Thursday, August 30, 2012

Blog Tour!!!

Ok everyone, go check this out, you never know who you might meet or where you might go. You might see some people you know over there (hint hint). This will be a great blog to follow!


Get ready to party with Allison! Oh, do I have a surprise for all of you. Are you ready to go on a FREE cruise to places no other cruise ship can take you? Far off places, interesting characters and the best authors! Join me September 1st through December 2 on Allison Bruning's blog at for interesting cruise stops, contest, prizes and more! Oh boy! Oh boy I just can't wait.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Engaging Pirates on the High Seas

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been involved in many intense but mostly civil discussions in a couple of pirate forums.  It has been at times frustrating, at other times enlightening, and certainly quite challenging to engage them on their own turf.  I wanted to share my thoughts on some of these discussions because although my opinion of the legality and morality of these sites has not changed, I have gained some understanding of the people who frequent and support these sites.

First, I found that people seemed to fall into three general categories.

(1)   People who profess to use pirate sites to sample authors and then go support those that they like.  Sometimes, even to the point of legally purchasing the book that they downloaded.  Taking them at face value, they would be on the high end of the moral spectrum.  They are often frustrated with the restrictive e-book lending practices of a lot of e-book retailers, and by Digital Rights Management (DRM) which prevents the transfer of books from one reader to another.  They typically feel e-books are very overpriced.  Sometimes they are frustrated due to lack of availability of popular e-books in their part of the world.  These people will listen and perhaps offer alternative ideas to both current models of e-book distribution/lending and free file share (pirate) sites, but still plan to use pirate sites until such an alternative exists and is viable.

(2)   People who genuinely don’t know what they are doing is wrong and the potential impact to the individual author.  They have often just stumbled upon one of these sites and use it because it is free and convenient.  I believe these are the silent majority.  When presented with both sides of the argument, I feel these people will fall on the side of using the legal distribution methods (yes I am an optimist).  And most of them will do so very quietly.  I received an e-mail from someone who appreciated hearing both sides and made the decision to stop using pirate sites; I’m hoping for every one of those there are many more who simply made that decision and went on their way.

(3)   People who truly seem to feel that all authors are greedy and unwilling to empathize with the readers.  These are often the people that run the sites and are their most vocal supporters.  They believe they have the right to provide this service, to share the products for free with no input from or compensation to the work’s creators.  They truly don’t seem to see the rights that they are infringing upon.  They often seem snarky, condescending, and resistant to even hearing the other side.  They will sometimes say things like “I hear what you are saying but it’s not going to change my mind”. 

I’ve run into several from all three of these groups and learned some things.  For example, talking to people from the first group, if both sides can get past the initial frustration, some good ideas can be generated.  Unfortunately, often neither person involved in the discussion has the connections and resources to actually implement some of the ideas that are raised, but at least it gets the discussion moving.

The interesting things for me to find out from all of these conversations, though, are the reasons why people pirate in the first place.  Sometimes the reasons actually do have some merit.  Now I do not feel that I have heard a single reason provided that is a justification for the practices of these sites, but perhaps one thing to focus on is removing these reasons and justifications from the equation to the maximum extent possible.  Take away the reasons people in the first two groups pirate, and then perhaps progress can be made towards reducing it.  The third group, they are going to do what they do, and the only way to combat them appears to be through legal channels.

Why do people pirate?

These are three of the reasons I heard multiple times in these discussions.

(1)   E-books are too expensive.  Sometimes they are even more than the print book. 

(2)   E-book distributors do not give me the freedom to lend the book to who I want.

(3)   File share sites like this help areas that are economically or politically denied access to books.

How does the community fix this problem?

First let me say … I don’t know for sure.  This problem has existed since the internet started up, and has probably gone in cycles.  I do truly feel though, that if we change copyright law, severely weakening it or doing away with it altogether, then it becomes open season on created works and quite frankly, I think that the creative industry will collapse.  This is because a system that favors only the consumers (or on the other side, only the producers) will fall apart.  If everything is free, then there is no monetary incentive to create.  This is not speaking out of greed, this is reality.  People have bills to pay, and if the author is not at least making something out of their work, then they will have to, in most cases, move on to some other line of work.  You don’t believe that piracy impacts individual authors?  Read this and see what you think then.  (And you need to read this, it discusses the deaths of two popular book series because they were well-read, but sold poorly.  They were downloaded many more times than they were sold.)

Demolishing copyright law is something that people in the third group I mentioned want to see happen.  Is it altruistic, or is it just a way to legalize their desire to get something for nothing?  Only they know for sure, but as I said in one discussion, for a group that claims to love writing they do seem to have a great contempt for writers.

