Creative Writing editor, Greg, takes a look at the issue of book piracy…
Contentment is a rare feeling among writers. We spend weeks scouring our drafts for the slightest grammatical error, plot-hole or avoidable cliché; a satisfactory piece of work can be the product of years of re-drafting. That this appreciation should spread to the wider community is the goal of most writers, who envisage their work earning approving nods from agents, publishers and eventually readers.
Sometimes, however, appreciation works in a less tasteful way. American author, Ruth Ann Nordin recently had three books pirated and advertised for sale on the usually reliable Amazon.com. Following complaint, two of the books were promptly removed, but incredibly, ‘The Path to Christmas’, crudely re-titled ‘the-path-to-christmas.pdf’, remained on the website for weeks, and was only removed when Mrs Nordin’s copyright lawyer contacted the firm.
The thought of having one’s publishable ideas stolen is appalling. Not only is it damaging to income, it is a slap in the face to the immense amount of work and pride that the author has put into their product.
The rise of web-based self-publishing and e-books has made such piracy considerably easier – texts can be plagiarised and uploaded without the author’s knowledge, and the internet affords greater anonymity – but the internet (specifically social media) can be equally useful in combating book piracy.
Twitter was recently the site of a protest in support of Mrs Nordin. Where concerned, readers and fellow writers tweeted their support using the hashtag: ‘#AmazonPiracy’. Online forums for Amazon’s Kindle where swamped with concerned messages, and Amazon’s website was crammed with one-star reviews labelling ‘the-path-to-christmas.pdf’ a pirate.
Unfortunately, the damage had already been done. The pirated e-book was initially promoted at £0.00, and was then raised to higher than £20, so it is impossible to tell how many free copies were downloaded by un-witting readers, whilst Amazon were twiddling their thumbs.
The incident leaves any fan of literature, or indeed fair-play, with a sour taste. However, it can be read as a warning to readers and writers alike to be vigilant when uploading or purchasing work from the internet. It also highlights the increasing power of social media to twist the arm of larger organisations like Amazon, pressuring them into fulfilling their duties to their smaller customers and suppliers.