Intellectual Property Piracy: A Few [More] Thoughts

Given a number of reactions to my last blog, as well as the ongoing discussions, I realized, if rather belatedly, that two aspects of the whole question of the piracy of items mainly of intellectual property, e.g., movies, books, and music, seem to have been overlooked, or at least greatly minimized.  The first aspect is the fact that people regard items largely embodying intellectual property as fundamentally different from other items of property that are also bought and sold in commerce. Many people, as indicated by a number of comments on this blog, tend to regard the purchase of a piece of music or a book as a permanent license to that music or book, with no requirement to purchase another copy when the first is no longer available or useable.

My wife is a singer and a professor of voice and opera.  She has original, i.e., bought and paid for, sheet music for over 5,000 songs, largely from opera, oratorio, art song and the like, or music theatre.  Sheet music is expensive.  And at the end of every school year, she has to replace some of that sheet music, some because it’s old and literally falling apart, or otherwise damaged or unreadable, and some because it has “disappeared,” in one way or another.  Voice students who enter competitions must supply one or two [depending on the competition] original pieces of sheet music for each song that they have on their competition entry sheet.  Use of copies disqualifies them.  Often the student’s teacher supplies one copy [legally borrowed from the teacher], and the student supplies the other. It doesn’t matter how many times my wife or a student has bought a particular piece of sheet music; copies are not allowed.

Likewise, and perhaps this marks my mindset, there certain books that I’ve bought several copies of over the years when the previous copy deteriorated or was damaged or lost.  I didn’t feel that I “owned” the right to Roger Zelazny’s Lord of Light when the dachshund dragged it off the lowest shelf of the bookcase and used it as a chew toy.  I bought another.

When we buy a pastry from a fancy bakery, we don’t think that we should get all subsequent versions of that pastry for free… or reduced rates.  So why do people think that books or music are different?  Goods in trade are goods in trade.  Admittedly, probably the only reason other goods aren’t pirated is because there’s either no way for an individual to make a copy or the cost of making it would exceed the cost of buying it.

What’s different about ebooks, music, and movies is that we as a society have reached the point where these items can be copied cheaply and almost undetectably.  Because the cost of copying has become so cheap, at least some people, and that “some” becomes tens of millions in the aggregate, equate the cost of duplication to the value of the item.

One commenter justified making pirate copies of DVDs because his videos were damaged in moving by events beyond his control.  Well… by that token, shouldn’t all of us be able to pirate or get knock-off copies of anything that’s been damaged or stolen by others [and I’m not talking about insurance, because you pay for insurance]?  Another claimed that the movie industry was flooding the market, and that publishers were doing the same, but in point of fact there are fewer movies released annually today than there were in the years between 1930 and 1960, and in F&SF, the number of books released by major and specialty publishers has remained fairly constant for about ten years.  What that commenter was essentially saying was that people can’t afford all that is out there, and because the quality is uneven, they pirate. Not having the money to afford goods or because the quality is uneven is a valid excuse to pirate?

Several other commenters made the point that the drop-off in paperback sales is due to high prices.  That’s frankly bullshit… or a cop-out, if not both. I went back and looked at the paperback prices of my fantasy novels in 1995.  That was before the big drop-off in paperback sales began. Paperback versions of my fantasy novels were then priced at $6.99.  My latest paperback novels are priced at $7.99.  Over this period U.S. inflation, measured by the U.S. CPI, has been just about exactly 50%, while the price of paperbacks has gone up 14.3%. In real dollar purchasing power, paperback books [at least mine] now cost less in real purchasing power than they did 17 years ago. Pricing shouldn’t be an excuse. Now, it may very well be that many would-be readers today don’t want to pay as much as either they or their predecessors once did… but please… it’s not the price “increases.”  And by the same token, an ebook priced at $7.99 today would “cost” $5.34 in 1995 dollars.