So what else can be done?  Well here are some ideas that different groups of people, depending on their position in the chain (author/publisher/reader) can do.

(1)   Educate the public on the issue of piracy and the potential impacts of it.  I’m not talking about impacts on the industries as a whole – I mean the impact to real people, the writers that have had to quit because of poor sales only to find out that their work has been downloaded for free many times.

(2)   Change the model of distributing and lending e-books.  This would seem to a big winner with the first and second group of people.  It may be time for some kind of paid subscription service like Rhapsody or Netflix for e-books.  This could potentially fix the affordability issue and eliminate or greatly mitigate the lendability and accessibility issues.  Amazon Prime may be a start, but they are still proprietary to Kindle.  I’m talking about a service that serves multiple platforms, either directly or with apps.  A service that allows sharing of “recommended reading lists” among members, that provides recommendations of lesser known books that fit with a user’s reading pattern, and still provides income to the creators of the works that are on the service.

(3)   Support legitimate lending and distribution services like LendInk and Lendle.  All these sites do is match up lenders and borrowers using the lending systems already in place and agreed to between publishers and distributors.  The takedown of LendInk was unjustified, and I for one am glad they are back up and will be letting people know about it.  Plus, lending CAN  lead to additional sales.  My own mom, bless her soul, borrowed a book, couldn’t finish it in the fourteen-day period, and liked it so much that she bought it so she could finish it.  That’s how these services CAN and SHOULD work.

(4)   STOP USING PIRATE SITES.  Instead, petition publishers and distributors.  Fight to get the accessibility and lendability you want.  Use your power as consumers to drive the market rather than circumvent it.

(5)   Fight the pirate sites legally, using DMCA requests and if that doesn’t work, then the law must be brought to bear.  As I stated, the reality is that the people that actually run these sites will continue to run them.  And it’s unfortunate that authors and publishers have to spend time and money fighting them.  That’s time and money that could be put into more and potentially cheaper books.  But there need to be consequences for this harmful behavior.

Final Thoughts

This is the fifth blog post I’ve devoted to this subject, so you can tell it means something to me.  Not at the moment to me personally … I haven’t been published enough to be directly affected and this is not a primary source of income for me, yet.  If I were ever to want it to be, I would become just as discouraged and depressed about this issue as many other authors have been, I have no doubt.  Right now, I am on the frustrated level.

The bottom line is … piracy is ILLEGAL, IMMORAL, HARMFUL behavior, no matter what excuses any of the pirates use.  PIRATES HURT AUTHORS AND COST BOOKS.  That’s the truth.  Will the industry survive?  Probably so, at some level.  But the cost will be to the individual authors who are working hard JUST LIKE YOU to make a living.  The number of professional musicians in the United States has dropped by nearly 25% since 1999 when piracy became really rampant (Source: United States Bureau of Labor Statistics).  Coincidence?  Will it happen with authors?  Is it already?  Some things to think about whenever you consider hitting that "free download" button.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Quick Hit - The Social Network

So I'm in the middle of watching "The Social Network" and what strikes me about the portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg in this film is how he seems like he thinks that the way he thinks is just as normal as it could be.  He truly doesn't seem to understand how others think.  I'm about half an hour in and I find it fascinating.

I do use Facebook a lot, and find it quite an achievement ... but I can also see the attitude that leads to tinkering with things that don't need to be tinkered with.

It makes me wonder how much of this portrayal by Jesse Eisenberg is true to life.

Love Facebook or hate it, it did take a genius to build it.  And there is a fine line between genius and insanity, that's for sure.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Quick Hit - Favorite Movie Lines #2

Aw, romantic comedies.  I've been inundated with them since my daughter is stuck at home with mono.  But they do have some great memorable lines ... like this one from "He's Just Not That Into You" ...

Gigi:  I'm the exception ...
Alex:  You're MY exception ...

It was a cute little ensemble movie with a bunch of fairly big names ... Jennifer Aniston, Jennifer Connelly, Bradley Cooper, Scarlett Johansson, Ben Affleck, Drew Barrymore ...

But it was the inevitable culmination of the "friendship" between Justin Long's Alex and Ginnifer Goodwin's Gigi that did it for me ... yeah I know hopeless romantic ... blech *sticks tongue out*

Monday, August 20, 2012

Quick Hit - Favorite Movie Lines #1

Every once in a while, a great line or piece of dialog pops into my head.  This was today's ...

(While the President is standing there listening and no one sees him ...)
Sydney Ellen Wade: If you think our organization is going to put its support behind this lame excuse for environmental law, your boss is the chief executive of fantasy land!
President Andrew Shepherd: Well, let's take him out back and beat the shit out of him!

-The American President



Saturday, August 18, 2012

Quick Hit - Why oh why do we waste space like this?

