There’s bit an uptick recently in authors posting blog entries about the subject of “eBook Piracy”. Today, for example, Chuck Wendig did one of his ’25 Things’ posts about it. The following was written by me as a comment to Chuck’s post, but I figured it was worth re-stating here, under the Insurgent Creative banner, since it’s a subject of importance to independent creators.
1) If you really want to address the culture, stop calling it “piracy.”
The GOP managed to kill the Inheritance Tax by successfully renaming it the Death Tax. Death Tax, Death Tax, Death Tax — that’s the only way they’d refer to it. The Democrats starting defending the tax using the same name, which allowed the GOP to set the terms of the debate, and now folks like Tagg Romney are insured that the benefits of their grueling hard work of being born are not subject to taxes, and all because Cooter in South Carolina doesn’t like the idea of his Momma being roughed up by Revenuers on her death bed.
By calling it “Piracy”, you romanticize it for supporters (“I’m a dashing, swashbuckling rogue!”) and demonize it for opponents (“It’s theft! A crime!”) — both of which neatly avoids the *actual thing that’s happening*, which is simply Unauthorized File Sharing. Unauthorized file sharing is a natural result of our communications technology outstripping our copyright laws. Calling it something else prevents us from reasonably approaching the issue and updating our laws to match technological reality.
2) The only way to reduce unauthorized file sharing is through cost and convenience. That’s it. …And note, I didn’t say “prevent” or “stop”, because it won’t — nothing will. That genie is out of the bottle. The best we can do is make it *really easy* for people to compensate us and get our files. If we do that, most will.
Look at Apple. Damn near everybody has downloaded unauthorized mp3 files. Chuck used Napster, so did I, so did millions of others. Music is one of the most-shared things on the planet. And yet, Apple bet literally *millions* of dollars on the idea that people would be willing to pay for that music, rather than share it — and they bet that money AFTER file-sharing was already pretty common. They went after it with cost (99 cents a song — an impulse one-click purchase) and convenience (easily searchable, instantly delivered, and guaranteed to be free of malware and viruses).
The result? A multi-billion dollar business. Selling things which are STILL available for free as unauthorized file shares elsewhere online. They bank on the fact that the cost and convenience makes them a better choice than digging for a free file that might be low-quality, or a virus trojan, or just even mis-labeled. And they’ve been proven right.
Cost and convenience, kids. Make your digital stuff available easily and cheaply. If your publisher doesn’t do it, carve out those rights and do it your damn self. It’s not hard.
One Reply to “Insurgent Creative: Combatting eBook ‘Piracy’”
Hear hear. I’ve been preaching at the walls, trees, and unsuspecting passersby for ages about how a lot of illicit distribution (I don’t even really like to call it “unauthorized sharing,” because our mommas taught us sharing is good and the connotations don’t quite work) is the result of content providers making users jump through unnecessary hoops.
We can’t ever get rid of illicit distribution. Never gonna happen. But we can slash a significant chunk of it by making legal acquisition easy and affordable. People are lazy. Make it simple and fast and easy and safe for them to get content, and they’ll pay you for it, like you said. Make it easy for them to enjoy it in the way they want to, when they want to? They might even pay you a premium for that.