Another possibility for the drop-off is simply that reading skills have declined. Studies show that a greater percentage of the population has difficulty concentrating on long reading passages, and if reading is a chore, then it’s not enjoyable, and those people won’t read as much. Reading also takes a lot longer for a pay-off/satisfaction…and we have become a more “instant” society.  So… in terms of price, people may well not wish to pay as much for a book as they once did… but it’s not because the books are more expensive, but because people wish to pay less, and that’s not the same thing… and, again, justifying piracy or theft because the price is more than one wants to pay is in fact intellectually dishonest, not to mention illegal.

Finally, the second, and equally disturbing, aspect of intellectual property piracy is that it effectively devalues the creators of such property, particularly in the case of authors, in comparison to other occupations in society, not because the worth of those creations has changed, but because the easy of pirating them has increased manyfold. Twenty years ago, most F&SF books sold 30,000- 100,000 copies in paperback, if not more.  Today, the same authors and authors of the same level of popularity and ability are only selling 10,000 – 40,000, and their ebook sales only make up a fraction of the difference.  Is the product worth that much less?  I don’t think so, but I’ve seen author after author vanish as their sales decreased below the level of profitability.  I’ve mentioned this on and off for the past four years, and people nod and agree, but paperback book sales have plummeted, and hardcover sales have declined, and ebook sales have not made up the difference.

Buying a book equals unlimited free lifetime copies?  Not until I get free unlimited lifetime pizzas for purchasing one pizza.

 

31 thoughts on “Intellectual Property Piracy: A Few [More] Thoughts”

  1. rehcra says:

    Um.. The analogy only works with food if your talking about getting the information that produces the food; aka the recipe.

    I would also say that piracy is not the main factor in declining book sales nor is the decline of reading skills (Which came first the chicken or the egg?) Other entertainment markets have just grown or in some cases been created. So the willingness to pay becomes less of an evil end user plot of large scale greed and more of open market competition between other products and books.

    -rehcra

    1. If it were an open-market competition, I wouldn’t mind it, but when certain media are available “free,” if one has no ethics, that is, then it’s not an open-market competition.

  2. Frank says:

    I’ve followed this discussion with interest up until now. Although I don’t have what would readily be construed as “skin in the game,” I find the conditions that would appear to decrease the returned value of writing, (specifically writing the type of works that I find entertaining and wish to read), to be concerning and worrisome.

    I thought about that and realized that the point that I believe a number of the contributors are either missing or underestimating is that if we diminish or remove the profit incentive from writers (and/or any creators of intellectual properties), it may just have a serious effect on us, the consumers, in the form of less quantity and/or quality of what we wish to consume.

    Following that thought, I started to “spin” ideas as to how to “fix” the situation, specifically as relates to the electronic media and how, when combined with the internet, the ability to “pirate” has become more abundant, cheaper to do, with little or no concern from being caught. So, I tried to think of analogous situations that I could learn from. “Free” TV is an interesting analogy, as you can buy a TV and receive “free” broadcasts, or you can pay a cable company to sell you the same broadcasts plus more. There is a difference in quality level of the transmission and certainly you could make a case for the quality level of some of the broadcast programs. So, why do we buy cable TV? Unfortunately the analogy starts to break down, as there are identifiable, measureable differences in transmission, choice, etc. It used to be that one could say that there were no ads on cable, but that farce is no longer even alluded to.

    My point is not that I have a solution. My point is that if we, the consumers, realize that we may be “killing the goose” with this newfound ability to “steal” in such an impersonal and (at least perceived to be) non-threatened manner, we may, yet, be able to figure a way out of this. And, let’s not forget that the ability for the poorest of us to utilize these intellectual properties for educational purpose has been answered by our public library systems for centuries. It does not require that deprive the creators of their living.

    Anyhow…my thoughts.

  3. Sabine says:

    I want authors to write books, so I pay for them, but DRM annoys me. When I buy a book I want to be able to use it the way I like and not the way a publisher likes. Following your anology, if my computer crashes I’ll buy the book again, but if ‘m careful and backup I want to be able to read it my whole life. The books I really like, I’m carefull with and still enjoy them.

    1. Baen books have always been DRM-free. Tor is in the process of making all its ebooks DRM-free.

  4. Nathaniel says:

    What is it about Lord of Light? My dachshund ate the back cover off of my copy as well.

