Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

Readers Have Copyright Rights Too

Yesterday, there was an article in the New York Times about ebooks and the increase of ebook reading and possible dangers. The plus takeaway was that Kindle readers purchase more books than most heavy book purchasers.

Amazon for example, says that people with Kindles now buy 3.1 times as many books as they did before owning the device. That factor is up from 2.7 in December 2008. So a reader who had previously bought eight books from Amazon would now purchase, on average, 24.8 books, a rise from 21.6 books.

We romance readers know that from our own experience. Many of the early adopters of ebooks have been romance readers who buy more books than any subset of readers out there.

The negative takeaway from the Times article was that there was a reader who shared a Kindle account with someone else. She was quoted as thinking she was probably taking advantage of a loophole.

Ms. Englin has linked her Kindle to the Amazon account of some nearby friends, allowing all of them to read books like "The Lost Symbol" at the same time -’ while paying for them only once.

"I read much more, I tend to read faster for some reason, and I read a greater variety of things," said Ms. Englin, adding that this is nearly the same as lending a physical book to friends. "We haven’t really looked closely at Amazon’s terms of service. But I do suspect we are breaking the rules."

This caused some authors to start calling her a thief and trying to shame her. I pointed out that the Kindle Terms of Service allow for up to six devices to be registered to a single account.   A number of authors did not believe Eglin was acting lawfully or ethically:


Ross continued:

Ross checked with Amazon:


When you hook up a device to a Kindle account, whether it is an iPhone/iTouch or Kindle, every user of the registered device has the ability to charge books to that account so only those you really, really trust would register a device on the same account.

Then the discussion segued into more general copyright issues.   Elizabeth Burton, a publisher, had this to say:


and this:


The problem here is that the very same law that gives authors a property right to their creative work gives consumers the right of first sale and fair use privileges.   Let me state that again.   The VERY SAME LAW that creates intellectual property for authors gives readers rights too.

Here’s how it works.

  • COPYRIGHT LAW   gives a bundle of rights to AUTHORS.
  • AUTHORS sell that bundle of rights, including the right of distribution and copying to a PUBLISHER in exchange for money.
  • PUBLISHER exercises its purchased rights by making many copies and selling those copies in a few ways including, but not limited to, the following two:

1. A SALE which results in a consumer purchasing the book and gaining the RIGHT OF FIRST SALE and FAIR USE RIGHTS granted by same COPYRIGHT LAW.

2. A LEASE which is bound by the terms of an agreement.

In the Kindle instance, the purchase is of a lease of a book for as long as Amazon deems it appropriate for you to have access to a copy.   The contractual terms between a Kindle owner and Amazon allows for up to six devices registered to an account to simultaneously share that book.   This is not infringement as so many authors (looking at you, Toni Blake, and others) have suggested.   What Amazon is allowed to share with a reader is dependent on the rights that are granted to Amazon by publishers.   Hence the turning off of Text to Speech and conversely, the allowance of 6 simultaneous downloads.

To unapologetically call a reader a THIEF when she is exercising a right granted by Amazon and therefore by the publisher is terrible. It’s an affront to all readers.


No laws are being skirted.   No laws are changed.   Except that readers are being given the shaft.   Because some readers prefer to read digital books, our rights have been erased.   We cannot resell a digital book because no one trusts that we have deleted the originals.   We cannot be allowed to share a book because the fear is that pressing the email button with an attachment being feared we are using it as a copy button.   WE ARE PRESUMED TO BE DIRTY, THIEVING CRIMINALS.   I AM VERY TIRED OF IT.

The default position is that we ebook readers are always engaged in some form of wrongdoing.   We are charged more.   We don’t get the book at the same time.   We are constrained in how we use our books, on what devices we read them on, with whom we can share them.   We are not considered legitimate customers if we do not leave our house and buy a paper copy.

Sharing is a fundamental part of reading.   Sharing is a reader’s way of saying “try this, I think you’ll like it. There is no risk here.” It’s a way of building a relationship with another reader so that the next time you are reading a book, you can say, “get this” and that person will go and buy it, solely on your recommendation.   From one reader to another, there is no greater expression of trust than to buy on another reader’s recommendation.

Sharing is part of creating the reading community. Sharing seeds reading.   It creates and generates more interest in reading. Why is this important? Because the biggest threat to authors’ livelihood is not piracy.   It is not casual sharing.   It is a declining readership.   It is rising rates of illiteracy.   It is alternative forms of entertainment.

I am not arguing that piracy is right. It is not.   But sharing between people on one Kindle account is not piracy and to equate piracy with sharing is incredibly insulting and frustrating.   As an ebook reader, I have given up so many rights.

Thank god for people like Courtney Milan and Tessa Dare who blogged about readers’ rights too.   Discovering what seemed like so many authors ill regard toward sharing, that so many would leap to the conclusion that sharing amongst even six readers is piracy, is so offputting that I am reluctant to foster anyone else’s joy in reading.    If authors want us to respect them and their rights, they need to start respecting us and our rights.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Pearl
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 04:07:16

    Wow! *speechless* here.
    The one day I am practically not on Twitter and this happens.

    Nice to know some authors consider people who legitimately buy ebooks and share them with others in a way that is not illegal, thieves and place them in the same league as ebook pirates. Great!

  2. Serena Yates
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 04:24:26

    Just wanted to say that I am VERY encouraged by this discussion. I personally agree with you that there is a HUGE difference between sharing and pirating.

    As an author (plus being an avid reader myself as well), I think sharing is an important part of getting to know new authors and genres. To not have that ability with e-books is a problem. Pirating is a totally different issue because those people take advantage of technology to do real damage – both to authors (whose income is reduced to nothing in some cases) and to publishers. But they also damage those readers’ reputations who want to share honestly – like they would with a paper book.

    I have long been worried about the lack of ability to share electronic books between readers, like you would share paper books. I must admit I wasn’t aware of the kindle’s ability to offer limited sharing (I live in the UK and haven’t had access to one so far). The new ‘nook’ seems to get closer to the sharing and lending potental of paper books – but in a legal way. I hope many more electronic devices will move into that direction in the future.

    It will hopefully help all of us return our attentions to what’s really important: the creation and enjoyment of great stories!

  3. SarahT
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 04:34:14


    Sharing a book between a few friends is NOT piracy. How dare any author suggest that! Frankly, I’m sick of being told that I’ve been wrong all these years in thinking that once I purchased a book I owned it. People who opt to read ebooks give up so many rights it’s not funny.

  4. Fallon
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 04:42:48

    I think it’s the abuse of some who read eBooks that lead authors to be cautious, like the few you’ve used as examples. Granted, that doesn’t excuse an author calling anyone a theif without full knowledge of what’s occuring.

    Someone who shares an eBook with their mom is different than say — someone who sends a mass email to their contact list with a list of 150 eBooks and if you have one of these can you please forward a copy. Yes, I have received one of these. That’s quite a bit of money in books and what I’d consider abuse.

    I think the majority of readers are honest, forthright and have a lot of respect for books in general, be they print or electronic. But, there will always be those who try to take advantage, unfortunately.

  5. Alisa
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 04:58:20

    $7 for a new book, is usually $7 better spent on a couple gallons of milk or toward a $10 pair of little boys jeans or walmart tennies (4 boys can/do go through all of the above like wildfire, even the not so little one that I now have to look *up* at. TheGirl is only marginally less destructive on shoes/clothes. Girl factor cancelled out by 4 brothers & playing tag, football & baseball w/ them)

    *buying* a book is a splurge that is maybe once a month. I’m very very very picky what I spend my money on because I have to be these days. review sites make a bit of difference. Author recognition makes a lot. Finding new authors is generally by way of swapping w/ friends, my aunt cleaning out her packrat clutter and getting a big box of books, garage sales, etc. (hey, 25-50cents-$2 at a garage sale? $1-2 at the good will if they actually have anything good, means more books to read for me. And less likelihood of wanting to cry when the dog chews it or the kid colors in it–not so much anymore but yeah, puppy & 3 younger boys as toddlers in everything were *hell* on my books, and everything else, my book collection is still massively reduced from that w/ boys now 7-almost 11 & the dog is 5.)

    So, huh what do I matter if I am a “thief” and rarely sending my money toward authors? I know I’ve “sold” a good number of books even if I’m rarely buying new. Rec’ed books to internet friends from borrowed copies from RL friends that hey this is awesome, who have come back “Got this read it omg love it” and proceeded to buy backlists on several occasions. I’ve got a couple friends eagerly awaiting Heart’s Blood ‘s release, which I won an ARC from here and *loved*is so a keeper. (one of which is a librarian and now both book & author on her radar for her library)

    This hullabaloo has helped actually. When I get the chance to buy a book, I know where I’m not going to bother, even if the book looks wonderful. And a few authors and their books moved higher up my list of “maybe, if I see it” to “look for” even if I haven’t been reading a whole lot in that particular genre for a while.

  6. Nadia Lee
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 05:05:06

    At first I thought she was doing something illegal, until I realized that Amazon Kindle TOS says it’s okay to share if you have up to six Kindles linked to one account. I think it’s the following that might have made people think that the reader was stealing:

    But she has actually never paid for an e-book. Exploiting a loophole in Amazon's system, Ms. Englin has linked her Kindle to the Amazon account of some nearby friends, allowing all of them to read books like “The Lost Symbol” at the same time -’ while paying for them only once.

    “I read much more, I tend to read faster for some reason, and I read a greater variety of things,” said Ms. Englin, adding that this is nearly the same as lending a physical book to friends. “We haven't really looked closely at Amazon's terms of service. But I do suspect we are breaking the rules.

    The sentences I’ve bolded together makes it sound as though the lady’s not paying a penny for books she claims to read a lot of and she’s doing something wrong knowingly. (That’s what some pirates say to authors and so on: “We know it’s not legal, but we don’t care and we won’t pay for a single book you download and read.”)

    BTW — this article ended up annoying me because if the NYT reporter had called AMZ or checked Kindle TOS, he would’ve known that the woman wasn’t doing anything illegal and not cause some people to misunderstand the situation.

    ETA – S. Englin commented on the article and clarified her situation, since the reporter wrote that she never pays for books.

    Just to clarify what Brad wrote in the article: it’s not that I don’t pay for books, it’s that I pay for them via my friend’s Amazon account, where my Kindle is linked.

    Further clarification:

    And one more bit of clarification – we’re well within Amazon’s rules

    So I’m not sure if the reporter decided to end his article with more …. ooomph and decided to misquote and/or imply theft, etc. on her part, but it does sound as though the reporter had worded her situation very poorly.

  7. maddie
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 05:07:45

    Hey I don’t own a kindle, so I didn’t know that owners could share with up to six different people books that they have downloaded.

    Did any of these authors know this? I would have to say that if I were an author, and found out that one person could purchased my book and then share it with others for free I think I would be concerned, but when I buy a book that I think my sister would like to read, I let her read it for free.

    I got reading Galen Foley, Nicole Jordan, Karen Robards, Sandra Brown, back in the day because I thought she would like her, and she did.

    My question is does the other kindle readers who partook in the sharing do they get to keep the book that was shared or do they have to buy it to keep it on their kindle?

  8. SarahT
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 05:18:09

    @Maddie: So if I purchased a print book and loaned it to six friends, would I be doing something wrong? Should authors be concerned about me potentially losing them sales? I’m sorry but that is total crap. I regularly loan books to friends. I know I’ve encouraged several of them to buy an author’s backlist because they’ve so enjoyed a book they borrowed from me.

    If any author has a problem with me swapping books with friends, please let me know so that I can cross their books off my ‘To Buy’ list.

  9. alexa
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 05:26:42

    Did anyone get the email from B&N yesterday about their new ereader Nook? One of it’s features is that it allows you to lend ebook files to friends for a certain amount of days. I wonder if it changes how authors feel about it, if the ability to lend is touted by the ereader’s company instead of it being more of a loophole.

    I don’t have an ereader…though I’d like to. But I’d like to think that responsible sharing would be allowed. I love swapping books with my friends. It often turns me on to new authors who I do go purchase books for.

  10. Alisa
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 05:33:48

    ~facepalm~ pls delete one of my comments? first hung up on posting and reposted cause this irritated me enough to makesure I got my comment in and am tired/distractedy. Apologies. goes in search of more coffee & meds for sickly munchkins.

  11. Serena Yates
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 05:42:31

    @alexa: I don’t know how other authors feel about the B&N sharing feature but I’m all for it. It’s no different than lending/borrowing a paper copy and will help readers get to know new authors or genres in just the same way.

    As long as it isn’t malicious pirating in large numbers – I don’t think any author would mind. It’s the pirate sharing sites and the e-mails inviting ‘sharing’ in large numbers (the ones Fallon mentioned) that hurt us so much.

  12. Natasha Fondren
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 06:06:53


    Amen! Amen!

    I have heard authors complain about people using library books, even!

    I am sorry that most authors are not getting paid enough to live on (me included), but it is NOT the reader’s fault. Hello? INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY! I don’t care if “innocent until proven guilty” is inconvenient and expensive. It is a right that is there for very important reasons.

    I definitely read far more on my Kindle than I’ve ever read in my life, save middle school. Definitely five or six times as much.

  13. Heather D
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 06:14:23

    I have really strong feelings here. I would not be the reader that I am today had it not been for my cousin loaning me books. The first book she left with me was Flowers in the Attic by V.C Andrews when I was 11 years old. It created a love of that author and her work. My parents knew that they could buy one of those books as gift and I would be ecstatic. I stopped reading in High School and didn’t pick it back up until the same cousin gave me a Virginia Henley book. I have been reading romance ever since, that was 14 yrs ago.

    When I find an author or a book that I love, I want to share it. It is just like having something so profoundly special in your life that you want to share the experience or what ever it may be with your loved ones and people closet to you. I have found several new authors by people loaning their books to me. I am not afraid to admit that I am a closed minded person at times. I buy books for their covers. If I don’t like the look of the cover and it is an author that I have never read, I am most likely not going to buy that book.

    Why do some authors have such a hard time getting past the loaning of books. It creates a bigger fan base for them. Maybe the next new release by that author will be purchased by the borrower… didn’t she just gain a sale?

    I have a Kindle. I am the only one on my account because I don’t have anyone close to me that also has a Kindle. I love sharing… and hate that I can’t share a book with my mother because I bought it for my Kindle, which she doesn’t have.
    And what is the difference between sharing a print book and an ebook? Do authors really have such a major issue with readers loaning a book to another reader? What am I suppose to do with all of my print books when I run out of room for them in my house? Am I not allowed to give them to the library Goodwill, or heaven forbid a friend? Do the authors seriously think I should trash the book because giving it to someone else who has not paid for it goes against their grain?

    I have not read Toni Blake as of yet. A friend has recommended her, but after reading that attack on the Kindle reader I don’t know that I will want to read her!!

  14. Larissa
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 06:18:46

    I don’t know how other authors feel about the Nook and Kindle, but I actually like the sharing ability. If the Nook operates the way I think it does, I think it’s genius, operating the way you’d share a print book.

    As an author, I share books because that’s how I developed a love for books. Used book stores, libraries, and friends were what I had when I was growing up. We didn’t have a lot of money, so it was very rare that I was able to buy a book. But because I had borrowed and used books, I developed a love of reading, and now I buy a LOT of new books.

    No, sharing is NOT pirating.

    The ebook thing is a new and sticky issue, and authors and readers are still feeling it out, and I have a feeling that it’s going to be a long time before both sides find a comfortable middle (personally, I think we’re getting there, with products like Kindle and the Nook, which may help reduce piracy by allowing legal sharing.)

    As for yesterday’s fiasco? The newspaper article was flat-out misleading. From it, I thought Ms. Englin was doing something illegal, but almost immediately, Jane said something about the Kindle TOS, and Ms. Englin posted a blog, and I felt so bad about all the crap she was taking that I sent her a book and told her to share all she wants.

    I think some good can come out of this — talking about sharing ebooks isn’t something that comes up much amongst authors (at least, not on lists I’m on,) but now we’re talking. And we’re discussing what pirates actually are — and what sites are NOT pirate sites (Goodreads, Librarything, etc.,).

    So maybe we’re getting there. Maybe…

  15. Jane
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 06:39:33

    @Nadia Lee Here’s my problem. On the face of the article, even assuming she had been exploiting a loophole, she was sharing with a few friends. On it’s face, that is not piracy. On it’s face that is not stealing. On it’s face, she is exerting her rights to share and have shared with her a book that was legitimately purchased, even if only once. That’s why yesterday was so upsetting. The Kindle owner wasn’t acknowledging participation in a mass piracy scheme. At worst, she confessed to sharing an ebook with a few friends. That should not only NOT be illegal but it shouldn’t raise a hue and cry by authors to automatically assume that she is stealing.

  16. Zealot
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 06:41:04

    Unfortunately it seems that some authors and publishers have been listening to the RIAA’s rants against music “pirates” too long, and have taken up their fear of the new opportunities, readers and distribution models Ebooks offer them.

    It took realizing that Apple was eating their lunch for music labels to take digital music seriously, and they still try to make “examples” of music fans and view MP3s as a danger first and as legitimate use second. I expect when Ebooks finally explode in the mainstream, and they will, publishers and authors will be faced with Amazon or B&N in the Apple role, and will bitterly regret their current protectionist stance.

    Reading Toni Blake’s viewpoint, I am sorely tempted to go to a library, check out her complete works, spend an afternoon photocopying them and then pass the copies out to strangers on the street….THAT would be stealing. Perhaps that would educate her as to the difference.


  17. Mora
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 06:41:27

    I think it's the following that might have made people think that the reader was stealing:


    The sentences I've bolded together makes it sound as though the lady's not paying a penny for books she claims to read a lot of and she's doing something wrong knowingly. (That's what some pirates say to authors and so on: “We know it's not legal, but we don't care and we won't pay for a single book you download and read.”)

    Regardless of how misleading the article may have been, the authors involved should have found out the facts before trying to publicly shame a reader. The whole lynch-mob mentality they displayed was disgusting.

    ETA: It did inspire me, though. I have a bunch of Toni Blake and Roxanne St. Claire books to take to my local UBS.

  18. Jane
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 06:43:55

    @maddie the book has to stay on the Kindle. It can’t be read on any other device (other than an iPhone but then it is considered one of the 6 registered devices).

    Also, to me I don’t think people should start calling other people thieves until they check out if someone is actually stealing. In the article, the Kindle owner acknowledges sharing the book with friends. Even if the Kindle TOS didn’t allow for this (heck, the Kindle TOS doesn’t even allow for you to back up your files), is sharing a book with a few friends stealing?

  19. DS
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 06:45:37

    Sharing ebooks with a good friend was one of the things that made me an early Kindle adopter. Now we have three Kindles and 2 iphones connected to our Amazon account. I also found out when I had a Kindle briefly stolen– it and the bunch of other electronics I had in my handbag was discarded in a nearby dumpster when the thief found I didn’t have any cash– who carries cash?– it’s also very easy to deregister and reregister a Kindle.

    I also learned that they were sturdier than I expected.

    ETA: I don’t usually make these announcements but there are some authors who have jointed my Do Not Buy List.

  20. S.
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 07:00:16

    Ugh, what a lot of ugly hysteria on the part of those authors.

  21. JoAnn Ross
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 07:01:34

    Dear Jane. . .

    Cutting and pasting is a wonderful tool. I use it a lot, myself. But perhaps your readers might want to read the entire blog being quoted so they can see writers’ entire comments — including mine about first sale doctrine and how I’ve always been fine with people sharing my books — before making an informed decision.
    Yes, I mistakenly assumed that because Amazon Prime’s rules say acount members must be in the same household (or at least did when I first signed up for it the day it became available) the household rule applied to the Kindle as well. Assumptions are always a mistake — as is retweeting before coffee and Ms. Engle’s assumption she was breaking the rules — and my only excuse is a Nov 1 deadline crunch had me hitting the RT button too soon. But when Ms Englin shared her read of the TOS, I took the time to call Kindle support and, as you showed, shared my clarification on her blog.

    There’s an obvious difference between sharing and piracy. As some of us attempted to explain.

    Jane Says:
    October 21st, 2009 at 10:23 am

    Nice non apology Ross. I hope no one shares your books ever.