Just a quick little rant ... I went to pick up a copy of "The Hunger Games" on Blu-Ray today. We've been waiting for it for a while.  Now when we get movies these days, we usually get the version that includes both the Blu-Ray and DVD versions, so that we can play it on our portable DVD players too.

So ... why does the 4-disc version, the only way to get both versions together, have to come in such a freakishly large box?  I mean look at this thing ...

You know what's in here?  Four discs, not even in a regular disc case, just in a folding cardboard envelope, and a paperweight.  A paperweight???  The rest of the space is filled with a plastic space-filler (I don't know what you call them).

Of course I got it ... I mean we wanted the movie and all ... but still.  What do you think?  Does packaging like this ever frustrate you?

Yes, I know it's a silly post, it's just something that makes me shake my head.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Quick Hit - Revolution and Why I Love J. J. Abrams' Work

The one new show I am looking forward to seeing this fall is J. J. Abrams' latest effort, Revolution.

(See the trailer here ...

Not only does the trailer look very slick, but I gobble up everything that J. J. Abrams does.  Why?  It's the writing.  The guy just has a knack for storytelling, character development, and dialog.

In case you didn't realize it, here's a list of his writing or directing credits:

Regarding Henry
Forever Young
Gone Fishin'
Joy Ride
Mission: Impossible III
Super 8
Star Trek


All these credits had great characters.  (I didn't even realize he wrote Regarding Henry, which was a great little movie, until I went to IMDB to make sure I didn't miss anything.)  The stories were often complex, mysterious, well-developed, and really made you think.  I don't expect Revolution to be any different.

His vision reinvigorated an icon (Star Trek), brought an American monster movie to life (Cloverfield), and kept us interested in a huge ensemble cast (Lost).  And whatever you might have thought about the much-maligned series finale of Lost, I found it an incredible ending.

So check it out!  It premieres September 17th.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Patriots or Pirates? Part 4

Straight From the Horse’s Mouth

This is my fourth and likely final installment on the issue of e-book piracy.  You might ask why I am devoting so much time to this subject, especially since I haven’t blogged very much in the past.  Well the reason is, when I feel very strongly about a subject, I write.  That’s what writers do.  I felt the need to address this subject is such a way as to put a lot of information and opinion in one place, to present the case in a logical manner.  Do I think it will change the minds of pirates?  No.  But it might educate people that don’t really know or haven’t been exposed to both sides of the issue.

So in the first installment (which at the time was going to be the only one), I took eight specific arguments that were made by supporters of a particular site, (The Ultimate E-Book Library), that I thought were indicative of the general arguments in support of these types of file sharing and distribution sites.  I tried to address each one individually.

About two weeks later, I decided to address in detail an argument someone brought forward in the comments to that initial post, that there was definite evidence that piracy helped the industries that were being pirated.  I brought forward some counter-arguments in some detail, and devoted the post to that specific contention (ignoring the question of whether file sharing was legal or not).

In the third installment, I discussed the very unfortunate situation of the shutting down of LendInk, a legitimate service that matched up potential e-book lenders with potential e-book borrowers, but did so through established e-book lending programs at various web sites, programs that had been agreed to between publishers and distributors.  My hope here was to provide a lesson on something that should not have happened, to help people see to look before they leap into a campaign against something that turned out to be completely above-board.

So today, I want to turn back to actual file sharing sites, and I did have to select one in particular to talk about in this vein because quite frankly it is the one most on the radar screen in the circles I am in.  Thus, we turn attention back towards, and in particular this time not to statements made by supporters, but to the words used by the site owner(s) themselves.  As before, I’m going to speak about this point by point.  I encourage everyone, even after reading this, to do their own digging and use their own reasoning in considering these issues.

#1:  Copyright Law

On the front page of, the owner makes this statement:  “TUEBL is under financial blockade by people that don’t understand basic copyright laws in the United States and Canada.”

First of all, financial blockade does not seem to be a correct characterization.  I don’t have any first-hand knowledge of the mechanics of how this worked, but as far as I can tell, Paypal decided to stop working with this site by their own determination.  Were they told about the site’s activities by authors?  Yes, but it was Paypal’s decision to take the account away, it was not a direct action by some mysterious blockading group.

Second, the question of understanding copyright law.  Authors and publishers live copyright law every day.  No, they aren’t necessarily lawyers, but they need to have an understanding of the basics.  I’m not a lawyer either, but I can look things up and read.  Here’s how US copyright law defines copyright infringement:

“Anyone who violates any of the exclusive rights of the copyright owner as provided by sections 106 through 122 or of the author as provided in section 106A(a), or who imports copies or phonorecords into the United States in violation of section 602, is an infringer of the copyright or right of the author, as the case may be.”

