Complete Piracy at Last

It’s now official.  According to my editor and Macmillan Company, the parent of Tor Books, every single one of my titles has now appeared somewhere as pirated edition, in some form or another.  I’d almost like to claim this as a singular distinction.  I can’t. Macmillan also believes that every single book they’ve published in recent years – something like the last three decades – has appeared in pirated editions of some sort.

I can’t say I’m surprised.  Every time I attempt to check up on how my books are doing, I discover website after website offering free downloads of everything I’ve ever written, including versions of titles that never were issued in electronic format and even those that haven’t been in print in those particular editions offered in more than twenty years.  I could spend every minute of every day trying to chase them down… without much success.  So I grit my teeth and bear it.

Ah… the wonders of the electronic age.

Coincidentally, and unsurprisingly, the sales of paperback mass-market fiction books have also begun to decline.  Part of this is likely due in part to the collapse of a section of the wholesale distribution system, but that shrinkage doesn’t account for most of it, because it’s also occurring in the case of titles and authors who were never distributed widely on a wholesale basis, and whose books were largely sold only through bookstores. This hasn’t been so obvious in the F&SF field, because, while the average paperback print run has decreased, the number of paperback titles has increased slightly, but according to knowledgeable editors, the decrease is happening pretty much across the board, and some very big name authors – far bigger names than mine – have seen significant decreases in paperback book sales… and that’s without a corresponding increase in e-book sales.  Obviously, this isn’t true for every single author, and it’s impossible to determine for newly published authors because, if they haven’t published a book before, how can one accurately determine if their paperback sales are falling off from those of their previous book?

Despite all the talk, it appears that the popular mantra that information and entertainment need to be free remains in force for a small but significant fraction of former book buyers – even if such “free editions”  reduce authors’ incomes and result in publishers eliminating yet more mid-list authors because declining sales have made them unprofitable, or even money-losing.

The other day I came across an outraged comment about the price of an e-book version of my own Imager’s Challenge. The would-be reader was outraged that the electronic version was “only” a few dollars less than the hard-cover edition, especially since the paperback edition won’t be out for four months or so.  Somehow, it doesn’t seem to penetrate that while paper may be the single largest component of “physical” publishing costs, it still only amounts to something like 10-15% of the publisher’s cost of producing a book, i.e., a few dollars. Even without paper, the other costs remain, and they’re substantial – and publishing remains, as I have written, time and time again, a very low margin business. That’s why publishers really don’t want to cannibalize their hardcover revenues by undercutting the hardcover prices before the paperback version is on the shelves, especially given the decline in paperback sales.

There are many problems with piracy, including the fact that authors essentially get screwed, but the biggest one for readers seems to be overlooked.  The more piracy exists and the wider-spread it becomes, the less the choice readers will have in finding well-written, well-edited books, and especially of books that are not popular best-sellers.  The multi-million selling popular books – and the “popcorn books,” as my wife calls them – will survive piracy.  The well-written books for smaller audiences won’t.  So readers could very well be left with dwindling choices… and scrambling through thousands of self-published e-volumes, most of which are and will be poorly written and unedited in search of that rare “gem” – a good and different book that doesn’t appeal to everyone.

But… after all, information and entertainment want to be free.

51 Responses to “Complete Piracy at Last”

  1. Derek says:

    Entitlement. I’m twenty four, and it feels as though a majority in my generation have an over inflated image of what they know, are capable of, and deserve. The example of the complaint about the Imager’s Challenge e book price was likely someone under the age of thirty.

    I could ramble on and on about various causes that are contributing to my generations lack, well, anything noteworthy, but instead I will simplify. We have not been taught ethics, personal responsibility, or hard work.

    In it’s place we have been spoon fed how wonderful we are because we exist. We are wonderful so therefore we deserve that free mp3, that pirated e-book, to not pay for our movies.

    But that’s just my jaded opinion.

  2. Raphael says:

    G’day

    Forced to agree sadly with Author’s comments. Especially since the E-book is 69% cheaper than buying the hardcover and 5% cheaper than buying the paperback when it arrives.
    ($50 dollars australian vs $15 dollars US)

    I’ve been buying offical e-books since Baen started oferring them seriously, and I’m still buying paperbacks. Pirate copies are pointless since they are badly formatted, scrambled and generally a nasty experince all around.

    A few dollars for quality and respecting is no hassle for those who routinely spend hundreds of dollars a month on computer/internet related tech/services. They are just freeloaders.

    Information does need to be free. And it is. No one is banning the books. It is not restricted. It is available. There is plenty of Freedom of Information.

    But if you take anything and say it has no value…or isn’t worth anything (it should not be paid for/free) then you’re giving it the status of trash.

    Because that’s the only thing in history that has ever been ‘free’ in the sense of ‘not paid for’. Everything else is paid for in some form.

    People who read the Author’s books ought to know this.

    Apologies for the Rant.

  3. Alan says:

    I must agree with Raphael. I have purchased a wide variety of e-books from Baen, and other sites. But Baen has the best commentary, I believe. There are numbers to support that e-books, both free and reduced cost, improve an author’s back list of titles which are purchased in hard copy.

    I’m curious about what your view on e-books, not just the piracy side which is an obvious down side, but over all is.

    There’s no doubt that people will share what they have, but I don’t think that sharing an e-book comes out in the long run as anything worse then the sharing of books from the library or a private collection.

    While I sympathize with those who feel that it’s too expensive, there should be those who consider the cost of the authors time and effort has not changed. His royalties must be paid.

  4. I think e-books will become an increasingly larger segment of the overall book market, although I think it will be a few years before they even come near the sales numbers generated by paperbacks, but unfortunately, I also fear that with the growth of the digital/visual world overall book sales will decline. Certainly, the decline of paperback sales, not matched by a corresponding increase in e-book sales, suggests that either reading is declining or sharing/piracy is increasing significantly. Neither possibility is particularly appealing to me.

