departing customer undergo a body search.