Piracy Is Theft, End Of Story

Over the last few days I've been following the online conversation about e-book piracy. I watched at the tweets popped up after a fan of an author's work tweeted the author and told her that she'd illegally downloaded her ebook.

Yeah, really.

The author, unsurprisingly, was not thrilled by that announcement. The fan seemed surprised that the author saw the tweet. (That is kind of how the @ works. Just sayin'.) It sparked a conversation between the author and fan where the author said that's not cool and you know there are other options and the fan said but the ebook isn't available in her region and she needs to read it on her ebook reader or her husband will divorce because otherwise she'll be reading with the light on and he hates that.

I can't say that I don't have some sympathy for the fan's situation (the ebook not being available, not the husband/light thing). As a Canadian I don't get the same access to ebooks that my American friends can. It's a different region in terms of book rights and sometimes it takes longer to get an ebook here. It happens for books as well, not just ebooks.

There was a period in 2010 when it was hard to get ebooks. The publishers of ebooks and booksellers were facing off in the US. For reasons I don't completely understand (because I never really bothered to look into it) it caused a lot of ebooks that I has previously been able to buy in Canada from certain ebook stores to become unavailable for awhile. I had four choices. I could find another ebook store to buy them from, I could buy the paperback, I could get it from the library (though there would have been a really long wait list), or I could wait for the ebook thing to work itself out.

I found it available from another ebook seller. If I hadn't I would have waited until it became available, gotten it from the library or if I really, really needed to read it I would have bought a physical copy of the book.

Did you notice that torrenting the book wasn't on my list of choices? That's because I never would have torrented it. It's theft. The author of the book I set out to buy was a best-selling author and the book was going to hit the best-sellers list whether I bought the book or not. It doesn't matter. It's still wrong.

Shopping around to find an available ebook is no different than what I've been doing for years to get my hands on a copy of a book I really want. One bookstore doesn't have the book? Try another. That one doesn't have it either? Try another. That doesn't work? Go online and look for international sellers that ship books or try a special order from a local bookstore. There have been times where I've only been able to get books from international stores. It works the other way as well. I used to read and blog about a lot of Canadian fiction that my friends in the United States couldn't find. Same with some of the British and Australian books that I can get but they can't. We dealt with it. They got books on special loan or they bought it or I sent it to them or they just simply didn't read the book.

Very few people have to have an ebook. I'm sure there are people with disabilities for whom ebooks are a godsend but for most of us? We don't need them no matter how much we prefer them. I love ebooks. I find them highly convenient and they save me oodles of storage room. Often I can save a little bit of money on them as well. But it's not my right to have access to them.

I can afford to buy books. I feel pretty darned lucky about that. There were times when books were not in my budget. Heck, there were times when I could barely afford food. It still did not give me the right to walk into a store, pick groceries up off the shelf and walk out without paying for them. I certainly needed food a heck of a lot more than I'll ever need books.

Even if I couldn't afford to buy books there are libraries. Not everyone has ready access to them but a lot of people do. The library doesn't have the book you want? Request it. The library doesn't want to buy it? Look at inter-library loan. Library doesn't have inter-library loan? Try to find someone who has it that you can borrow it from. No luck there? There are book swapping sites online. Maybe you'll get luck with one of those. Still no luck? Well I'm guessing that you wouldn't walk into a bookstore, shove the book under your jacket and walk out with it. That's stealing and that's exactly what you are doing when you torrent books. You just happen to be doing it at home in front of your computer.

I'm not going to say that I don't know people who do this. I do. I don't understand it and I don't agree with it but that's not going to stop them from doing it. I wish it would but it doesn't. They aren't horrible people and I'm sure neither is the fan that I mentioned above. I think she's made a two poor choices -- one to torrent the book and the other to publicly tell the author.

Maybe it's because in university I worked at a bookstore. Maybe it's because in my first post-university job I worked a lot of with copyrights and publishers. Maybe it's because I've been lucky enough to have people pay me for my words. Maybe it's because I've been blessed to meet some of the authors I adore face-to-face. Maybe it's because some of my friends are writers and illustrators. Maybe it's because I know people in publishing. Maybe it's because I know artists of all stripes.

I just know that I can't steal from an author.