The “exclusive rights” of the copyright owner as defined in section 106 include the sole right “to reproduce the copyrighted works in copies or phonorecords” or to authorize said reproduction (usually through contract with a publisher).  They also include the sole right “to display the copyrighted work publicly” or to authorize such public display.

The Canadian Copyright Act states the following as a definition of copyright infringement:

“It is an infringement of copyright for any person to do, without the consent of the owner of the copyright, anything that by this Act only the owner of the copyright has the right to do.”

These “sole rights” include the sole right “to produce, reproduce, perform or publish any translation of the work.”  Again, these rights can only be transferred (authorized) through a signed contract providing those rights to another party such as a publisher.

Every time an e-book is uploaded to the site, it creates a reproduced copy of the work.  This is because the uploader still maintains possession of their (presumed paid for, but maybe not) copy of the work.  And the same is true of the download, this is also creating a new unauthorized reproduction of the work.  These copies are made without the authorization of the copyright holder (I will qualify – in a majority of cases).  This would appear to completely fall under the definition of copyright infringement.


#2: Call to support authors puts this statement on every page where they offer the book for free download.

“Like many, we believe that culture should be free and we give you access to thousands of books even if you can’t afford to pay for them.” ... “Whatever you choose, remember that authors have spent days, sometimes months, for your pleasure.  Support them if you like what they do.”

I wish I could go get stuff for free just because I can’t afford them, or I think they cost too much, like what is being stated in the first quote.  I mean, I think gasoline costs too much, but does that justify me filling up my tank then driving off without paying?  Not being able to afford something is not a valid excuse for basically stealing it, especially when you are talking about something that is not a vital necessity.

The call to support authors, although noble, is counting on an altruistic nature that I don’t believe exists in a majority of people.  Although a few people probably would be willing to pay for a book they already have, how many actually will?  Call me cynical if you want, but to me, this is a weak attempt to deflect from the fact that these books are indeed being distributed illegally.  And it IS illegal distribution, EVEN IF the downloader later decides to purchase the exact same book through legal means.

And I just have to say … “authors have spent days, sometimes months” … that is purely and simply an insult to the months and sometimes YEARS authors have put into their work.

#3:  The DMCA Notice

DMCA stands for Digital Millenium Copyright Act, and the DCMA notice is a legal document submitted to a web site to remove copyrighted content.  Yes, does have a procedure for a copyright holder to submit a DMCA notice to take down a book uploaded without the consent of the copyright holder.  (I am told anecdotally that this site’s methods are significantly more arduous than a typical takedown notice.)

This is a statement made by the site owner when asked in a forum why some books had been removed from the site. "Books are not 'mysteriously' being removed.  We are removing them with DMCA requests ... though we have no method of filtering out books if they are reuploaded.  So if someone reuploads them, then you will see them back on the site again.  It's a shame, eh?"

The thinly veiled sarcasm in this statement is obvious (“It’s a shame, eh?”).  Yes, they comply with DMCA notices, but hey, nothing can prevent it from being uploaded again, right?  Then the author would have to submit another DMCA notice once they determine the book once again exists on the site.

Youtube has figured out how to filter their site for music and video that has had legitimate DMCA notices files.  (I know because I sometimes set my daughter’s soccer videos to music, that I purchased by the way, and when I upload it the video is sometimes blocked immediately because the song in particular has had a DMCA notice filed.)  This site chooses not to put forth the effort to do that.

#4: Donations to Charity claims to donate to charity, but is unwilling to provide any transparency to whom and how much. .  “We can't actually say what charities they are though, because they may be obligated to give the money back.” … “it's also very difficult, because the funds are transferred through secondary accounts and come in through multiple sources... so actually keeping track of it all is difficult.”

I haven’t found a case yet where a charity was even discussed being forced to return a donation outside of either bankruptcy of the donor, or illegal activity on the part of either the donor or the charity.  So if everything’s on the up and up, why hide the charities they are donating to?

Giving them a big benefit of the doubt, perhaps they are somehow under the impression that there is some other reason why they think the charitable organizations would have to return the money.  If they are donating, they may know what they are doing is not legal.

#5:  The Great Assumption

For whatever reason, this one really gets under my skin, so much so I’m showing three examples of it.

"All content uploaded to TUEBL is assumed to be legally uploaded"

"Users (we presume copyright holders) are uploading them."

"We dispute that we 'know' anything and believe that copyright holders are uploading the content.  However, we also dispute losses." 

The basic gist of this argument is, paraphrased, we assume that the copyright owners are uploading the over 19,000 books we have on our site.