    • Dov says:

      I think your missing an important component in the decline of book sales.

      Many people that read a lot turn to blogs, forums, youtube lectures (search Math TV youtube) and net searches in addition to books.

      In simple terms books face competition. In some cases far superior.

      I follow blogs of several authors, most are non fiction authors. I get more information, quicker in e format than those writers can get dead tree materials published.

      I have even payed for hands on training from some of those people.

      I understand the need for peer reviewed journals in some fields.

      BUT not everyone needs that level of information all the time.

  5. Brian says:

    I wonder if new revenue sources for authors will be explored that mimic other industries that face piracy. For example, movies (and radio before it) utilize product placement for revenue, and computer games have picked that up. I can just see the wise-cracking Jimjoy with his ever-present in hand while saving the galaxy. Pity the fool that knocks his from his hand!

    The internet uses advertisement to compensate for the unwillingness of consumers to pay for content, so perhaps books will (eventually) reach that model.

    Laugh all you will, but I think that product placement will creep into books. Even more subtle attitudes could be promoted by those with money (agitprop for sale?).

    BTW, this is why I have a hard-back copy of every Modesitt book that has been in recent print: vote with your money and don’t forget to tell others about the quality.

    P.S. Would there be an opportunity to sell early copies to repeat customers. Perhaps they could sign up for future books and get first shipment for a small premium. I know that hard-back books fulfill this role in a way, but it might be expanded. I’m just thinking of ways to cement and better capture that repeat customer.

  6. Brian says:

    It appears that some of my previous comment was edited to avoid someone putting embedded HTML into their comment. I used less-than and greater-than symbols instead of parentheses.

    First paragraph, change the last two sentences to be:
    I can just see the wise-cracking Jimjoy with his ever-present (product) in hand while saving the galaxy. Pity the fool that knocks his (product) from his hand!

  7. christoph says:

    There’s a sign in my artist’s shop that reads “Good tattoos aren’t cheap. Cheap tattoos aren’t good.” I think the truth of this message extends well past the tattoo portion of the art world.

  8. Tom L. says:

    This is my first visit to this web site, and I would like to start by complimenting Mr. Modesitt on being an outstanding author (and my favorite). I own many titles in both hardcover and paperback and am only now exploring a potential e-book reader device. I am only interested in getting such a device if I can get Mr. Modesitt’s books along with a few other favorite authors. I am expecting, and happy, to pay again for the books in the different format.

    I agree with the above comments….e-book format is here to stay and will be growing. Hopefully the copy protection schemes can mature.

    Please keep writing!

    Tom L.

  9. Alison Hamway says:

    I appreciate reading the author’s perspective, and the comments of other readers. I greatly appreciated being able to purchase e-books on Kindle, and I regret it when disputes between the publishers and Amazon result in certain titles not being available. I read more and buy more with the e-book option — not less; and I am more willing to take a chance on unknown or unfamiliar authors. Although I have always purchased your books in any format (prefer the e-book), I am now buying more books that I might have borrowed from the library (prior to e-books). Free samples of a new or unknown author (from Baen or Kindle) are (for me) an incentive to buy the entire book. That being said, I am totally opposed to illegal copies or pirating of books, movies, and music. Hope there can be methods of controlling the piracy/rip-offs without China-style total control of the web.

    Alison H.

  10. Jim Quinn says:

    I look on e-books as basically different from the physical books being sold. Now there are really three types of books, paperback, hardback and ebooks.

    While the physical cost of the books is only a small portion of the sales price I think that there should be a real difference in the price of ebooks from hardbacks and to a certain extent from paperbacks.

    After all if you can sell a paperback for $7.99 then how much of that goes to the publisher after he pays for returns, postage costs, etc. Probably much less than $7.99. All the ebook buyers want to do is split the difference.

    As for hardback prices? Keep those the same if you want to. When Amazon was selling their ebooks for $9.99 I would buy quite a lot of ebooks for this price. Before this I never bought hardbacks. Now that they have raised the prices I am going back to waiting until they come out with the paperbacks until I buy the books. There are enough books out there that I don’t have to worry about not reading the latest book for a few months.

    As for the comment about the decline in books sales. The number of e-readers sold is tiny. I think publishers are looking in the wrong place for a decline in sales.

  11. I’ve noticed that most e-pirates are either blissfully ignorant about the reality of how music, books, and other media are produced — knock knock, you need artists and other creators to actually come up with the material, and these people most usually need to be paid for their effort — or they grandstand on “moral” highground about digital “freedoms” and/or pseudo-marxist gibberish involving “liberation” of the new media for wide, cost-free consumption.

    I also suspect that most e-pirates believe — just as many ordinary people believe — that making music or writing a book or making a movie, is somehow easy. That it takes no effort to do these things — hey, it looks easy and fun, so it must be easy and fun — therefore they don’t suffer any heartburn about stealing.

    In my community radio days, we used to joke about how home tapers — people whose entire music collections consisted of homemade “mix tapes” using radio recordings of popular music — were killing the industry. Well, little did we know that world-spanning, high-bandwidth internet and quick-ripping high-fidelity digital copying would render practically all music and television and film vulnerable to rampant copying and theft-consumption.

    Perhaps we’ll ultimately throttle back to authors doing solo stage readings of their works, just like how musicians make much of their bread going on tours. Alas, probably someone with a camera phone will record the reading and put it up on a share server.

  12. Bruce says:

    I look on e-books as basically different from the physical books being sold. Now there are really three types of books, paperback, hardback and ebooks.

    While the physical cost of the books is only a small portion of the sales price I think that there should be a real difference in the price of ebooks from hardbacks and to a certain extent from paperbacks.

    After all if you can sell a paperback for $7.99 then how much of that goes to the publisher after he pays for returns, postage costs, etc. Probably much less than $7.99. All the ebook buyers want to do is split the difference.