    Yep. That’s my name. My actual, real life name, which I always use when making personal or public statements. The ironic thing, at least to me, is that except for grinding my teeth a bit at piracy, I NEVER get into these arguments. Especially after landing in a Montgomery, AL hospital after a TIA during last fall’s military base signing tour, after which my neurologist strictly instructed me to avoid stress. Oops. Wasn’t doing that yesterday.

    So, after ensuring readers that I love them (how can I not, they’ve allowed me to support myself and live my dream for 27 years?), I’m returning to my imaginary world where the sky is always blue, the sun is always shining, and pirates look like Johnny Depp. Oh, and where my sweetie and I share books on our beloved Kindles all the time. And as long as it’s legal, I hope other readers, do, too.

  22. judith
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 07:11:40

    Any nice kind person want to give me a list of the authors involved in this little attempted burning at the stake? The more I read of those condescending non apologies on that blog, the angrier I get. I need to add new people to my do not buy list and I don’t want to miss anyone. Thank you kindly.

  23. Rowan
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 07:13:23

    It feels, to me, a very…vulnerable…sort of thing – to have someone recommend a book. They’re showing me how well they do/do not know my tastes, and they’re revealing quite a bit about their own tastes, too.
    For me, at least, it isn’t a matter of just tossing a book at someone and saying “here, I have this one.”
    ESPECIALLY with ebooks, because Jane’s right, ebooks have been imbued with this sense of “you thieving whore” if you share it with someone.

    I was forwarded an ebook by a friend because she simply LOVED it, and wanted to talk about it with someone, and we both felt skittish and…almost dirty…for doing so.

    If my own book inspires someone to email a friend/family member and say “OMG you HAVE to read this!” I want them to do it. It’s like my own little wet dream, frankly.

  24. Jane
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 07:14:23

    @JoAnn Ross You called her a thief. You never once apologized. Your first comment was to bring to her attention that your son was the ED of the Copyright Alliance. Why? So you could threaten her? You said you were sorry that the Times took the wrong slant on her comment. You never, ever on your Twitter stream said "wow, I was wrong about that Kindle owner being a thief." Calling someone a thief is a terrible thing and to continue to protest without apology is really disturbing.

  25. Sarah Frantz
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 07:18:52

    Can we allso talk about ebooks that go “Out of Print”–that is, they’re taken off the publisher’s website. There’s one book that been strongly recommended, but it’s OOP. I can’t get it legally on swap sites b/c it’s electronic and can’t be swapped. No one can lend it to me like that would a normal book. Author isn’t even willing to sell it to me. I’m pissed.

    And I know at least three NYT authors who are convinced it’s second-hand store backlist glomming that got them their core audience who now pimps them everywhere by lending their books out.

    I do have to question “declining literacy.” I still think more people are literate in US than in 50s and 60s (although numbers might prove me wrong for all I know). It’s competing entertainment that’s the big one.

  26. Zealot
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 07:22:46

    @Jane: For me the chilling part was not even the accusing a person of theft with little or no grounds, or even refusing to apologize, but tweeting or retweeting the following…”Please let @englinconsult Shayna Englin know it is ILLEGAL to steal books”

    Incite much? Rush to judgement a little?

  27. Jane
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 07:25:17

    @Zealot and the call by the retweeters to shame her. It was awful.

  28. Thoughtful
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 07:26:34

    I commend Jane for calling ppl out. Like Sarah W said anything you post on the internet is Public, Permanent and Pervasive.

    And there does seem to be a reason to think negatively about some authors but I fear that rushing to put everyone that RTed or made a comment on a don’t buy list is just repeating the same behavior from yesterday.

  29. Janet W
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 07:31:10

    Incredible. That was a fascinating, spot-on article. Readers have rights and romance readers like — dare I say — love to share books. Right now in my giveaway stash I have a Welcome to Temptation and Naked in Death … I always do, and a Heyer and a Balogh too if I’m lucky enough to find them. I love UBS stores and library sales and thrift shops and garage sales … but I also haunt and my local Borders. Gabaldon’s latest is in my hot little hands — from my library — and when it comes out in paperback, I’ll buy it.

    I buy and I share and then hopefully my converts, in turn, buy and share. If e-book manufacturers make it possible for me to do that, legally, well, then we have something to talk about.

    P.S. What Sarah F said: “And I know at least three NYT authors who are convinced it's second-hand store backlist glomming that got them their core audience who now pimps them everywhere by lending their books out.”

    I’ll name three: Mary Balogh, Jo Beverley and Suz Brockmann — when I discovered them (pretty much concurrently as I worked through All About Romance’s Desert Island Keeper list), there was no way I could get their backlist without UBSs. But that switched to buying new when I caught up. Smart NYTimes bestselling authors!

  30. Zealot
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 07:36:03

    @Jane: It know it is overblown, but I truly feel bad for that woman who simply shared information about a favorite hobby with a journalist. To get that response from the authors you admire must be like the kid who is mocked by their baseball hero while asking for an autograph. The calling her out by name just made it all the worse…that sort of thing tends to attach to names.

    I keep hearing John Proctor in my mind…”How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul, leave me my name!”

  31. DS
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 07:40:01

    @Thoughtful: I don’t usually announce it but I’ve put names on my Do Not Buy list several times since authors started to show up and misbehave on the internet in the past decade or so. But I really fail to see how personally deciding not to support authors who have behaved as badly as these have is nearly as bad as wrongly defaming someone on the internet. I’m not urging anyone else to do the same and a sincere apology from any of the authors involved as public as the defamation might go far toward mending any breaches. But this was bad, bad behavior.

  32. Blue Tyson
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 07:42:30

    So, can anybody actually point to legislation that says you cannot resell or lend ebooks?

    Companies can write what they like – including you need to have a pony to use their stuff or can only read it on Thursday, but means nothing without something to back it up.

  33. Kendra
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 07:46:40

    Thank you for this blog post. eBook readers are indeed punished for reading digitally. I used to buy the new HARDBACKS of JD Robb and Iris Johansen for myself and my grandmother. These are books we both love and talk about. Now that I am reading reading eBooks exclusively we cant share the books.

    Yes we can each purchase the books, but she is 94 and doesn’t get out much. So now I have to buy 2 books. *sigh* Guess authors will love that, but it chaps my ass.

    I read on a iPod Touch, I suppose I could get a Kindle or Nook for my grams. But she is 94 and the technology might a little to much for her.

    Guess I will have to think on it.

    Thanks again for the this post. Readers do have rights too!

  34. Emily Ryan-Davis
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 07:50:41

    I missed the Twitter mania, too. I wondered what “events” Jane referred to last night.

    My .02:

    I’m an e-book author and I share e-books. My dirty secret is out (you’re in good company Rowan…or at least, out-of-the-closet company).

    I can’t go to a library and browse an e-book beyond the first four pages before I decide to buy.

    I can’t go to B&N or Borders or BAM and browse before I decide to buy.

    I can’t afford to spend $5+ on a book that looks good based on a brief excerpt, only to find that 20 pages into it everything goes downhill.

    And let’s all face it, e-book authors and readers alike: many review sites? Not to be a trusted indication of what you’re going to receive for your $5+.

    But why do I really share? (I’m talking “this e-book is good, want to read it?” to one friend, not to 150 friends; and reciprocation from one friend, not to 150 friends). Because I’ve bought so many dreadful e-books that I’m only willing to spend my money on an author I trust either through a friend’s recommendation (a friend of MINE, not a friend of the author’s) or through personal relationship w/ the author. Because even though I’m an e-book author, I was a paperback reader first and I filled myself up with big bags of hand-me-downs from my mom’s coworkers, from yardsales, and from libraries.

    When I was 15, I read a used paperback by an author, then made it a mission to buy every title of her 16-title backlist.

    Several months ago? I received an e-book from an author. I forwarded it to my friend. My friend read it in two hours, then brought out her credit card and bought every title of the author’s then 8-book backlist.

    I WANT that reader share and recommend buzz.

    In closing, because the piracy issue is one that frustrates me and I don’t often have a chance to grouch about it to receptive ears/eyes: as an author, I’ve never once clicked a link to a piracy site to search for my titles. I. Don’t. Care. It’s NOT taking food from an author’s table to “steal” a book: that food was never on the table in the first place, and a reader purchase is NOT something an author is entitled to.

  35. Bree
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 08:12:12

    It disheartens me to see authors conflate reasonable sharing with piracy, even more so when they loudly proclaim that sharing will “encourage” piracy. It shows a fundamental lack of understanding of the intricacies and history of piracy and the general patterns of habitual pirates.

    I love the idea of the Nook and easy, regulated sharing for ebooks. The inability to easily, legally share ebooks (I’m sorry, the kindle sharing is NOT easy…the list of people who I would give access to my amazon account does not intersect with the list of people I’d share books with) is the main reason I can’t go 100% digital, and the main reason I buy ebooks with great caution even though I’m primarily a digitally published author.

    Buying an ebook is a huge commitment at the moment. If I buy a print book and hate it, I can give it to someone who might enjoy it more. I can trade it to the used book store. I can donate it to the Good Will. If I buy an ebook and can’t get past chapter 2, no one else can benefit from the money I just spent. It becomes a completely pointless, useless purchase. So I don’t take that risk, and a lot of people who might have gotten my money don’t.

    I buy books. If I enjoy a book, I sometimes buy multiple copies and give some away in hopes of making new fans. I buy copies of books I received as digital ARCs just because I love to support people. I’m not a thief, and readers like me are not thieves. I understand the frustration of googling your penname and seeing endless links to pirate sites and people taking the book and thanking those who made it available. It sucks. It stings. It makes me cranky. But it doesn’t give me an excuse to decide every single person who wants to share my book with a friend is Satan’s spawn.

    Send my book to a friend. I won’t tell.

  36. Nadia Lee
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 08:12:28

    @Blue Tyson:

    So, can anybody actually point to legislation that says you cannot resell or lend ebooks?

    I think Jane probably knows more about it than I, but my understanding is that ebooks are treated almost like software or something. Licensed, but not wholly owned, like in the case of a physical print book.

  37. Rachel Caine
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 08:12:48

    Look, guys, let’s calm the waters a little. Everybody’s getting really agitated (on both sides), and it’s not useful.

    I can definitely support the argument that people want to “try before they buy.” That’s why I offer a staggering amount of free content on my website, under Creative Commons licenses, as well as huge sample sections. (Guess what? No matter how much I give away, I still get pirated constantly. But as I am, at heart, an optimist, I will continue to do this.)

    That is, however, no defense for the pirates who put up an author’s ENTIRE BODY OF WORK and claim that they’re “helping.” Or for the ones who make multiple CD-ROMs of all my books and sell them weekly on eBay. (Yes, that happens, weekly.)

    For an example see this current auction (but hurry, as I’m VeRoing it today):

    Check out her disclaimers at the bottom. She’s claiming everything from having the rights granted to her to actually being the copyright owner. And she has 8 available, this week, with 8 books on each one. So far, she’s sold 2 (or, a total of 16 books). And you can bet she’ll be back next week under a different name after I get her bounced, because she DOESN’T CARE.

    My policy is that I don’t go after people who trade books unless they’re just putting them up for open download to all comers. If they choose trade on a closed list, that’s cool. But I do issue takedowns on people who resell my work on eBay, or put it up for open download. I first ask them nicely to stop. About 60% of the time, people didn’t know it was actually wrong to do it, and they’re more than willing to stop.

    The other 40% of the time I get “screw you, moneygrubbing whore.” Seriously. It’s depressing. It’s especially depressing after I get through spending over $500 a month sending out free books to people. It would be so much easier to just take the hard line, but I absolutely will not do that.

    So I just go after the real offenders, and hope for the best. I have no objection to people trading content between their friends. I just don’t really get why giving it to everyone on the internet is “marketing.”

    Oh, and if anybody here is the lady who’s putting my books up on eBay this week, a voluntary takedown would be much appreciated.

    – Rachel

  38. Nadia Lee
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 08:13:49

    @Emily Ryan-Davis:

    I can't go to a library and browse an e-book beyond the first four pages before I decide to buy.

    I can't go to B&N or Borders or BAM and browse before I decide to buy.

    I can't afford to spend $5+ on a book that looks good based on a brief excerpt, only to find that 20 pages into it everything goes downhill.

    This! This is why I gave up. I got one too many shoddy books, and I couldn’t even return them or sell them or anything. It just got too frustrating.

    If I can’t even read past the 1st chapter, I don’t even bother to buy the book. Many e-publishers post only 500-1000 words, and it’s hard to tell if I want to read more or not. Argh.

  39. Erotic Horizon
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 08:16:08

    I have been waiting for the bottom to fall out of this band wagon for a long time now…

    I could not have said it better… Well done

    Thank you for voicing what a lot of ebook readers are up against yet fearing at the same time…


  40. RStewie
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 08:23:56

    This article is not only spot-on, it’s also very timely. These thoughtful and well-written articles are what keep me coming back to DA (every day, sometimes more than once), and I really appreciate the thoughtful and well-documented approach taken to write them.

    I think one of the main problems with ebooks is that so many people in publishing are blinded by the method of publication and don’t take into account the work being published.

    eBooks aren’t like MP3 downloads of music, which amount to roughly 5-7 min of enjoyment. eBooks are purchased by readers, who are willing to devote 2,5,8 and more hours of time to reading and enjoying (hopefully) what the author has written.

    That we (because I’m slowly converting to ebooks) are relegated to the back room, and distrusted, and forced to put up with multiple forms of DRM and other controls imposed by the publisher and the seller (off topic: B&N’s ereader wiped out my ePub library over the weekend!!) is ridiculous. We are loyal fans and we should not have to jump through hoops in order to purchase our books in the format we prefer.

  41. Toni Blake
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 08:25:38

    I just want to point out that my tweet quoted above was sent specifically to the woman in question after she sent a tweet specifically to me, this occurring after I passed on someone else’s tweet about the NYT article, which, yes, made it look like she WAS stealing. So my crime here is believing something I read in the New York Times – which I think is a fair enough mistake. And up until yesterday, I had always been led to believe that the sharing of e-books WAS illegal, under any circumstance. I’ll also mention that when responding to someone with only 140 characters, it’s hard to say things as carefully as you might like AND squeeze in being warm and fuzzy.

    While I agree it’s totally fair to share books in general – yes, I, too, lend books to friends – the reason authors get worried when we hear about “sharing” e-books is that it often *does* equate to piracy. Which *is* stealing, plain and simple. We see our copyright protection eroding all around us on a daily basis, and this puts us on the defensive.

    Of course, now I wish I’d never read the NYT article because now I’m being bashed for an honest mistake. Like JoAnn above, I usually NEVER comment on stuff like this, and now I am reminded why. In general, I’m a very upbeat, positive person who bends over backwards to let readers know how much I appreciate their support. But yesterday I made the mistake of repeating something I believed to be true. Now I’m going to get back to writing my next book.

  42. Anah Crow
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 08:30:56

    Short version of a post I put on my site…

    Book lending was a part of life when I was in university, because we couldn't afford to buy them all the time. Borrowing books made us bigger book buyers in the end, because we wanted that influx of new entertainment. Reading was part of our lives and buying the books ourselves allowed us to shape our available pool of books to our satisfaction.

    This is where it comes back to ensuring optimal e-book pricing and convenient access. The same people who would lend a book would have fewer reasons not to just give instructions as to how to get it, and the borrower would have fewer barriers to purchasing it. At that point, the question of whether a book lent is a sale lost becomes nil, for me. If the barriers to the borrower are eliminated from our end and theirs (they decide they like it, pay day comes around), they'd then buy the book, or they'd buy the next one, which may be even more significant.

    If we label simple borrowers and lenders as pirates then we push more and more people outside the legitimate system without good reason, and give the entire community reason to migrate across that line. People who borrow my books from someone who's purchased them are part of my readership. It's in my best interest that people who are lenders and borrowers not be negatively labeled.

  43. maddie
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 08:37:17


    I stated a big ole BUT in there, because I do the same thing, lending out books to my sisters, if I think they might like them.

    I said (I gotmy sister reading Galen Foley, Nicole Jordan, Karen Robards, Sandra Brown, back in the day because I thought she would like her, and she did.

    I do understand that these authors might think that they are getting shafted if the other 6 people sharing that book do not go out and buy their backlist books or buy their next book.

  44. KMont
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 08:39:20

    Good damn grief. Glad I missed an online kerfluffle for once. Those authors that were trying to shame the Kindle owner – what sad situation. The more I see of this kind of stuff the less enthusiastic I am for my Sony Reader.

    So do these same authors that equate sharing with piracy look at sites like Paperback Swap in the same light?

  45. Rowan
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 08:46:58

    If I didn’t feel like a thief for sharing ebooks, I would have bought my son and sister each an ereader for their birthdays this year when money was a little more flush, so we could trade ebooks. (the same way both my son and sister are now hooked on Rachel Caine’s Morganville books because I bought the first one. Between the two of them, we now have the entire set, and Kidsis is chomping at the bit for the next one to come out.) If not for the NO SHARING EVER that goes along with ebooks, I can guarantee I’d have bought even more ebooks than I have….which is saying something.

    I do get the feeling from the comments posted here that authors have a 5-6 copy ‘sharing cap’. That seems more than reasonable to me-the-author AND me-the-reader.

  46. Zealot
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 08:50:46

    @Toni Blake: There is where I get confused, and where I think the disconnect often lies that leads to a lot of misunderstanding concerning ebooks.

    You state that you often share books, that it’s “totally fair” to share books…but that you thought sharing EBOOKS was always illegal.

    If the ebook is not being copied, but shared or lent from one reader to another…how is that materially, practically or philosophically different then handing them a paperback and saying “go home, read this, try to remember to return it”?

    I understand the worry of books being copied, but the situation described in the NYT is no different than any book club, the only difference is rather than passing one or two copies around, they all read at once….or leaving a book in the common room of a dorm. Such situations are prone to become good marketing gambits rather than theft.

  47. katiebabs
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 08:52:04

    I think the tone of the article scared some authors because the person comes out and says she tricked Amazon. At first when I read that, a red flag came up in my head thinking, this is so wrong, it is stealing. But then reading further along, things were explained in such a way where these electronic books are shared much like books taken out from a library and giving an actual print book to a friend and so forth.

    In my case, a few friends and I will share books and I tend to buy the book or other books from the author. It really does work out for an author for people to share book with one another.

    Great post Jane.

  48. Sharing a Post: Readers Have Copyright Rights Too | Dear Author
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 08:54:04

    [...] A couple more posts related to the post shared yesterday about reader rights ~ Readers Have Copyright Rights Too by Dear Author [...]

  49. Fae Sutherland
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 08:58:29

    Wow, glad I missed the hubbub yesterday. I was caught up writing m/m pirate-y goodness. :)

    I’m all for sharing among friends. It’s a part of the romance reading culture, really, and I don’t think format should stop that. But then, I also don’t get my panties in a wad about pirates, either. There’s absolutely nothing to be done about it, I can’t stop them, I don’t have the energy to try, so I don’t. When an alert from Google comes in that shows my books somewhere being pirated…I ignore it. I’d rather spend my time writing another book than hours every week chasing down ghosts in the machine.

    I’ll go ahead and come out as having shared an ebook or two as well. Once because it was sooooo bad I had to show a friend just *how* bad it was so I sent it to her and another time it was the lovely Katrina Strauss’s first Blue Ruin book I devoured in an hour and a half and immediately sent to my BFF/roommate. She’s had a loyal buyer of pretty much everything she writes ever since. That’s what sharing is about, friends recommending to friends and gaining their favorite authors new readers. That’s not a crime, imo. It’s the blanket “Come one come all” public internet download free for alls that are criminal. When someone comes up with a way to stop that and allow the friend sharing, it’ll be a beautiful day.

  50. Rachel Caine
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 09:04:27

    @Nadia Lee: I agree with you. I hate it when I buy something I think I’ll like and then I don’t.

    But I’m not asking for a 100% guarantee, either — I’ve picked up books I didn’t think I WOULD like and been pleasantly surprised. I don’t think there ever CAN be such consistency in the arts that you’ll like everything.

    But even if I as an author offer tons of content — and I do, up to FOUR CHAPTERS, almost 1/3 of the book — I still get the same argument. “But how do I know I’ll like it if I don’t read the whole thing?”

    I don’t know the answer to that. Wish I did! It’s a puzzlement.