This one is enough to make my head explode.  Really? Because I’m sure Sherrilyn Kenyon took time out while she was preparing for her book tour last week, to say “Oh, I almost forgot to upload Time Untime onto the E-Book Library site so people could get it for free.  Never mind that it would be a total violation of the contract I have with my publisher to do so.  Let me do that real quick before I get on the road to Memphis.”

Time Untime was released on August 7, and was available on as early as August 9.  (This particular book has been taken down, but most of Sherrilyn Kenyon’s other books are still available.)

James Patterson’s latest release “Nevermore”, the final book of the Maximum Ride series, was released on August 6 and was also available as early as August 9.  This book is still up as of today.

It boggles the mind that there could be any reasonable thought that these and other “big name” authors have uploaded these documents themselves – JK Rowling, JR Ward, Charlaine Harris, Christine Feehan, and Tom Clancy just to name a few.  And by copyright law, they are the only people that would have the right to do so or to authorize it! knows this which is why they parrot this assumption over and over and over again, to try and feign ignorance of what is going on.  How can any reasonable person genuinely believe this to be the case?

And just read their own response to the Frequently Asked Question, “Can I add a book?” 

"You bet.  The more you add the more it helps others and hopefully helps you get the books you need.  Click here to submit a book.  Please fill out as much information as possible."

So on the one hand they are assuming that only copyright holders are uploading books, on the other they are telling their users how to do it and are encouraging it.

I do know that there are a few authors who have decided to do this sort of thing, because they feel it is the right thing to do.  I would say to those authors, don’t support a site that takes that choice away from the rest of us.  If they are self-published that is their right, but it is also their right to do so using legitimate methods such as free books on Amazon, or 100% off coupons on a site like Smashwords, or allow lending of their books through Amazon or Barnes & Noble.  If they are actually published through a company, I’m no expert, but it would seem to me to be a violation of an author’s publishing contract to upload their book onto a site like this! 

To address the issue of photos, music, etc., on sites like Youtube and Facebook.  As I stated, Youtube already does filtering of videos and music.  Although I agree there may be some legal equivalence to the activities taking place on those sites, they are NOT sites dedicated to the sole purpose of illegally creating and distributing copies of copyrighted works.  This is file sharing sites’ business model.

Why do I even care?

I’m not a starving author, nor am I reliant on that income in any way.  (You might be reading this and thinking, damn good thing!)  I have a good full-time job that I enjoy, and that keeps me and my family secure. 

But having been published, and through that experience meeting many fellow authors who ARE reliant on the income produced through their work, or who are struggling to make it in this business to get out of some bad situation they are in either professionally or personally, I do feel very strongly about this.

When you cut through all the rhetoric and statistics and legal arguments, it really comes down to this one truth that cannot be denied:

If you download a book from a file sharing site for free, that is a book that you are not buying, and no money is getting to the originator of that work.

These are people. Real people.  They are not sitting in an ivory tower somewhere counting their gold coins and rubbing their hands together in joy at all the people they’ve conned out of their money.  Authors work VERY HARD to put together stories FOR YOU, the fans.  Most are just looking for enough to make a living, or to supplement their living.  Really, only a very few break out and make it huge.  And you know what?  They still work hard.  Imagine if someone took things you worked hard to produce, that you are passionate about, that you earn money off, and didn’t pay for it, and you got nothing in return.  Put yourself in their place.  “Seek first to understand.”

My goal is not to obliterate piracy, that’s not realistic.  It’s not to get the owners of these sites to change their ways, that would be futile.  My goal in writing these pieces is to get you, the average person, thinking about it, rather than blindly grabbing at all the “free stuff” without considering the consequences.  To get you to open your mind and really listen and think about what you are being told.  I hope you will.  And if you consider this side, and consider the other side, and still feel like I’m wrong, then so be it.  I’m just me, and I can only tell you what I think I know.  It’s your choice.

I’ve said about everything I have to say on this subject.  I welcome and invite your comments, and really thank you for reading this and hopefully the other three installments.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Patriots or Pirates? Part 3

A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Case of

This is the third part of my little series on e-book piracy, in what started out as a plan for a single post.  But, things keep coming up that I feel compelled to write about, because there just seems to be so much information, and misinformation, flying around in various circles.

This all started for me when a site called “The Ultimate E-Book Library”,, was brought to my attention.  As I dug into this site, it became clear that it and many like it were engaging in copyright infringement.  I certainly was not the first writer to dive into this issue, nor will I be the last.  As I read the exchanges in forums and Facebook pages and groups between authors and users of these types of sites, there were some common themes that were used in defense of these sites.  These were the themes I talked about in the first post in this series (which I originally thought would be the only one).  There were eight specific points that I tried to address in that blog, which you can read here …

Time passed, and there was one comment to that original blog post that got me thinking.  A commenter stated that piracy, as we called it, is not harming the industry, but rather that there was evidence that it was actually helping the industry.  I addressed that specific argument in more detail yesterday.