    Anyways, I think there’s a hole in your argument. We all agree if we buy a pizza, we are purchasing an unlimited right to do whatever we want with that specific pizza- those atoms, if you will, but no future copies/representations of those atoms. When I buy a book, your argument extends, I am again buying those atoms- not the words themselves, but the ink that they are displayed with. I, therefore, do not have the right to take those words and display them with other atoms- to steal a new copy of the book if mine is lost, or download the words off of the internet.

    But what, then, am I buying when I buy an ebook? No atoms are given to me in exchange for my dollars, and I am instead given an electronic representation of the non-physical text of the novel, which I view with my own atoms (and electricity).

    In that case, if I buy a physical book I am buying atoms but not words, and if I buy an ebook I am buying words but not atoms. If my apartment burns down and my bookshelves with it, taking new atoms in the form of a book would be stealing, and immoral- but if my hard drive dies, and I download a new copy of the words I bought, is that stealing/immoral? (it’s obviously illegal). If I, instead of downloading a new ebook, scan/type in the words from my (purchased) physical book into a text file, is that stealing? After all, I did not buy the words when I bought the physical book, only the atoms, and when my ebook burned down I lost the only copy of the words that I purchased. I have no right to make my own copies- I’m stealing a new digital copy.

    This feels wrong- surely if I bought the physical book, I should have the right to transcribe the words in it into another copy for my own use to read on another device. Just as if I bought a pizza, I am in my rights to strip off the ingredients and make another dinner out of it (though it wouldn’t taste very good, I’d imagine). But it would also be fine if I let someone else strip and remake my pizza for me- would I then not be fine letting someone else transcribe the words from a book I had bought into a text document? No, as when I buy a book I do not purchase the words, and the right to use/move them as I see fit, as per your argument- only the atoms. Books, therefore, are not analogous to pizzas at all- I cannot do what I wish with them, even for my own personal use.

    If I’m not buying the right to do what I wish (for my own use) with the words in a physical book, then what am I buying when I buy an ebook? Every time I move the file to a new folder I’d be stealing- moving a file first makes a copy then deletes the original. But if I do have the right to make identical copies of words in ebooks, why then not in physical books? Else they are not the same thing at all. And if I can (morally) make backup digital, identical copies of my physical books, what is the difference between the (non-physical) words in a text document I type myself and one I download? The words are identical, the atoms and electrons wholly mine, only the route they took to get to my screen is different.

    Hosting copies of books for anyone to download is wrong. But if downloading backup copies of books one owns is wrong, I don’t think your argument comparing them to pizzas/pastrys proves it.

  5. Kathryn says:

    As a commenter said above, the food analogy isn’t correct. If you buy a pasty, it’s a (literal) consumable good. You get one use out of it. A book, a film, an album – these all have, theoretically, infinite views attached to them. Games are in a strange co-existential plane with regards to this (especially PC games), but for the sake of argument we’ll put them in with books, films and so on.

    You talk about one person ‘pirating’ copies of material he’d already bought. Say they were CDs or movies, if he had made back ups himself after the purchase (say the day he bought them), it would likely not be anything other than fair use, yet after his items were destroyed and he replaced them with pirated copies, it’s wrong. The end result is the same, the difference is the method and difference in time. Both are equally illegal under current copyright laws, but one is almost certainly protected by fair use and the other isn’t. Doesn’t make much sense to me.

    There’s also that whole aspect of “combating piracy”. Blergh. Talk about damaging the industry, and you need to look no further than the money publishers of all media spend on DRM products and safeguarding. Yet it’s 100% ineffectual and does nothing but harm your legitimate customers. I’ve had DVDs (exclusively Disney) refuse to work properly with one media player on my PC because of their anti-piracy system, I’ve had games refuse to work or have problems (or even try to damage my PC!) because of their DRM, and so on. DRM and anti-piracy measures do nothing to stop piracy and do everything to annoy your customers. Baen, as you mentioned above, have always been DRM free but they don’t try to combat piracy in any really offensive manner. What do they do? Baen Free Library, and they allow someone to host Baen CDs online for people to grab free ebooks. Yes, I can go online and get almost every Honorverse book for free and legally. What does that do? Encourages me to BUY them. I’ve heard it said that the copies floating around on pirate networks can be almost always be traced back to the Baen site.

