F. Paul Wilson
E-publishing, Part 4: E-looters And The Leech Mindset
As told by Repairman Jack...
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Wilson just now--11:30 a.m. on Feb. 10--logged off ebookr.com where he found 133 e-book editions of almost everything he's written in almost every e-reader format. The site offers unlimited downloads for $14.95 a month. In effect, ebookr.com has declared itself F. Paul Wilson's publisher.
One of many.
The Internet is studded with looter sites that charge nada for downloads. (They do charge, however, for faster bit rates.) Wilson has been running a Google alert since May '08 and has found hundreds offering his work. He has neither the time nor the treasure to send lawyers after them. It's like playing Whack-A-Mole. And how do you get to servers in Vietnam?
On a recent visit to a looter site we found dozens of his titles listed in order of downloads. The Keep came first with 19,725; The Tomb (the first novel with yours truly) followed with the same number. (Hey, if you're gonna grab one, why not grab them both? They're free, right?) The total downloads of the first five titles came to 92,226. We stopped counting there. Wilson has over 40 titles in print. The grand total would have been monumentally depressing. And that's just one site.
Mention this and invariably one of the looter apologists brings up the music model, saying something like, "Look at the Grateful Dead. They let people record them live and share the tapes and it only increased attendance at their shows."
Apples and oranges. The Dead's revenues came from their tours, not their records. Those so-called bootlegs (they can't be real bootlegs if they're sanctioned) advertised their concerts, which were not free. You had to pay to see the Dead live. (No pun intended. Okay, maybe a little.)
An author's published work, on the other hand, is his concert. Giving away a free story or excerpt (and Wilson does this) might draw people in, but if he doesn't make the sale, he doesn't eat. Of course, self-pubbed newbie authors with little prospect of sales might offer free downloads of their work in the hope of gaining an audience for their later work, but it's their own work so they can choose to do what they wish with it.
Another apologist mantra we hear ad nauseam: "A torrent download of a book isn't necessarily a lost sale." Whether that's true or not, so what? The book is not the site's to offer for download, free or otherwise.
As for lost sales, have you ever opened an unsolicited email from a torrent site offering downloads of any author's work? Neither has Wilson. He has downloaded his own work from pirate sites to see what kind of quality they were offering but he had to go looking for them. He had to use Google or Bing to find the sites, then had to search out his titles within those sites.
In other words, you've got to go looking for that free download. Do you go to that trouble if you're not interested?
So maybe it is a lost sale.
"The pirated downloads will introduce people to your work and generate more sales."
This is the most naive. It happens, sure--guys love to justify their behavior in comment sections by saying an illegal download led to them becoming a faithful fan who now purchases everything said author publishes--but really, how many sales do you think were generated by those 92k downloads of Wilson's five titles from that one site?
Once a leech, always a leech. And leeches don't pay for stuff. Our entitlement-addicted society has spawned a horde raised to believe that the world owes them. Owes them what? Everything. Owes them why? Well, because. They have no sense of "mine" and "not mine." Of if they do, their idea of "mine" is in line with Bierce's The Devil's Dictionary: "Belonging to me if I can hold or seize it."
Leeches are obligate parasites who take-take-take; the concept of giving something in return is wholly alien. The Internet has exacerbated the leech mindset by offering so much for free for so long that many of us get downright hostile when we're asked to pay for content. I've seen it in Wilson himself: He'd rather buy a dead-tree edition of the Wall Street Journal than subscribe online.
People behave in patterns. People who steal with no repercussions will continue to steal. (And "steal" is the proper term. What else do you call appropriating someone's work without permission or compensation?) Do you really think someone who steals The Tomb and likes it is going to run to Amazon and pay for Legacies and Conspiracies and the other dozen Repairman Jack e-books when they can steal them just as easily as the first? Are they going to pay even the measly $2.99 price tag Wilson has put on old titles he's uploaded himself when just about every freaking word he's ever written is available for free download?
I don't know about your planet, but that's not about to happen on mine.
So what's the solution? My personal preference is a flame thrower or low-yield nuclear devices, but that's not practical. Parasites are a fact of life and part of the cost of doing business. As long as enough stand-up folks pay their own freight to offset them, the producers and innovators will keep on trucking. We hope.
Repairman Jack is the alter ego of F. PAUL WILSON, an award-winning New York Times bestselling author of more than 40 novels and many more short stories. His work, spanning horror, adventure, medical thrillers, science fiction, young adult, and virtually everything between, has been translated into 24 languages. Currently he is best known as creator of the urban mercenary Repairman Jack.
http://www.repairmanjack.com / Twitter: @fpaulwilson / Facebook: facebook.com/fpaul.wilson