So today, I want to talk about something else that has occurred over the past couple of weeks.  But in order to do that, I need to set the stage a little bit.


(Note: As of this writing, is no longer online, so I can’t provide any direct quotes from their site.) advertises itself as a free e-book lending site.  You can search their site and find books to borrow for free.  There are typically several entries for the more popular books.  I should note that LendInk is not the only site that advertises itself as such.


When this site was first brought to my attention, the context was “oh look, we found another one!”  In other words, here’s another pirate site offering free e-books in violation of copyright protection.  On the surface, it certainly could appear that way.  But, it was definitely something that I wanted to take a hard look at.

In their FAQ section, they explain how LendInk works.  LendInk does not actually house copies of the books, or handle the process by which they are lent.  The best way I can think of to describe it, is that it works sort of like a dating site.  Potential lenders post the books that they have available to lend, and potential borrowers look for books that they would like to borrow.

Here’s the key to the whole thing – the actual lending has to take place through Amazon’s or Barnes and Noble’s own lending system.  No actual books are lent through the LendInk site.  All they do is provide a service, for free, so that lenders and borrowers can find each other.


Well, one issue was that potential lenders could list any book of which they had possession.  However, some of these books were not eligible to be lent.  In fact, this was one of LendInk users’ primary complaints in reviews of the site.  Borrowers would find a book they wanted, but only after contacting the lender did both parties discover the book was not lendable.  But why did this become a bigger issue?  Because writers would find their books on the site, which they had not authorized to be lendable, and assume that lending was taking place outside of what they or their publisher had agreed to.  This led to instant animosity towards the site.

Another issue, that was discussed in my circles, was that their site did not make it clear enough on their home page how they worked.  I can certainly see this as I had to go into the FAQ page and read it all to discover the mechanics of the site.  Their page made it seem as if they were handling the lending.

Then there was the simple fact that independent authors (and some publishers) are very sensitive to the issue of piracy, and given the two issues above, a quick review of the site could easily have been interpreted that piracy was exactly what this and other legitimate lending service sites were engaged in.  Blood was in the water, and honestly, some authors were in total attack mode.  It did not help that in one statement of the FAQs, they stated that they did not even house cover images on their site, but every book listed had a picture of the cover with it (at least as far as I saw).  Whether the image was actually housed there or not, it gave the impression that they were violating their own stated policy, which hurt the credibility of the site.

This is not to necessarily lay blame at the feet of the site owners, or the authors.  This is just to show the environment that led to what happened next.


What did happen next was that a social network campaign started against LendInk.  Once these things start, they are hard to stop.  I’m not sure exactly what transpired, what organizations or companies were contacted, but what I do know was that LendInk was rather suddenly shut down.  Some of us were upset about it, because we knew what this would do to efforts to shut down true pirate sites.  It hurts the credibility of that effort, honestly.

LendInk and similar sites are simply offering users another way to take advantage of existing book lending programs which were negotiated between publishers and distributors like Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  This is completely different then file share sites, where multiple copies of books are made and distributed permanently for free.

To complete the picture, Amazon’s lending program works like this:  If a publisher (including self-publisher) allows lending, the book can be lent for a period of 14 days.  The book is not available to the lender while it is lent out.  In effect, no copy is created.  It’s just like me handing the book to my next-door neighbor.  I also believe most if not all Amazon books can only be lent once by the purchaser.  B&N's is a similar system.

Now, myself, I wouldn’t want to use my one lend-out on a complete stranger, but there is nothing preventing someone from deciding to do that and using a site like LendInk to find someone who wants to borrow it.

This is a pretty decent model for the beginnings of an evolution of e-book distribution, perhaps even a precursor to a subscription type of service.  And it’s not a bad way to increase readership and demand for a book.  If I borrow a book, but can’t finish it in 14 days for whatever reason, and like it, I might go buy the book so I can finish it.  Even if I get it finished in time, that one lend could turn into a recommendation to friends.

It’s even more restrictive than libraries, since typically only one lend is allowed per copy.


This part is as much directed to authors and site owners as to fans and readers.

First, authors, before we get up in arms about a particular site, please take the time to understand how the site works.  In my opinion, this is a black eye to authors.  Going after sites that turn out to be above-board and legitimate marginalizes our efforts in curtailing actual piracy.

Second, there are other sites like LendInk out there, let’s leave them alone.  As long as all the lending takes place within agreed-upon systems and guidelines, then there should be no issue.  If the site is actually housing content and allowing multiple downloaded copies, that crosses the line and deserves to be addressed.