    You’ve done it again, though. You’ve said outright that piracy is to blame for authors losing sales and for them being unable to make the sales, yet you’ve offered no source nor statistics for it. I would guess that the average bestselling novel is pirated some multiple of the number of copies it sells.

    You’ve not accounted for the shifting market, either. Sure, maybe yourself, Elizabeth Moon, Mercedes Lackey etc are selling less, but there’s every chance that it’s because the market has moved on. Go back to the days of your highest sales figures, and the market would have looked different. Terry Brooks did extremely well with his early Shannara books, but now? I bet they’re not selling as much as they had. Why? People have moved on.

    But this argument will be forgotten in a few years. Radios with cassette recorders never killed the music industry, MP3 downloads and MP3 players never killed it either, recordable DVDs or VHSs never killed the movie or TV industry, so when we say piracy will kill the book industry we’re scaremongering and scapegoating.

    As I’ve said a few times now, piracy can cause a problem and may lose some sales, but it cannot and will not account for the way the market is today. It is not the fault of the pirates that the book industry is close to being on its knees at times. Maybe, just maybe, we should stop scapegoating it and look at the recent near-collapse of the brick & mortar stores and the low prices of online vendors to start with.

    1. Yes, I have done it again. That’s because piracy is indeed responsible for lost sales. Period. The absolute numbers can be debated ad infinitum, but if you really believe that when so many “free” downloads are available that absolutely no one takes advantage of them instead of buying a book, then you’re sadly mistaken. There have been several commenters on this blog who’ve said directly that they tried these downloads for authors they didn’t know, and didn’t buy books or ebooks because they didn’t like what they read. Given the relatively restricted audience of this blog, that suggests there are far more than a handful of others who do the same. As for numbers, exactly how can one quantify downloads that aren’t counted, much less audited? As the saying goes, where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

      As for my sales, I’ve been on the bestseller lists in three different decades, including this one, but if you look below the top five or ten authors on the lists — any lists — you’ll find that the total sales numbers required to make a list, for anyone, are less than they were a decade ago. I’m not complaining personally. I sell three-four times the numbers of hardcovers now as I did per book twenty years ago, but the decline in numbers of paperbacks reflects an overall erosion of the marketplace. And, indeed, that market is changing, I agree. With the growth of self-published ebooks, we’re witnessing what might be called a new era, perhaps to be called the age of dollar-dreadfuls. Whether writing and literature recover from it will be an interesting question.

  6. Tim says:

    A interesting statistic published in Feb 2012 at

    http://joan-druett.blogspot.co.uk/2012/02/mass-market-paperback-sales-down-over.html

    which compares sales volumes by category between 2010 and 2011. Ebook revenues rose by around $35M, whereas paperbacks fell by $15M and hardbacks by $17M.

    Assuming these figures from the AAP are correct, then on the face of it you can balance ebook growth almost exactly with the reduction in hard copy.

    Of course, it is not broken down by genre, and it would be interesting to see how the genres match, or as someone stated, there is a change in what people are prepad to pay for, and maybe F&SF is in decline.

  7. Curtis says:

    @Kathryn

    http://thetrichordist.wordpress.com/2012/06/18/letter-to-emily-white-at-npr-all-songs-considered/

    There’s an article with statistics stating much the same as Mr. Modesitt, only with regards to music instead of books.

  8. When you get right down to it, there is no defense for pirating a book. Want to check out if you’ll like a book without buying it? There’s a perfectly legal way to do so – its’ called a LIBRARY. I rarely buy hardback books. Not because I don’t like them, but as a part-time professor, I can’t afford them. So I do something really radical – I go to the library and check them out. Right now, for instance, my request list at my local library is about 30 books long. Yes, I have to wait for them. And you know what? It doesn’t kill me. If I like a book, I generally buy it in paperback. And I am praying that mass market paperbacks do not die out – because those are the books I mostly buy. And I’ll also point out that I read a lot because I read fast – I generally can get through a book a day if I’m not doing anything else – I just finished C. J. Cherryh’s Conspirator – started it yesterday morning and finished it around noon today. I was a bit slow, but I’m currently teaching a 3 hour summer class and had to finish grading tests and posting grades from the last summer session (ended 7/6). So I get through a lot of books. Yet I manage to feed my habit without stealing from people who are working very hard to feed that habit. There is no defense for stealing a book and that’s what pirating is.

