Just a great article from Tess Gerritsen about e-books, piracy and what the future might bring to us authors.  Check it out:

 

http://www.murderati.com/blog/2010/1/26/the-end-of-the-world-as-we-...

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Yes, excellent article. It is, of course, better to go the traditional route. However, the glut is already in the print market and it kills faster than in the e-market. Also, we do have the option to sell those titles to Kindle, etc., that have not sold to traditional publishers. And break-throughs happen there also. Break-throughs in the print market are probably exclusively reserved for those whose publishers shell out for promotion. Someone ought to do a study of the typical break-through novel and how much the publisher put into the success.
Yes, that would be a great study, Ingrid. Of course sometimes books get the big push and die anyway.
I read this at Murderati. Thought-provoking and has a lot of information, but she's too alarmist in spots. When she says, "The book you spent a year sweating over has only a day to turn a profit, and then it's dust," she implies that once a book has been made available for free, you've seen your last sale, and that's just not true. If it was, Dan Brown would have sold no books starting too days after release, and we all know that didn't happen.

As I said in my comment there, piracy is a potentially serious problem for writers, but it's not the end of the world as we know it.
piracy is a potentially serious problem

I agree, it is a potentially serious problem. It could be, but we don't know yet. Don't have enough information yet.

Dan Brown is an anomaly. Yeah, The Lost Symbol was pirated a lot, but he also sold a lot. If Brown sold 1 million books and had 100,000 pirated books, for example, what does that say to the average author who sells maybe 3,000 books? (I don't know how much the average author sells). That would be 300 pirated ones, disregarding the fact that the ratio of bought to downloaded would not be consistent from author to author. And that still doesn't tell us how many sales were lost because we don't know if the downloader would have bought the book if buying it were the only option, and we don't know how many downloaders subsequently went out and bought the book. Without that information, we can't even begin to know the real impact of book piracy. But I guess people prefer to remain willfully ignorant and latch onto fear instead of facts. Every instance I've heard of of an author intentionally giving away books has resulted in an increase in sales; I've yet to hear a story of it resulting in lower sales. That's just anecdotal evidence, but it's still more than the alarmists have.

Gerritsen also is using a poor benchmark, I believe, for determining whether or not ebooks are the way to go. Because they haven't produced a James Patterson-like blockbuster? How many James Pattersons has the print industry published? They'd all fit into a nice sized van, I'd wager. So it seems a poor rubric for success. Also, ebooks have only become a serious contender within the past year or so. Give them a chance to be a success before you write them off.

Gerritsen has even released one of her own books for free on scribd.com. Why didn't she mention that in the article? Did she lose sales from doing that? Did she gain sales? That would be good information to have.

This is just more fear-mongering and doom-saying. Gives writers something to talk about, I guess. I wonder what the Y2K alarmists did on January 1st when nothing happened?
It's funny, I have a friend who spent a year preparing the company he worked for to deal with Y2K - then when his work was successful people were saying, "There, see, you didn't need to anything after all." Sometimes he would try to explain that if he HADN'T spent so much time working on the problem it would have been a huge problem for his company, but most people had already made up their minds. Luckily the company he works for was smarter than that.

Still, I think e-books will be an overall success for writers. Certainly e-books won't make life any worse for writers than it is now. No matter what the delivery system it will be tough to get people interested in your work and even tougher to get them to spend their money.
I shoplift a high def TV from an electronics store can I justify that somehow by saying, "Yeah, but if it hadn't been free I never would've bought it?" Does that make the store owner feel any better? (Whether I make something with my mind or my hands, the ownership rights are the same. Theft of property, whether intellectual or otherwise, is the same.)

FYI, the latest report on book piracy was released about 10 days ago, by a tech company called Attributor. Estimated book piracy in America = $2.8 billion. That's the dollar value of the illegal downloads. Even if in only 5% of the cases an actual sale was lost then that's still a 140 million dollar loss to the industry. But who knows, could be 50% in actuality. The same outfit is going to address the percentage of actual sales lost in its next study. I'll be interested to read about their methodology.
One thing I was trying to say above that could be clearer is there is an ethical dimension to this book piracy debate, and I only see economic arguments coming from some. As an author I have the right to not have my book read by people who don't pay for it even if a million illegal downloads don't cost me a penny. I'm a bit fed up with the book piracy apologists and more generally with the "information wants to be free" ethos (to use the term loosely).
As an author I have the right to not have my book read by people who don't pay for it

No you don't. If my friend buys your book and then gives it to me, what is that to you? He bought the book, it's his, he can do what he wants with it. You can't legally stop me from reading it. That's how public libraries can function, ebay (any auction, actually), garage/yard sales, Amazon marketplace, used bookstores, etc.

The difference now is that when my friend lends me a book, he still has a copy. That's different than what we have been used to. The Supreme Court eventually is going to have to take up this issue once and for all, but for sure the situation is more complicated than you make it out to be.
In the example you're using, I the author agreed to sell the buyer the book with full knowledge he owned it and could do what he wanted with it. A legally binding contract sale. When you steal a copy from the internet there is no buyer and seller, only a thief.
John D, I'm with you on most of this discussion, exceptfor the following comment:

The difference now is that when my friend lends me a book, he still has a copy.

Strictly speaking, an e-book can't be loaned. If I loan you something (a shovel, a car, a book), I am unable to use it while it is on loan, and I am assuming I'll get it back. This is not the case with an e-book. Plus, a loan is a one-to-one transaction. E-book piracy is the theft of an infinitely duplicative item. One posting could lead to thousands of "thefts," which is also not possible with a tangible item.
Eric,
I agree completely about the ethics of it, which is why I disagree with Gerritsen that piracy is the end of life as we know it: a lot of people just won't do it. I won't, you won't, and we're not special just because we're writers. There will always be people who won't, for a variety of reasons.

I think the discussion focuses on economics because the ethics of the question can't be addressed in practical terms, just as preaching abstinence doesn't stop teenage pregnancies. We're going to have people who are willing to do this; it can't be stopped. The only truly debatable question is, "How can we minimize the effect?"
I'm not convinced piracy can't be thwarted, or at least its growth be halted, via governmental and technological means and by a change in culture. I realize I'm in the minority here though.

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