Third, I hope that the owners of these sites can do some things to make it clearer on their opening pages how the sites work.  And explore ways to keep unlendable books from even showing up on their site.  I know this is not an easy thing.


I actually am hoping that LendInk finds its way back online and is able to maintain their model.  As long as they work within the guidelines that publishers and distributors agree to, I see no reason to vilify them.

I do, still, find myself with more to say, so Part 4, probably the last one (although I’ve said that before) will be coming.  In it, I’ll turn attention back towards and other similar sites.


I'm very pleased to announce that is back up and running.  That's great news!  The bad news is that they're already receiving DMCA requests.  Which means there are still quite a few people out there that are NOT understanding how LendInk works.  It only takes a few minutes of investigating to understand it, and if writers and publishers have a problem with lending, they need to take it up with their distributors (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.).  LendInk houses NO content.  It's that simple.  I throw my moral support behind LendInk and sites like it because they provide a completely legitimate service, and I hope you will too.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Patriots or Pirates? Part 2

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a blog about “free” e-book sites and rebutted some arguments that users and operators of these sites have given to justify what, by all appearances, is a disregard for copyright laws.  In that post, I tried to briefly break down eight particular statements that I had seen made during online discussions between authors and users of the sites.  You can find that blog post here …

Now, there was quite a bit of support for the post, but it did draw one person in particular who took issue with the act of e-book piracy doing any harm to writers.  In fact, he argued, there’s evidence that e-book piracy actually HELPS authors by getting their works out to a wider audience.  He pointed me to a blog post he had done in February.  In order to be fair, I wanted to take a look at his argument – throwing out the question of whether it is legal or not, is there evidence that piracy actually helps artists?  Here’s the comment he left …

“That was a very reasonable and sensibly written article. The FB discussion that spawned this wasn't. I'm pro file sharing so I want to bring a dissenting opinion (please don't just shout me down, I've had enough of that from [the] other discussion). Piracy isn't theft in the traditional sense, that being removing something from some ones possession, but I agree that it could still be wrong. I would find it immoral if it were actually causing artists to go out of business, but from as [far] as I can tell there [is] no evidence that [has] happened. Here's a more lengthy piece I wrote on it: I know it's piratewho and therefor it's all evil and wrong, but try to read and analyze the evidence. Thanks”

Before I get into this, I want to say that I do appreciate his willingness to come into what is undoubtedly a hostile environment for him and express his views.  And even though it was probably clear from the outset that neither one of us would change the other’s opinion, it was a very cordial exchange of opinion.

Ok, so here is his blog so that you can look at what his argument is …

Now this post focuses on the music industry which, as I will get into in a little bit, I feel is significantly different than the publishing industry.  In this post, he describes a study that shows that since electronic piracy became a major issue (he puts it at around 1999), the music industry has actually increased revenues.  This study was a Norwegian one.

If you look at the graphs he presents, they show that record sales have indeed decreased fairly significantly since 1999.  In fact, they went down by more than a third over the time period from 1999 thru 2009.

However, the study shows that overall, revenue in the music industry has gone up.  There were three particular areas that showed a large increase over the same time period – live revenue (concerts) more than tripled; revenue from collecting societies royatlies) doubled; and state subsidization and grants went up by about half, estimating visually.

All of this translates to a steady overall increase in music revenue, despite the loss of record sales.  So, the conclusion reached seems to be that piracy has actually HELPED the music industry.  Thus, he argued, it should also help the e-book industry.


Correlation does not always equal causation.  Just because two things happen to occur at around the same time, does not mean one caused the other.  With the USA winning Olympic gold today (go USA!!!!), the announcers made the statement that the US team has a record of 93 wins, 2 losses, and 5 ties when Abby Wambach scores a goal.  Does that mean her scoring caused them to win?  I would argue no, because during that same time period they lost a grand total of 7 games the entire time, whether she scored or not.  They won all those games because they are a great team overall, not because one player scored or didn’t  score.

So, does this prove internet piracy CAUSES or even HELPS this increase in revenue?  I would argue no.  Not unless you can eliminate every other market factor over that time period.  Markets are incredibly complex.  Fluctuations in economy, marketing, the quality of the product, the mood of the consumer, pricing, all of these things can impact the revenue stream.  Piracy is just one of those factors.  Just because the overall industry does better does not mean piracy doesn't hurt it.

One question I asked him was, did anyone look at the increase in concert ticket prices over that time period?  I was especially interested because of the huge increase in concert revenue.  Couldn’t the record companies be jacking up ticket prices (and concession and souvenir prices too) to make up for the loss of record sales?  I took a look around the internet, and found this chart which admittedly only goes up to 2003.