  9. Nick says:

    What is the difference between a library and pirating. In a library the institution buys a copy and people take turns in borrowing the book, while you have borrowed the book you can copy, scan the book or even just take the book. In piracy one person buys the book and allows others to have the digital copy. Piracy allows you to have the copy indefinitely but restricts you in that it is not viable to create a physical copy whereas a library allows you to have access to the physical copy but for a limited duration. The former is the only real difference between what a library does and and what piracy does.

    1. Except that many libraries buy more than one copy of a book, and if it is a paper version, the time and effort involved generally preclude additional copying. The libraries don’t make endless copies, and their lending restricts the book to one person at a time, just as if you lend your physical copy to a friend or relative. I have no problem with that, nor do I think does any author. Pirated ebooks have a disconcerting habit of both multiplying and creating endless rationalizations for what still amounts to theft and paying publishers and authors less. Let’s be honest. If I come up with a novel, and you want to read it, I want to be paid for it. All the rationalizations about ideas are just that, rationalizations to justify not paying for something because there is now a technology that allows virtually costless duplication.

  10. Brad says:

    The cat has been let out of the bag, unfortunately. The industry will have to find a new way to co-exist with piracy… it’s not going away.

    You could probably blame the self-entitlement and “try before you buy” thing on the prevalence of smartphones and free apps on iOS and Android. So many are used to getting quality apps and entertainment for free now (with ads, of course), that they balk at anything that costs more than $5. I’m guilty of it too. I understand inflation, but I cringe sometimes paying $9 for a paperback when I remember buying them for $4 in the late 80s.

    Other industries have been changing their models to cope with the digital age. Music is often sold song by song now, and people can get the specific songs they like for less than having to buy a full $10+ album with half filler. Many MMO games are “free to play,” and revenue is generated by in-game purchases of content that customizes your experience – and some developers are actually making more money that way than if they sold each copy of the game for $50-$60 a pop. Over time, with microtransactions, some people end up spending more overall.

    Something similar probably needs to happen in the publishing industry. Does that mean sell every eBook for $2? No. Perhaps split novels up and allow people to buy a portion of it for $2, then if they like it they can buy the rest. I don’t know… but they need to revise their model, because unfortunately digital piracy isn’t going anywhere.

  11. R. Hamilton says:

    When the perception is that an ebook should cost much less than a printed book, even if that doesn’t presently reflect the actual cost of production, people won’t take that price seriously – which means either not buying, or high piracy, or both.

    The percentage-based elements of the consumer price (other than the author’s royalties) need to be replaced with fixed costs, amortized over copies sold. If that makes the publishing business as we know it today unprofitable, then it should die, and be replaced with editors and publicists as contractors to the author, paid hourly rates and no percentage. Let the resulting quality issues sort themselves out.

    Piracy is inexcusable. That doesn’t preclude the idea that the present production and distribution system is a parasitic obsolete monstrosity.

    Maybe ebooks should have advertising. Or maybe there should be a flat rate all-you-can-read subscription (with online-only access, or expiring copies, although the latter could be circumvented).

    Something has to change. Libraries loan ebooks now (although in some cases, they’re not made available for that purpose until some months after regular publication; and I suppose the libraries “buy” licenses for X number of concurrent loans of an ebook). That’s legitimate, but is still going to cause downward price pressure…

  12. Nathaniel says:

    Piracy may certainly cause sales to decrease, but a much greater factor was B&N and Borders crushing the life out of the mid-tier book sellers, only for Borders to then self-destruct with horrid business practices. We’re down to Borders and Amazon being the only sellers of note beyond the NYT top 10-only places like Walmart and Target (which sell tons of a few books), and while Amazon has been great at creating an ebook market, it’s not so great as a marketplace for introducing readers to new authors, which upper-mid-tier/lower-upper-tier authors like Mr. Modesitt need to sell well.