  51. Blue Tyson
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 09:07:35

    A decent meaty excerpt is good.

    Something a huge number of publishers STILL do not get, which continues to astound me.

  52. Rachel Caine
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 09:08:21

    @Anah Crow: It’s entirely possible, what you’re describing. However, I can’t conclusively say that it’s true — it’s really hard to track and test whether people who download also buy. We’re all making assumptions — authors make massively negative ones, generally, and downloaders make massively positive ones. We just don’t have a lot of actual data.

    I hope it works that way. But I have a real fear that for authors who are just starting out, whose ability to get a SECOND book sold, downloading is going to be a real killer of sales. Hope I’m wrong, though.

    BTW, I talk openly with pirates on my blog all the time, and we hardly ever come to drawn sabers. :) We’re all pretty reasonable about our debates.

  53. GrowlyCub
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 09:09:02

    Rachel, I fail to see what one has to do with the other. In my eyes, you are again conflating the legal sharing of e-books as per Amazon TOS with piracy, thereby implying that any sharing is illegal and morally reprehensible.

    I call bullshit.

    Didn’t anybody ever tell authors that if you want folks to be your customers you do not call them names?

    Authors are trying to sell us something. Readers are supposed to give authors money via their publishers. If authors make me feel bad by calling me names and implying am an unethical piece of crap, I will not buy their books. How hard is that to understand?

    It’s not making waves to be upset that authors instigated a campaign to shame somebody for doing something that’s legal. For you to brush this off as making waves and linking it with clearly illegal behavior is incredibly offensive.

  54. Rachel Caine
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 09:10:42

    @KMont: Nope. See my comments above about what I go after. Open downloads and people who resell my ebooks multiple times, in multiple copies, on eBay.

    I swap books, too. It’s (hopefully) how we build interest — word of mouth and trying it out, right? But there’s a line somewhere in there between marketing and outright piracy. It’s just still really hard to see where it lies.

  55. maddie
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 09:11:07


    So help me understand why you can’t share music, mp3′s and the like because that’s illegal but you can share ebooks.

    I’ve personally never shared an ebook, because I’m the only one that uses this format. Plus I mainly buy paperback books over ebooks because like a few above mentioned I too have been burn with the excerpt saying one thing and the whole ebook saying something else

  56. Rachel Caine
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 09:12:42

    @Rowan: I hate that there are restrictions on ebook sharing, but it’s practical. When it can be equally shared with 1 person or 1 million in the same general timeframe, it’s scary.

    I try to mitigate this by only really objecting to the folks who resell my ebooks for profit (like the link) or the ones who just throw them out for open download. I honestly don’t know what else to do.

    It’s disheartening.

  57. Nadia Lee
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 09:13:12

    @Rachel Caine:

    But even if I as an author offer tons of content -’ and I do, up to FOUR CHAPTERS, almost 1/3 of the book -’ I still get the same argument. “But how do I know I'll like it if I don't read the whole thing?”

    I don’t expect a 100% guarantee, but if I buy something after having read almost 1/3 of the book, at least I won’t feel cheated because I had a real chance at sampling the work.

    What I’m objecting to is excerpts shorter than 1k or so. Because if those 1k words were brilliant and the rest sucks, I’ll end up feeling very cheated. It’s easier to polish those 1k words than 1/3 of the book. Does that make sense? :-)

    (BTW — I do not blame authors for super short excerpts because some publishers restrict how long excerpts can be, etc.)

  58. Jess B.
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 09:13:26

    I think that article was just poorly written and researched. The stats about how people with Kindles buy more books are so nonsensical. Of course you’d buy more ebooks from Amazon! You just spend $250 on a reading device that ONLY allows you to buy from Amazon, so books that you were buying in person or at other sites are now purchases your making at Amazon. GEH!

    As for lending, my best friend and I lend books back and forth constantly, turning each other onto new authors. (A practice which, in the grand tradition of internet flounces, I can safely say will not include some of the authors mentioned above. Calling for internet crusades against readers and then issuing non-apologies when you find out you were wrong are not particularly endearing actions.) My friend recently moved to DC while I’m still in Boston, and because we’ve both been entering the ebook market, lending books has gotten difficult. Right now, we’re both leaning towards the nook reader because of the lend feature. I’m hoping it’ll make those several hundred miles of separation seem like she’s still around the corner.

  59. Rachel Caine
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 09:14:10

    @Blue Tyson: Agreed. When we (as authors) put up long excerpts, we’re actually in violation of what the publisher’s contract says we can do, quite often. But I think it’s a dumb rule, and I’m trying to get that changed in my contracts.

  60. Anah Crow
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 09:17:37

    @Rachel Caine:

    I think it’s ridiculous (and even offensive) to equate ‘loaning’ with ‘downloading’ (ETA: ‘downloading’ being general short-hand for piracy as far as I’ve seen in the web2.0 world; ‘loaning’ takes on many different forms of transfer). They’re two discrete things. They’re sociologically and functionally different actions and have distinctly different impacts on the community of readers and writers. I have no intention of discussing the two things as though they were the same.

    ETA: loaning has been a constant in the publishing industry as a whole as long as books have been out there. I’m sure it’s been well-documented what the effect is in general marketing terms, and it’s only a matter of time before that’s expanded to include e-book marketing, if it hasn’t already happened.

  61. Jane
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 09:19:52

    @maddie: The law is unsettled on the issue of ownership of a digital item. The Supreme Court has language that frowns on lease language, yet that is how most digital purchases are treated. At some point, this will have to be determined by the Supreme Court, balancing the consumer rights v. publisher rights.

    I say this as preface for my answer. I would argue that if the digital purchase is a sale and not a lease then you, as the purchaser, has the right to share music so long as you aren’t listening/using to the music at the same time as when you have shared it. Further, there is nothing per se illegal about sharing music. For example, like the Kindle, iTunes and other services allow for sharing music with registered accounts.

    The whole point is that by treating digital purchases as leases, the fewer the rights of the consumers. Therefore, the product purchased has lower and lower value to the purchaser. If you can’t share/lend or resell, then it doesn’t have the same value as physical product.

    There has to be some give and take. If publishers and authors want the same price point for ebooks (or higher in some cases), then the value has to be the same. If not, then the price point should be much, much, much lower.

    But I’m not ready to give up my right of ownership. I believe when I purchase a product, I am entitled to own that product. If I am going to lease a product, then I come to it with very different expectations.

  62. Jessica
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 09:24:06

    The default position is that we ebook readers are always engaged in some form of wrongdoing. We are charged more. We don't get the book at the same time. We are constrained in how we use our books, on what devices we read them on, with whom we can share them. We are not considered legitimate customers if we do not leave our house and buy a paper copy.

    I never thought about it this way, but you are right: ebook readers are socially constructed as ethically suspect.

    What an irony, considering it’s e that is going to save the publishing day — and perhaps some very valuable forms of art — in the end.

    Jess B wrote: “The stats about how people with Kindles buy more books are so nonsensical. Of course you'd buy more ebooks from Amazon! You just spend $250 on a reading device that ONLY allows you to buy from Amazon, so books that you were buying in person or at other sites are now purchases your making at Amazon. GEH!”

    Jess, I see your point, but I think even controlling for that, we Kindle owners buy a hell of a lot more books than we once did. As an Amazon Prime member who lives in a remote location where free shipping means a lot, I always bought books from Amazon anyway, and I am sure many Kindle owners were Amazon customers to begin with, just like me.

    It is the EASE with which Kindle owners can buy books — one click plus instant wireless download — that explains most of it. There is a lesson in that for the epublishing industry. Also, since ebook readers promote forward propulsion through the text, I read faster on them, as do many people. Third, the cost is generally lower on the ebooks I buy than the print versions. Finally, bringing not just one book to the doctor’s office waiting room, but 80, means that I can always find something to read, and read more.

  63. Anne Douglas
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 09:24:52

    Kindle issue aside (frankly, if Kindle didn’t stipulate that it was an individuals personal 6 devices, or 6 devices within one household, good on the folks who are using it to their advantage) sharing a print book and sharing an eBook are for the majority NOT the same, and until we have these:

    1. One device and one device only as an eReader (obviously teamed with your computer) with
    2. One file format only with
    3. Tight DRM that allows for trade or lend of an eBook that allows only ONE person at a time to read it, and is does not allow of duplication (as the libraries have, and as it appears the Nook will have)(notice the bold: when you trade or lend, you don’t get to keep a copy, only one item ever exists. I’m all for lending, or being able to trade.)

    it won’t be. Sharing a physical object and sharing an electronic file are not the same. (and the person who mentioned it above hit the nail on the head, I view eBooks akin to software).

    Why? Well, I couldn’t figure out how best to explain it, so I made a diagram because with eBooks you have to think WAY bigger than that one book you shared with a couple of friends and that you eventually get back in your hand:

    (link if the image doesn’t work: )

    And that is why I tend to not feel happy about sharing of eBooks, CURRENTLY. Where exactly does ‘I’m only sharing with a couple of friends because I loved your book so much’ stop with an eBook, and where does piracy start? 5 copies, 10 copies, 50 copies, 1000? With a paperback it’s pretty obvious – the moment you scan/photocopy those pages. But why is that not the same for eBooks?

    Yes, it’s a problem – obviously, according to the Nook, one that WILL be able to change…well, as long as everyone has a Nook :)

    So really, it doesn’t come down to eBook authors (cause frankly, there is no argument against here for print books is there, unless your a strange one who hates libraries) not wanting their readers to lend their book to a friend, because I’ll hazard most of us do but that big old issue, yet again, of DRM.

    Sidenote since I see this was posted well after I started blurbling: Zealot

    If the ebook is not being copied, but shared or lent from one reader to another…how is that materially, practically or philosophically different then handing them a paperback and saying “go home, read this, try to remember to return it”?

    Take it out of the Kindle context, which has been shown as being shared, not copied, and take the avg eBook reader using their computer. When they attach that file to an email and send it to someone, while still leaving a copy on their machine… do you consider that lending or copying? You won’t ever get that file back…and chances are neither one of them will be deleted. It is not the same as lending a print book. Now, if that file had DRM that made the first unreadable for X amount of time, then yeah, that would be lending in my book, just the same way a paperback is lent to a friend.

    Pressing send now, and no doubt committing professional hari-kari

  64. Rachel Caine
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 09:26:33

    @GrowlyCub: Sorry, but no. I am actually a clear defender of the lady’s right to share according to terms of service — I think ANYBODY who shares an account should be able to share all content. Otherwise, what’s the usefulness of owning more than one device? I’m not debating that at all. I’m talking about people who (1) hack the drm and (2) put the work out for open (not restricted) download, or (3) sell it as if they own it — over and over again.

    I’m saying, be reasonable and listen to each other, because what happens is that the sides get emotional and polarized, and that doesn’t help anybody. I actually didn’t call ANYONE names. Nor will I. I have tried to be as measured and supportive as possible of both sides of the equation.

    The namecalling of Ms. Englin was wrong, and although I didn’t participate in it, I certainly don’t defend it, and I am saddened by it. She shouldn’t have been attacked, and I’m sure it’s going to be a rough few days before this blows over for her. I’ve already stated my position on a couple of anti-theft groups, but I’ll state it here, for clarity: she’s innocent of any wrongdoing at all, as far as I can tell.

  65. Rachel Caine
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 09:28:00

    @Nadia Lee: If only I could polish up those first thousand words that brightly! Ha, why is that as soon as I submit something, I find a glaring, obvious typo in the first 1,000 words?

    Happens every time, I swear.

    Maybe this is why I like to use longer excerpts.

  66. Diana
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 09:30:01

    OMG. What a hot mess all this has become. Authors behaving badly; tweets of thieves and internet shaming! Jeez. As for Toni Blake, what happened to researching, doing a little fact checking before jumping to conclusions? I would think a published author would know better than to believe absolutely everything that she reads in a newspaper, but I guess I’m wrong! Truly, a copyright law fail.

    Also, have any of these authors offered an apology or a “gee, everyone, I was wrong!” sort of thing to Ms. Englin? If not, WOW. Just…wow.

  67. S.
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 09:33:51

    Anne, if the ebook world was like you wanted it, I would never own one.

  68. Rachel Caine
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 09:34:04

    @Anah Crow: It’s funny, this is coming up against a debate that’s on in the art world: when is digital art an “original”?

    The problem is that with an original PAINTING, you have a clear single, physical piece of work, and derivative rights. But with digital art, there’s no original, only perfectly faithful copies.

    So how can you sell something as an “original” if there’s no way to distinguish it from the copies?

    Anyway, that was a sidebar, but it’s a little applicable, because when you “loan” a digital book, there’s no way to know whether or not you get it back, right? There’s no implied time limit. If I lend an ebook to my sister, and she blast emails it out to 500 people, it’s no longer a loan, even if that was my original intention. Even if she deletes it after she reads it.

    I just don’t know how you manage the process, other than by trust on both sides. WHICH I AM ALL FOR.

    As previously stated (probably ad nauseum, at this point) I’m not talking about trading books on a limited basis, or sharing, lending, and loaning. I only care if people put up books for open, unregulated downloading, or for sale.

    I really don’t get why that’s not reasonable.

  69. Rachel Caine
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 09:35:32

    @Diana: As a matter of fact, most of the authors who were hot about the issue in the first place have already issued apologies to Ms. Englin. Which she’s graciously accepted. But you’re right: it’s a hot mess. And not in a good, Project Runway kind of way.

  70. Heather (errantdreams)
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 09:36:07

    This is one of the major, major reasons I haven’t bought an ereader yet even though I really want one and it would be a huge convenience in many ways. As you say, ebook readers in many ways are giving things up rather than gaining anything. It’s harder for me to just hand a book over to my husband to share it (nearly anything I buy had better be easy to share with my husband, as far as I’m concerned—and he’s often the one who agitates to get an author’s backlist if we really love their work).

    Even though there aren’t any printing or physical storage costs stores often charge just as much for the ebook. The book is considered leased instead of sold, so I’d worry that a book I hadn’t yet gotten around to reading—or wanted to re-read—would some day just disappear out of my inventory if I’m using something like the Kindle. (Why am I paying full price for a book if I can’t share it w/my hubby AND it might get taken away from me? Seems foolish.) And then there’s the assumption that ebook readers will pirate books.

    I get it. Piracy really, really sucks. The problem is, it’s going to happen with or without ebooks. Pirates are clever and determined and will put stuff online no matter what. IMO, authors have gotten so defensive about piracy that many of them lose their heads and go too far in the opposite direction—seeing lending a book, selling a used book, or borrowing from the library as bad. When I was a child we couldn’t afford a lot of books—I got my love of reading by cleaning out the library of every paranormal and fantasy and sci-fi book they had. Because of that, I’m now an avid consumer of books. I’m sure tons of other people have similar stories. Particularly in these tough economic times, readers feel a lot safer spending money on books by an author after they’ve read one or two things by that author.

    I sympathize with the authors who saw the parts of the article emphasizing that the woman thought she might be exploiting a loophole, and who drew the natural conclusion that this meant she was doing something wrong. But I also agree with the folks who are upset that the authors didn’t stop to realize that the end result of this was that she was sharing books with a couple of friends, and that even if this was the result of a loophole, that didn’t necessarily mean that it was piracy. It’s a touchy topic, and I’m guessing a few people reacted without thinking the whole thing through. Public apologies and acknowledgment of that mistake would hopefully go a long way to smoothing things over.

  71. Jess B.
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 09:38:32

    @Jessica: I absolutely agree! Ease of purchase definitely is increasing sales and raising those numbers. When I had my iPhone I was buying way more books because I could do it on the device from everywhere. It’s something I need to be very careful about when I buy an actual e-reader. Budgeting is so not my strong suit.

    I just think that the stats are a little vague and that it would be hard to isolate 100% new purchases versus purchases no longer made at another vendor (if that makes sense). Because I do believe that plays a role in those statistics.

  72. GrowlyCub
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 09:38:57

    @Rachel Caine:

    But we aren’t talking about pirating. We are talking about the erosion of reader rights and the unreasonable and defaming behavior of authors with regard to a particular reader yesterday and with regard to e-readers in general. For you to introduce the piracy discussion into this conversation is either wrong-headed or outright deliberately conflating the two.

  73. Jane
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 09:41:48

    Actually, if you go to the blog post that JoAnn Ross linked to you will see that only one author apologized – Crystal Rain. The rest tried to justify their actions by talking about their fear of piracy. Ross certainly didn’t apologize and she never apologized on her tweet stream either, where she made the original accusations of theft. Other authors did not apologize publicly either and when you publicly impugn someone’s good name and honor, I think it deserves an equally public apology.

  74. Erin
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 09:44:44


    I love my kindle. Love it. I love it so much that Amazon has sold at least 6 others because I sing its praises everywhere I go. I love that I can carry around every book that Nalini Singh has ever written and read them whenever the mood strikes me where ever I am. I hate when I have to buy a paper copy of the first few books in a series because they aren’t available electronically yet. In the 15 months I have owned my kindle I have purchased 235 books. The only person I can share those books with is my husband. Why? Well, I can share with up to 6 kindles ON THE SAME ACCOUNT. Anyone on my account can share my books, but THEY CAN ALSO BUY BOOKS ON MY CREDIT CARD. Wow. Clearly I’d use that particular feature to “steal” books and share them with any random person I meet on the street.

    They have to figure this out. I love the idea that the Nook would allow me to share an ebook with a friend for a set period of time. I’M NOT TRYING TO STEAL BOOKS!. I’d happily give up my access to that book for awhile so that my friend could read it. JUST GIVE ME THE TECHNOLOGY TO DO SO.

    It’s clear I’m a good customer, yes? I buy more than 15 books per month. Here’s a hint–you should be nice to people like me. You should read about a reader who LOVES TO READ WITH HER FRIENDS, and ask yourself, “What can I do to correct this problem in a new part of my industry.” Jeebus.

    Thanks for the great post, Jane. It’s overdue.

  75. Leslie Dicken
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 09:49:22

    Yanno, as much I like to get a royalty check, I like even more to know that people are actually READING my books. I share paperbacks with friends and so it makes sense that an ebook can be shared to an extent. Thousands – no. But a handful – sure! Especially if they become a fan because of it.

  76. Rachel Caine
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 09:51:32

    @GrowlyCub: Then I apologize, promptly and without reservation.

  77. Karen
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 09:53:50

    I love my ebooks and love my Kindle–and share an account with my dad. (And while I think he probably has read some of the romance, we more share the Sci-Fi). And I think I am going to buy books from both Courtney Milan and Tessa Dare today!

  78. Stephanie
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 09:56:36

    As someone who owns a Kindle and shares an acount (and books) with a friend who lives in another state, the above comments really bother me. My friend and I shared books prior to the kindle so I dont understand what the difference is now. I like many above will put some authors on my do not buy list! Everything in life has consequences so maybe next time these authors will think before they type! It doesnt pay to piss off the people that buy your books

  79. Robin
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 09:58:46

    @Toni Blake:

    We see our copyright protection eroding all around us on a daily basis, and this puts us on the defensive.

    See, this is the crux of the problem right here — that so many authors believe what is so patently incorrect. Your copyright protections have actually INCREASED through the DMCA, DRM, and other avenues; in point of fact, those whose copyright rights are eroding are readers (the public, more generally). Although, as the music industry lessons instruct, more narrow copyright provisions do tend to feed the pirates, which backfires very powerfully on copyright holders. But that is not the same thing as having your copyright protections weakened; in fact, it is a *consequence of making them stricter and more narrow,* i.e. the opposite of what so many authors seem to believe.

    Further, I see you and JoAnn Ross here explaining — once again — why you said what you said, etc., when IMO that’s just digging the hole deeper. Why no apology? @JoAnn Ross talks about how much stress she’s under (and like her, I hope people read the entirety of the comment thread over at Englin’s blog), so why not just claim calm and positivity by saying “I’m sorry I called you a thief and/or accused you of stealing”? Even if you’re not afraid of being sued over those comments, at its very worst, the NYT article representation of Englin’s comments *did not paint her as a pirate or as someone who was stealing books*! In other worse, IMO there was *never* any justification for those tweets.

    Aren’t writers supposed to be the ones who understand the power of words? I assume so, or those collective shaming RT pleas would not have moved so quickly across Twitter yesterday. But because words have so much power, why jump to such an extreme and damning conclusion/accusation so quickly?

