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28 August 2009 @ 01:10 pm

I got an email last night from someone notifying me of a site where my books were being offered as free downloads. This particular site just offers tidy zipped files which, in my case, contains every book I’ve written under the CE Murphy byline. It struck me as particularly egregious, and I emailed my editors and agent about it, put in a complaint with Blogger/Google’s content violation page, and have been posting on Twitter and Facebook about the site’s location so other authors can send their publishers’ piracy team to whack this guy on the peepee. (It’s here, if you haven’t seen my posts in other locations.) Because really, there are hundreds, possibly thousands of writers on this, a static site, not even a download with the decency to be a torrent, and it just struck me as beyond the pale. I mean, sheesh.

I get emails like that every several weeks. The truth is–and I realize these are fighting words, so let me make it clear this is my stance and I don’t wish it on anyone else–I don’t really care. Trying to stomp it out is like trying to take pee out of a pool, and furthermore, as both an artist and a geek I live in this sort of vast no-man’s-land on the whole topic of Free Stuff On The Internet. As someone who makes a living off people who are willing to pay for stories, clearly it is to my benefit to leap up and down on anybody trying to give my work away for free. As someone who’s a geek and has been online for twenty years, I pretty much essentially believe information wants to be free…and that it’s frankly impossible to regulate it in a digital era anyway.

My *preference*, far and away, would be to be able to provide free downloads of all my work myself. Most people who download books for free aren’t going to buy them anyway. There is, however, the smallest chance that someone who comes to *my* site to download my work might come back again some other time, might comment, might build some kind of very small relationship with me, and that might eventually turn to the decision to buy instead of steal my books. There’s no chance at all of that happening if they get my books through Mr. Egregious.

I also believe there’s a percentage of people who really dig the “try before you buy” aspect of anything, who might read forty thousand words of a text online (which is vastly more than I’m permitted to put up) and then go buy the hardcopy, or buy the next book in the series, or buy something else I wrote. There’s some evidence that this is true–when Neil Gaiman convinced his publishers to put AMERICAN GODS up online for free for several months, sales of that book jumped 300%. I believe Cory Doctorow releases everything online, and it hasn’t hurt his career at all. John Scalzi might not *have* a fiction career if it weren’t for the novel he made available online. So I personally feel there’s a lot more advantage to be gained in adapting to the unassailable flow of modern technology than not.

And of course there’s the very simple fact that no matter how hard anybody tries, you cannot take pee out of a pool. The material is going to be available online no matter what anybody does, no matter how vigilant everyone is in defending copyright, no matter how many lawyers and departments are thrown at the problem. I would far, *far* rather have the ability to provide the material myself, be able to keep track of number of downloads so I have some idea of how many people are picking up the books for free, and have the modicum of a chance to build a relationship with those people than watch somebody else get off on it because hey, they’re sticking it to the man.

I have friends so far on the opposite end of this spectrum we’re standing flush back to back. I feel, in a sort of politely bemused way, that they’re insane. I rather expect they feel the same way about me. This is a massive issue for creators, and I really don’t expect it’s going to be resolved satisfactorily in my lifetime.

In the meantime, however, the one entire book of mine you can read online legally is IMMORTAL BELOVED, a Highlander novel I wrote ten or eleven years ago. Strangely, this is the only CE Murphy book that isn’t in the download Mr. Egregious has so thoughtfully made available. :)

(x-posted from the essential kit)
Current Mood: thoughtfulthoughtful
Fiction Theoryfiction_theory on August 28th, 2009 12:45 pm (UTC)

This is not only the sanest thing I've read from an author concerning internet piracy and books available for free online, but the smartest. You totally just reminded me why I'm going to love the hell out of the next Inheritor's Cycle book the moment I find it and get to read it. Though I imagine that will be in a brick-and-mortar store because I do like to have a hard copy to snuggle with on the couch.

All I can say is that you're right. Completely right.

Plus, I think a lot of people would - if the option were made available - put money in a tip jar (maybe not a full book price, but five bucks or something) if they read something for free and liked it. I know if an author made their works available to me and had a tip jar, I would definitely do some paypal to them. :)
kitmizkit on August 29th, 2009 08:33 pm (UTC)
The truth is, if _one_ person put five bucks in a tip jar, that would be the equivalent of selling four and a half hard copies of a book, as far as my direct profits are concerned.