    As for hardback prices? Keep those the same if you want to. When Amazon was selling their ebooks for $9.99 I would buy quite a lot of ebooks for this price. Before this I never bought hardbacks. Now that they have raised the prices I am going back to waiting until they come out with the paperbacks until I buy the books. There are enough books out there that I don’t have to worry about not reading the latest book for a few months.

    As for the comment about the decline in books sales. The number of e-readers sold is tiny. I think publishers are looking in the wrong place for a decline in sales.

  13. Do you have a “top posters” page to reward your best blog comments?

  14. Sorwen says:

    Prices aside I think there are a lot of things that help contribute both to piracy and to decline in sales each in their own way. Don’t get me wrong peoples thoughts toward entitlement or “if I can get it for free who is it really hurting” does account for the largest percentage of this sort of thing there are a few other factors as well. I don’t what any one to think that anything I say here condones piracy.

    Whether it is piracy or sales one factor is availability and the fact that they are not taking the opportunities that ebooks represent to the fullest. This includes over seas, print or out of print, and missing volumes. A lot of publishers cause many of these problems themselves. One thing that from now on that will cause as much problems as piracy on the bottom line is market glut (both good and bad). The fact that it is now so easy to “get some other book” is something they have to live with because you cannot combat it directly.

    Not making available all of their back library is a huge factor. If you can’t get a book then how are you supposed to read it? Publishers are often missing out books that sell for 20 or more for a paperback and it isn’t to collectors, but those that simply want to read the books. To butcher a line from a movie, If you make it available they will come. It will not be in droves, but more a constant trickle. While some do buy it for collecting the fact is that a majority of the sales are simply the availability. While they wouldn’t pay 20 dollars many would much rather pay less to the publisher for an ebook than pay that much to a private party for a paper book. The only cost to recoup is what it takes to put it into the various eformats. Which if taken as a whole can be relatively cheap compared to how much some older books can sell and sell for. If you create the process to do it right the first time it is more cheaply applied to other books in the same position.

    Then we have the problem of missing volumes. I know I’m not the only one that will not buy a book that is 3rd in a series or not buy an ebook when you can only get volumes 1 and 3. There have been many books that I would have loved to buy the later volumes, but I refuse to do so If I can’t get them all. There is one series that I got the first 2 of a 8 book series, but because I can’t get the next 3 I’ll just read something else. There are many series I’ve seen that I might like to read but being unable to purchase all of the ebooks means I purchase none of them and look for another series. For instance while Legacies and Septers was out in ebook you couldn’t get Darkness. Luckily I had all 3 in paper so I didn’t have a problem with that, but if I didn’t then I wouldn’t have bought them.

    Which brings up another problem in that many publishers treat ebooks as a bit of a joke. I purchased Septers, but had to return it because the ebook was horribly created. Many pages ran diagonally (a common problem from some publishers) and on some pages a word from a sentence at the top of the page was actually found half way down the page. While not the authors fault for some people, that don’t think about the fact it is the publisher’s fault, that can make him look bad in their eyes. While some times these instances are because of the version (epub vs kindle or estore vs estore) that isn’t generally the case. Unless I just happened to miss it at the time it was the same for every place I checked when it came to the issues for both Darkness and Septers.

    Price is a factor and I posted here my thoughts about that before. Needless to say I’ve spent more on ebooks than I ever did on physical books not including all the used books I bought that make a profit for those stores and neither the publisher nor the author. Part of the reason is I can maximize my money. Maybe I only have 4 dollars to spend on a book. I can now find that in an ebook where I might not in a real book. If that goes away (doesn’t look to really as the price wars are more about new hardback books) then that becomes a problem. If it means I have to pay X extra dollars for that new eformat of a hardback book that means I can find two books form someone else instead (14.99 vs 9.99 or vs no copy yet).

    None of these are excuses for piracy as there is no excuse, but they can factor into it. Some of it comes from ignorance in thinking that if a book is no longer in print then there isn’t a problem in doing it. Others come about because of the missing volumes and the fact that some one wanted a eformat or because it wasn’t in the eformat they wanted. Also, from what I hear sadly some times the copy the pirates are making is a better quality than what is actually out there. That isn’t always the case as most of the time it is simply a some other copy with the DRM removed.

    There are some realizations that need to be made on both sides and right now the authors and those of us in the middle who pay but can only pay so much (so we maybe willing to pay another publisher for a cheaper book) are going to be the ones that suffer.

  15. Fox says:

    I agree that there is no excuse for piracy, and my response does not condone nor do I participate in the practice.

    This first question doesn’t respond to the topic, unless piracy is your reason for not publishing your books in several ebook formats. Are you publishing your recent books in an ebook format other than kindle? I use a palmTX to read ebooks, and can’t find a website to purchase your books in a format I can use. I have already purchased most of your books in hardback, but would much prefer an ebook format such as secure ereader, or secure mobipocket.

    One of the reasons that piracy proliferates is that many author’s books are difficult or unavailable to purchase in e-book formats. Amazon has some authors available only in their kindle format. If there were more major authors published in several e-book formats, I believe that sales in ebooks would increase. Piracy could also be decreased, because many people who resort to pirated books would rather purchase an ebook if it was available. I purchase books from many e-book publishers, but often have difficulty locating books by authors I like to read. It is frustrating to know a book you want is published, but be unable to purchase it in a format one can use.

    There are many reasons people prefer an ebook format, price is not always the main criteria. For example, I am stationed overseas, and have limited space for either hardcover or paperback books. Back in the states I have a major storage problem with books I have previously purchased. I keep many books I like, as I frequently want to read them again in a few years. (However, I have been told by my spouse that there is no room for more bookcases, so periodically I am forced to reluctantly give away books I would love to keep) I am sure there are others who wish to keep and store their books in a small portable space. There are also many people who find that an ebook that is put on a small ereader device is physically easier to hold and to read than a hardback, or even a paperback book.

