(pic courtesy of Etirv!)
If I love a book, I tell my friends. I loan out my copy so others can enjoy it as well. I hope my friends will love it as much as I did and go look for the author's backlist. As an author, I'm totally thrilled when someone tells me they have shared their copy of my book with others. First, because it's a huge compliment and second because it's the absolute best way for an author to build a readership.
But what if that book was an ebook or pdf? Is it wrong to attach it to an email and send it to your cousin in Tallahassee?
What if someone was offering hundreds of titles online to people they don't know?
At that point, in my mind, even if the pirate is offering the ebooks for free, it becomes a theft.
As more publishers are turning to electronic methods of delivering their books, e-piracy is becoming more of a problem. My friends who write paranormal or erotic romance are more likely to be pirated than historical authors, but I have seen tons of Amanda Quick titles offered online. As more and more readers get comfortable with ebooks, epiracy will become a bigger problem.
I think part of it is that readers have been used to sharing books for so long, they don't see a difference between loaning one to a friend and offering pdfs to their entire Myspace friend list.
But the difference to the authors involved can be crippling. The only time a writer earns royalties is when a book is sold new. We earn nothing on used book sales (though I totally support used book stores. It's a great way for a reader to try a new author with very little risk. We hope a reader will enjoy the used one enough to buy the next release new!) Certainly nothing is earned on free downloads. Ebook piracy hasn't affected me much yet since historical readers tend to like a paper book in their hands, but several of my friends have lost a lot of sales to the pirated copies.
Occasionally, publishers offer a free download title from an author's backlist as a way to increase interest in an upcoming release. I downloaded a Sherilon Kenyon novel this way. This is something very different and perfectly legal. In this case, the publisher hopes the download will go viral and be sent from one reader to the next.
But how can we as readers know how an ebook got out on the web? Is there a way to tag something as a legitimate download? What do you think about this issue?