There are plenty of books you have read, which you haven't bought. At least, not at first. Your friend lent you her copy of The Night Circus or you borrowed The Sky is Everywhere from your local library. Perhaps you obtained one through a Book Swap. There are tons of ways you can find to read a book without purchasing it straight out.
I'm a member of site called Book Crossing, where people register and release their books, setting them free into the world. Each book has a special number which can be input into the website, where the finder can journal it and see where else it has been. Several active members will send each other a book - or a whole box - by mail and will frequently meet up throughout the year. It's brilliant!
What's the difference between sharing one copy of a book around the world by mail and sharing one copy of a book instantly around the world by the internet? Well, a fair amount. By downloading a specific copy of a book, you are not just sharing it with others but reproducing it. It's no longer one copy but several.
I'm not going to pretend to be perfect or preach or condemn. I'm just going to tell you a story.
On Leap Day I was bored, so I googled the title of one of my friend's books. I came across reviews, interviews, the usual. Then, I stumbled across a different website. Someone was asking if anyone had my friend's book. I thought perhaps this was a book swapping website. Nope.
What I found was a list of, "Does anyone have any of these books?" and responses with direct download links. Next to each link was a number of the amount of times it had been downloaded. 18, 66, 91...on and on.
Some people have been really worried about eBooks. That what happens to music and movies will happen to books. That files will be too easy to share and download and that sales will decrease so much that authors won't be able to go on writing.
Sounds dramatic, yes? Apparently it's not totally implausible. If I searched for a book or author on this website, I almost always found a positive result. I found one book which had been released only the day before and every single book by another author. Yikes.
What did I do? Well, I contacted a couple of authors and six or seven publishers through various means. Out of them all, I've only heard back from one of the authors, who told me that it's nothing new and if you googled her name, hardly anything but piracy links came up. I googled her. Thankfully, she was wrong.
Did what I do make any difference? I have no idea. I'm not even sure if I contacted the right people in the right way. The only publisher I could see that had a Report Piracy link was Hachette. If any others had one, I couldn't find it.
Maybe it matters more because I'm an aspiring author. Maybe I'm just a hypocrite. Still, it sucks.
The people who share these books online aren't doing so in a malicious manner. They're not re-selling the books for profit. They're just eager readers who want to share books they love and let others do the same. There are two common reasons why people might turn to this for a book they want to read.
1. Can't Afford to Buy the Book
You're a book lover. You read a lot. You're keen for that new novel by that author you love. It costs $16 in hardback. Maybe more. Why not get it from the library? Well, it's popular. There are 75 people on the waiting list in front of you. If you're lucky.
2. The Book Isn't Available
You live in
Books aren't that expensive. If you're willing to download an eBook, you'll know that it's unlikely it will cost anywhere near as much as a hardback copy of the book. Also, there are no shipping costs. There are also other ways to save on money, such as ordering books from The Book Depository where international shipping is free to most countries. Don't forget Book Crossing or Book Swap. There are also several eBooks available for free online which are legal, whether the copyright has run out or the author has just deemed it to be so.
Me? I've never downloaded any eBooks but they have been given to me...or rather shared with me. It seems harmless but when you discover it on a massive scale, it's kind of scary. I don't like using the word "piracy" because that sounds too fancy. Seriously, the only way you would offend someone by calling them a pirate would be if they were Team Ninja.
I'm not perfect but I'd like to be better. It makes me sad to see all of these authors' works just distributed for free at the click of a button. Every book by one specific, very popular author. Writing novels isn't easy.