  16. Sam Marks says:

    There is no excuse for piracy. However, unfortunately there are a lot of people out there that will steal books and music. The music industry found one way to combat piracy was to make music so cheap that more people would be willing to buy it. Baen has tried the same model and according to some reports, is the least pirated publisher.

    Modesitt said “Somehow, it doesn’t seem to penetrate that while paper may be the single largest component of “physical” publishing costs, it still only amounts to something like 10-15% of the publisher’s cost of producing a book, i.e., a few dollars. Even without paper, the other costs remain, and they’re substantial”

    Uhhh, what about shipping, handling, wharehousing, etc. Surely these are the large costs associated with dead tree books that suddenly disappear with ebooks. And buying an ebook at the click of a button removes all need for a human salesclerk.

    That’s the reason so many readers like myself are angry at publishers that want to charge near hardback prices for ebooks. If you want to charge that much, give the ereader a bonus. Make it available at a premium 1 or 2 months early. If you release it at the same time as the hardback it needs to be cheaper.

  17. Tiffany Grey says:

    I’m with you all the way. You have a legal entitlement to your own ideas, and you should never let anybody tell you otherwise. Keep it up!

  18. I would like to setup a blog like this. Any chance you could email me the webmaster’s info?

  19. Elizabeth How says:

    I would like to buy one of your novels as an ebook. I live in the UK. I cannot find a website that will let a UK resident buy & download. Does anyone know of such a site. Thanks

  20. Ovel Inad says:

    I believe when you need a dictionary to read the first paragraph of a blog post, you really wouldn’t want to continue, especially when you’re in a rush.

  21. Stephanie says:

    I have to say that I have converted completely to ebooks and no longer buy hard copies of books anymore. This is purely a matter of convenience for me (I hate hauling hard copies around and it decreases the amount of space needed for storage of my books). However, I do find it frustrating when I cannot buy books that I want becasue they are not available in ebook format. I am currently experiencing this frustration with the Recluce books. Most of them are not available in ebook format, which is driving me crazy. However, I simply do not have the space for the hard copies, so I am unable to purchase them. I hope you pass this information on to your publisher (or even make ebook versions available through your own site).

  22. I’ve been pressing Tor for several years to make all of the Recluce books, as well as others, available as e-books, but Tor’s parent company has been slow to get on the e-book bandwagon. I can’t make books available because, first, I don’t have the equipment or time to do so, and second, because I licensed those rights to Tor, and so long as either paperback or hardcover are in print and selling I can’t take the rights back.

  23. Radek says:

    Great! Thanks for good post, dude.

  24. Wayne says:

    I live in the UK. My wife has encouraged me to tidy up the house by getting rid of what she terms old books and to encourage me has bought me an ereader for my birthday. I would like to purchase your novels but cant find where to. All my music is now purchased electronically and I can see my book purchases going the same way over the next 2 years. With the exception of some hardbacks. I look forward to being able to download all your books at sometime in the future.

  25. Dave says:

    Hi There – I just want to say that I love your page.

  26. hcr says:

    I am new to the ebook thing having just received a reader (Fathers day). I am surprised at how long it takes to get an author’s works published. eBooks have been around for a while now but you still can’t get a number of your books from legit sources… they are available from torrent sites but if I want to be legit and ensure that Royalties are paid and publishers stay afloat… I have no choice. I can buy the 2 book Ecolition Prime omnibus but not Ecolition & Empire… From a practical sense, these books must be in a publishing system somewhere… how difficult is it to issue the ePub version and get it out to the vendors.

    I am comfortable with eBooks mirroring release pricing (i.e. matching hard cover then trade paper then finally paperback) but I get annoyed when a book that had reached paperback pricing e.g. Hammer of Darkness climbs again. “Out of Print” and “hard to find” have no context in an electronic distribution model. If it exists, there is no reason to apply a premium because there are no short run prints required to meet an questionable stocking target.

  27. Aldis says:

    I’m as worried about the pricing of the ebooks, just about lack of availability. I do like a bargain but I believe we have to pay the authors and artists or they won’t be able to produce the very things we are seeking.

    My personal dead tree collection runs over 5000 books, including all of the works by L.E. Modesitt. I don’t believe the loaning of books from a personal collection reduces purchases of books. In my experience, it has been otherwise with many of my nieces and nephews borrowing books from me, discovering an author they love and then going out and getting their own collections of that author.

    I recently was given an ebook reader for my birthday. It suits my needs as I travel with work. I will read 5-6 books per business trip due to time in airports, etc. Carrying dead tree books with me was getting very heavy. I’m not going to stop collecting my dead tree books as I love to read in that format but I would like to have electronic copies of my favorite authors works to reread when I travel. Some of my deadtree books are literally falling apart and an ebook would let me preserve them.

    What I would love to see is a combination option offered where I could buy the dead tree version and the ebook together for a package price. Baen has something along those lines with certain authors. The recent hardcopy release of the Honor Harrington series came with a cd of the entire series. This allows me to have the ebook format as well as my dead tree versions. It doesn’t have to be a cd in the back. Perhaps some form of unique code sealed in the back of the book to be input into a website to allow downloading of the ebook? I know the gaming community has ways of licensing games, so why not the ebook industry?

    If you can convince Tor books to get into ebooks I would be buying all of your books in that format.

  28. JC says:

    While I agree to some extent, the fact that electronic copies, unauthorized though they may be, exist of books which are impossible to find in print at either a used or new bookstore is a boon.

