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.

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