It was brought to my attention today that there's a blog offering books by me, and a great many other writers, for free downloads.
This is identical, except in terms of technique, to reaching into our wallets or electronically dipping into our bank accounts and stealing our cash.
Writers get paid in two ways. We get an "advance," which is a sum agreed upon between us and the publisher that we'll receive no matter what. Sometimes we also get royalties, which is a percentage of the sale of each copy, after the advance is recouped. Because the advance has to be recouped first, many of us never actually receive any royalties. The royalty percentage is very small, and it takes a lot of copies sold to make up the amount of even a modest advance.
One's next book contract often depends, of course, on how well one's last book sold.
So providing free copies for download by anyone cuts into the possibility of ever earning royalties, and it can even reduce the payment for future books--or make it so future books are never acquired--because those copies don't count as copies sold, and neither the publisher or author make any money from them.
It's intellectual property--copyrighted material--that doesn't belong to the person posting them on the blog. In this particular case, the individual claims to have bought them--most likely as ebooks, which would be easiest to pirate. That may be true--but it doesn't change the fact that it's illegal to give them away in this fashion.
I complained to the blog's host, Blogger, which is owned by Google. It's Saturday, so I don't expect action from them today. But could it possibly be that they were unaware of this blog, which has been dealing in pirated books for months? Could they possibly not understand that it infringes upon the copyright of every author up there?
I also wrote to the individual behind it, whose name is Michael. He doesn't post any identifying information on the blog, but he has a button for "donations" (which means, if he's receiving donations, that he's making money on the works of the authors he is stealing from). Clicking the donations button gave me an e-mail address. His response was: "Those books were bought and paid for my me... If you want to refund the cost Ill remove them from the Blog, other wise take a hike.."
In other words, not only is he barely literate, but he is fully aware that he's stealing from authors and he doesn't care.
If we can't get paid for what we do, we can't continue to do it. Maybe Stephen King or James Patterson or J.K. Rowling could retire on what they've already made, but most writers I know have to write--and sell--their books, or they'll have to take jobs in other fields. Anyone who truly loves books and reading would understand that piracy is wrong, and that writers (and musicians, etc.) who create intellectual property need to be paid for that intellectual property. If you're reading my blog, you are probably a person who likes to read.
So here's the blog, and here's the guy's email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Blogger is supposed to have a "flag" button on every one of their blogs, used for pointing out objectionable content, but somehow it doesn't appear on this blog. If you use Blogger, please let them know that you object to their support of copyright violation. You might also consider changing to a blog server that is more proactive about avoiding such issues. If you use other Google services, such as gmail, you might think about changing that as well (as a search engine I prefer Goodsearch, which allows you to designate a worthy charity or nonprofit that will receive a donation each time you search). But if you do change, let them know why. You might also drop Michael a line letting him know what you think of thieves. And if you're a writer, check for your books, and if they're there definitely contact blogger via their online form and let them know you want your copyrighted material taken down.
UPDATE, Sept. 2: I've been updating via comments too, but the latest is that the guy's blog is now open by invitation only. Blogger hasn't shut him down yet (or replied to me directly) but at least he's not reaching as wide an audience, and is one step closer to being put out of business.