    Since your stuff has already been pirated and available electronically, why not get on Tor to put your full catalogue out in electronic format? I think a lot of people would rather pay for your books than download them. Of course, a lot of people would also like to get the paper books they already have in an electronic format for free… like ripping a CD so you can listen to it on your ipod. I’ve got everything you’ve written except a couple of the oldest sci-fi ones that I can’t find in print, and Imager’s Challenge which I must have missed or read from the library, because I couldn’t find it when I went to reread it after buying the new one… but I’d really like to have them all on my iphone, too, so I can read them while goofing off at work. :)

  29. Michael Metz says:

    given the choice with a pirated book, or paying the publisher for the e-book, i still think most real readers wil opt for buing the e-book from the publisher to keep the author and publisher giving them new material to read. At least i know i do that. The only thing that would make me turn to a pirated or cracked version of an e-book is being prevented to buy the book officially becacause i am in Europe and some Publisher wont let me buy the US/English version here, cause the have a Publishing partner , and those sell localized versions.
    I hope all industries wil soon learn to put that concept where it belongs…. into the trash can. I want to pay for my books, but i want the books in the way i choose, and not in the way some publishing companies choose to impose on me (same goes for movies, games, usic, etc).

  30. M says:

    First I would like to say I like most of your novels and own them in DTF. Second before I buy a novel in any series I download a pirated copy and read it first. If it is good I buy a DTF copy if not I delete it since I’m not going to bother reading it again anyway.

    The reason I have not switched to ebooks is because I find it less enjoyable and I simply won’t pay anywhere near as much for it. Now if publishers started doing deals like steam does for games – buy all of an authors books and get 90% off or a series for half price then I might start actually buying ebooks.

  31. Christian says:

    Nice webpage with a good overview of your books, it’s much appreciated. I really like the links you have put up to amaozon, bn, etc so I can buy your books.

    If you wonder why people pirate books, it’s probably because they see the book for 7.99 in a paperback version at amazon, and then the kindle version kosts 9.65. Shouldn’t it be the same price or cheaper? Then I check out BN and they have the book for 7,99 in both digital and physical copy. Nice. Although, I can’t download their app for android because I live in Norway, so I can’t buy it.

    Making it easier to buy your books digitally and not binding your customers to kindle/nook would probably increase your sales.

  32. Dave says:

    There is a very old saying – The labourer is worthy of his hire.

    I would be very interested to see how many of those with pirated copies of books/music/films would be willing to work for no reward.

    I can understand someone who is starving and has no money stealing a loaf of bread. I cannot accept somebody stealing entertainment.

    On the subject of ebooks I have to say that I much prefer a paper copy. It just seems more real (Ok, I’m an old fashioned git).

  33. Great post, thank you so much for sharing.

  34. Matt says:

    Oh it’s significant Mr Modesitt, 1 torrent alone on Demonoid that contai/ns everythin/g youve ever written has been downloaded over 40,000 times. Although some of these may be those who never would have had access to your work otherwise. Library populations of your books is going down and not everyone can afford to pay for so many formats.

  35. Blert says:

    Firstly I have been a fan of your books for years, since I was about 14-15 years of age, over a decade later I am still a fan. The Recluce series being a series the first fantasy series I truly fell in love with, post readin Lord of The Rings that is.

    But I would like to ask a number of questions and raise a number of points for you to ponder.

    Firstly, you make the comment “Coincidentally, and unsurprisingly, the sales of paperback mass-market fiction books have also begun to decline.”.
    Have you any evidence to back up your implied corrolation here? I for one have my doubts.
    A quick search for you books on the largest torrent sites do reveal some copies of your books, But the numbers actually sharing them is minimal, averaging maybe 1-2 each. More however are sharing your books as part of huge collections of many other authors books are being shared by more(although I don’t see any breaking 20), I doubt people downloading such hugh collections have any intention of reading any most of those books if any, to view them as lost sales would be a stretch.

    You say you don’t think distribution is the main issue, from my admitedly limited observations, I would like to challenge that. In my own country Ireland(yes I know its a small pool to be observing from) your books were once prominant. I saw reviews in magazines, and was sure that I could walk in to any book store in the country and find a sizable collection of your books. It was because of this that I found your books by buying one on a whim. However this in no longer the case.
    I walk in to book stores now and your books are nowhere in sight, at best if I walk in to the largest book stores in the country and I may find a single copy of your latest book.
    So I resort to amazon where for reason I can’t fathom your books are being sold at a significantly higer price than your newer to the market peers.

    This brings me to another issue. On ordering your books and paying more than I paid for any other book, I receive what can only be described as a disappointing package. In this day in age of digital books and easily obtainlable good books for free(and legaly) I view buying a paper book an investment. not a financial one, but rather one that about feeling. I like the feel of a book, the smell of a book, I appreciate a well presented book. However on receiving your book I am presented a tiny book covered in cheesy font and inside some of the worst quality paper I have ever seen. It feels like a 2euro cheap book I would pick up in a bargain shop. Making the investment(and trouble I have gone to to actually hunt down your book) I have made feel more like a rip off. Regardless of how good the actually writing inside is.

    Now you could say, why not just buy an ebook? Well as other have pointed out to you and despite your protestation they are far to expensive! I also onject ot purchasing anything infected with DRM(thankfully this is not an issue with TOR). You argue that paper only constitutes 10-15% of publishing costs. IN my experience cebooks are not 10-15% cheaper than their physical version. On top of this you completelly factor out distribution cost differences and printing costs. More importantly once up front initial costs are covered with ebooks publishers have a single infintally reproducable product at zero cost! While on the consumers side they receive no physical tangible product. Dimissing the value consumers and fans place in the tagible product is misguided, expecting them to pay the same when this is gone is even more so.

    I may sound like I am ranting and lecturing but I find it hard to see one of my favorate authors get lost in this new world of change and bemoaning the old world rather than embracing that change to their advantage. For one simple reason. I want more people to read your books.

    I ask you to look other mediums(who remember or all growing and competing with your for peoples time and money) such as music and games to see how new artists have used the internet and the free distribution it povides to gain more fans, and build up a bigger following, and ultimately make more money if thats your end goal.