And I must say reading these responses in general suggests that I ought to put a tip jar up on cemurphy.net :)
(no subject) - fiction_theory on August 29th, 2009 10:07 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Vicki: Books w/ cupeilan on August 28th, 2009 01:03 pm (UTC)
I think you just jumped leaps and bounds in my awesome book.
I completely respect your views on this, and think they're great.
I agree with you. It's like with music, I'll (illegally) download a song I like, or something someone suggested, and if I like it, I'll go out and buy the CD at the store, cause I always like to have a hard copy.
Jeaniene Frost recently put up the first bunch of chapters of her latest book online, and that made me even more excited to go out and buy her new book.
kitmizkit on August 29th, 2009 08:33 pm (UTC)
*laughs* Well, thank you. I wasn't actually aiming for 'leaps and bounds of awesome', but from the comments, I seem to have managed it anyway. Thanks. :)
The owner of a grey cat: book sarahjennielf on August 28th, 2009 01:10 pm (UTC)
fiction_theory has it right.

I love books. I totally understand the need to pay for books (authors gotta eat). And for someone to just outright do that is...wrong.

At the same time, free samples? Hell yeah. They usually make me want to buy the book/story collection even more.

Thank you (again) for being sane. btw - I have a picture of Walking Dead on my Kindle...if you want it ( I know you wanted people to send you pics of the book in the wild...)
kitmizkit on August 28th, 2009 02:00 pm (UTC)
*laughs*! I'd love a picture of WD on the Kindle! :)
(no subject) - jennielf on August 28th, 2009 02:11 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - mizkit on August 28th, 2009 02:18 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Stuartsaetter on August 28th, 2009 01:15 pm (UTC)
Highlander novels! :) I emailed a novel pitch to the B. Mitchell and even sent requested chapters/outline, but the line died... Too bad. My first internet community was the Highlander boards.

Good memories.

Thanks for the link. I haven't enjoyed a good Highlander story in a while. Too bad there was only one movie and the tv series. ;)

(Side note: Is it sad that I still have high hopes for the reboot they're planning? Haven't I learned my lesson yet???)
kit: fanboy_bignosesmizkit on August 28th, 2009 02:02 pm (UTC)
You are merely a person of great hope and faith in the world, not a sad person at all.

That said, you'd probably better brace yourself for the huge whacking suckitude that's likely to ensue with the Highlander reboot. I mean, I love me some Highlander, but let's be honest: the first movie isn't exactly great art. :)
(no subject) - saetter on August 28th, 2009 02:33 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - mizkit on August 28th, 2009 02:34 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Rachie: Heroine Addict: Lizzierachie203 on August 28th, 2009 01:19 pm (UTC)
I love the concept of a tip jar fiction_theory mentioned. Very fun. :)

While digital books are all well and good, there's something about having a book you can hold in your hands. I'm definitely a bibliophile, and I pretty consistently reread books. That being the case, in situations where I do not originally buy a book (I get it from the library, or borrow it from a friend) I may very likely buy it later. The odds of this increase if I can find a discounted copy at a used book store. While I recognize there are a lot of hands involved in publishing a book, and this impacts the price of the book, paying approximately $8 for a trade paperback and $20+ for a hardback is a little hard on the wallet. (As one of the recently laid off I have never been more aware of this.) While I can justify that $8 is well worth the hours of reading enjoyment I get (say in comparison to a movie), I also read very quickly and can typically finish a novel in 1-2 days. So even getting a single new book a week on the minimally employed budget is a challenge. When it is an author I follow I am likely to be the person waiting at the book store on release day for the doors to open - and on some occasions sending the staff back to search through boxes if the new book has not been shelved yet. Unless it's released in tpb format we're talking cover price of $14-$25 and that substantially increases the hardship of making a purchase.

As a fan I *want* to support the authors I like. I *want* to be able to buy a book and prove to publishers that this is an author well worth supporting and that they should support the further publication of future books. I want to offer financial support to allow the authors I enjoy to focus on what they enjoy (which is hopefully writing!) as a career. However as an avid reader I can't afford my book addiction. This makes the idea of free (with a tip jar!) and/or discounted digital books very appealing. While I *do not* want to support piracy for the sole purpose that it is not supporting the author, I would love to see a system in place similar to what you described where you could control the digital content.

