Saturday, July 26, 2014

Pirating Military Books

A few weeks ago I stumbled across one of my books scanned and put up on a "legit" web storage site for anyone to download for free. The company took it down (actually two different copies) within 24 hours, but not after I could see many hundreds of people had accessed it. This is a book in which my royalties from last year were negligible.

Thing is, due to the low sales it almost went out of print. Actually it did, but it should be back soon. I can only assume that ones I found were only a tiny part of what is out there, and if only a few of the people who have downloaded copies had actually bought the book, not only might it have easily stayed in print, but that might have encouraged the publisher to put more similar books into print (from other people).

What really struck me was in looking at the uploader's files, I saw dozens (and dozens of dozens) of obviously pirated books from many different military publishers. Some by people I know, publishers I know, or know of. This led me to the guy's "favorites" and "friends" list, which had even more illegal titles.

I started surfing from one list to another, taking note of URLs and titles, and finding everything from just about every Osprey book ever printed, some textual military history volumes, to some pretty expensive, big, fancy, color military collectibles books.

I started sending the URLs to authors and publishers. Some thanked me, some basically sighed and said "oh it never ends," some seemed to be almost angry at me for telling them. The thing is, this was NOT some illegal pirate website under investigation by the authorities- this was a legit "legal" site where you can upload stuff and share it with friends.

 One publisher said, " Oh those are just the preview you can see at Amazon." So I downloaded a few ENTIRE BOOKS and sent them to him saying "look again."  (note: they were books I already own or don't care about and were deleted afterwards).

I emailed the site and asked how they could allow this as anyone with a brain could see these were current copyrighted books. And if they got a complaint about one book in a guy's collection, didn’t it make sense to look at his others and see if maybe they needed to send him a short note saying "hey, do you really have permission to post all of these?"  They decided not answer.

Thing is, as DVDs tell you, piracy is NOT a victimless crime.  Yeah, you think you're screwing "the man," but what you are really doing is screwing the publishing company who depends upon sales to decide who and what to publish. You're screwing whatever book sales place you buy things from (how many specialty military dealers have gone out of business in the last 10 years?), and you're screwing the author who, in the case of a lot of small press military books doesn’t really get paid enough from his sales to cover the actual cost of doing the research. This ends up leading to books you might really want not getting published, and authors who spend a lot of time and care in their work giving up.   

I asked one guy why he did this. His answer was that it is too expensive to get books in his country so when he buys one he scans it and gives it to all his friends, as he feels that is his right as he paid so much for it. What an asshole,.

Besides, it's just plain wrong.

So the next time you stumble upon a book you know is not public domain in some file sharing site, or someone offers to send you a  pdf of a 'cool new book' they just got. Please, tell them no, and let the publisher or author know. It's not that I expect this to stop, but at least in a small field like ours we can do some damage control.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

the great WW1 Doll Challenge

 The great WW1 doll challenge

So… it happens that my (ever tolerant) wife has a fascination for this old French Doll called Bleuette. She was started in 1905 and ran up through the 60's, but the interesting thing about her is that they had a weekly magazine for girls in which they printed a pattern you could sew for her every week.  My wife's hobby is finding copies of these patterns, translating them, and making the patterns available (for free) on the web at .  It's a whole "history of fashion/teaching kids to sew" thing.  I figure she just likes female action figures… In fact as I put up all her patterns on the web, I made the 1914-1918 era horizon blue in background so as to remember the war.

Anyway… they printed the paper right through WW1. In WW2 they had to stop as before the invasion they were a bit mean to the Germans, so when the Germans came in it was stopped. But there are patterns for 1914-18 and illustrations showing how the girl's fashions changed with the war. In 1916 overseas hats were a big deal, and in 1917 American style campaign hats were worn.

And… it happens that there is a club of people that love Bleuette, and every so often they issue "challenges," which means people have to sew something for the doll based on a  theme; polka dots, flowers, the color red… whatever.  Then they all show their creations off, people get some very small prizes, and a good time is had by all.

So… I was just JOKING when I said, let's have a WW1 challenge!  The wife says "no, people probably would not be interested, and besides, you'd want it to end in November and that's too soon after another challenge going on."

"HA!" says I, "It should run for four years to the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, so everyone will have enough time!"  She laughs and thinks that is funny and as a joke posts it on their web board.