    Sadly, I suspect that the answer for many authors is a general belief that ebooks = thieving readers. I think many of you truly equate sharing with piracy. Further, I believe that many authors dislike used books but do not feel that the environment is welcoming to such an opinion, so all the distress and frustration gets aimed at ebooks and ebook readers. And yes, I realize that piracy is a problem. But there has been *no evidence* that I know of showing that authors’ careers are being torpedoed by piracy. And no, I don’t count the raw numbers of downloads as lost sales, and nor, can I believe, that any reasonable author would, either. But if free books were the death knell to authors, why aren’t the authors who give away ebooks for free dying on the vine — dropping off the vine in clumps, in fact?

    I read Kindle books on my iPhone and whenever Amazon offers them free, I grab a bunch of them, figuring, hey, if I find an author I like, I will buy the backlist, and if not, no loss. As for what drives piracy, it’s been shown that lack of access is one of the biggest facilitators. So as authors and possibly publishers will likely now try to tamp down *legitimate sharing*, I expect that for many of you, piracy of your books will increase, because besides the casual “let’s check this author our” mentality, you’re going to have more people who cannot get your book in electronic format in a readable format, for a reasonable price, etc. outside of a pirate site.

    IMO authors should be advocating instead for more competitive prices, simultaneous digital release, uniform formatting, and easier international access. Diminish rather than increase the incentives for piracy. If, though, you all decide to push the other way, I hope you realize that you will lose precisely those law-abiding, book-buying readers you claim you want, who a) won’t buy your books in print, b) won’t get them off of piracy sites, and c) won’t or can’t buy them in digital format because of price/region/format restrictions or lack of availability. So if that’s your goal, have at it, because it is you authors, who are going to be the big losers in the end, with even more narrow copyright and contract provisions.

  80. Zealot
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 09:59:02

    @Karen: Wow, all this sharing of books and ideas and the joy of reading between friends and siblings and parents and children, using technology to build bridges and connections…disgusting.

    All those authors are right….STOP THIS, STOP THIS AT ONCE.

    Stop talking to one another or reading and turn the TV on, dammit.

    Oh look….Hannah Montana.

    …sighs and zones out comfortably until teatime…

  81. Rachel Caine
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 09:59:23

    @Erin: Sigh. I believe I did say as much, when I said I do not at all discourage trading, loan, sharing, etc. I am TRYING. I only go after offenders in a limited set of circumstances, which are very clearly piracy.

    Also: free stuff at my website. Including a whole, entire novel. That’s nice, right? If you add up word count, there’s the equivalent of about three full novels out there, in fact.

    There are entire RAFTS of authors out there who are perfectly reasonable about this stuff. Just as the vast majority of readers are reasonable and responsible about how they share electronic content. I want to believe the best of everyone.

    It’s just hard when I get slammed no matter what I do. But I shall not do the Internet Flounce! Nor the Goodbye Cruel Internets! Because that would be wrong, and besides, I just put three weeks of work into the new website, anyway.

  82. Rachel Caine
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 10:00:38

    @Zealot: I have nothing to say to this but LOL. Thank you.

  83. Wenlan
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 10:01:31

    @Toni Blake:

    It is clear that the original article made you angry, and that with your previous assumptions already in place regarding the legality of e-book ‘sharing’, I can appreciate the need for an angry response.

    This is when you need to back away from the computer. A writer makes their living with the written word. It is true that twitter only allows a small medium for communication. Responding in anger was the origional spark to the ire you’re getting here.

    The fact that even your latest post here is an explanation, not an appology, that is what is keeping the coals fanned.

    Say it with me now:

    Ms. Englin: I regret that in my anger and ignorance I called you a thief. I see now that you are acting within your system-granted rights as an Amazon account user. Venting my angeer and frustration on you was uncalled for.

    See? Short, simple, TWITTERABLE.

  84. maddie
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 10:02:22

    @Erin : They have to figure this out. I love the idea that the Nook would allow me to share an ebook with a friend for a set period of time. I'M NOT TRYING TO STEAL BOOKS!. I'd happily give up my access to that book for awhile so that my friend could read it. JUST GIVE ME THE TECHNOLOGY TO DO SO.

    This I understand because this is what all or some of us do when we lend out a book to a friend, and we get that book back, so the nook is on my Christmas wish list.

  85. GrowlyCub
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 10:02:27

    @Rachel Caine:

    Thanks! I understand that this lady selling your books on ebay is incredibly offensive and wrong and that it’s an issue near and dear to your heart, I just didn’t think it was the right place to bring up this topic as you did several times.

    E-reader reactions on this thread show that many of us feel that authors want us to buy their books but if we choose to do so in e-, these same authors are automatically inclined to believe we are willing and *will* engage in illegal behavior due to our choice of preferred reading format.

    That’s really not a lot of fun. *I* am automatically assumed guilty because I buy e-books and because *others* hack DRM and post books to sharing sites.

    To make matter even more complicated, I hack the DRM on all DRM’d books I buy. Not so I can put them online and share them with a million people, but so I can convert the file into my preferred format, change the font to a more legible one, blow it up and then upload it to my Sony 505, so I can read the book more easily. I have bad eye-sight. One of the attraction of buying an e-reader is and was the ability of modifying the book file so I can read the text more easily, without eye-strain and without making my eye-sight worse than it is.

    There is more to this discussion than whether somebody is doing something wrong/illegal. It’s this increasing negativity by authors towards all e-readers because of the misdeeds of some and that’s what came to a head in the situation with this one reader. But it’s not just about this one person, as Jane tried to point out. It’s getting to the point where we start to live in a culture of mistrust from authors towards their readers and I find that highly regrettable.

  86. Anon76
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 10:06:57

    Wow. What a kerfluffle.

    As Rachel Caine pointed out, there is a huge distinction between sharing a book with friends and what she considers true piracy. The people selling multiple copies of the same ebook on ebay are true pirates.

    They recopy and recopy and recopy numerous titles and then bundle them together to sell for profit. Not to share with friends, nor the “noble” cause of increasing the number of readers in the world. NO. For PROFIT.

    I’ve reported many of them and seen them banned from doing so on the Ebay sight…only to return with a different seller handle.

    It’s things like this and the sharing of a title between 150 unknowns that should be the true focus of our piracy concerns.

  87. Rachel Caine
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 10:08:33

    @Robin: It’s hard to see the authors who are dropping off the vine in clumps, because they disappear from view.

    Is piracy to blame? Probably not, but it probably isn’t helping as much as the advocates want to believe, either. Again: no data. Tough to make any kind of call on that one.

    I’d like to hear a discussion about “reasonable pricing,” because lordy, I don’t know what that means. Is $5.99 too much to pay for a 100,000 word book that took an author (typically) at least six months to write? I’m not being judgmental, I’m just curious. I don’t KNOW what people see as “reasonable” anymore. After all, paperbacks were invented because it became unreasonable for people to pay larger prices for hardbacks. (Or, they were an offshoot of the dime novels, I’m not sure which, actually.) So “reasonable” changes, obviously.

    I’d be perfectly willing to advocate for it if I understood it.

    I was recently told that a dollar for an ebook was too much. Um … okay. Opinions?

  88. Rachel Caine
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 10:09:15

  89. Blue Tyson
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 10:10:16


    Rachel, that is interesting.

    So publishers forbid you from doing a decent sized excerpt – and don’t bother themselves (presumably sometimes because their business process is too useless to allow it)

    However, some books get them, some don’t, same publishers, same imprint. Do not get that _at all_.

    Getting free help from their authors would seem to be a great deal?

    It isn’t hard to do, they could get a primary school kid to automate it for them from a database.

    I have also seen this sort of idiocy :-

    At shortcovers an excerpt for an Andrew Vachss book (who does have some free stories and stuff at his website, so doubtful if it is his idea) that was, wait for it…

    the copyright info page. Exciting stuff.

    At today, Year’s Best Science Fiction 26 – the sample is :-

    The list of stories and their copyright dates and sources, and a couple of hundred words of the start of the intro.

    1/3 of a book is certainly a lot. You definitely need more than a few hundred words – I’ve seen F. Paul Wilson ‘excerpts’ that were like that, for example. 200 words perhaps.

    One short chapter isn’t enough, either, really.

    Webscriptions, who actually do know what they are doing probably are closer to your 1/3 some of them time than one chapter, so if I had to pick one, I’d pick theirs, given generally speaking it is likely they are right and everyone else is wrong, for fiction. :)

  90. Rachel Caine
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 10:12:40

    @Rachel Caine: Whoops, that didn’t work! Sorry.

    I completely agree with you that this has all gotten negative and crazy, and I appreciate that we do have common ideas and understandings on these things. I’m honestly not trying to agitate. I’m just trying to understand where people come from, and what you’re saying makes sense.

    I find the culture change very regrettable, too. It’s really disturbing that we can’t discuss things without calling each other out over drawn swords anymore.

    I offer a virtual handshake.

  91. Robin
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 10:12:46

    @Anne Douglas:

    Sharing a physical object and sharing an electronic file are not the same. (and the person who mentioned it above hit the nail on the head, I view eBooks akin to software).

    But with software licenses, it is VERY common to allow sharing among a specific set of machines, and no one checks to make sure you own every single machine. So how is the license model more restrictive in this sense?

    Also, if you guys want to see readers granted only a license to view an ebook, then I don’t think I should have to pay any more than, say, 2 or 3 bucks to view it, since, in fact, I don’t own the book in question. I mean, if I can’t own the book and do all the things I can do with paper books, why would I pay anywhere near a paper book price?

    I cannot imagine how a licensing model would favor authors, but if prices were low enough, delivery easy and in complimentary format, and I knew exactly what I was signing up for, I might be willing to try it. Or… I must just buy a lot fewer books.

  92. GrowlyCub
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 10:17:39

    @Rachel Caine:

    Accepted and returned. :)

  93. The Octopus Gallery
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 10:18:11

    Rachel C., when I started buying my own books as a teen, they were mostly at the $5 mark. This is in my head as the reasonable price for an ebook (and what I wish paperbacks would go back to. Inflation, I know, I know). That’s generally what I pay for the ebooks I buy, although I believe a few of them have been higher for authors I know and trust. If it’s more than the paperback price or DRMed? Not a chance.

  94. Edie
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 10:25:28

    Just to throw a random factoid in, I have been thinking about this for the last couple of hours, and I discovered something interesting, 95% of the ridiculous number of ebooks I get each year I buy new but out of the again ridiculous number of print books I buy each year only around 15% of them, sometimes less are brought new. (mainly due to accessibility & price – I am outside US.) And that is personal books not business.
    Don’t know if that weighs into the discussion at all, but I found it interesting.

    But more on track with the post, I think it is sucky that ebook readers are immediately suspected of pirating cos they can and that we have to jump through so many hoops and sideways looks from authors and publishers.
    And while I can understand authors stressing out over piracy yesterday’s actions are a bit poor.

    I am firmly on the same track as Robin with if not the majority – a large number of the pirate copies downloaded are not lost new book sales – if people are searching out pirates – the chances are slim they were going to buy the book new anyways, maybe a used copy, or borrow from the library. I hate the ebay book pirates – go Rachel Caine for veroing – if only more authors would do it – but again most punters are looking for the cheaper second-hand copy on ebay not the new one.

    Also wanted to bring up that I have read on several blogs, that several times when publishers hold back the ebook release a couple of weeks, and yet there are still pirate copies online to be found – photocopied versions… yet it is the ebook readers that are still beaten with the suspicion stick and I’ll stop now.

    Edited to add: That last two paras is more my speculation and not really relevant to the post.. but I have spent way too much time thinking about this today and couldn’t stop rambling.. lol

  95. Shayna Englin
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 10:29:04

    Just a quick THANK YOU to everyone who has come to my defense and to those who’ve participated in what is a really interesting conversation about how we handle ownership and content in a digital context.

    Apologies accepted all around from those who offered them, and even from those who didn’t. I was stunned that those who should understand the power of words better than most were so quick to hurl them thoughtlessly. But I completely understand anger, concern, and righteous indignation over the threat of hard work stolen.

  96. Robin
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 10:29:08

    @Rachel Caine: Here are links to two studies that show the positive effects of weaker copyright protections and file sharing in the music industry. I’ve yet to see anything of substance offered for the rebuttal argument, though.

    As for “reasonable pricing,” I am not one of those people who likes pricing by page or word numbers, because I don’t value books by their size. But what I see as patently unreasonable is prices that exceed those of paper copies, and sadly, we’ve seen some of that pricing coming from NY publishers. Then there is the IMO nonsensical practice of holding the ebook in the belief that releasing is simultaneously to the print copy will cannibalize paper (usually hardcover) sales). Again, a total lack of publisher understanding, IMO, about the ebook buyer and the ebook market.

    If I truly get to purchase an ebook (not be granted a license to read it), then I don’t want to pay more than the paper price, and I never want to pay full hardcover price, since that’s already a premium format pricing structure (MMPB price is always lower). If I’m only being granted a license to read a book, then I want an even lower price, since I do not have the benefits of ownership. To me, it’s fair to pay MMPB prices for ebooks, particularly of MMP books, but with trade and hardcover, where the added costs are due explicitly to the medium, again, I think it’s unfair to charge readers those premium formatting prices for ebooks. NOT that I’m unaware of the costs to produce ebooks, but there are many, many benefits for the publisher, as well, including the fact that a book will never go out of print, does not have to be kept in physical inventory, and cannot, for the most part, be returned.

    Does that sound reasonable to you or not?

  97. azteclady
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 10:31:30

    On the pricing issue:

    * if an author made fifty cents for each copy of a 300page novel…
    *if that novel was easily available everywhere readers want to buy it…
    *if that novel was reasonably priced…
    *and if a million copies of said novel were sold due to the factors described…

    I think the author would do well for those six months of writing, wouldn’t you agree?

  98. Phyllis
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 10:32:26

    and I’m a dirty, rotten thief because I get most of my books from the library? Or buy a book, read it, and loan it to a friend? Or sell it at the UBS?

    It’s not a loophole, it’s NORMAL.

  99. Margaret
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 10:35:33

    So many comments to go through, and I don’t own a Kindle…but as I understand it a group of up to 6 Kindle owners could share an account, work out a system to split the cost, and end up with a buy 1 get 5 free deal? And the publishers are okay with this?

  100. Maili
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 10:37:10

    Calling for internet crusades against readers and then issuing non-apologies when you find out you were wrong are not particularly endearing actions.)


    (Firstly, excuse my future typos. My lame excuse: I have a bad cold and a pounding headache.)

    Some here seem to believe that legitimising ebooks is what causes the ebook piracy. I don’t believe it’s true.

    Has anyone seen a recent report or two that a very high percentage – something like 90% – of books distributed electronically on pirate sites aren’t yet available as legit ebooks? Legit, as in ebooks sold by publishers via legit retail ebook shops.

    In short, most pirates are creating and distributing ebooks straight from print books, thanks to OCR* software and other means.

    We certainly know this is the case with comics and non-English novels. Especially non-English comics, damn it. However, there is a difference between two camps.

    Scanlation group: A member of a scanlation group buys a print copy of a non-English comic, scans it in, upload it as a raw (untranslated and unedited) comic to a site, distribute it to the group where its translator will translate it. Then their editors clear up the scan imperfections and to edit the translation in and once done, the group then distribute the scanlated comic among English-language readers. This is primarily piracy.

    Distribution group: A member buys and scans a print copy of a English-translated comic sold by an English-language publisher – e.g. Tokyopop and such – and distribute it among their readers. This is primarily illegal distribution.

    This is similar to the case of ebooks:

    - those who create and distribute pirated ebooks (e.g. illegal creation of ebooks from print books via OCR)
    - those who illegally distribute legit ebooks.

    Both groups are in the wrong, certainly, but please at least recognise the difference between pirated ebooks and illegal distribution of legit ebooks.

    From what I understand, it’s the pirated books that dominate the contents of most pirate sites. I’m not comfortable to cite statistics as it’s still an ongoing process, but I can certainly say that pirated books are ahead of illegally-distributed legit ebooks by a mile or two.

    So I strongly feel some are being extremely unfair to readers of legit ebooks by lumping them with the actual ebook pirates and illegal distributors.

    “Optical character recognition, usually abbreviated to OCR, is the mechanical or electronic translation of images of handwritten, typewritten or printed text (usually captured by a scanner) into machine-editable text.”
    - source: Wikipedia.

    I’d better stop writing because I’m starting to see flashing stars in my eyes. Heh! Thanks for your time reading this.

  101. Robin
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 10:39:00

    @Rachel Caine: I wrote a response to your question, but it’s in the spam folder (two links) and I can’t get it out for some reason. So until it mysteriously releases itself (happened the other night) or Jane springs it, just wanted to let you know I’m not ignoring you.

    ETA: I see it managed to spring itself or Jane sprang it; either way, never mind.

  102. Blue Tyson
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 10:42:14

    Reasonable pricing?

    Ok, a paper book costs X.

    Ebooks are cheaper, so they should be < X. Call it 'E'.

    If you are not going to let people resell them, or loan them, then you have E – Y.

    If you are going to DRM them to make them less useful, then E – Y – Z. Z being the compensation factor for wasting time and risk of losing the book.

    If E is something reasonable like 0.80 to make things simple, then a DRM free version of an $8 paperback maybe $6, but somewhere higher and less than the $8 probably wouldn't get too many arguments.

    Your DRMed books, though?

    Reselling – some people never want to, or don't bother – some books no-one will buy, so isn't worth the hassle, perhaps – and plenty of competition. Call this say, 0.10. Ebook can't wear out is a positive factor to mitigate, too, if you backup (and some won't).

    The hassle factor of DRM is worse than that, as it absolutely wastes your time, every time. Some people will call this a 1.00 factor, some won't care. Somewhere that is conservative would be 0.25.

    So 0.80 – 0.10 – 0.25 = 0.45.

    So a DRMed version of an $8 paper book, ballpark is $3.60.

    We also see plenty of talk about hardback ebook pricing at the bizarre end – and some sensible giveaways of earlier books in a series – where's the lower end experimenting, not sure I've seen that. An older long series? First one free, next $1.99, then $2.99, then $3.99 etc. if it is extensive – especially if not selling much currently.

    Demand curve testing should be along the whole spectrum, really. Maybe $3 books sell 5 times as many as $8, or something like that.

    $27 variety won't move too many, I am sure. Maybe $10 and $8 makes little difference.

    Sell them for more before official release? Go for your life.

    There may be some examples of the above I'm not aware of, and you can certainly get 3.99 and 4.99 type books from authors that are selling their own stuff at Fictionwise and don't have a publisher taking a shark-sized chunk.

    Actually Baen does sell some older stuff at $4 – presumably that which isn't as popular anymore, and some of their recovery projects. So there could be a small dynamic element. Fictionwise discounts new books slightly, too – I suppose if 'bestsellerness' ranking matters that might be a sensible strategy.

    My default rule would be 'try what webscriptions are doing, see how that goes'. At least for fiction, anyway.

  103. TerryS
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 10:52:05

    Thank you for another excellent post, Jane.

    I am frankly sick to death of the attitude that everyone who prefers ebooks over paper is a thief with only piracy in mind. It is an all too pervasive (and vocal) attitude for all too many authors. It matters not that the vast majority of ebook readers are honest consumers. Piracy is the immediate and automatic assumption. As one of those honest consumers, I’m insulted.

    Authors need to have respect for their readers just as their readers have respect for them. Yes, there are authors whose words here caused me to lose my respect for them enough for me to move them from my auto buy list to my Do Not Buy list. They have now been replaced by other authors whose words here made a more positive impact.

    A simple “I’m sorry….I was wrong….I jumped to conclusions without first checking my facts” would go a lot further than the back tracking and justification paragraphs some of these authors are using. Some words just have more value than others, but evidently some authors don’t understand that simple concept. Shame on them.

  104. Keishon
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 10:56:44

    Excellent article as usual, Jane.

    I agree with Robin in that *most* authors, not all, are unhappy with sharing of any kind. Each shared book is a missed royalty payment. Harsh but true for most of you but not all of you. If I were an author, especially a new author, I’d be more concerned with building a readership first rather than alienating the few readers you do have.