    The ebook market is going to massively expand again this year, with 3million ereaders being sold last Christmas alone, but if their aren’t more bookseller chains popping up soon the market is going to be stuck with only NYT-top10 books and dirt-cheap ebooks from no-names. I love the Sandersons and Scalzis of the world, but I’d like Mr. Modesitt to still be able to publish sci-fi and get paid.

  13. Mayhem says:

    I’m with Nathaniel – I feel the change in the marketplace in terms of consolidation of bookstores and destruction of the smaller stores has removed the ready availability of books, especially genre books, from the mass public.
    Where are the dollar racks of cheap throwaway paperbacks today? Every shopping mall in NZ used to have 2 or more bookshops, now there’s usually just one, and it mostly sells paraphernalia like paper and scissors or coffee table books with barely one wall of fiction let alone genre.

    When a city the size of London only supports a single dedicated genre bookshop, three major stores and less than a dozen second hand bookshops with a decent SF&F section, you know there is something wrong with the market.

    By contrast I found two dedicated bookshops and eight secondhand bookshops with a strong genre selection in an afternoon randomly wandering in Edinburgh.

    That has to have had far more of an impact than ebook piracy, if for no other reason than because up until very recently as ebooks took off, the majority of pirated books available were quite frankly dreadful, and you had to be a fairly desperate skinflint to bother with them. The sheer quality difference more than made up any urge to download.

    On a separate note, I’m astonished by the description you have of the sheet music industry – I would have expected that the first thing any musician would do after buying some new music would be to photocopy it so they had a copy they could abuse and a master they could go back to once it wore out.
    The whole idea of being expected to use only originals at every turn, especially in a teaching environment where the students wouldn’t know to treat the sheets with respect is staggering and almost economic suicide for the school, unless you then bill the students for it.
    I can see how it would preserve the sheet music industry, however I’m not convinced that gating access to content in that fashion is necessarily a good thing though, and I wonder if in places it is used as a way to restrict access to music in an elitist fashion.

  14. Therman Campbell says:

    I think Brad has a very good point when he says ‘The industry will have to find a new way to co-exist with piracy… it’s not going away.’.

    Basically, the traditional method of author to publisher to printer to distributer to retailer is no longer fully workable with todays technology and prevelance of social outlooks that see illegal downloading of books/movies as acceptable.

    Not sure what the answer is. Perhaps finding a way to add some value to an official copy that isn’t available to the pirate sites directly, imbedding advertisements into the digital copies, making purchasing of an official copy as convenient and much safer than a torrent site, etc. but it is probably time to start trying to find solutions. DRM was such an attempt though ultimately one that is fataly flawed.

  15. Arin says:

    Here’s a fun complication to the argument. In the physical realm: you have a physical copy of the book. You may decide to sell the physical book on, or give it to a friend.

    That second person in the chain (and third, ad infinitum) pays for it, but none of those funds come back to the author or the publisher.

    Legal ebooks have no “used” market right now. One would think that ebook sales might increase to accomodate (as interested parties would then purchase the ebook directly rather than looking for a ‘used’ copy), but availability of pirated editions may make that moot.

    What would be interesting is to see a ‘used’ model extended to the ebook world; but potentially the interest wouldn’t be there as there needn’t be any deprecation of cost due to physical degradation of the book.

    Just something fun to think about.

    1. R. Hamilton says:

      First, some ebook systems have a mechanism for loaning access to a friend (they can only read online or under some other restrictions, and you can’t read it until they return it, at which point they lose access unless they buy their own copy).

      Second, I would have no problem with not being able to resell used ebooks, since physical space isn’t an issue – I could keep a hundred thousand or more on disk, and merely sync some fraction of that to my portable device. Third, with used books one usually just ends up getting more used books in their place (with the used bookstore making a nice cut on the trade-ins). So again, from the consumer’s point of view, if ebooks cost significantly less than paper books, why should it matter if they can’t be resold? I’d feel bad about throwing even an obnoxious printed book in the trash (up to some upper limit of obnoxiousness) – books are special like that. But to delete an ebook I knew I’d never read again wouldn’t bother me in the slightest, not that I would unless it was so horrible that I didn’t want in on my computer, because I tend to want to be able to track down some fragment that I remember, years later.