Also, when it comes to branching out into new authors, I would be far more likely to read their work if they offered either substantial free previews or an entire free book. That way I can try it risk free, and if I like it am likely to purchase additional books in the series.
irishkateirishkate on August 28th, 2009 01:19 pm (UTC)
I heartily think you are outstanding and totally agree with you - but wonder, is there anyway you can suggest that I can make Mr. Egregious regret his actions over there on his blog since as non copyright holder I can't complain to blogger on your behalf and to be honest the fact that there is a donate button on the page which doesn't go to you guys really ticks me off. I would like to go make his life awkward but do not know the tools to use.....
anthony_lionanthony_lion on August 28th, 2009 01:23 pm (UTC)

The idiot is using PayPal to ask for donations...

Guess who I'm in the process of emailing...
The Renaissance Manunixronin on August 28th, 2009 01:48 pm (UTC)
I'll admit that most of the Honor Harrington series, I've read off the Baen Free Library.

But if I ever have a job and disposable income again, I'm buying them, dammit. Because I like David Weber and I want him to continue writing, and I want to support him and his writing. Same for John Ringo.¹ Writers and other artists who entertain us are our friends, and we should treat them accordingly.

Now, here's a shocking (to some) admission: I have shared music. Yeah, I've given people MP3 copies of music I really like. Because I hope they'll like it too. But there are strings attached. When I give somebody a bundle of MP3s, it's to hook them on a new artist, and it comes with the condition, "If you like this, you promise me that you will buy at least two CDs by this artist." Because that's how, and under what conditions, a friend of mine hooked me on VNV Nation. I now own the entire VNV Nation catalog Same friend did the same with Assemblage 23, and, lessee .... I think I'm up to four Assemblage 23 CDs now. And that also got me into Covenant and Apoptygma Berzerk. So at a fast back-of-the-envelope count, Andan handing me two bundles of MP3s has generated 17 CD sales from me alone, not even beginning to count the friends I in turn have introduced to those same artists.

(And in the same vein, sometime when I can afford it, almost the entire catalog of The Church is on my to-buy list. Except for Jammed and bastard Universe, both of which deadheads would probably go ga-ga over but they're not my thing.)

The Baen Free Library model works.

[1] Anyone who wants to bash John Ringo's chops about the "Ghost" books, as I'm given to understand is a widely popular recreation in some circles, really should read his own comments about them first. "Finally I agreed, OK, OK, I'll write</b> the damned thing, my editor will reject it out of hand, and that'll be it. Except he didn't reject it. And then you jerks not only LIKED it, you DEMANDED MORE, so now I have to write more of'em, oh god, make it stop...."
[paraphrased, but that's the gist of it]

Edited at 2009-08-28 01:53 pm (UTC)
Geek of Weird Shitgows on August 28th, 2009 02:21 pm (UTC)
When I give somebody a bundle of MP3s, it's to hook them on a new artist

*nod* I do this in particular with my friend s00j's music (with her blessing). If I burn someone a CD, it's a sample of her stuff crossing several albums, but I never give anyone a complete album of hers. In addition, s00j is a traveling musician--she's got no permanent home as such, just criss-crosses the US playing for people. So I write her name and website on the CD and tell people if she's in the area, they should go to one of her house concerts or host one for her.
(no subject) - saetter on August 28th, 2009 02:37 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - unixronin on August 28th, 2009 03:02 pm (UTC) (Expand)
annathepiper on August 28th, 2009 02:07 pm (UTC)
Man, that site is indeed just beyond the pale. The request for Paypal donations is especially precious.

Good for you for the whole post, though.
Karinacreamnsugar on August 28th, 2009 02:19 pm (UTC)
Ouch. I know that writers don't get the kind of money that they deserve considering the number of hours spent per book. And seriously, he sucks for making all those books so easily available.

That being said, I applaud your views on books and free information. I have generally borrowed books to see if they are worth reading [thus buying so that I can reread] and have on one occasion illegally downloaded a book. I couldn't find anyone to borrow the Harry Potter series from and I was skeptical. I didn't think I would enjoy a "kid's book." I ended up buying the series in hard copy.