    Tangentially speaking, information moves so fast that sometimes you can come to the wrong conclusions/ or misinterpret something or make mistakes in RT’ing something you have no clue about. I know I will be more careful. Will own up and say I RT’d the NYT article but my RT was not in “shaming” anyone but it was my reaction to the story. So my apologies to Ms. Englin for my inadvertantly participating but it wasn’t to shame you. I’m a reader first and foremost and what you did wasn’t wrong at all.

    Last, I bought my mother a Sony Reader last year and she loves it. We share an account so hindsight is 20/20 and this has certainly been a learning experience and hopefully for others in that we should make every effort to investigate facts before making a judgement against someone favorably or negatively. That’s all.

  105. Writers: You Can’t Have ALL The Money « The eBook Test
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 11:04:29

    [...] Readers Have Copyright Rights Too Readers are not the enemy [...]

  106. Lynne Connolly
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 11:49:00

    Six seems about right to me, because it’s after six reads that a paperback starts to disintegrate. Cheaply produced paperbacks don’t last all that long – I have keepers less than ten years old that I’ve taken care of and they’re still falling apart.

    But it’s a legal thing, and I don’t get any rights there. There needs to be a test case or two, so that we all know what we can and can’t do within the law.

    Ebook authors are upset because they sell in the hundreds, if they’re lucky, not thousands, so every sale matters. The royalties are higher. Now New York is getting in on the game, the contracts they’ve already negotiated have royalty rates in single figures or low double figures. The authors lose out again. 6So I’d suggest that authors work to getting a decent rate of royalty for their digital books, and try to increase sales. Even before the recent market downturn, the market was changing, with a handful of authors earning a decent living and better, and the majority not earning enough to give up the day job. The polarization is more pointed now, not less.

    I’m a reader and a writer, but I was a reader first (just!) I write mainly in series, and I’d love to be able to give the first book of every series away, but since it takes 6 months or so to write, that’s a big chunk of my working life. I really have no answers, but I’d like to ask for a bit of consideration and moderation on both sides.

    Terry S got it exactly right. Readers are an important part of the process. I keep a diary, which I hope and pray nobody else will ever read. I also write stories to sell, and I hope and pray that lots and lots of people will see (and buy!) those. While I don’t see it as a straight customer/seller relationship, since I have the right to write what I want to, the reader also has the right to dislike it, or to bring her own vision to the story. It’s a two-way thing.

    BTW, by definition, readers don’t have any copyright rights. All of those belong to the author, so that statement puzzled me a bit. They have bought the right to read, not the right to write. If you see what I mean. Maybe there should be a Right To Read charter?

  107. MaryK
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 11:52:52

    I’m a half-hearted ebook reader (I still prefer print books) and the twitter discussion about this ticked me off. Made me want to pirate a book just for the h*ll of it, whereas normally I won’t even crack DRM.

  108. Tessa Dare
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 12:00:44

    So, wow. This thread is really long. I feel much like I did yesterday, coming into a conversation after it’s mostly over.

    Thanks, Jane, for linking to my blog post. Sharing of books is important to me, mainly because I have spent a lot of years working in public libraries. As an author, I’m also concerned about protecting my writing income–we all are. I just happen to believe calling attention to pirates (or perceived pirates) on social media like Twitter isn’t a very effective method of protecting it, because I doubt it’s going to change the minds of the pirates. It just makes well-intentioned readers sit back and worry, “Ooh. Do they mean me?” And the point I hoped to make with my blog post was, “No! No, not you!”

    We may have different ideas about how piracy should be handled, but most authors would agree (I hope) that when readers share the books they love with friends, or discover new authors through libraries or a UBS, it’s a good thing.

    And I just want to say–Toni Blake selflessly vacated her swanky hotel suite in DC this summer so Courtney and several of my other friends could throw me a surprise book release party. Even though she barely knew who I was. And I doubt Roxanne St. Claire would remember, but way back in 2007 she gave me unvarnished, invaluable advice in the Dallas hotel bar that really influenced my career. She’d just won a RITA, and I was an unpublished newbie she didn’t know from Adam. Both are awesome, talented, genuine and generous people. I’m off to the bookstore to write, and I’m going to buy books by both of them while I’m there.

  109. LLR
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 12:05:19

    Robin@ 75: “IMO authors should be advocating instead for more competitive prices, simultaneous digital release, uniform formatting, and easier international access. Diminish rather than increase the incentives for piracy.”

    Er, many of us ARE advocating it.

    Writers have also advocated, since before I could hold a pencil, never mind type a chapter, for comprehensive quarterly royalty statements; for an end to the unregulated reserves-on-returns system (SO unregulated that most publishing contracts don’t even specify a percentage, and even major agencies accept this vague right to withhold an unspecificied amount of a writer’s money for up to two years at a time); against agencies attempting to claim representation rights for the life of copyright; for the right to be paid for our work (which position continues to be disputed, even treated as unreasonable, in some quarters); for more reasonable reversion clauses; for more specific payout clauses (so that, after I deliver a MS, I don’t sit around without recourse while waiting more than TWO YEARS for the delivery portion of my advance); for fair audits (SFWA is currently sueing a major publisher on behalf of sevreal members, for inadequate reporting of royalties combined with non-cooperation with the resultant audit); and so on.

    Take a wild guess at how often and how seriously publishers, distributors, and retailers listen to us?

    That majority of writers PASSIONATELY want e-book prices to come down. Many writers advocate a cover price of $1.99 to $3.99 for an e-book. Many also advocate bundling packages whereby a hardcover novel also contains the e-book file. There are writers like Cory Doctorow GIVING AWAY their e-books in tandem with print publication.

    There isn’t a monolithic view among the thousands of professional writers affected by the electronic market, but there are indeed many progressive views expressed, advocated, and cried out in the wilderness–but, of course, ignored by publishers, editors, agents, distributors, and booksellers in much the way that virtually everything ELSE we say is also ignored by these people.

    You don’t like the price of an e-book? Complaint to the publisher.

    The very last person with ANY influence over that cover price was the writer–unless the ebook was self-published or distributed to Kindle directly by the writer. In most cases, publishers now acquire our e-rights with new deals on a “non-negotiable” basis–meaning I can quit a 21-year-old professional writing career and go wait tables if I want to retain control of my e-rights on new material. So, increasingly, the only e-rights we’re controlling is backlist that the publishers don’t care about.

    Where readers are getting confused and spreading misinformation is the nature of author’s complaints about e-book earnings. We’re objecting to LOW ROYALTY RATES, =NOT= low cover prices. Essentially, most major houses are trying to squeeze writers out of earnings on e-books. THAT’s the issue writers are screaming loudly about these days. Not that we want readers to pay more than they’re paying–indeed, as I’ve said, most writers thing the price point of e-books is too high. What we wants is for publishers to stop cutting us out of earnings in the new media.

  110. Janine
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 12:18:19


    Each shared book is a missed royalty payment.

    Not necessarily. For many readers, sharing is a way to try out more books than they can afford to buy. If the sharing option were taken away, they likely wouldn’t buy all those books anyway, they just wouldn’t read some of them, and the authors of those book they didn’t read would not get paid one way or the other. So each shared book isn’t necessarily a missed royalty payment.

  111. Janine
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 12:23:12

    @Lynne Connolly:

    BTW, by definition, readers don't have any copyright rights. All of those belong to the author, so that statement puzzled me a bit. They have bought the right to read, not the right to write. If you see what I mean. Maybe there should be a Right To Read charter?

    My understanding from reading the above post (though I could be wrong, since unlike Jane I am not an attorney) is that authors sell their copyright rights to publishers, and the publishers then grant some of those rights to readers who purchase the books. Therefore, the readers who have paid for the book have some of copyright rights as well.

    I hope Jane or one of the other attorneys here will correct me if I have that wrong.

  112. DS
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 12:29:44

    @Anne Douglasand anyone else who cares: The actual Amazon statement is as follows:

    Content purchased from the Kindle Store can be downloaded to your Kindle, iPhone, or iPod touch as long as you’ve registered the device to the account that purchased the Kindle content. There is no limit on the number of times a title can be downloaded to a registered device, but there may be limits on the number of devices (usually 6) that can simultaneously use a single book.

    The term “you” is general. And I do sometimes start a book on my Kindle and finish it later on my iphone– the iphone app cleverly takes me to the last page read on another device because I have synchronization turned on.

    This won’t work:

    1. One device and one device only as an eReader (obviously teamed with your computer) with
    2. One file format only with
    3. Tight DRM that allows for trade or lend of an eBook that allows only ONE person at a time to read it, and is does not allow of duplication (as the libraries have, and as it appears the Nook will have)(notice the bold: when you trade or lend, you don't get to keep a copy, only one item ever exists. I'm all for lending, or being able to trade.)

    Music already tried it and it blew up in their face.

    As for Price Point
    Jane last week had a great Link to
    where Konrath lays out his Kindle sales per price point and separates them into 1) the books he has with Hyperion and 2) the books he sells directly on Amazon.

    It’s the best, factual evidence I’ve seen although I would like to have other authors willing to be this open on line– don’t even have to know who they are as along as their figures could be vouched by someone I trust. I would like to see if these figures are replicated in anyone elses experience.

    I’ve also been reading Chris Anderson’s book Free which is something I took into reading Konrath’s post but haven’t digested yet. Also, I haven’t finished Free but I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that a lot of people who have criticized it in reviews, etc, haven’t actually read it.

  113. Lynne Connolly
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 12:38:31

    Usually authors retain the copyright to their books. They hold them for their lives plus a number of years and they aren’t leased, given or sold to anyone.
    They grant the rights to publish, but the words remain the author’s.
    The author authorizes (sorry, that’s what it says on the contract) the Publisher to publish the book for an amount of time. It’s like a license.
    The copyright never leaves the author’ possession, or shouldn’t in most cases.

    From the contract I signed yesterday (yay!)
    “The copyright to the Work shall be in the Author’s name.” It’s in all my contracts.

    Before anyone says anything, there are exceptions, but these are rare. Ghostwriters, for instance, or people writing to a “Bible” drawn up by someone else or for a series like Nancy Drew may give up or share copyright. Readers never, ever hold it, unless they write something of their own.

  114. Jane
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 12:39:15

    @Lynne Connolly Where to start

    1) Cheaply produced paperbacks certainly last more than 6 reads. It is said that the average book endures 9 different owners
    2) Just because the law is nebulous doesn’t mean that we should all act in favor of the content creator.
    3) It is not the readers’ job to a) get authors better royalties and b) ensure authors to make a living writing. Authors have no guaranteed right to earn a living off a writing. Some do and some don’t. Just like anyone else out there who is working. No one has the right to earn a living doing a particularly thing.
    4) Readers do have copyrights. That is the point of the entire article. The same law, Copyright Act of various dates, that vests rights to authors and other content creators gives rights to readers (consumers) as well as scholars and the general public. Right of copyright is the right to do certain things with original content. It includes fair use and the right of first sale.

  115. MaryK
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 12:42:04

    @Toni Blake:

    I just want to point out that my tweet quoted above was sent specifically to the woman in question after she sent a tweet specifically to me, this occurring after I passed on someone else's tweet about the NYT article, which, yes, made it look like she WAS stealing.

    Tweeting is a public activity. It’s about as public as you can get, more so even than standing on a street corner yelling your opinion. Anyone with a feedreader can “follow” twitter streams.

  116. Anne Douglas
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 12:49:00

    It was pointed out to me elsewhere it appeared as if I was promoting DRM (Also by DS), obviously I missed making my point. While I’m for a format/device that allows lending (as the way the nook appears to be able to), I’m against DRM as represented by most currently. Hey, I can be contrary, right.

  117. Robin
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 12:51:16

    @LLR: First let me say that I agree with you that there *are* authors who are very strong advocates for readers’ rights, and for that I am very appreciative.

    As for the rest of your comment, I’m confused, because all I did was answer a question Rachel Caine asked me about what would constitute “reasonable” ebook pricing. Nowhere did I blame authors for pricing, nor do I believe, most readers think authors set book prices. Further, many of us are so tired of being blamed *by authors* for some of the effects of the way publishers set those prices. Piracy is one of those effects — the higher the publisher sets the price, the more it incentivizes pirates, and I don’t see any way in which that’s readers’ fault.

    As to your point about authors not having any power with publishers, if you really think about it, authors are the only real power players here, because you guys are the content providers. DA hosted this same discussion vis a vis the RWA ebook issue, and my response then is the same as it is here: authors need to band together, to unionize or otherwise ally more closely to stand up for your rights. Whether that’s for stronger copyright *enforcement* (in contrast to what someone posted above, piracy has nothing to do with weak copyright protections), higher royalty rates on digital rights, etc. But whether or not authors do this, IMO the reader is *never* to blame for any of it, because we are not the ones negotiating these deals.

    These deals are negotiated between authors and publishers and booksellers, and if there is a power imbalance, it is not, I believe, intrinsic to the situation. When you think about it, an author has the power to publisher her own book without a professional publisher, but a publisher is SOL without content providers. So my question would be whether authors really have no power or whether they have abdicated much of their inherent power out of fear, mis-education, lack of professional representation, desperation, etc.

  118. Jane
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 12:51:51

    @Lynne Connolly I have a fundamental difference in interpretation of the copyright law than you. Please recall that the copyright law, not your contract, determines the basic rights. For example, your contract is simply defines the bounds of the grant of copyright between you and the publisher. No entity or person NOT party to the contract is bound by those terms. Your contract with the publisher cannot nullify parts of the copyright pertaining to First Sale and Fair Use.

  119. Rachel Caine
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 12:57:37

    @Blue Tyson: Here’s the fun part nobody seems to talk about: most authors who’ve tried to sell on a subscription basis have FAILED. I mean, as in, it’s not worth the trouble.

    Stephen King tried it, way back in the beyond-times. If Stephen King can’t make it work, I’ma not convinced, man.

    – R.

  120. Rachel Caine
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 13:00:23

    @The Octopus Gallery: See, I’d agree with a $5 price point. But here’s the sticky point in getting it below that for an ebook — the work doesn’t go away, meaning the editorial work, layout work, etc. So is it realistic to say it should be pushed down to a level where it can’t sustain itself, assuming the print version goes away?

    I don’t know. That’s pretty advanced profit math, and I’m not sure I have the perspective to see it past that point.

  121. The Octopus Gallery
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 13:00:40

    Television is about the only media I can think of that works right now with the subscription method. And even there, I know a lot of people that wait until the whole season is out before they buy or Netflix it. I love comic books, but I refuse to buy single issues. The ads, quality of paper and shortness of story just make it a no-go for me. I’ll wait until a storyline is collected.

  122. Lynne Connolly
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 13:01:15

    To Jane:

    1. I just sorted out my bookshelves, and opened my copy of Susan Johnson’s “Blaze.” That book has never been anywhere but my shelves, I have read it maybe half a dozen times, but when I pulled it off the shelf, half the pages fell out. The glue had perished, is my best guess. What I gave was an average. Some books are better produced, some don’t last two readings before they fall apart. Also, I picked six because that is the number the Kindle allows. Seemed about right to me. Campaign for nine, that would work, too.

    2. Agreed.

    3. I never said it was a reader’s job to ensure the author made a living, or that the author had any right to expect it. I was just trying to explain why so many writers take piracy personally (and I know we’re not talking piracy here) and why tempers get frazzled. Not to say if it’s good or bad or anything else. It just is.

    4. Maybe British law is different, but I would have thought that Berne takes care of that. I hold the copyright to my books. I don’t lend it, sell it or license it to anyone. It says so on every book contract I’ve ever signed and on the registration documents. In a contract I authorise my publisher to use my copyrighted words, for a certain length of time.
    Readers have rights under copyright, and they may use the “fair use” clause, but that gives them rights to consume, it doesn’t give them a share of copyright. Otherwise “plagiarism” would mean nothing. In the various discussions of “fair use,” it’s generally agreed that it’s too vague and very much needs further definition. Something I’d very much like to see because I’d love to know how many copies I can share with friends before I’m breaking the law.
    Maybe it’s just semantics, because I think we’re talking about the same thing with different words.

  123. Jane
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 13:07:13

    @Lynne Connolly The general public has “fair use” rights to original content regardless of purchase. The First Sale doctrine allows a purchaser to do whatever the hell she wants with her copy. It’s two separate and distinct rights.

    The copyright law grants you a bundle of exclusive rights. You in turn sell those exclusive rights to a publisher in exchange for money. The publisher essentially now stands in your shoes. For every copy that the publisher generates pursuant to the grant, they hold the rights to those, not you, unless or until your rights revert.

  124. Jocelyn Z.
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 13:07:45

    Janine, that’s more or less correct.

    Jane, I’m so excited to see that someone is demystifying copyright for readers and consumers (and authors!), because my main take-away from my law school copyright class was that I really had no idea what rights anyone had until I finished that class. Considering how many purchases these rights affect, it’s important for everyone to have a better idea of what they’re getting and why.

    Look, I know that our copyright laws aren’t perfect, and licensing content to e-readers isn’t the ideal way to grant readers, publishers, or authors the same identical rights they would get if the transaction was for a paper book. But our copyright laws were designed to be as fair as possible to all parties (authors, publishers, and readers) and though not perfect, they’re really very good. And licensing content, though shafts the reader a little bit – especially considering the pricing structure – really is the best work-around we currently have. When you look at the laws themselves, they’re not set up with bad intent.

    A better understanding of the system we already have in place is crucial for every party to intellectual property transactions. Thank you for helping everyone to understand their rights.

    (And hey, I noticed someone else is posting under the name Jocelyn – there’s more than one of us out there! So I’m posting as Jocelyn Z. to reduce confusion.)

  125. Rachel Caine
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 13:08:34

    @Robin: YUP, it sounds reasonable, in fact. And I don’t dispute that there is some evidence that free distribution helps sales … the question is, how much, and for how long? I’m interested in the research you linked to. I like data. :)

    Thank you.

  126. Eileen
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 13:08:52


    Totally didn’t intend to post about this . . . but had to laugh when I came to this:

    On the pricing issue:

    * if an author made fifty cents for each copy of a 300page novel…
    *if that novel was easily available everywhere readers want to buy it…
    *if that novel was reasonably priced…
    *and if a million copies of said novel were sold due to the factors described…

    I think the author would do well for those six months of writing,
    wouldn't you agree?

    A million copies! Oh, yeah, we’d be happy with .50/copy off a million copies sold. Most books sell well under 100,000 copies, though, and dropping the price–a few publishers have experimented with this–doesn’t make them sell more. Cut-price books often sell fewer copies– I don’t know why. Perhaps readers are suspicious that they’re getting a book that isn’t worth as much as the other books.

    So what do authors really earn? It varies HUGELY, but just to work with some easy, round figures, let’s say a paperback by one author sells 50,000 copies. This would be considered a good sell-through for a midlist book–not exciting, but enough for that author to keep getting decent contracts. Let’s say the book is priced at 6.99–which, for convenience, I’m rounding to $7. The author gets 8% royalties, so she gets 56 cents a books, for a total of $28,000.

    Doesn’t sound too bad, does it? But, of course, her agent got 15% of that $28,000, so she really gets $23,800. Still enough for a decent living if she’s writing and selling two books a year, right? She’d be getting $47,600–if nothing goes wrong like sickness, losing an editor, a sudden tanking in publishing overall, etc. We’re assuming she’s able to write and sell two books every year, year in, year out . . . and they all continue to sell in that general range, which is a big IF, but we’ll go with it for now.

    But, oh, wait–she’s self-employed, so she has to pay the self-employment tax–which means she pays a lot higher taxes on that hypothetical $47,600. Her after-tax earnings are going to be closer to $32,000. Clearly this will vary depending on state income taxes and other deductions, but let’s say for this particular author that’s what her take-home looks like.

    That’s about $2660/month. If she’s married and her spouse has a job with good health insurance, that’s not bad. If she’s single, though . . . well, this is why many writers don’t have health insurance. We can’t afford it.

    All of this is not intended to persuade anyone to feel sorry for writers. We get to do something we love for a living, and that makes us incredibly lucky. But writing for a living is a financially insecure place to be. We worry about money. We worry about piracy. We worry about our next contract, our next release, our next cover. We worry about getting sick and not making our deadlines. We worry about writing too slowly and missing a deadline–and about writing too fast and turning in a book that disappoints our readers. We have all the other human worries, too–about family and friends and the funny noise the car’s been making.