  16. Jim S says:

    There’s a lot going on in the book market. Some of it is in the readership, some of it is on the publishers, and some of it synergistic between them. But, no matter what, piracy is wrong. It’s theft. Plain and simple.

  17. Paul Wilson says:

    Personally I don’t care for eBooks that much. Readers are fragile. PC’s keep you frozen to one spot. Which PC or reader has my copy of Magic of Recluse? As for the number of people reading going down, I think it’s the young folk. They live in a Helter Skelter world of texting, all night online games and 200 channels of television. Those of us that started reading many years ago still do, but printed books will pass away as will eBooks as we know them. This may not happen in my lifetime, but change is and nothing stays the same forever.

    1. R. Hamilton says:

      My Mac syncs with both my iPhone and iPad, so I can have the same books on both – no fragile reader. The Mac is actually storing all the music, movies, and ebooks on another computer with mirrored drives – no single hardware failure will lose it all. Or it could be stored in the “cloud” (which is also effectively what can happen with a Kindle, I think), so that once purchased, you can always re-download unless you’ve transferred it (if that’s an option) to someone else. Open-ended capacity, either on your own hardware or someone else’s. I couldn’t take 100 physical books with me on a trip, but that wouldn’t even put a dent in my iPad’s storage – books take up WAY less space than music, let alone movies.

      The texting and online games were around in the days of the later Harry Potter books and the Twilight series. They still got read. For what they were, they were both well-written (even if the latter was a bit on the undemanding side); and they were both well enough written to be read by adults as well as children/teenagers.

      Books, or the equivalent, will always be around, but they will certainly have ever more alternatives competing for people’s attention, so less will achieve really massive market penetration. All the more reason to get the fat out of the distribution system, so that more of a decreasing amount of money goes to the authors.

  18. Mark Tamaguchi says:

    I am aware that I will not sway Mr Modesitt’s opinion one bit with this post, but I need to say what I am thinking here.

    The publishing industry is currently responding to electronic formats in the exact same manner the music industry did to MP3’s. They saw a chance to reduce their costs and keep costs to the consumer unaturally high. (This is no different from when, in Canada anyway, a cd cost $25-30, when including all development it cost publishers $1.00 to produce and distribute CDs in the 90’s and 2000’s). The net effect was consumers got very annoyed at the prices and took advantage of a system whereby they could get songs for free.

    Now, the saviour of music in many ways was when the music companies finally started to work together and a single company (apple) saw a huge opportunity. With the iPod becoming a dominant media device music could once again be sold. People will pay a price they consider to be reasonable, especially if there is no chance of things like viruses etc infecting your computer when you pay for that service. If things are made easy and the price is reasonable, people will pay.

    I buy books because I like the experience of a book. I like the smell (especially the smell), the weight and the joy of sitting and reading a book in a comfy chair. My wife buys e-books because they are convenient and the kindle has a booklight built in.

    I don’t buy very many books anymore, especially hardcover because in Canada one of Mr Modesitt’s hardcovers retail for $43 (but less than $35 in the US). That is a perfect example of publisher greed stopping sales. Our dollars are at parity, the book should cost the same. Publishers just know Canadians are used to paying more for things, so they try to charge as much as they think the market will bear. So, instead, I buy more ebooks because at least the prices are the same.

    I haven’t pirated a book, nor would I. However, instead of stealing, I simply don’t buy books. I go to the library. I would suggest, that publishers need to learn from their friends at Apple. Charge what the market will bear and adjust your prices so that you can extract the most legit sales, at the lowest price to maximize income. Make it easy to buy things, keep the prices reasonable and people will buy. Let greed rule the show, and people will pirate.

    Mr Modesitt can get angry and state that cost is a “bullshit” excuse for pirating (which it is), or he can accept that consumers are speaking quietly right now about the prices. It would be best for the industry to listen BEFORE it turns into a yell (as it did with napster and the music industry). It strikes me that the cost of not listening will be a lost decade of sales, a lot of lost jobs, and fewer authors making money (as happened to the music industry).