Then… So many people say they want to do a WW1 challenge that  I find I have created a monster, work extra to post some more WW1 patterns, and end up buying some wartime issues that came up for sale.

Now... it has long been a quest for me to find a photo of a French girl in WW1 holding one of the actual Bleuettes. Every so often I find a photo with small children holding a doll, but always it turns out to be a different kind. So if anyone has any WW1 photos of girls with dolls, please send me a scan.  There just has to be one out there.  Jonatgawnedotcom.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Books, work, and and angry art

Last week I discovered a "legit" sharing site had some of my books up for free download. They took them down right away when I asked, but the thing is I noticed that people do not just upload one pirated book: they do a lot. So the same guy had tons on his account, and he 'liked' friends that had tons, and so on... So I spent some time wandering from one group to another noting down books by friends or publishers I know (and some I don't know but saw too much abuse). I sent them off email telling them the addresses. A few thanked me, some didn't, and most said "yeah, it's a never ending struggle getting rid of these."

Which is too bad as most of these people don't make a lot per sale, and often don't even recover the cost of doing the book to begin with. If they lose sales through this,  they just decide why bother doing something if it will cost them time, money and effort, and no one cares. 

But anyway, I was really close to finishing off a WW1 book last week, and then I discovered a bunch of new stuff, and decided I could just keep on track and finish, or I could split the book and rework everything. I WOULD have just made it bigger, which is what I always end up doing, however when working in ebooks this is a problem when you start adding in illustrations: i.e. maps. And I have decided the one thing a military book can never have is too many, or too good, maps. So with these restraints I am considering making it so you can hit a link under the in book map and it will take you to (if connected to the web) to a larger, higher resolution copy of the map on the web. It's still not a great solution, but better than nothing.  I still think the Army got it right when they did the original Green Books- a fold out map you can look at while you read. I wonder if the thing to do is make it so people can print out the maps themselves, thus they can more of less do the same thing?

And I have started to find myself more interest in dug brass WW1 artillery fuzes. I have some I have picked up; they used to be basically worthless and everywhere. Now I am looking at them in a new light, but shipping is so damn expensive. Oddly enough, while minty examples are great, I find I have an interest in ones that are damaged by use, and have become accidental works of art. I have a few damaged grenades like that (like a burst WP one) and it is pretty cool. When I collected ACW bullets I found I also had a thing for ones that had mushroomed upon impact. I guess  it must be something about it being actually used, and turned into a very unique piece of what I call "angry art."

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Part 2 - More on Cover Up at Omaha Beach.

So, in short the main idea of this book is that the entire story of the invasion was altered by ignoring the Maisy Coastal Artillery Battery, and the cover up was that someone screwed up and placed a high target value on Point Du Hoe, while ignoring Maisy.  I think to an extent -  yes, and no.

One of the claims made is that it was Ike himself who selected PdH at target #1. And thus he wanted the mess covered up as it was embarrassing.  I doubt this, as I think Ike had a lot more on his plate that to deal with minutia like this. This is what he had an enormous staff for. His Intel guys would come to him and say "here's our plan based upon our best estimate" and he'd OK it.  So I don’t buy that, but figure any errors were made way down on the food chain and it just floated up to the people who needed to approve it.

As to PdH not being a worthy target, I disagree. One of the author's claims is that the Yanks didn’t know the guns were not there. No, not correct. There is ample evidence that the maps given out to the Rangers and others for D-day clearly marked PDH as having the guns removed. In fact, this is why Major Lytle got bent out of shape on 5 June. He knew there were no guns, and he knew they were going get a lot of guys killed for no real reason.   So Rudder relived him, and went ashore to run things himself. Now I have to admit that my own personal feelings are that Rudder made a major error here. I was not there when Lytle was relived, although some Rangers told me what they had heard. Maybe he needed to be, maybe not. But there is a thing in the Army called chain of command. If Lytle was shot in the first minute, there was someone else ready to take over.  Rudder did not need to go. Although he had made a lot of noise previously about wanting to . So to me, in my opinion with what I know, and understanding full well that there may be evidence that has not come forward, I think Rudder screwed the pooch here.