    Or even look to your own medium books and take inspiration from the likes of Brandon Sanderson, Perter Watts, Cory Doctorow, Theresa Ragan and Hugh C. Howey who have seen great success from embrassing things like allowing free distribution of their books with creative commons, or self publishing on ebook stores and charging greatly reduced prices.

    Writing like music and film and games is not dying, there is more being produced than ever before, perhaps thats the problem, there is more and more to compete with you need to stand out from the crowd.

    Most of all remember I want to see you succeed and be successful!

  36. Chris Hardwick says:

    I think you’re one of the best writers I’ve ever read, and I read more than almost anyone I’ve ever met. Some weeks I’d read 10 novels a week, and I’ve been reading like that for over 30 years. I could send you some pictures if you like of all the Hardbacks of yours I’ve bought over the years. I have all the Soprano Sorceress, the Corean Chronicles, most of the Recluse series, and the new Imager series. I’ve always loved being able to buy hardbacks of my favorite authors. I mention all this before getting to where I disagree with you.

    You mention that the paper accounts for only 10-15% of total cost and therefore ebooks shouldn’t be much cheaper than hardbacks. Well, if you don’t want to sell the ebooks as soon as the hardcover is released, that’s fine. It’s the way paperbacks have been sold for decades. But I completely disagree with the premise that ebooks are only 10-15% cheaper than hardbacks. There is the same upfront cost possibly, although I since the book is not being edited twice, or having artwork done twice I don’t see how you can actually say this. Possibly you could justify having to have it re formatted, but honestly how much could that cost? I use Calibre to maintain my ebook collection and I can convert one format to another in a matter of seconds. I would have serious doubts if you tried to state that the publisher has to go to a lot of trouble to format an ebook. But here is where your basic premise is wrong. You’re not competing with hardback sales and to try to is stupid. You’re competing with used bookstores and libraries. I own over 5,000 books, so I’m much, much more inclined to buy books than the average person. However, a very large percentage of those books, maybe 80% were purchased at a used book store, where unfortunately the authors received no compensation for those sales at all. Now, I can buy almost any book published at a used book store in paperback for about 50% of the paperback retail price. Or, as I’ve done many more times than I’ve bought a book, I can check it out from the public library, where again the author receives no compensation.

    So you think you’re competing with sales of new hardback and maybe paperbacks but your not. You’re competing with used book stores and libraries. As far as price goes, with ebooks there is essentially a fixed cost to “produce” the book, but it can be sold an unlimited number of times for that single fixed cost. I don’t know if you’re aware of a game distribution company call Steam or not. They distribute games via digital downloads. They have done some really interesting work looking at sales versus price on the games they distribute. They found if they reduce price by 25% the sales increase 4 fold, if they reduce it by 50% the sales go up by 10 fold and if they reduce price by as much as 90% they have seen sales increase by as much as 1200%. I’ve seen 30 year old books selling on Amazon in the ebook format for more than the paperbacks would cost. If you set prices for ebooks at half or less the price of the paperback, even if you wait to sell them that way for some set time after publishing them in hardback or even paperback, I believe you would sell many, many times more books and make way more profit in the long run.

    My wife and I have 3 kindles, two of the black and white, strictly ebook readers, which I love and one of the newer kindle fires for web browsing and such on the go. I’d much rather read a book on my kindle now than an actual hardback. The kindle is much, much lighter, and easier to hold for long periods of time, the fonts are adjustable, and you never need a bookmark. You want to know how many books I’ve bought from amazon for the kindle? 2 There are a lot of books available for free legitimately, and even more if you don’t care so much about such technicalities. If you want to start selling more ebooks to people like me, start pricing them better. If you’re publishers want, take back the rights and do it yourself. If you published the entire Recluse series as ebooks for $20 or even $30 I’d snatch that up in a heartbeat and I would imagine, many, many more would also. So you can hold on to this idea that ebooks are just as valuable as hardbacks and should therefore be priced accordingly or you can understand that with a fixed cost but unlimited sales potential you can make a lot more money selling them a lot cheaper.

    I am one of your biggest fans and I want you to get paid selling your work, and I honestly think you can make more by pricing them for less. I hope you actually read this and I hope you stay healthy and keep writing for many, many more years. I’m loving the new imager series by the way. My wife and I both want to know if you plan to write about Rhens daughter when she grows up.

  37. Carly says:

    I just bought one of your books after finding out that it was published without DRM. I have no objection to paying for ebooks- paying the full price (sometimes even more) of a physical book seems excessive, but I’d be willing to pay even that. What I do object to is paying to essentially rent a locked book, knowing that the seller can modify or even revoke my access to it at any time, for any reason, without explanation. I also resent that part of the cost for most ebooks goes to pay for DRM. Being asked to pay extra for a crippled and inferior product because the publisher assumes that I’m a probable thief is ridiculous. Unfortunately, the default attitude of almost all publishers (Tor excepted, thankfully), is that locking down books is the best way to prevent piracy.

    I think that a cultural/attitude shift, accompanied by more education, would be better. DRM locks are easy to break, and so don’t do anything much to deter piracy. Their only effect is to cause anger and frustration among users, prevent device-switching, and generate resentment that a legitimately paid-for book is far inferior to the easily available pirated version. Under those circumstances, I can see why some people would feel justified in resorting to piracy. On the other hand, a publisher who distributes DRM-free books KNOWS that you could freely copy and distribute them if you chose, and is relying on your honesty to use the books legitimately. Distributing a book in that case would be a breach of trust, and a contemptible thing to do. Provided that social attitudes support this view, I think that selling unlocked books would be one of the best ways to increase legitimate ebook sales while deterring some types of pirate.

  38. Danish says:

    Truthfully speaking I was one of those who downloaded books online for free but it was because I didn’t have the money at the time to buy the books and I didn’t think it much different from borrowing a book from the library. I am happy to say that I have every copy of L.E Modesitt’s bought and paid for now. I have actually been systematically buying books from all my favourite authors. Most in ebook formats but quite a lot in hard copy. I have a sizeable library now that makes me feel pretty good. Nowadays when I see an author that I like and find his/her books on torrent I feel bad about it and wish there was a way I could help.