    So, yeah, sometimes a writer might over-react when an issue pushes one of our worry buttons . . . like piracy. Clearly the sharing of books on the Kindle isn’t piracy, but it pushed that button for some writers. Cut them some slack, okay? They don’t deserve the pounding they’re taking here.

    Oh, and about DRM . . . I understand why this is annoying to some readers. I have a good friend who only buys books on her Kindle these days. She used to pass books on to me fairly often, and vice versa. We can’t do that now, and yeah, it’s a loss for both of us.

    But the notion that DRM treats everyone like criminals . . . well, I lock my house all the time. For some reason, no one seems to take this personally, as an affront against their honesty and integrity.

    DRM is no different. Most people are honest, but because some people aren’t, we have locks.

  127. Lynne Connolly
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 13:09:21

    Maybe Jamie Archer, in “The X Factor” held the key. He’s a fantastic singer, but he’s reached the age of 34 without hitting the big time.
    when Simon Cowell asked him why it hasn't worked out for him so far, he said, “I'm a musician, not a businessman so I have no idea how to get into the music business.”
    Check him out on Youtube, he said it on his first audition.
    Substitute “writer” for “musician” and “publishing” for “music business.”
    As for a union, bring it on, I’ll pay my dues. Then at least the right people will be addressed.

  128. Heather (errantdreams)
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 13:16:39

    @Rachel Caine: No, the work doesn’t go away. But there are other costs that go away when you consider digital: shipping, materials, printing, storage, etc. I don’t know how much of a book’s price those things comprise, but surely they aren’t negligible. If they were, paperback and hardcover wouldn’t have such radically different prices. So presumably, publishers could at least lower ebook prices somewhat just for these considerations.

  129. Rachel Caine
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 13:16:50

    @azteclady: Except in real world terms, it simply doesn’t work that way.

    Most authors are midlist, which means they sell less than (in the SF/F genre) 100,000 books. Many sell between 10,000 and 20,000.

    The million-sellers are VERY rare. So you can’t take that as your test calc. Look at what you come up with on the midlist calculation. That’s what you have to live on until the next book. I’m not saying it can’t be done, but … it’s just not very reasonable. You’re also paying for your own health insurance, your own marketing, your own travel to signings, and your own taxes and agent fees. By the time you subtract that, it’s not nearly as happy a picture, I’m afraid.

    If all books were available everywhere, for all time, I would think you’d see fewer million-sellers … but that’s a guess. I’m just think that it’s already a crowded field. If you make all books available worldwide, and never take anything off the shelves … that’s pretty crowded.


  130. Rachel Caine
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 13:25:51

    @Eileen: Yep, I think our math comes out about the same. Your sales figures are very realistic.

  131. Rachel Caine
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 13:27:28

    @Lynne Connolly: We already have one: Author’s Guild. There are a lot of other organizations helping with negotiations as well, including SFWA.

  132. Kalen Hughes
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 13:34:37

    Cut-price books often sell fewer copies- I don't know why. Perhaps readers are suspicious that they're getting a book that isn't worth as much as the other books.

    I actually have reviews and fan mail about my books (I was part of Kensington’s Zebra Debut program) that say things like “Don’t know why the publisher sold this book short and discounted it.” and “I almost didn’t buy this book, because the discounted price made me think it might not be very good.” *sigh* Clearly the idea that ZD is a special program to introduce new authors hasn’t been advertised effectively.

  133. Susanna Kearsley
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 13:36:39

    Just getting back for a second to the focus of the original post (the NYT piece and the tweeting and blogging that followed)…

    Much as it annoys me to read about fellow writers behaving badly, it annoys me still more when those writers imply that they speak for all authors. They don’t.

    Speaking for myself — and only for myself — I think the truly shameful thing about those shaming tweets is that Ms. Englin only wound up getting one apology. A lot of excuses, yes. A lot of “gee, we didn’t realize you weren’t breaking any laws”. But only one apology, and even that was qualified by “if this was a hatchet job [by the reporter].” That’s just wrong.

    Ms. Englin, for having the audacity to legally share a Kindle account with a friend, was publicly and incorrectly called a liar and a thief, and yet her own blog post on the subject was more apologetic than the comments of the people who should really have apologized to her. And that’s wrong, too.

    So Ms. Englin, I’ll say it: I’m sorry. I’m sorry you had to go through this, and I hope you’ll realize not all authors act this way, or share the narrow opinions of some.

    I’m an author, and I make my living on royalties, too, just like those other writers who jumped down your throat. But believe me, if you and your friend buy my book on your Kindle and share it, that’s fine. If you add four more friends to your Kindle account so you’re up to the six-person limit allowed, and you all buy one book by me, that’s fine as well. If you take your five friends and go into a bookstore and buy one lone copy of one of my paperbacks so you can share it between you, that’s great.

    To my way of thinking, I won’t have “lost” five sales. I will have made one.

    I’ll have made a sale, too, if a library buys that same book so that five hundred readers can borrow it. What’s the big deal? We all share books, as readers, and trying to make someone feel bad for doing that doesn’t make sense.

    Readers do have rights, as Jane points out, and in my view these are the basic ones:

    1. The right to obtain a book by any legal means, including but not limited to: sharing it with friends on a Kindle account, borrowing it from the library, buying it new in a bookstore, buying it used in a bookstore, or picking it up from a park bench (Bookcrossing, anyone?)

    2. The right to formulate, articulate, and share an opinion of said book, verbally or in writing, without fear of harrassment or reprisal from the author.

    3. The right to keep, discard, or re-sell said book; to throw it at the wall or stomp on it, shelve it lovingly, or pass it on to friends.

    At least, that’s one author’s opinion.

  134. Erin
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 13:57:46

    @Rachel Caine:

    Clearly this is something I feel strongly about, no? So let’s go back to basics. I love books. I buy lots of them every month. I don’t borrow them from the library or the UBS. I buy them new. With my kindle, when I finish the first book in your series and I must read the next book right. this. second. I order it on the spot even if it’s 3 A.M. I sample all sorts of books that I would never buy sight unseen, and I go on to purchase a fair number of them. As the result of finding a new author, I may end up at her website checking out what’s coming up, reading extras, finding out about her backlist, etc. (BTW, I appreciate these free extras, I really do. But I’m unclear about how that pertains to whether or not I share a book. I’m just missing the connection. Sorry.) Anyway, I think you and I can agree that this works great for both of us, right?

    So here’s the problem that I think we both have. This is my preferred method to read your books. It’s new, though, and there’s a LOT of problems with it. I could go on and on about formats and copyrights and TOS issues and book sharing and resale and pricing and availability. Those issues make it harder for me to buy books, spread the word about those books, etc. That’s a problem for both of us.

    The trouble is that this subject comes up, and my perception is that most authors want to talk about piracy. So let’s talk about it. I hate it. I hate that authors do what I could never do and someone tries to steal their hard work. I think it’s terrible. I don’t steal music, and I’d never steal books. I share that opinion with anyone who will listen, and I notify authors if I see something I think they would want to know about. If there is something else I can do to help the situation, I’m all ears.

    Now, can we talk about what’s not working for readers? Readers are telling you about things that aren’t working for them. I’m sad that authors see a reader sharing books in a way that is clearly not an ebay sale to strangers, and they call her a thief. You yourself said, “I believe I did say as much, when I said I do not at all discourage trading, loan, sharing, etc.” But we can’t always do that! Where are the authors saying, “How can I help to develop a solution that works for me and for my readers?” They’re all on twitter making @sses of themselves, that’s where. Why aren’t they talking to their editors and their agents about this? Why aren’t they having meaningful conversations about this at the national RWA conference?

    Look, I love books, and I love the authors who write them. I just want to talk about more than piracy when we talk about ebooks, that’s all.

  135. azteclady
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 13:59:00

    To Eileen and Ms Caine,

    I know well that very few authors sell even a hundred thousand books, let alone a million. My point–very poorly conveyed, obviously–is this: if books, particularly ebooks, are priced lower, I believe it’s more likely that a higher number of copies will be sold. Higher volume sold, even at lower prices, should benefit author and publisher more, in the mid- and long-term than few sales at higher prices.

    (This is true of most things, isn’t it?)

    To address what Ms Hughes says about the Zebra Debut program, I think that the fact that those are print books has a lot to do with these. Rightly or wrongly, a lot of readers believe that digital versions of books shouldn’t be priced the same or higher than the print versions.

  136. Eric the Red
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 14:01:43

    Says Susanna Kearsley: “To my way of thinking, I won't have “lost” five sales. I will have made one.”

    Exactly. Not only that, but more people are now aware of your work, and if they liked it, will buy or recommend it to others. Conversely, JoAnn Ross has generated a ton of negative publicity. I wouldn’t read her crap in the first place but after seeing this would be even less inclined to do so.

  137. Vanessa Kelly
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 14:02:20

    Actually, Susanna, Ms. Englin got at least more than one apology – she got one from me. My initial thoughts and one comment on Twitter were the result of that very poorly written NYT article. Later in the day, after I read Courtney Milan’s post, I realized I was wrong. I immediately went to Ms. Englin’s site. As I recall, Ms. Englin invited people to post apologies in her comment section, or to send her a private email if they weren’t comfortable. I tried to post an apology in her comments section, but couldn’t (I think the site had crashed because of the traffic). I then sent her an email, apologizing for coming to such a hasty conclusion, and inviting her to post my apology on her blog, if she so desired. She sent me a lovely email back, graciously accepting my apology, and stating that she understood why people were upset.

    It’s quite possible that other people did try to post apologies, or did send her a private email. So I don’t think we should assume that no one else has expressed regret for what happened. As far as I can tell, Ms. Englin was perfectly comfortable with a privately expressed apology.

    What I find interesting in this whole discussion, is that no one seems interested in calling out the reporter who wrote such a misleading article in the first place. Why is that?

  138. Jon Wolf
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 14:02:49

    There is no difference between overall between 6 friends sharing Kindle eBooks and sharing the same physical book. Sharing of pBooks happens all the time and not once do I see authors calling the sharers thieves. So why is it, I can share pBooks and it’s ok, yet if I share an eBook, it’s not ok?

  139. MaryK
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 14:03:29


    But the notion that DRM treats everyone like criminals . . . well, I lock my house all the time. For some reason, no one seems to take this personally, as an affront against their honesty and integrity.

    DRM is no different. Most people are honest, but because some people aren't, we have locks.

    This is not a good analogy. No one takes it personally because they don’t own your house and they therefore don’t expect to have access to it. You’re entitled to protect something you own. Readers expect to own books and they expect access. DRM is comparable to the bank locking my house so that every time I want to go in or out of my house I have to ask the bank to unlock it.

  140. Shel Franz
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 14:06:26

    To add fuel to the fire here – library books? One lady in the Cozy Mystery discussion group on Goodreads posted that one favorite author of hers blasted her for saying she was on the waiting list at the library for her book. Accused her and other library users of taking income away from her. While that may be literally true – it wasn’t politic to say (and probably lost her at least one sale). The commenter at Goodreads very charitably did not give said author’s name (she’s nicer than I would have been…). And I’m not an author, but I’ll send my apologies to Ms. Englin too. As Ms. Kearsley above so eloquently put it: Readers do have rights.

  141. Heather (errantdreams)
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 14:06:36


    My point-very poorly conveyed, obviously-is this: if books, particularly ebooks, are priced lower, I believe it's more likely that a higher number of copies will be sold. Higher volume sold, even at lower prices, should benefit author and publisher more, in the mid- and long-term than few sales at higher prices.

    And here’s where the problem is. This is not necessarily true. As an example, books on pricing crafts often point out that items priced low often sell LESS well because they are perceived to have less value. It’s a tricky thing—price too high and folks won’t buy because something is overpriced. Price too low and something is perceived to be valueless. It’s tough to find the right middle ground.

  142. azteclady
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 14:10:06

    Heather, yes, it’s tough to find the right middle ground, but I still believe that it would be much more productive–for everyone involved, authors, readers, publishers–than this never ending war over who owns what when and in which format.

  143. Rachel Caine
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 14:15:09

    @Heather (errantdreams): You’re right, some of those things do go away, but on the other hand, what does the IT cost?

    I work in a day job where we’re trying to use technology to replace some of the more paper-intensive things we used to do, and quite often, the technology and support of it ends up being just as expensive over time.

    That being said: some people will ALWAYS prefer paper. I’m a Kindle addict, I freely admit it, but I still buy paper books too, and probably always will; I love the feel of them.

  144. Jane
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 14:17:11

    @Eileen You view ebooks in a similar vein as your house? So an ebook is your personal property even though I’ve bought it? Not sure I see the connection there.

    Also? Calling someone a THIEF in a public forum, publicly accusing a person of a dishonorable act, and then not using the self same forum to apologize merely try to rationalize away defaming that person? That’s pretty awful in my book. Maybe not yours, but it is in mine so we’ll have to respectfully disagree on that point.

  145. Rachel Caine
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 14:18:28

    @Erin: You’re preaching to the choir, here. A lot of authors do have these conversations, and try to work out better ways to do things, but the fact is that even our major unions and guilds haven’t been too successful in making things happen quickly for the benefit of both authors and readers.

    Almost every conference I go to discusses electronic delivery and electronic rights in some form or another. There was a huge kerfuffle (I love that word) at SFWA a couple of years ago about digital rights and opposing viewpoints. So it’s being debated and discussed on all fronts already.

    But I believe it will take time to find a balance that works for everybody.

  146. Rachel Caine
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 14:21:58

    @azteclady: I still think we don’t know what that breakeven point is for an ebook. If we knew, then we could have reasonable and consistent pricing. But the profit margins in publishing are pretty darn thing to begin with, so I don’t know …

    I do appreciate what you said, and I agree that it’s a useful conversation. WOULD things sell more if priced lower? Maybe, in the aggregate, but what about in the specific? I think those who sell less would just end up making less, which granted (lest someone jump on me for this!) is NOT AN ENTITLEMENT, and I hasten to say I still have a day job, okay? … but I just don’t know. Setting price points is an art and a science. Nobody’s ever completely happy with them, seems like.

  147. Lynne Connolly
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 14:22:08

    Susan Kearsley, thank you. You said it much better than I did or could. And yes, those tweets were shaming and by no means reflected the views of all authors. I didn’t take part, any kind of witch-hunt makes me antsy but I feel sorry that anyone should be victimised like that.

    Rachel Caine – thanks for the Author’s Guild info. Looking it up now. In the UK we have the Society of Authors, but they don’t campaign or lobby. For all that, a great organisation.

  148. Rachel Caine
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 14:24:42

    @Shel Franz: All the authors I’ve ever met LOVE libraries, and librarians. And I direct people to the libraries all the time. I do a lot of events with libraries (in fact, I’m doing one on Saturday). If that story is indeed true, the author is, ah, HIGHLY misguided. And I’d tell them so, straight up.

  149. Eileen
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 14:28:19


    Mary, I see what you’re saying–you feel that once you possess a book in whatever format, it should be yours to use in any way you please. And really, this outlook works fine with physical books, as long as you aren’t determined to xerox the pages and send copies of it to thousands of people. Oddly enough, very few people do this.

    Problem is, with digital works, some people are inclined to do just that. In order to make it harder for them to do this–not impossible, heaven knows, just harder, the way a lock makes it harder to break into a house–publishers use DRM. We can talk about the good and bad aspects of this. It’s a fair discussion. My point was that DRM–like it or hate it–should not be considered an insult to the honesty of people who buy e-books, as some here have said.

  150. Rachel Caine
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 14:31:22

    I’d just like to say that it’s been nice talking to you guys. Jane — thanks for starting a very thought-provoking discussion, and giving all sides a forum. I’m not a regular here, but you seem like a great bunch, and I will always listen to what you have to say.

    Readers do have rights. And now, I have to go file a VeRo notice on the eBay lady, because alas, she does not.

    – Rachel

  151. Dee
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 14:31:43

    This very discussion and the concept behind it is why I rarely buy ebooks. And the ones I do buy must be DRM free.

    There is a double standard here.

    With the deadtree version of books, you can swap them, lend them, sell them and no one thinks anything of it. I can go check one out at the library and read it and no one gets their knickers in a twist.

    Can’t do any of that with an ebook because, God forbid, I’m a thief.

    Back in the late 90s when the music industry ran the sharing/lending/copying=pirating topic into the stratosphere like it was the end of the world … I made a decision. I stopped buying music, completely. I don’t download it and I don’t buy it. Ever. I’m not an isolated case either, I know quite a few people that feel as I do.

    Today, I watch very closely to see which authors are going off the deep end about this topic. I keep a running list of their names so I can check it before I buy a book. I refuse to buy anything by any of them. And if this gets to the level the music mess did, I’ll stop buying books completely.

  152. GrowlyCub
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 14:33:40

    My point was that DRM-like it or hate it-should not be considered an insult to the honesty of people who buy e-books, as some here have said.

    It’s not the DRM that’s considered an insult, it’s the authors’ attitude evidenced by yesterdays’ online mob lynching of a reader and similar comments here by you and others. For you to want us to ‘cut slack’ and give folks a break is insulting on so many levels I can’t even begin to enumerate them.

    I’d really like to know your name so I can put you on my ‘never buy ever’ list.

  153. Robin
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 14:33:44

    @Vanessa Kelly:

    What I find interesting in this whole discussion, is that no one seems interested in calling out the reporter who wrote such a misleading article in the first place. Why is that?

    Because nothing in that article, as bad as that last section was, justified the hair-trigger public shaming and name-calling?


    So, yeah, sometimes a writer might over-react when an issue pushes one of our worry buttons . . . like piracy. Clearly the sharing of books on the Kindle isn't piracy, but it pushed that button for some writers. Cut them some slack, okay? They don't deserve the pounding they're taking here.

    In other words, extend to them the understanding, respect, and sympathy they refused to extend to Englin? Frankly, I don’t think anything said here approaches the disrespect shown in the tweets Jane posted, nor in many of the other comments I’ve seen made by authors on this issue.

  154. Robin
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 14:38:01

    @Rachel Caine:

    That being said: some people will ALWAYS prefer paper. I'm a Kindle addict, I freely admit it, but I still buy paper books too, and probably always will; I love the feel of them.

    I don’t *prefer* paper generally, but I do buy both print and ebooks. MMPB’s I try to buy exclusively in e, but books that have a physical appeal as objects, academic books, and kids’ books I still buy in print. My hope is that BOTH the digital and print markets remain robust, and that a critical mass of publishers and authors ultimately come to see that digital is merely another format, not a different species of book.

  155. Anon76
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 14:40:20

    What bothers me most? Long threads or long twitter links where nobody bothers to read the entire text and links before commenting.

    Trust me, I am no rocket scientist, but I’m not under-educated either.

    Twitter provides 140 spaces to make your point. Think long and hard before you send out something that could be seen as bashing. The instant link to thousands has sucked out some brain cells more than once.

  156. Caligi
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 14:50:38


    Cut them some slack, okay? They don't deserve the pounding they're taking here.

    The authors who called for a lynching via RT on Twitter and have yet to offer unqualified apologies deserve the internet beating they’re getting.

    Twitter is neither AIM nor e-mail. Calling someone out on Twitter is like doing it on Boston Common at 5pm on a sunny day in June, with a microphone, on stage, for the news media. It’s so public, you may as well have made it your home page.

    If they didn’t want to deal with the PR fallout, they should not have risked the exposure in the first place. Professionals weigh the need to air their opinion against the possible negative effects the attention will get them.

    Only blog commenting nobodies – that’s me – can troll all we want.

    As for the issues of DRM and copyright, I’ll add my own anecdotes.

    I used to be an enthusiastic music pirater. I stole gigs of music via Napster and Limewire back in the day. What made me stop? Pandora and MySpace coupled with DRM-free MP3s at Amazon. You see, I stole music because I was a broke college student with questionable morals. I loved CDs and music, but I didn’t have the $18 to spend on a CD only to get home and find I hated all but 2 or 3 songs. Then Pandora and MySpace arrived on the scene. I could listen to hours of music for free, then once I decided I liked something, I could buy it a la carte from Amazon and burn it to CD. I now spend hundreds of dollars a year on music at Amazon.

