Discussion Post: How Do We Teach Readers That E-Book Piracy Is Wrong?

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The Problem. And Maybe a Solution.

As e-book piracy continues to be a popular means for readers to download books, the discussions over how it can be prevented continue to proliferate.  Just last month, Publishers Weekly posted an article exploring how YA publishers and authors can fight book piracy.  At the top of the list: making legal copies more available.  So the e-book subscription sites that some readers have been lamenting as part of the demise of traditional publishing may actually be helping.

While publishers and authors do have to be proactive to ensure they are getting paid for their work, readers should be, as well.  Over the past several months, I have seen some great activity on Twitter by bloggers promoting awareness about the harms of e-book piracy.  However, the widespread use of piracy makes me think that perhaps we should be digging a little deeper and talking a little longer than 140 characters allows.  We can shout about piracy all we want, but are we clearly understanding and addressing why readers steal books?

On the obvious end, people would prefer to get something free rather than pay for it.  So there will always be book piracy.  This is the place where publishers come into play, as they try to find ways to make e-books more secure, and for law enforcement, to crack down on thieves.

However, if you talk to enough people, you begin to realize that a lot of them do not even realize that pirating books (or music or movies or what have you) is wrong.  Or, if they do realize it is wrong (and illegal), they think their actions are so small they have no impact.

So how do we change this?

How do we reach people and tell them pirating is stealing?

And how do we make them care?

I think the first line of action is always education.  Schools should be the first to teach students, from a young age, that pirating is stealing.  And stealing is illegal.  But I don’t know that schools are.

When I was in middle school (though it was not that long ago), e-books were not a thing.  However, pirating music was definitely a thing.  I distinctly remember being told once, or perhaps once a year, in a brief lecture by the computer class teacher that downloading free music was wrong. And that the government could find you.  That was all.  I’m pretty sure that most students may have been scared for a week or so but probably ran happily back to Napster shortly after.  The conversations about piracy were not clear or consistent, and no one ever made then human by outlining how it hurts artists and their production teams.

I know that many people my age seem not to have gotten the message.  A close friend recently informed me that another of her friends had helped her illegally acquire a number of free e-books…and apparently I was supposed to be excited for her.   Even when she knows I have aspirations to work in publishing, so one day e-book piracy could directly affect me.  Even when one of the authors whose books she stole is one I enthusiastically recommended to her, and would have liked her to actually financially support.

And I certainly know other people who routinely steal media.

So I’d like to ask readers: What is your experience learning about piracy (e-book, movies, music, or otherwise)?   What did you learn about it in school?  Where else have you heard about it?  And who made you care?  Or, if you don’t care, why not?

Maybe if we discuss this, we can learn a little more about what groups are bearing the burden of educating consumers about the harms of piracy and figure out where more can be done.  Because no one should not know that pirating e-books is breaking the law.

A Small Amount of Evidence

A quick look through the Pages Unbound stats from the past year reveal that people are actively searching for free books—and a lot of them really want Fire by Kristin Cashore.  Here is list of some search terms, and the times they occurred, that somehow led people to our blog in their quest to steal authors’ work.

  • read the prophecy of bane online (10)
  • fire by kristin cashore read online free (4)
  • read fire by kristin cashore read online free (4)
  • fire a companion to graceling book online free read (3)
  • read fire online kristin cashore free (2)
  • read fire graceling realm online (2)
  • read online kristin cashore fire (2)
  • read the emerald talisman free online (3)
  • read the rumpelstiltskin problem (2)
  • read princess sonora and the long sleep online (2)

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