I think he wanted to go ashore in the invasion, and when Lytle got upset/drunk/loud or whatever, he saw it as his moment of glory and stepped into the fray. What this did, was leave the Rangers without a support system off shore to watch out for them. Thus there were issues with naval gunfire support, and resupply.  In my opinion he should have stayed offshore, and done his job as coordinator, then landed when the situation was clear, which would have allowed him to bring in supplies, evacuate wounded and all those things that the Rangers had issues with.

I think the author is also wrong when he says the PdH landing was useless.  Yes, there were no guns there, but there was a key observation point with nice rangefinders linked into the local batteries via buried land lines. The view from this position is pretty good both ways, and if those observers were able to send targeting information to the German batteries it would have been very beneficial for them. The second value of taking PdH is that it is close to the road connecting the two beaches.  I'm not sure if this was a critical position to take, but the Rangers did cut the road, and it proved to be important that they did. And of course they also denied that ground to any German batteries that might have moved up.  The guns the Rangers destroyed behind PdH could easily have been moved up, and tied in to the observation post.  He's got a very interesting reason they weren't, which I think may well be true. But That one I will let you go buy the book and read for yourselves.

As an odd note on the Rangers at PdH. A short while after Spearheading D-day was publishing, I got an odd phone call. It was from a fellow in the southwest that had been a Ranger in the 70/80's. He told me he had hung out with WW2 rangers a lot at their reunions and had always asked them about their operations. Everything he said that I had any knowledge on made perfect sense to me, so my bullshit detector did not go off.  He said he had to call me and let me know I had gotten closest to the truth of anyone. Especially with the relief of Lytle. And he was really impressed I had picked up on that and figured out who it was.  We had a long talk, and he was going to send me some documents, then vanished into the aether.  Oh well. One thing he said that always made me wonder was that he had more than one eye witness to the Rangers being destroyed at Cisterna, and that they had actually been doing well with their night infiltration, until a jeep from a neighboring unit that had gotten lost can up with their head lights on. That's when the Germans were tipped off. I have no idea if this is true or not, but as I said, the guy really did seem to know what he was talking about.  I always wondered if anyone else had heard that story.  And no, I never heard from him again.

So, when I have a minute I am going to post part 3, in which I talk more about the book than what's in it.


Tuesday, July 01, 2014

More D-Day stuff.

Just when you though it was safe to think about Normandy again....
I was going to review the book "Cover up at Omaha Beach" by Gary Sterne, but I found I have a lot to say, so I think I will break this up into segments.
First, what I'll probably end up saying is that if you are interested in Normandy Rangers you need to buy the book. If you are into Omaha Beach stuff you probably should. But I'll get into that eventually, along with the "cover up" and such.
However, there are some interesting things I wanted to talk about first.
I always suspected, but could never prove that the German Artillery guns destroyed inland of PdH by the Rangers were not the ones from the point. It never really made much sense to me, and I figured someone could look at the photos and the PdH gun pits and see if they could be used in them.  Well, case closed- they were NOT the PdH guns just pulled back. So we have that myth busted pretty well.
Something that just jumped off the page at me, which I think I may have seen but never realized, was that he has an Air Force document which indicates that the bombs dropped on the beaches were ordered to use instantaneous fuses, so they would not crater the beach. If they burrowed into the sand a little, they'd make craters, and if they made craters in some of the few exits it would hamper getting vehicles off Utah and Omaha. This makes perfect sense. So I suspect that happened is that the assault units saw in the time table there would bombing just beforehand, and just expected it would crater the area- thus the troops were told that.  
This is not saying that the bombs did not land behind the beach defenses, but that the ol' story of the Air Force was to blame for not cratering the beaches is pretty much busted as well. The only way I think this could be disproven is if someone would pull the air force reports and see if they state exactly what types of fuses were used on the mission. There remains a slight possibility the orders were changed at the last minute, but I doubt it.
In case you did not know, Sterne is that guy that found and bought the Maisey Battery in Normandy to turn into a museum. For some reason this artillery position between Omaha and Utah seems to have been forgotten by pretty much every historian. Probably more of a case of everyone working from someone else's books, and so memory of it disappeared. It's a pretty cool story, and good for him for digging it out (quite literally). 

But guess what? THAT is not the alleged cover up. I'll get to that eventually.