    I’d like to say I’d never download a pirated book, because I never have, but I am a weak-willed person of questionable morals. I cheat, I speed, I lie, I got thrown out of the 6th grade. I’m a bad egg sometimes. I think that if books were not available to me in a format I liked – which is ebook, and epub specifically – at a price I was willing to pay, I would probably do something shifty to get it or not get it at all. There’s a lot of truth to the “tighter control = more piracy” and I’m the asshole that makes it possible.

    I do buy some books in a format that strips of DRM easily when epub isn’t available and convert them. Since this is only technically shifty, since the author gets paid and I have shared all of one or two books with one person ever, I think I’m less of a jerk than I was in my Napster days. I pay for all my books, and I buy a half-dozen each week.

    If the DRM gets stricter, or harder to crack, however, there’s no telling how I’d shop then.

  157. Courtney Milan
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 14:51:15

    @Jane and Lynne Connolly:

    I just want to point out that a discussion of copyright across international waters gets very murky once we start talking about readers’ rights and authors’ rights. In most locales except the United States, jurisdictions recognize that authors have moral rights. In some of those locales, moral rights cannot be assigned, or can only be assigned with great difficulty, and so contracts involving works are more controlling than they would be here in the US. The US has little conception of moral rights, at least as to written text, and I suspect it never will.

    The US also has the most expansive protections for speech under the First Amendment of any major country, and accordingly, it has stronger fair use protections than any major country.

    Much of this is constitutional in nature. The US Congress only has authority to issue copyright and patent law protection to the extent that such protection furthers science and the useful arts, and to the extent that it does not infringe on the free exercise of speech, both US constitutional doctrines. That uniquely shapes the way we look at fair use and copyright, in a way that is not consonant with the rest of the world.

    These are things that the Berne convention/TRIPS cannot harmonize away, even though it has tried. The issue of authors’ moral rights is actually something where the US is in tacit violation of its treaty obligations. (I’m going from memory here, and can’t remember case names at all to verify, but we ended up signing on without reservations to the moral rights bit in part because of a trademark law that appeared to allow something like moral rights–and which was subsequently deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court–so, yes, we are in violation of our treaty obligations). And, you know, the Constitution is the supreme law of the land here, with treaty obligations coming in second, so that is the end of the story. Berne can’t rewrite US constitutional law.

    Internationally, everyone gets around this by pretending (for now) that this concern doesn’t exist, by allowing people to mean different things by different words, but there it is–it does.

    It’s extremely hard to have this conversation about fair use/copyright across borders, because the US understanding of some of those concepts is radically different than the rest of the world. It’s tricky with someone in the UK. It’s impossible with someone in France. I know just enough about international IP to recognize when we’re crossing into legal cultural differences, and we’re crossing over here.

    Lynne is talking from a different default than the US default–and there are probably some places in the world where what she is saying is right, even though it sounds absolutely crazy to us in the United States.

    International IP makes my head hurt. Badly.

  158. DS
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 14:52:22

    @Susanna Kearsley: Very thoughtful.

    And I have to add that Ms. Kearsley writes very, very good books. I’ve order some from the UK when I couldn’t get them in the US. She reminds me of Mary Stewart at her best (and that is high praise).

  159. MaryK
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 14:56:07

    @Eileen: But locking the ebook away from thieves, who are not deterred by locks, also locks it away from readers. In the normal course of reading an ebook, readers need to do things that pirates also do. Like copy the ebook to back it up. Like convert the format so the font size can be changed. I recently bought an ebook reader and was disgusted by how poorly suited some ebook formatting is for use on a small screen. Fortunately, I don’t buy DRM’d books so no lock picking was required.

    xerox the pages and send copies of it to thousands of people. Oddly enough, very few people do this.

    I think it’s actually quite common. I can’t remember where I read about it though.

  160. Nina Brand
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 14:57:16

    Ebook theft is like slaves in Egypt.
    When past lives were all the rage, everyone I met, told me they’d found out they’d been a Pharoah in Egypt. I never met a single person who’d had a past life regression that revealed them as a slave.
    I find it interesting that each and every person on this discussion who says they share ebooks, does not identify themselves in anyway as an ebook thief or admits to piracy.
    Somebody is buying those ebooks and passing them on to be uploaded by one of their ‘six close friends’ to share with the entire universe.
    There would not be lucrative, secretive sites hidden in offshore websites if people didn’t think what they were doing was simply sharing. Income, economics have nothing to do with it.
    Authors’ books are being uploaded with titles scrambled, the authors’ names removed and many books altered in an effort to stave off DMCA notices.
    Ebooks are cheaper than ever and if you care about an author being able to provide you with cheap thrills, think about purchasing a book and not just file sharing.

  161. ann
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 15:05:07

    @Courtney Milan:

    Lynne is talking from a different default than the US default-and there are probably some places in the world where what she is saying is right, even though it sounds absolutely crazy to us in the United States.

    She may well be but she is published by Elloras Cave and Samhain, so I don’t think it is as straightforward as she makes out. Which law applies when you are published by an American company and live in the UK?

    At the rest of this all these author’s blindly retweeting and then running around on blog explaining themselves and incapable of offering a public apology. I think a public apology is necessary because you put it on your twitter and then you didn’t correct the misconception on your twitter. All those people who follow you now think this poor woman is a criminal, and who knows who else they have spread this to. To the authors who blindly retweeted – I hate to sound like my mother but if someone told you to jump off a cliff would you do that as well?!

  162. SarahT
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 15:06:05

    @Maddie If I misinterpreted your comment earlier, I apologize.

    This thread makes for fascinating reading. I only wish I were more awake to write a coherent response.

  163. Jane
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 15:10:01

    @Courtney Milan Ah, the moral rights thing. I remember reading something about that in regard to protesting the GBKS.

  164. MaryK
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 15:12:21

    @Nina Brand: I think this comment pretty much illustrates Jane’s argument that:


    The default position is that we ebook readers are always engaged in some form of wrongdoing. … We are not considered legitimate customers if we do not leave our house and buy a paper copy.

  165. Nina Brand
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 15:18:29

    You don’t need to buy a paper copy (especially if none exists) but I have a valid point. Somebody is uploading thousands and thousands of ebooks the second they are published to multiple sites. I refuse to believe it’s the work of some anti-social nine year old kid sitting in his bedroom with a big computer and nothing else to do with his time.

  166. Caligi
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 15:26:42

    It could be one anarchist who believes all intellectual property should be free doing all the uploading. It doesn’t take many people and it is not the same personality type that loves to share great books with her friends. It’s a conscious act of defiance to pirate books and upload them for illegal distribution.

    Even in the heyday of music thievery, I didn’t know many people who shared music compared to the number who downloaded it.

  167. maddie
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 15:28:23


    You and me both, I left out in the original post that I shared some books with my sister and have her reading and buying books from those authors.

    No hard feelings……. and it does make for interesting reading and finding out what other readers and authors feel about it too.

    The Internet has open up a whole new gray areas in the law period and not just with ebooks, and music.

  168. Lynne Connolly
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 15:31:58

    She may well be but she is published by Elloras Cave and Samhain, so I don't think it is as straightforward as she makes out. Which law applies when you are published by an American company and live in the UK?

    I hold the copyright in UK law, but it’s linked to US law by the Berne Convention. My publishers also register the US copyright, but it’s in my name.

  169. Eileen
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 15:37:00


    Mary K, as I said, there are pluses and minuses to DRM, and we can talk about those. From an author’s standpoint, some type of DRM seems highly desirable. From a reader’s standpoint, it can be a pain. Of course you want to be able to read the book you bought on whichever device is most convenient, adjust the font, etc. And of course I want to deter piracy. Our interests don’t completely converge here, but we can talk about it in a friendly way, I hope.

    Oh, as for changing the font, I think that’s easy to do with the Kindle–which does allow you to read books you bought in that format on your iPhone as well. (I don’t have a Kindle–don’t have the money, frankly–but I’ve checked out my friend’s.) It seems that TPTB are making some progress in addressing e-books readers’ needs, even if they aren’t all the way there yet. The B&N Nook seems promising, too.

  170. DS
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 15:38:50

    @Courtney Milan: Well that is why some audible books have a statement that “The Moral Right of the Author has been Asserted”. I still don’t quite understand it, but thanks for your post.

  171. Caligi
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 15:43:08

    Authors should really be smart enough to realize that DRM doesn’t prevent piracy, it encourages it.

    The only people actually hampered by DRM are the ones technically unsavvy enough to neither know how to strip the DRM or the share the file once unstripped.

    The people driven by the need to stick it to the man and share files only enjoy the challenge of cracking DRM even more.

  172. Suzanne Allain
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 15:44:40

    I buy many eBooks. (I bought three already this week.) I have never minded DRM, even though I have lost quite a few eBooks I’ve purchased because of switching laptops, accounts, etc. I understand the rationale behind it. I do not feel that I’m being insulted by the writer or publisher because they want to ensure I don’t pass on their intellectual property to thousands of other people. I know that I would never do such a thing; but there are obviously people out there who do or we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. And I thought Eileen's illustration made the point perfectly: I'm not personally offended because you lock your doors; I know there are thieves out there even though I'm not one of them.

    Once again, I want to make it clear that I AM ONE OF YOU. I am an eBook reader. But I am also an author of books that are available in eBook format. I actually feel safer when people buy my book in Kindle format, because it is device-specific and I don’t mind at all if they share it with a few people that are on their account; it’s the thought of the viral eBook being forwarded on into perpetuity that scares all of us authors. The diagram Anne Douglas drew illustrates our fear: an eBook can be replicated with the click of a button; a physical book can only be in one place at one time. We're comparing two very different things and “sharing” an eBook is not at all the same as sharing a paperback.

    However, I think the Nook's policy (from what I've read about it) is a very good imitation of the paperback sharing scenario as it will only allow one digital copy of the book to be in one place at one time. And in that case, I'd be very happy to see Nookies (can I call them that?) sharing my books with each other. Just as I don’t mind when someone checks my book out from the library or borrows a paperback copy from a friend.

    (P.S. Speaking of libraries: Some libraries will order copies of books at the request of their patrons. I totally encourage readers to do this with me or any author they can’t find at their local library. It is a great way to check out a new author.)

  173. Courtney Milan
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 15:48:52

    @ann: I’m not trying to get into any choice-of-law issues–it’s a lot weirder than just where the publisher/sale is–I’m just saying that cross-borders, the discussion about purposes & rights & policy gets murky.

  174. Eileen
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 16:02:23


    I am just mystified by this. Clearly I have a poor grasp of what’s insulting, since I don’t know what I said that’s so deeply cutting. I can’t apoligize, since I have no idea what I’d be apologizing for. Tell you what–just don’t buy books by anyone named Eileen, and then you can be sure you haven’t contributed to my coffers.

    For you to want us to ‘cut slack' and give folks a break is insulting on so many levels I can't even begin to enumerate them.

    I'd really like to know your name so I can put you on my ‘never buy ever' list.

  175. Jackie Barbosa » Blog Archive » Thursday Throwdown: Piracy for Dummies
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 16:16:35

    [...] Dear Author [...]

  176. TerryS
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 16:57:16

    The part I can’t get past is the insult to Ms. Englin was in a public forum. The apology to Ms. Englin must also be in the same public forums.\

    Private messages don’t do the trick because the insult is still hanging out there for everyone to see, but the apology (and it must be an apology, not a justification) is invisible.

  177. DMcCunney
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 17:27:40

    I would love to see more rationality in discussions like this.

    First, please don’t assume DRM provides any protection. It doesn’t. I’m a computer guy. I don’t know a DRM scheme that hasn’t been cracked a day after it hits the streets. Software developers learned years ago that “copy protection” was useless, and actually impeded sales. Maybe someday ebook retailers will stop trying to reinvent that wheel. All DRM does is annoy the legitimate customer, who will resent the assumption they are potential thieves.

    Yes, ebook piracy exists. You can download a torrent file, fire up a bit torrent client, and get a bundle of a thousand ebooks in one session, to the point where you won’t even know what all you have. Some of them may be books that never got a legitimate ebook version, like J K Rowling’s Harry Potter books. So what?

    If I’m a writer, I don’t care about that. By itself, that’s meaningless. My concern will be cases where someone downloads and reads a pirated copy of my work instead of buying a legitimate copy of the book in paper or electronic format. That’s an actual lost sale. But how concerned am I? Honestly? Not a lot. Why not? Because I don’t know what my losses actually are. There is no way to measure it. I refuse to waste time and energy on threats I can’t even quantify, let alone control.

    I side with Cory Doctorow, who feels a writer’s biggest concern isn’t piracy, it’s obscurity. Unless I’m someone like Stephen King, I wish I’m popular enough that someone will make an effort to pirate my work. More likely, my problem is simply letting potential readers know I exist.

    It’s possible I’m an optimist, peering through rose colored glasses. But we’ve always had theft, yet somehow, people continue to make and sell things. I happen to thing most people will pay for value. So what do I do as a writer? Easy enough to state:

    1) Provide value. Write the best work I can.

    2) Price fairly

    3) Do everything I can to let people who might be interested in what I write know that I and my work exist.

    4) Make it as easy and convenient as possible for a buyer to give me money.

    Since there are third parties like publishers and retailers in the way in most cases, the above is easier said than done, but I still maintain it’s the only sensible attitude.

    An old friend is a singer, songwriter, and band leader. His band is popular and has a following, and makes their living touring. They’ve had major label and independent label releases. He’d like you to buy the CDs, but if you rip them to MP3s and share them with your friends, that’s fine, too. The more people who hear the music, the more will go and see them when they come to play a gig.

    I feel similar about books. If someone shares a book I’ve written with friends, that may actually be good. How do you find out about new stuff you might like to read? I’ll bet recommendations from friends who know your tastes are a major source. So if a book I’ve written gets shared, it’s more likely to be read by the person it’s been shared with, and I’m more likely to have another reader interested in getting the next book when it’s available, and quite likely paying for a copy. (This is the model used in the SF and fantasy publishing business by Baen Books with their Baen Free Library ebook collection. It works. It works very well indeed, and drove Baen’s change from a struggling mass market paperback house to the thriving hardcover publisher,.)

    A lot of the concern I see about potential piracy parses for me as “The market is all a bunch of dirty so-and-sos who will rip me off if they get a chance!” Oh really? Why do you think so? Because it’s what you would do and you assume everyone else is like you?

    The likely response to that is “Oh, no! I would never do that! It’s everyone else that’s the problem!” Uh-huh. “I’m OK. You’re not OK!” I’m afraid I have equally little patience with either attitude.

    I vote with my wallet. I don’t buy DRM protected work. I have more that I want to read than I have time for without dealing with that particular headache, and I may refuse to buy work from people supporting DRM, because I don’t care for the attitude, and I’m offended by the casual assumption that I might be a pirate.

  178. Suzanne Allain
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 18:00:47

    An old friend is a singer, songwriter, and band leader. His band is popular and has a following, and makes their living touring. They've had major label and independent label releases. He'd like you to buy the CDs, but if you rip them to MP3s and share them with your friends, that's fine, too. The more people who hear the music, the more will go and see them when they come to play a gig.

    This is not a valid comparison, because musicians have two methods of making money: CD sales and concert ticket sales. So perhaps your artist friend doesn’t mind some free advertising that will drive up ticket sales and still enable him to pay his bills. If people read an author’s books for free and never pay then that’s it. Party’s over. There’s no other alternative for the author to make money.

    Of course there are always free copies of books being given away to spread the word about new authors; to reviewers, to bloggers, even to readers. But give away all or even most of an author’s work for free and eventually you’ll have a lot less literature out there to read because all the authors will be looking for a paying job.

  179. Kris Kennedy
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 18:03:33

    Has no one yet figured out a way to make a file that can actually only exist in one place at a time? That seems like it would solve the problem. If a file gets copied, uploaded, etc, it sends up a puff of virtual smoke as it dissolves from its previous ‘location.’

    Then, we could share ebooks w/ whomever we wanted, only we wouldn’t have it in our library anymore during that time, just like with a print book. We could send it to an eReader, a computer, whatever, we’d just lose it in the previous location.

    Is that idea somehow undoable, technologically? Is anyone at least working on it? I suppose some techies could break even that sort of thing, but for most of us, it would work.

    So, what’s w/ the Nook in this regard? You can ‘lend’ for 14 days. What happens at the end of that time? It self destructs on the friend’s computer? (How M.I.) It says you cannot read your own copy during that period of time. How does that work? Seems like that would be the problem-solver for this issue. Or am I woefully uneducated about computer stuff? Can people still strip DRM and upload/email at will?

    Altho . . perhaps not the place for this query. It takes the conversation a different direction.

  180. Roxanne St. Claire
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 18:05:17

    Okay. Deep breath. I think all of the 170-some comments that are going to be made on this issue are made, so I'm going to step into this room and say my words. I will start with the deepest apology to Shayna Englin, and hope this forum is public enough, although I'm happy to dedicate a book to her if that will express just how profoundly sorry I am that I tweeted before I did as many have suggested I should have, and contacted the New York Times to verify their facts. Shame on me for assuming that the Times was accurate.

    If you'd like to hear my side, here's what happened. I read the New York Times over my coffee, as I do every morning, gleeful over the article about ebooks. You see, I'm a huge fan of Kindle. Since it came out, I've seen nothing but positives from readers, and I have believed wholeheartedly that Kindle readers are not pirates, but real lovers of books. I feel the same way about all ereaders, and have already put one on my personal Christmas list.

    As I got to the end of the article, I read these words:

    Shayna Englin, a political consultant in Washington who purchased a Kindle this year, also says she reads more than ever: a book a week, about three times her old pace.

    Go Shayna, I thought.

    But she has actually never paid for an e-book. Exploiting a loophole in Amazon's system, Ms. Englin has linked her Kindle to the Amazon account of some nearby friends, allowing all of them to read books like “The Lost Symbol” at the same time -’ while paying for them only once.

    Loophole? On Kindle? I had no idea.

    “I read much more, I tend to read faster for some reason, and I read a greater variety of things,” said Ms. Englin, adding that this is nearly the same as lending a physical book to friends. “We haven't really looked closely at Amazon's terms of service. But I do suspect we are breaking the rules.”

    Reader, I admit, I saw red. I saw a professional woman being cavalier about something that is cutting very close to home, whether we all want to admit it or not. And, yes, I tweeted about it. I said “Shame on you, Shayna” and I hit send. And then, still incensed, I sent another tweet to my followers, reiterating that illegal downloading of books is stealing, although I did not use the word “thief.” It was retweeted, with embellisments, to my knowledge, exactly 11 times.

    Shortly after, Jane Litte mentioned that perhaps Shayna Englin was referencing the TOS that allow for multiple users on the same account. I tweeted back saying, it didn't read that way to me. Then Ms. Englin posted a blog clarifying that she was using her friend's account, and I wrote on her blog (something I rarely do) thanking her for her clarification and explaining how close to home this issue hits authors. After that, one person retweeted my original tweet and I instantly twittered a correction, explaining to her that Ms. Englin had done nothing wrong and that I had misinterpreted the article.

    I will say publicly for those of you still around to hear it: I am not opposed to ebooks. I am not opposed to sharing books. I am not opposed to libraries, used books stores, ebay resellers of print books, free excerpts or anything else that gets my very hard work into reader's hands. I am merely opposed to piracy, which as many, many, many people have said today, is a real issue for those of us trying to make a living as writers.

    I have given away hundreds of books – many to those very people who posted here today — and I have worked tirelessly to convince my publisher to make one of my RITA-nominated novellas free to readers, as I firmly believe that my work is my best marketing tool. I have done booksignings at used book stores, have blogged about my love of the UBS, and have made multiple appearances at libraries, all at my own expense.

    I am deeply sorry if my tweet offended anyone, particularly Jane, whom I consider a friend and professional associate. I stand behind my interpretation of the article as it was written, and my message to Ms. Englin explaining my position, and, most of all I thank the many people who wrote privately to me today. Authors who want very much to support me, but fear being added to something I never heard of until today: “a do not buy list.”

    I hope this passes, soon. I have books I'd like to write and share with many readers.

  181. Blue Tyson
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 18:10:16



    I did not say anything about a subscription, at all. You misunderstand. All I was talking about was single purchases of books. (If you don’t know what webscriptions actually is, go have a look for 5 minutes, it will be worth it – it is single or multiple book sales, sometimes in advance). If you thought that meant subscription, you were wrong.