  39. Kris says:

    I am of very mixed feelings on media piracy. A significant portion of the pirate downloaders would never have purchased the material anyway. So you are actually reaching a larger medium (for say a musician with live shows this isn’t AS bad). That said at the same time legitimate ebook sales are incredibly poorly handled by most companies. As an example Antiagon Fire today on amazon (pre-release) results in

    Formats
    Amazon price New from Used from
    Kindle Edition — $18.43 —
    Hardcover $17.39 $17.39 —
    Expand Audio, CD, Audiobook, MP3 Audio, Unabridged $20.24 $20.24 —

    So i can buy the physical hardcover book LESS then the ebook. (very close including shipping) There is clearly something wrong with the industry when the infinitely reproducible at near 0 additional cost book cost close to the price of the physical copy. Providers will have to adapt and begin providing reasonable cost while still providing creators with reasonable value for their works. If the industry does not adapt it will force creators to begin self publishing via electronic means, eventually eliminating the majority of physical books. As someone who owns a couple hundred hard cover and at least 1000 soft cover novels that is not something i would like to see. However if given say a web only publishing site that essentially just allowed fans to rank authors works and provided direct buy links to the authors private estore providing the majority of the ebook price directly to the author (as some musicians are now doing with declining cd media) i would support ebooks more.

  40. John Lord says:

    Mr Modesitt,

    I’ve been buying your books, one after another, as fast as I can read them in Kindle format, but the strangest thing happend just tonight. I have 38 of your books so far, in my Kindle library. I went to buy The Green Progression at Amazon and saw it in the Kindle format, but after I logged in with my Amazon account, it was no longer available in Kindle format. That was very strange! The Kindle format of that book vanished in the few seconds it took me to log in. What happened? Amazon can verify that I’ve purchased my 38 books with the same email address I supplied here. Is there anyway I can get the Kindle version of The Green Progression? If not, I’ll likely have to scriunge the local used bookstores, since it seems to be out of print now. I’d much rather you got money for your books. I also have 8 of your books in paperback. I prefer the ebook formats because I can resize fonts to make the books easier for me to see and read. Please email me if Amazon puts the Kindle format back up for sale. I KNOW I saw it there seconds before I logged in!

    • Because of various rights issues I cannot address here, The Green Progression is not available in Kindle format. Amazon likely created its own Kindle version and then discovered it could not be legally sold.

  41. russell says:

    I just want to point out that a lot of people seem to think that it is their right to read a book, even if they have to resort to stealing it (pirating is stealing any way you look at it). But its not a right it is a privilege that you pay for or you should not read it, like anything else in life if you cant afford it you don’t go out and steal it you just live without until you can afford it, why should a book be any different.

    Also, if a publisher is charging too high of a price then don’t read the book, if enough people stop buying their books they will lower the price.

  42. Jim says:

    ” Somehow, it doesn’t seem to penetrate that while paper may be the single largest component of “physical” publishing costs, it still only amounts to something like 10-15% of the publisher’s cost of producing a book, i.e., a few dollars.”

    Argh. This ticks me off like you couldn’t believe. This is so intellectually dishonest.

    $10 for a paperback is one thing, because it includes printing, storage, delivery to the stores, and profit for the entire channel, as well as risk to the publisher.

    With ebooks, there IS almost NO CHANNEL. There is low risk to the publisher because they don’t have to invest a large amount to print up thousands of copies. There is no brick and mortar store taking up a large chunk of the price for both making a profit and covering their own costs. And there is definitely no delivery.

    It’s not “just a few bucks”. It’s the majority of the price. Mr. Modesitt Jr, you make me angry with your dishonesty.

    Regarding books that are 10 years old or more, the majority of the publisher and author profit has already been made. There is absolutely no reason to still charge people $10 on a 10 year old book in ebook format, especially if the original paperback was $5.99. There is also no reason to charge $10 on any ebook at all.

    Worse, a lot of people, such as myself, have already BOUGHT those paperbacks. I own a lot of your books. I would love to have them in ebook format, but there is no way I can afford to spend $10 or $20 to buy them again.

  43. I don’t think you’re getting the picture. The figures I cited happen to be in the ballpark. You may not like them. You may think publishers are inefficient, but paper and distribution are only 10-15%. These days, because of the change in the tax laws under the Thor Power tools decision, publishers are printing to demand and don’t maintain large warehouse stocks [because they get taxed on inventory at year-end].

    The retailer is getting something like 35% of the price of the ebook, and under the DOJ settlement, the publisher cannot set the retail price. Also, the publisher’s costs have never included brick and mortar stores. They cover the payment to the author, to the cover artist, the designer, the editor, the copy-editor, the proof-reader, and to all the sales and marketing people who still seem to be necessary, because, if a publisher doesn’t have them, books don’t get produced and bought by retailers… or customers.

    Second, there are still distribution, editing, and marketing costs, and those costs are spread over all the formats of the book. With paperback sales dropping to roughly 20% of what they were 15 years ago, and ebook sales not coming close to making up that deficit, how do you propose the publishers stay in business? As for older books, there are books of mine that only covered their costs after ten years, and some that never have. The publisher is much more likely to publish and invest in a high quality “borderline” book, in terms of sales, if there’s a possibility of eventually breaking even.

    Whether you like it or not, publishing remains a low-margin business, and every publishing firm out there is struggling to maintain very modest profits [and some aren't succeeding]. Even Amazon has barely been making ends meet, and you can check their financials. That’s very public. You may be angry at the price; but I’m neither dishonest nor getting filthy rich.

  44. Noob says:

    Well….I purchased the hard cover of imagers challenge when it first came out.
    I actually have purchased nearly ALL your books. The split is about 40% hard cover, and 60% paperback.

