Want to read a book for free? Don’t we all! Twice in the past week I was reminded of this by young fans.
First, a young reader emailed me asking if I knew any websites where she could read 1915 for free.
A few days later, another young reader told me she had read Roses are Blue online. This lead me to Google and sure enough I found a site where people could read Roses are Blue for free. The gorgeous young girl who told me about it had no idea that the online version was pirated – and I’m really glad that she told me, and also that this gave me an opportunity to chat with her about why such sites are problematic.
It’s wonderful that kids want to read my books, and I get that often readers can’t afford to buy the books they are interested in reading. But I do wonder if readers, young and not-so-young realise that sites that offer free scans of books (whether in pdf or ebook formats) are illegal, and that this is a form of piracy.
The pirates who share books online think that they are doing the world a favour. After all, authors and publishers are rich, and books are too expensive, so why not just put the books online for free? And the readers who download them, as I’ve said, may not know that it is stealing, and, if they do, they may also feel that it’s okay because authors are rich.
So, here in simple terms is why you shouldn’t read books through pirate sites (or, for that matter, upload books to those sites):
- As a reader, you miss out on quality. Often the scans are not high quality, so illustrations are dull, text is fuzzy and overall, production is missing. A scanned copy is not the same as a legitimate ebook (ie one produced by the publisher, and that you pay for).
- Authors are, almost without exception, not rich. When you do buy a copy of a book through legitimate channels, the author gets only a dollar or two per book sold. That’s an awful lot of books that would need to be sold every year just to allow the author to pay rent, buy food and so on. When you deprive the author of that dollar, s/he gets poorer.
- When authors and publishers earn money from the books you buy, this enables them to go on writing and publishing more good books. So, if nobody buys books, then this threatens the supply of more well written books with high production quality.
- Books are already available to you for free. At the library. Libraries are free to use, and if they don’t have the book you want, will usually get it in for you. And while you are there borrowing the book you want, you have the chance to find out about a whole lot of other books.
- I’ve said it already but I’m going to say it again – authors are not rich. We are as generous as we can be with our time and our talents, but we do also have families to feed and mortgages to pay. When you steal our book it hurts. When you borrow it from a library, our heart sings because we still get income from the library purchasing the copy, and from a compensation scheme called Lending Rights.
- Lastly, books may seem expensive, but if you compare the cost of a book with the cost of a trip to the movies, or a new tshirt, or a takeaway meal, and consider the value of something which can last so much longer than any of these, then a book is a bargain.
I’m not attacking my two young readers. Neither realised that what they were doing was wrong, and I hope my responses to them educated them but didn’t make them feel ashamed. It’s a shame that this seems to be a growing issue, and one that so many people don’t understand. If you, or someone you know, uses pirate sites to steal books – please reconsider.