It shows that up until 1999, which was used as the “pivot point” when piracy became a well-known issue, the concert prices stayed fairly close to the inflation line.  But from 1999-2003, the average price increased by approximately 50%, well ahead of the rate of inflation.  I can tell you I rarely go to concerts anymore, because they have become cost-prohibitive.

So internet piracy must have caused the increase in ticket prices right?  I wouldn’t necessarily say that either.  I can only say this … every time a song was pirated, that person did not pay for that song.  Correlation to the drop in record sales?  Did the industry start increasing concert prices to make up for it?

The music industry is very different than the publishing industry. Yes, they are both arts.  But with the music industry, there are other opportunities to make money other than record sales.  Live concerts and royalties, as mentioned above, make up a large portion of the industry’s revenue stream.  The movie industry is another oft-mentioned industry with respect to piracy, but it also has other revenue streams.  First of all, good movies make their money initially at the theaters before they even get in a position to be pirated.  (By the way, have you noticed how much movie ticket prices are these days?  Check out the chart here, it’s close to  flat from 1989 to 1998, then the slope becomes steeper from 1999 thru 2011, nearly doubling.)  Then they get on the DVD market, then get syndicated on television.  I could argue that DVD sales may be on a similar curve to record sales, although I don’t have that data.
The publishing industry has no such alternate revenue source.  Authors don’t go on live tours to read their books aloud.  There’s no opportunity to make money before the book is released.  No, the only way an author gets paid, is if the book sells.  The only equivalent chart in the music industry is the one that shows the sharp decline in record sales.  If books are seeing anything like this, of course the argument can be made that piracy is hurting books sales, because every book illegally downloaded is one person that will not be buying that book.

I tried to find a chart that showed book revenue over time, but haven’t yet.  There are plenty of articles that talk about a decline in print book sales and an increase in e-book sales.  But there are some that say the e-books are not making up for the loss of print book revenue.  Is this an indication that piracy is doing what is claimed, or is it more a result of the proliferation of independent self-published e-books, free and 99-cent promotions (which are the author’s choice), and improving technology?

“The world keeps changing and if you want to demand money from someone you’ve got to offer them something they want. Asking the government to force us to buy your stuff is infringing on our human rights and slowing down progress.” I take real issue with this closing to the blog post.  First, obviously people want the books.  Second, what government forces people to buy books?  If you want them, buy them.  If you can’t afford them, there are libraries, lending systems through Amazon and B&N, used book stores, or you can save up to buy the books you want.  If you really think the prices are too high, then don’t buy them at that price.  If enough people did that, the prices would come down, that’s simple economics.  Third, I see this argument of rights.  What human right are authors infringing on by wanting just compensation for the products they produce?  Where do the author's rights come into play?

I guess the real problem with his argument, and mine as well, is that you can make these kinds of graphs prove whatever you want them to, it’s all in how you interpret them.  He says the music industry has increased revenue because of piracy, I would say that it has despite it.  He thinks it would be the same for books, I believe that is clearly not the case.

And here’s the crux of the issue: Regardless of whether one believes it helps or hurts, the bottom line is it is still illegal.  You might say, how is it different than the free books on Amazon?  The difference is, making the book free on Amazon is the author’s choice.  Pirate sites have taken that choice away from the people who own the work.  That’s copyright infringement.

I hope the industry changes to a model that benefits both the consumers and the producers and takes advantage of the technological opportunities that are out there.  But until that day, I will continue to hold my stance against these pirate sites.  As I always do, I encourage you to do your own research and make your own decisions about the issue.

I still have more to say about one site in particular, but I will save that for the next blog on the subject.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Quick Hit August 6, 2012

Just a quick late night update ...

The pirate site TUEBL is down ... for now.  I'm amazed by the power of the social network to galvanize people to action. I admittedly did not do much myself other than share information and try to engage.  There are others, but this is a start.

The draft of Dark Dreams with Dawn Treadway is complete, including (finally) the epilogue!  Almost 97,000 words strong.

Evernight Volume 2 is up and running!!!!  "Heart of the Mermaid", the prequel to our story "Tears of the Mermaid" (both written with Patricia Laffoon) will be included.  As soon as I find out the release date we'll start posting more information about it.

And, we've cracked the seal on the novelization of Rudy and Trish's adventurous romance.  Taking what we've done and turning it into a book is a dream that Patricia and I share, and although it will undoubtedly be slow going, I can't wait for it to take shape.

And finally ... how about those USA soccer women!!!!! Down by a goal three times, finally scoring with less than a minute left in overtime to win 4-3 and go to the gold medal game.  What an incredible game!!!!  GO USA!!!!!!