    I pulled out the imager series to read it again – and can’t find my copy of imager’s challenge! Nooooooo! I already read the first one!

    So…sad to say I am actually online looking for a pirated copy right now….to tide me over until I can find my copy.

    I know the hard cover is somewhere in the house….I found my imager’s intrigue in hard copy…can’t find challenge.

    I don’t feel I am pirating since I did pay for the original copy..AND..full price in hard cover.

  45. Brian says:

    I have an 8 foot tall bookcase double and quadruple stacked with books, mostly paperbacks, but as a paraplegic, I find reading physical books very painful, especially hardbacks. I’m forced to spend most of my days lying flat on my stomach, which doesn’t work well with reading physical books. I have to physically pick up the book to read the rightmost page, then I can lie flat again and just hold the leftmost page vertically to read it. This is so painful that I haven’t read a hardback in several years – and I read over 200 books a year and have since I was 10 years old.

    I discovered the solution when I stumbled across Baen Books free library, plus their offer to give all their books to the disabled for free, which has been an absolute Godsend. I can lie face down, adjust the font on my monitor so it’s easy to see, and flip to the next page with my mouse wheel.

    Before discovering e-books I made a trip to the library every two to three weeks, filling my backpack with up to 20 books at a time, which weighed 30+ pounds. I also hurt myself very badly every time I made the trip.

    I’m a huge fan of L. E. Modesitt, and I think I’ve read almost everything he’s ever published. Some of those books I managed to get my local library to buy, some I borrowed from family members, and others I bought. But I only became interested in him as an author BECAUSE someone loaned me one of his books. He made no money on that exchange, but he made a fan – one who has both bought his books, convinced his local library to buy his latest books AND to fill in the blanks when they were missing books in a series, and I’ve also recommended Mr. Modesitt’s books to my friends as well. That’s led to many more book sales, and they’ve recommended him to THEIR friends.

    All because my sister loaned me a copy of the first book in “The Soprano Sorceress” series. Yes, LOANED.

    Might I point out Eric Flint’s essays on DRM and e-book piracy – he’s the author of the very successful 1632 series, has written books with David Weber and several other authors, and has a COMPLETELY different view on piracy.

    “Someone asked me once, in a debate, how I’d react if I discovered that one of my titles—maybe all of them!—had become widely pirated. I started by posing the most extreme case I could imagine.

    “You mean, I walk into a drugstore and see that the latest copy of Time magazine has my face on the cover, with a title that reads ‘Works of Eric Flint pirated worldwide!’ and an article on the inside that tells everybody exactly how to do it?”

    “Yes,” came the reply, demonstrating that my opponent was no wizard at the art of debate. “What measures would you take?”

    “Well,” I said, “the very first thing I’d do is get on the phone and call my friend Mike Spehar. He’s a retired Air Force pilot, and I’d want his advice on which brand of private jet I should buy to be able to commute easily from the villas I’d be buying in southern France, the coast just south of Barcelona… Hm, maybe a penthouse in Manhattan and another one in Paris…”

    It was like shooting fish in a barrel.

    In the real world, the only authors—or musicians, by the way—who get “pirated” in any significant numbers are ones who are already famous and enjoy top sales. (And all the “piracy” is likely to do, even then, is simply boost their sales. See my next essay for a further discussion.) The great problem faced by all authors—musicians are in a very similar position—is the opacity of the book market. The entertainment market in general, actually, even movies. Compared to that problem, all others are fleas standing next to mammoths.”

    His essays on copyright, DRM, and piracy are well worth reading:

    http://www.ericflint.net/index.php/2011/09/26/salvos-against-big-brother/

    I will always be grateful for e-books, and especially that TOR and Baen publish them without DRM, and as a result my e-book library (and the amount I’ve spent on it) dwarfs the number of books in my quadruple-stuffed 8 foot bookcase. Yes, Baen gives me theirs for free, but TOR doesn’t, and I’ve bought many e-books from them because they also publish series by David Weber (a major writer for Baen) and authors like L.E. Modesitt.

  46. Alain says:

    Hello,
    Alright. Ok.
    I admit it. I’ve done it too.
    But then I live in Africa where online book buying is basically non-existent, not to mention dreadfully expensive to set up (banks will eat you up), in most places.
    B&N won’t work here, IOS doesn’t care and Google Play doesn’t have the right facility.
    I also don’t have means to travel abroad (and also if I get lucky to be allowed to with your capricious US embassy staff here-card carrying GOP members all!) by the time hardcopies reach me, either its expensive (here), my interest focused elsewhere, or I may have moved on.

    So what’s a guy to do. I’ve loved your series for many years but I’m almost 40 now.
    Too much else to do & too little time left to remain flexible.

    I understand the “author screwed” part and its really regrettable. I will pray the staus quo here changes soon (& in time). Till then, accept my heartfelt apology for what’s been done.
    For now, for me, the band still plays on….

    Just finished Rex Regis. Fantastic. Thanks Sir. For this and for the memories.

  47. Spookywanluke says:

    I have and always will buy books in paperback – Just love the smell, feel and sight of books in a case.

    Though I have two thoughts on the matter of Ebooks –
    1. I do not believe should have to pay multiple times so that I can have a copy to read on my phone/ebook/computer and one in my physical bookshelf.
    Baen, Pazio and Tor have realized this and most of their books when I buy a copy, I get the ebook as well, or at least severely discounted.

    I have pirated other authors that do not cater for this.

    2. With the going away of physical bookstores. (we’ve had three majors close in my country in the space of 5 years), I no longer can browse for the coolest sounding/looking book, or new author. The net is just not the same for the feel of whether a book will be “just the right type”.

    This has definitely led to a marked decline of new authors/new books being taken up here in my city and probably elsewhere.

    3. When I can buy a book from the UK for 15bucks, free shipping, why would I spend 35-40 for the same novel here down under…

Leave a Reply

You must enable javascript to see captcha here!