Book Piracy: Good or Bad?



Q: What day is it?

A: It’s Wednesday. Hump Day. Halfway to the weekend. Woo-Hoo! Great day to talk pirates. Book pirates, that is.

  1. the practice of attacking and robbing ships books at sea
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Book piracy drives authors CRAZY – and for good reason. Imagine you’ve worked hard to write, edit, publish, and market a book and then lo and behold, you find someone’s taken that book and is distributing it for free and without your permission. It’s maddening.

Or is it?

Maybe it’s the cost of doing business. Maybe it’s an uphill battle to fight and your time is better spent either writing or marketing and not fighting the pirates. Maybe it’s a good way to reach new readers.

I don’t know. I don’t have an opinion. (I know, I’m lame.)

So rather than take a stand on this topic, I’d like to foster conversation about “the practice of attacking and robbing ships books at sea.”

What do you think?

Here’s my input – some questions to guide the conversation, some helpful tips, and links about the topic.

But first!

A shocking video that demonstrates all books are vulnerable – not just ebooks, but print books as well.


Everyone’s Caught Up in the Brouhaha
This topic reaches all levels of the book industry with everyone having to weigh in as evidenced by this Scribd Responds to Writer Beware on Pirated Content article by Calvin Reid published in Publisher’s Weekly on January 9, 2014.

What Others Are Saying
There’s lots of threaded discussions all over the internet about this topic. Here’s a discussion that began a year ago on Goodreads and is still going on . . . Goodreads Author Feedback Group Discussion: Websites that give free downloads of ebooks.

And here’s a list of posts written about book piracy at Huffington Post.

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All Those In Favor Say “Aye.”
This New York Times May 9, 2013 article by David Pogue: The E-Book Piracy Debate, Revisited was so thought-provoking it attracted 145 comments from its readers.

Read How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Ebook Piracy by Cecilia Tan, Founder/Publisher, Circlet Press, on dbw May 23, 2011.

And this from Aliventures: Why Writers Should Fear Obscurity, Not Piracy

Here’s A Question
Does anyone know anything about Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-ShareAlike licenses? I’ve heard some authors are intentionally using these licenses to distribute their work to a wider audience. Learn more at and then come back and tell us what you think. Good for writers? Bad? It depends? I’ll bet you’ll find this a useful site for finding music and artwork in the public domain that you can use to help promote your books, but what role does this type of license play in the distribution of your titles if you’re wanting to build an audience?

Here’s a short list of books added to the wiki – which means more exist – these are just the titles typed into a wiki list.

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Those Opposed Say “No.”
Top Ten Reasons People Use to Justify Pirating Digital Content (And Why They’re Wrong) by Rob Hart August 31, 2012 on Lit Reactor (heated debate in the comment section).

thebattleagainstbookpiracyThe Battle Against Internet Book Piracy: How Writers and Publishers Are Fighting Back and What You Can Do If a Victim by Gini Graham Scott, Ph.D. (June 17, 2013 pub date)

It goes without saying there’s an implied economic cost to authors and publishers when books are pirated. You may believe some readers were never going to buy the book – but many of them might have. Consider the impact in this E-Piracy: The High Cost of Stolen Books article by Karen Dionne on Huff Post Books – The Blog. At one file-sharing website, users have uploaded 1,830 copies of three books by a popular young adult author. Just one of those copies has had 4,208 downloads. On the same site, 7,130 copies of the late Michael Crichton’s novels have been uploaded, and the first 10 copies have been downloaded 15,174 times.”

Want to Find Pirated Copies of Your Book?

Set up a Google alert with “your name” + “the name of your book”. Or “your name” + “free book” or “free ebook”.

Search for new uploads around the time of the first appearance of a pirated book. Pirate sites canvas other pirate sites so you may witness what feels like a flurry of uploads all at one time.

Here’s a list of the Top 10 File-Hosting Sites from the bottom of a Publisher’s Weekly January 18, 2010 article: Study Finds Massive Online Book Piracy. The study is a bit dated, yes. But the list is a good place to start looking should you want to find pirated copies of your book.

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Here’s Another Question
If you try to protect yourself from piracy by enabling DRM (digital rights management) do you frustrate readers?

The Pros and Cons of DRM by Shelley Hitz, published January 14, 2014 on is a great beginner article for understanding the issues behind this permanent decision when uploading your ebook.

So what’s your take on all of this? Leave a comment – your comment can be linked to your website so that your recent blog posts appear beneath your name and folks can click through to your site. Pretty cool, eh? I believe in building strong online communities.

Share the love! If you found this blog post helpful, I’d sure love it if you’d share it with friends. Social media buttons at the bottom of this post – nifty, eh?

But most of all, have a snazzy Hump Day.
Wednesday – halfway to the weekend.

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