Let's hope that in the end, this site only serves to help the writers included.
Min: Min/MagnifyingGlassphantomminuet on August 28th, 2009 03:46 pm (UTC)
I'm not an author, and I think it's up to authors (and other artists) to decide personally how they deal with this issue, philosophically and pragmatically, but I suspect that much of the acceptance of the "information needs to be free" theory is a capitulation to the inevitability of, as you say, pee in the pool. It is an intellectual rationalization of the fact that people will happily take another's work without paying for it (this has always been true; technology just makes it easier), and you can either fight it or accept it.

I'm not saying it's wrong or misguided to take such a pragmatic position. I'm just pissed off that it has gotten to the point that people feel pressured to accommodate thieves. It's a huge issue here in Nashville, because we're an industry town for music artists and music publishing.

BTW, while it may not be true for emerging authors, there is a simple, legal way to sample an existing series or an established author before you buy. It's called the public library.
Dinidamedini on August 28th, 2009 04:09 pm (UTC)
Hmm. I do read free e-books (by which I mean those posted legitimately for download, not pirated copies. E.G. Baen's free e-book site. I've discovered more authors that I never would have tried that way... And Project Gutenberg for much older books... I read them on my smartphone and always have reading material without carrying and risking damage to physical books (I'm a real oddball that way - I have 20+ year olf paperbacks that have been ready umpty times but look spanking new. No creases or scuffs to be seen).

But I also adore books and buy books all the time.
Dinidamedini on August 28th, 2009 04:17 pm (UTC)
Oops. Hit POST too soon. I do think that posting an author's work without permission is horrific and blatant theft. Hire an attack lawyer and have at! And a paypal jar? Appalling. I do hope you'll share what the various publishers do to him. *you* may choose to make your own work available. No one else can make that choice about your work. Good luck.
(no subject) - elialshadowpine on August 28th, 2009 07:41 pm (UTC) (Expand)
lonotterlonotter on August 28th, 2009 04:34 pm (UTC)
Skipped over here via one (or was it more?) Friends pages.

I loooove e-books. I bought a Sony Reader a month ago, just in time for it to be replaced by the new models, but I'm not sorry. I've happily bought electronic versions of books that *I already own* and like. I'm a Project Gutenberg junkie. This guy is why some authors don't want to produce authorized DRM-ed electronic versions of their books, and I can't blame them. (insert more ranting here).

I don't like how long US copyright law applies post-mortem, but I firmly support the author/publisher's rights during the author's lifetime.
kitmizkit on August 28th, 2009 08:35 pm (UTC)
Really, I asked with mild surprise? People are linking here? That's rather nice. :)

Yeah, I have issues with the US copyright law as defined by Disney, but the way for me to work around that is to eventually produce some Creative Commons work, which I intend to do.
Elial Shadowpineelialshadowpine on August 28th, 2009 07:40 pm (UTC)
... I think I love you.

I'm on a writer's board where we have lots of published members. Several times a month, we have threads about how awful e-piracy is and how people are ruining their careers, and how all they need to do is get lawyers on the problem, etc. Never mind the reality that the piracy sites are located in countries that don't give a shit about international copyright law.

It's a reality of doing business in the digital era. Accept it and move on.

I remember when the Baen Free Library came out as an experiment. Participants found over time, their backlist sales increased because people liked the books they read and wanted hard copies. Like you, I'd much rather have books available free from the author so it can be tracked.
kitmizkit on August 28th, 2009 08:33 pm (UTC)
Baen's e-book policy is one reason I would love to write something for them someday. :)

Also, I am glad to be loved! :)
(no subject) - (Anonymous) on August 29th, 2009 02:32 am (UTC) (Expand)
Clarifcation - (Anonymous) on August 29th, 2009 07:17 pm (UTC) (Expand)
stormerider on August 28th, 2009 07:41 pm (UTC)
Seriously? I've been waiting for more people to wake up, smell the roses, and realize this. You've summed it up better than anyone else I've seen to date.

As a long-time buyer of your books-- thank you.
kitmizkit on August 28th, 2009 08:33 pm (UTC)
You're welcome. And, well, thanks for buying the books. :)

I'm not inclined to tell people to wake up and smell the roses on the topic, because it is a serious issue and although obviously I don't agree with people whose policy is to stomp and stomp hard, I have to agree that it's not an unreasonable reaction to your work being stolen, y'know?