Ebook Piracy…Is it worth the risk to save a few bucks?

Recently, I came across a site that had about six of my ebooks, from short story to long novel, and all for the same price of $1.50. They were illegally selling my books. *Cue angry growls*

But what was obvious to me might not be so apparent to the average reader. Why? Because everybody loves a good deal. I think it’s in our nature to research products before we buy, and when we come across a site that has what we want at a discount, we think we’ve hit the jackpot. Unfortunately, when it comes to ebooks, that’s just not always the case. Before I explain how honest people can not only break the law, but also open themselves up to victimization, I’m going to touch on what the concept is.

What is ebook piracy? In layman’s terms, it’s illegally sharing ebook files. Yes, there are companies out there that illegally copy said files and sell them…and even brag about it. Since ebooks gained momentum several years ago with the release of Kindle and Nook, piracy has become a major problem in the publishing industry. Large publishers have dedicated personnel that research and send take down notices on a regular basis. But if you’re indie published or published with a small publisher, good lord! The time it takes to research your Google alerts, send notices to the illegal sites, follow up, and get your books off the site… only to have them show up later when the company reinvents itself as another entity…is a maddening and very rarely successful process.

There are average people out there that illegally download books and know it. That’s unfortunate. Bottom line, it’s stealing. The majority of authors do not make enough money with their books to support themselves. They either work another job and write whenever they can (I’m in this category) or live in a household where his or her spouse works the full-time job while the author writes and tries to make enough money to contribute to the budget. Until the piracy problem within the publishing industry gets the same treatment as the music industry (Napster anyone??), those that willfully steal ebooks will continue to feel justified in their reasoning. I can’t do anything about that. My goal here is to educate the unsuspecting buyer…because you could get much more than you bargained for, and no book to show for it.

The short story I mentioned that’s on the illegal site for $1.50? It’s FREE on the legitimate sites. Yes, I have it for free. So not only are they taking money out of my pocket, they are taking money from my unsuspecting readers, too. But it gets better—or worse. After some investigation, we learned that site isn’t a piracy site after all (or not ONLY a piracy site). It’s a phishing site. Phishing is the act of acquiring personal information, like a credit card number, through bogus (though seemingly legitimate) companies…and you can only guess what’ll happen then. If some unsuspecting person purchased a book there because it was $1.50 cheaper than Amazon’s price, that miniscule savings could have cost a ton in unauthorized charges and headaches. Oh, and that site never send the books that were test purchased.

“But Mandy, I downloaded a free book from a file sharing site that you also have free on Amazon…that’s okay, right?” Wrong. Without getting into the nuts and bolts of sales and rankings, downloading anything from an unauthorized distributor doesn’t help me… or any author. Whether it’s a free promotion, a permanently free book, or one greatly discounted for a limited time, these are all marketing endeavors authors and publishers plan in an effort to boost sales, increase rankings, spread name recognition, etc. Not only do we lose the income from the reduced/free price, but often times we pay a lot of money to advertise and track those downloads and other sales to see what works and what doesn’t. If books are downloaded illegally, we can’t track them. Period. There’s a reason why I don’t have my free books available on my website. But I’m digressing. 🙂

You know the saying, “If it’s too good to be true…” and it definitely applies here. When in doubt go with a retailer you trust. And if you’re still unsure, check the author’s website and social media stuff. If they are doing a promo, they’ll be spreading the word. Plus you could just always ask. I’m fairly certain authors would be thrilled if you asked them about a certain retailer, rather than downloading from a shady one…because we’re not the only ones with something to lose.