    Your Stephen King comment is endemic of publishing thinking – stuck in the past.
    Note that King (smarter than most) had a Kindle only exclusive novella just recently – who among you would swap his sales of that for one of your book’s sales?

    How about Riding the Bullet? The ‘failed’ subscription (The Plant) you talked about, most of you would kill for. You know why he stopped it? Publisher greed pretty much. He was selling it as desired, then for the next piece the publisher decided to double the price – so they lost a good percentage of buyers. Changing the rules, so to speak.

    Also, equating what might happen to a run of the mill author with average talent and appeal (neither of which apply to an extreme outlier such as King) is also a mistake, economically and mathematically. Plenty of other example of serials on the web, too, if you care to look.

    The $1.99, $2.99.. etc. example was just a suggestion that age based pricing for a connected series of books is an experiment that could be tried.

    Further, why is what happened 10 years ago relevant to any degree to now? If you don’t think things have changed much, I’d suggest your analysis is faulty. Analysis is again a significant publishing failing, compared to other industries.

  182. Caligi
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 18:13:37

    You’re still qualifying your apology.

    I still think it was wrong to equate sharing with friends – violating Amazon’s ToS or no – with piracy. She shouldn’t have needed to defend herself to you.

    I’ll never buy your books, but I wouldn’t have anyways. I hate romantic suspense. So no flouncing here.

  183. Robin
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 18:16:37


    I'd like to say I'd never download a pirated book, because I never have, but I am a weak-willed person of questionable morals. I cheat, I speed, I lie, I got thrown out of the 6th grade. I'm a bad egg sometimes. I think that if books were not available to me in a format I liked – which is ebook, and epub specifically – at a price I was willing to pay, I would probably do something shifty to get it or not get it at all. There's a lot of truth to the “tighter control = more piracy” and I'm the asshole that makes it possible.

    This is one of my favorite paragraphs in the whole discussion; thanks for a really entertainingly written passage and a much needed laugh.

    If they didn't want to deal with the PR fallout, they should not have risked the exposure in the first place. Professionals weigh the need to air their opinion against the possible negative effects the attention will get them.

    This is always the part I struggle with the most; how do you call out this kind of thing without a) doing what these authors did, and b) chilling authentic debate. I definitely think Jane avoided the first problem in her piece, but I’m afraid that chilling still occurs because the extremist voices scare off the moderate ones. So some moderate authors become afraid that they will be tarred with the same brush if they speak up at all. And I hate that.

    By the same token, though, what happened in this case was so shocking and horrifying to me, I can’t imagine not addressing it. And assuming all of us are adults, at some point everyone is responsible for speaking out or not speaking out, and I’m not sure what it would take for authors who aren’t comfortable speaking out to do so. Still, I know there are going to be authors who will take away a message that they can’t say anything without being challenged. Hopefully, however, the more we have these kinds of discussions, and the more we can get past the name-calling and the fear-based reactions and the mutual suspicion and distrust, the safer we can make the playing field.

    @DMcCunney: Great comment. You articulated so many insights I believe time will age into accepted wisdom.

    We all have our fears about things we don’t feel we can control in our lives, but I sometimes feel that the piracy paranoia has become so ubiquitous that it has overshadowed every positive effect we voracious readers and book-buyers have on the genre fiction markets. It may not be as simple as “don’t hate war; love peace” (aka don’t fear piracy; cultivate reading), but would that be such a bad place to start?

  184. Diana
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 18:51:48

    @Roxanne St. Claire: That’s one heck of a non-apology, I have to say. All in all, though, how hard is it to say, for any of these authors, just – sorry, really guys, I’m sorry…? Without the snark or the lofty condescension?

    I also want to point out the Times, a respectable bastion of news as it may be, is not infallible. It sensationalizes news items at times and gets the facts wrong on occasion. Hopefully, this is a lesson to all authors out there: research is your friend and also, THINK before you tweet/blog/lose your cool on a forum.

  185. GrowlyCub
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 19:03:27


    I am just mystified by this. Clearly I have a poor grasp of what's insulting, since I don't know what I said that's so deeply cutting. I can't apoligize, since I have no idea what I'd be apologizing for. Tell you what-just don't buy books by anyone named Eileen, and then you can be sure you haven't contributed to my coffers.

    Your lack of professionalism is truly and utterly astounding. Do you really feel you are behaving appropriately? And would you behave like this to my face and those of the other readers present here?

    Do you feel safe, hiding behind your ‘alias’? I hope you are aware that it’s fairly easy for a savvy person to expose who you are via IP tracking. Are you sure you want to say stuff like the above where your readers can see how you really feel about them?

    It’s truly amazing to me the amount of disdain and contempt authors obviously have for their readers and have shown today and yesterday. What a truly discouraging revelation that’s been.

    Shoutout to Susanna Kearsley and the other authors who have not behaved like total idiots. We readers appreciate you!

  186. Robin
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 19:08:12


    That's one heck of a non-apology,

    But she *did* directly apologize, at least.

    I don’t believe that the author reaction yesterday would have been okay, even if every word quoted as Englin’s had been true. And I wish, oh how I wish, that authors would not let their fears about electronic texts alienate law-abiding readers. I wish copyright was better understood, that the market was better, that authors felt more in control of their rights and of how to negotiate the digital market (publishers, too). And boy would I love it if we could once and for all distinguish sharing from piracy in such a way that they were not routinely conflated every time an issue like this comes up. I truly believe that all of these things would lead to more robust earnings by authors. But since I have no control over any of that, all I can do is register my frustration at what occurred yesterday, and say also that I’m really grateful for authors who spoke out against the hysteria yesterday and for those who have publicly apologized today, including St. Claire.

  187. Rachel Caine
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 19:09:33

    @Blue Tyson: That’s most of the problem. The research, on ALL fronts of this issue, is murky at best.

    Sorry that I misread webscription as subscription. That was my error totally. I was reading in haste, and I got it wrong.

    In citing the King example I was just citing an example I was personally familiar with, as I was in the original subscription.

    Here’s a better one: I put a novel out for free on my website. It’s one that’s out of print, and one that never got wide distribution in the first place. I promoted it as a donation only work, both on my website and on Scribd. I said that people could donate whatever they wanted to, but that if donations reached $1000 by the end of the year — which I think you’ll agree ain’t going to particularly blow the doors off of things — I would donate HALF of that amount to the Kids Need to Read Foundation.

    To date, I haven’t even broken $200.

    Maybe people don’t care for the book, which is fine — I like it, but I don’t expect anyone else to like my work, ever. But c’mon, a buck for charity, ‘k?

    But when I look at the number of hits to the INTERIOR chapter pages vs. the number of people who donate (to ensure that people aren’t just hitting the opening and walking off), it’s the best direct evidence I’ve seen yet that this model doesn’t really work. The Scribd stats say the document’s had 1355 reads, too, via their site.

    I’m going to donate the money anyway, because it’s a good cause. But it would have been nice if my gesture of goodwill had actually had a better effect. I can honestly say that I have tried the model, with a 100,000 word piece of work, with the best of intentions, and this is what happened.

    True fact.

  188. Miki
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 19:13:29

    You know, I didn’t have a problem with Ms. St. Claire’s apology. It could be, because I only today had to deal with TWO separate issues of my shooting off my mouth…and then having to apologize later, once I discovered I didn’t have all the facts. Some days I’m just a hot-head. God forbid I ever ended up in a career (like writing, or politics) where someone is always watching to see if I fall flat on my face.

    As to the rest of it, what can I add that hasn’t already been said?! Wow! This was a great post and I fully agree with feeling tired of the presumption of guilt when it comes to ebooks.

    People have mentioned the Nook – one thing I’m not so sure on is, if I read the language correctly, the book can be loaned ONE TIME ONLY. I just don’t think that’s enough. In my personal life, I share print books (well, I did, before I started buying only digital books) with four or five co-workers. They share back with me. (And we all try to make sure “Mary” gets them last, since she smokes and the books STINK when she gives them back).

    I’ve been converted to a purchaser by my friends’ favorite authors. Converted a few friends to some of mine. And some, I’ll never buy, and only ever borrow…or pass on. Assuming I can find more than one person willing to have the Nook (I have a Sony PRS600, one friend has a Cybook Gen3, another has the Sony PRS505, and another two have eBookwise readers), I’d really rather be able to share with more than just one of them.

  189. Sandi
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 19:30:54

    @Roxanne St. Claire:

    Thank you, Roxanne, for explaining and taking the time to clarify what happened. There are always two sides to every story. I can’t imagine the work it takes to write a book but I can understand your desire to protect your work and the work of your fellow authors. Your classy response speaks volumes about your character.

    What’s that saying? To err is human, to forgive divine? Perhaps we should all practice a little more forgiveness.

  190. Blue Tyson
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 19:32:39


    A novel giveaway is a different thing to the donate or you don’t get the next bit of a serial model, too. Not the same thing as your King serial example, at all. Also not new work, either.

    So you have not tried King’s model.

    Analytical failure again? :-)

    The ‘this is for charity’ part, as opposed to ‘this is for me’. What interest would your non-American readers have in any American charity? Those with no interest in children, etc.? Answer for me (as one of your readers) for example, is zero. Would have more interest in paying you for it – does that hold true for more people than it doesn’t? That may have been a more successful approach – and you could have donated the money anyway if you wanted to.

    The more general interest comparison is stuff that asks for money for the writer – e.g. what Lawrence Watt-Evans has done. Another author that absolutely is one of the run of the mill types.

  191. Robin
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 19:52:06

    @Rachel Caine: I have no doubt that your intentions regarding the charity donation were good, but I agree with Blue Tyson that you ultimately weren’t giving away the book for free. As for your conclusion of failure, I don’t understand it, since IMO the goal of a free book is to encourage purchase of paid works. Since IMO you posted a for-pay work, and one that might engender a certain resentment in readers who don’t want their money going to charity (I know it probably sounds strange to you, but people tend to be very picky and very emotional about feeling compelled, even indirectly, to donate).

    But when I look at the number of hits to the INTERIOR chapter pages vs. the number of people who donate (to ensure that people aren't just hitting the opening and walking off), it's the best direct evidence I've seen yet that this model doesn't really work. The Scribd stats say the document's had 1355 reads, too, via their site.

    Can you explain what you mean here; I can’t tell if you mean that not a lot of people read the book or that not a lot of people downloaded it and donated.

  192. Barbie Furtado
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 19:54:36

    You know, first I’d like to say that boycotting an author because of something they personally did, or said or whatever, is about one of the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard. When I read a book, I don’t care about the person who wrote it. They could be a 90 year old who killed 57 women during their life. If they tell a good story, I’m reading it, whether they’re someone I admire personally or not.

    Having said that, what I found most interesting about this whole post was while the author was really quick to post the comment in which Roxanne St. Claire said that what Mrs. Sayna Englin did was illegal, the author of the post didn’t bother to take a print screen of her apology, because anyone who’s following St. Claire on Twitter, saw that she apologized right after she realized her misinterpretation of the facts. But, when people want to sensationalize an opinion, like the media itself do, they only post half the facts, and end up leading people to take wrong conclusion’s about one’s character and motivations, just as it happened to Mrs. Englin.

    I happen to know Roxanne St. Claire, and I’m proud to call her a friend. The most interesting thing I have to say about that, though, considering the nature of this blog post, is that the first time we ‘spoke’, was after I sent her an email, about book piracy, nonetheless, in which I openly admitted to her having downloaded illegally all of her books, not because I’m some cold hearted person, with no consideration for authors (even because I want to be an author myself some day), but because in the country where I live her books aren’t available for sale, and I simply cannot afford to buy her books. Mrs. St. Claire could’ve told me to go to hell, get some shame and never contact her again. But what did she do instead? She told me she understood my situation and that she didn’t judge me. I replied and she replied, and she became one of my closest, dearest friends. She’s sent me her new released book for free, for she knew I wouldn’t be able to buy it myself. We’ve been friends for a while now, and, we’ve talked about piracy more than once. We’ve disagreed about it, too. But Roxanne never vilified or judge me for it, because it’s simply not the kind of person she is. And, here, she’s being judged and ‘threatened’ to be boycotted because of something she posted in the spur of the moment, something a sensationalist headline led her to believe. What is it, again? “He who’s never sinned cast the first stone?”.

  193. Bianca
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 19:57:41

    Funny how some authors that lashed out at Englin are now playing it off being either snarky or like the author never called her out in Twitter. It’s cool if everything is settled and all, but holy shit, pretending it never happened and not even an apology is complete bullsh*t. Really, I know a few authors have stepped up and apologized for mistaking the article, nicely explaining with a professional manner, like Roxanne St. Claire and Crystal Rain (sp?). Englin implied she’s being burned by emails accusing her of being a thief and she only gets an apology or three?

    I honestly can’t say I understand how author sales work and all, but instead of worrying over copyright issues and piracy online, shouldn’t they be glad that people like Englin are sharing their books? Not illegally, and when an friend loans me a book, I buy a copy for myself so I have my mine and don’t keep asking her to lend me more. Okay, so authors do worry about piracy, I get that. But don’t think that the majority of Kindle owners are all thieves. As someone said, Kindle owners can’t refund the book if they like or hated the book.

    But hey, that was a long line of comments I read that I just add my two cents.

  194. GrowlyCub
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 20:00:55

    If we are talking alternative ways of making money for authors aka storyteller’s bowl, I want to mention Sharon Lee and Steve Miller who successfully serialized two books at $300 a chapter (roughly 70+ chapters in all). They thought they’d seed it and then have weeks to months until the next $300 had accrued. Not so. I think they were scrambling to keep up with donations at 1 chapter a week, (except for b-days, cons, anniversaries where we got 1 chapter in 2 or 3 weeks) within a month or so of starting this.

    I can be done successfully, but you have to know your audience and you have to deliver a product said audience is interested in. The Lee/Miller serialization was free for everybody, nobody was forced to donate, but unless somebody donated, no new chapters were forthcoming (NOT a problem in this case). As an added bonus, readers who donated at least $25 were promised a signed copy of the book if it were ever to find a publisher and voila I received my signed copy a few weeks ago, not even 2 years after the project began.

    ETA: And the second book will be released in April ’10 and they have delivered the next book in the Liaden universe and been contracted to write another one… that’s what you can do with loyal readers, if you appreciate them as they appreciate you!

  195. Jess Granger
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 20:01:45

    Well, here are my thoughts for what they’re worth.

    #1 DRM Stinks. Hate it. It only gives people headaches, and it doesn’t do anything productive. Pirates always hack it, so that’s not the solution. For all the ebook readers out there, I’m with you. DRM is a load.

    #2 I like sharing. I became a romance reader because my friends shared with me books that were given to them by their aunt, who used to send them by the box load. I became a loyal romance reader, now author, and I’ve certainly put my money into the collective pot of the romance reading industry. Sharing is a good thing, and I’m glad that ebook devices are now including ways to share. I can’t call a sharer a thief without writing hypocrite across my forehead with a big ‘ol fat sharpie. So I’m not going to do it. I’ve never broken copyright law by sharing a book, and I want ebook readers to have ways of sharing where they are in the right as well.

    #3 I want to give a big old hug to all my ebook buyers. I know my print run isn’t very big, but if enough people buy the ebook, hey! I’ve done more than the limit of my print run would have allowed. There’s nothing stopping me from selling a million copies of the ebook form of my release, and I like to think the possibility that could happen is pretty awesome, unlikely, but awesome. Ebook readers rock. I’ll do what I can to help facilitate access to my ebooks. If there’s more I could do, let me know. I’m open to suggestions.

    #4 The ebayers creating illegal copies, and pirates who upload libraries of books as a free for all are scumbags and should be publicly scorned and humiliated. End of that point.

    #5 When I read the anger coming from authors, I felt sad, so I added to the conversation by trying to clarify who I thought the real bad guys in the pirate schemes are. What disheartened me about the article is that the only thing the author of the article said about ebook piracy was about sharing, unless there was a second page I didn’t see. He missed the opportunity to shine a light on the mass pirates out there, because it was convenient to use the conversation he had with Ms. Shayna Englin to put in a point about piracy instead of actually talking about real nasty dirty piracy. That’s a disservice.

    #6 It is good to have this discussion as a community. It is a discussion that needs to get out there. When all of us who want good things to happen for the romance industry band together, we can solve problems. I believe that. So let’s come together and try to think of some solutions instead of getting nasty on one another.

  196. Kim
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 20:14:53

    @Barbie Furtado

    Normally I’d agree on buying a book and not caring about the author as long as it’s an awesome read. But I have to say that there are certain times when I do stop buying an author’s book when he/she has said or have done something. Little tidbits that’s enough to make an impact that I stop buying regardless of the series. One author openly bashed a reader on her review that said the author’s book was not likeable. When an author does that to a reader because, say, there’s somebody who doesn’t like the book she wrote, then yes, I stop buying. I don’t give a damn what people think when I do that. I am a reader and I buy their books. It’s always a hit or miss even when knowing what the book is about. If the author doesn’t show respect to her readers who BOUGHT the book but hated it, I give the author up. No respect to readers, no book buying for me. Come on, an author shouldn’t expect everyone to like their book. I know some authors have done the same (we can actually see what you wrote, be it a comment or copy and paste in a blog) by flaming a reviewer/reader. Not cool or professional at all. So yeah, there are some lines drawn when it comes to that.

  197. Caligi
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 20:18:53

    @Barbie Furtado:

    I do like Orson Scott Card’s books, even though he’s just, uh, something else, so I buy his books used when I see them.

    That’s sort of how it works. If you don’t like someone, you find a way to not give them your money.

  198. azteclady
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 20:53:29

    @Barbie Furtado: Funny you are just now discovering the “not buy” thing. I’ve been around the online romance community (lurking or commenting) for a fair few years, and it was old when I got here.

  199. Bianca
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 21:44:33

    @Barbie Furtado

    I was directed to this topic by one customer on Amazon’s Romance forum. I just wanted to comment on your “that the blog (Dear Author) blew completely out of proportion.”

    I understand you are standing up for your friend. That’s fine with me but that comment made me twitchy. Other than Dear Author’s blog about the subject and after Mrs. St. Claire’s apology, what I think was that Dear Author was saying what the authors were doing in response. The topic was blown out of proportion with misunderstandings, yes, but by rallying against Englin with numerous twitter backlashes with others by proclaiming her wrong doing and illegal activites, yeah, not so much. Because of their twittering, there were numerious, “illegal! thief! shame on you!” and I’m glad there are people defending Ms. Englin. You have to understand what respones she also had to go through because of the author’s twitter.

    ETA : So really, Dear Author was also pointing out the mean comments that was directed to the woman. It seemed unfair with all the authors twittering to her bout that. But, apologies and all make up for it then, I guess, I don’t know.

  200. KristieJ
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 21:54:44

    @Caligi: First off – I don’t know most of the authors who were involved. I have a few Roxanne St. Claire books – some I’ve enjoyed, one that I didn’t and a number I haven’t read yet. So to make things clear – there is nothing between us. But I strongly disagree with your take. To me, I don’t see it as a qualifying – I see it as an explanation as to how things went down.

    And to Diana who wrote “That's one heck of a non-apology, I have to say. ”

    What part of “I will start with the deepest apology to Shayna Englin, and hope this forum is public enough, although I'm happy to dedicate a book to her if that will express just how profoundly sorry I am that I tweeted before I did as many have suggested I should have, and contacted the New York Times to verify their facts. Shame on me for assuming that the Times was accurate.”


    I am deeply sorry if my tweet offended anyone, particularly Jane, whom I consider a friend and professional associate.
    is the non-apology??????

    Truly – I get real tired of this ‘author vs reader’ bashing. I didn’t follow the thing on Twitter but the way I see it – some authors screwed up. They jumped the gun on their reactions. The article was poorly written. They apologized to Ms. Englin. She accepted.
    We ALL screw up. I dare say there isn’t One. Single. Poster. on this thread who hasn’t screwed up in their lives. There isn’t One. Single. Poster. who hasn’t wished they hadn’t said something they wished they could call back, who hasn’t written something and hit send and then wished they had sat on their hands.
    We all make mistakes. But before you beat your chests and declare I will NEVER buy this authors books because they acted before they thought – try and remember that you probably did the acting before thinking too.

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