    What appears to be happening is that the publishing industries are trying to litigate their way back to their profitable old models (like the millenium act here in Canada). Not sure why they’re doing it that way, it hasn’t worked for music/movies/games, but I guess the world was much easier when you could have your cake and eat it too.

    1. I don’t have a problem with people choosing not to buy books; I don’t have problems with libraries; I don’t even have problems with discounts and special deals. And I don’t get angry about any of that. I wouldn’t even mind cheaper prices on ebooks, with the one proviso that Apple and Amazon can’t engage in monopolistic predatory pricing by selling ebooks cheaper than what their costs are. What I do get angry about is the hypocritical reasoning justifying widespread multiple copying [a personal non-traded back-up copy is one thing; dissemination is another].

    2. By the way, where did the $43 Canadian price come from? On my copies it lists a Canadian price of $31.99 [and yes, I agree on the fact that a five dollar price differential between US and Canadian versions is a bit steep, but part of that is due to Canadian law and import restrictions/tariffs, which are not the publisher’s fault].

  19. Steve says:

    @Mark… you should use Amazon.ca, I find it a great price leveller, for example, the latest Imager book and the new one coming in January are both listed at $20.05 CDN.

  20. Brian says:

    I agree that Amazon.ca is a good leveler. I buy just about all my books from there. I live in the country and the closest bookstore is a 15-20 min. drive just to get there without any assurance that they will have what I’m looking for. If I add my fuel costs (today the gas price was around $1.20 CDN/liter = $ 4.54 CDN/gallon) it just makes sense to shop online, buy exactly what I want and for UPS to deliver it/them to my front door.

    With respect to shopping online, I have preordered the Mass Market Paperback of “Scholar” from the above site and eagerly await the September 25th release date. While I was on the site I couldn’t find a LEM $43.00 hardcover either, but saw some that Steve referred to above that were originally listed at $31.99 CDN but discounted to around $20.05 CDN.

    Whether it is a favourite author, such as LEM, or a favourite recording artist, such as Tarja (whose first solo live audio and video product with her band, titled “Act I”, I’ve preordered, too) I’m happy to make a small investment in their writing or performing futures and in my future enjoyment of them.

  21. Wine Guy says:

    A few thoughts:

    1. Theft is theft. Anything else is sophistry. All you have to do is change it around: if LEM put dozens of copies of a book that I had written out for people to read without giving me my due, I would certainly be irritated.

    2. When I purchase a book for my Nook, it goes to my account, not to one of the various devices I own that can read it (1 smartphone, 2 nooks, 2 laptops). And yes, there is a limit: 6 devices can be linked to an account. When/if a device fails, I can de-link it and put in a new one.

    3. All analogies fall down if you get specific enough. Picking nits about the pastry analogy, which everyone seems to understand just fine, is arguing for the sake of arguing. It’s not even a good devil’s advocate.

    4. When I was overseas in SE Asia, I could’ve bought any movie or piece of music for pennies in any format I wanted. Piracy is alive and it is cutting into legitimate profits. How much will forever be unproveable, but it is a discrete and substantial amount.

  22. Brian says:

    One of the ‘rationalizations’ I’ve heard from those who ‘download’ books and/or music for free with technological devices that can cost hundreds if not over a thousand dollars is that the publisher/record company are ripping off the author/musician anyway. They then cite a highly publicized row that an author or musician had with their publisher or label and assume that is the norm for all such relationships. We just haven’t heard about them all because of the conspiracy to cover them up, you see. Nudge nudge wink wink. To put it politely, this is simply ‘intellectual laziness’.

    What do the ‘intellectually disingenuous’ do then? Well they ‘stick’ it to the corporation by stealing what little money (according to their theory) is trickling down to the author/musician, thereby finishing the job the publisher/record company has started (according to their theory).

    Their selfishness blinds them to the fact that they are announcing to the world their HYPOCRISY.

  23. Jeff says:

    I know I used to read many more books than I do now. I think personally it’s because I read a lot of internet content instead.

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