Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Having written a six book series about thieves, it strikes me as ironic to learn that my books are being stolen.

Robin, who keeps a vigilant eye on the real world while I play in Elan, informed me that all three of my novels are being illegally distributed across the Internet. In addition to the printed versions, all three books are available in Kindle and eBook formats, and it appears that individuals have used the eBooks, intended for use with mobile readers such as Stanza, Palm and computers, to copy and offer as free downloads. This is not a singular incident to be sure. Various independent sites have been discovered to be doing this.

I’m not the only one of course. Gail Martin, Patrick Rothfuss, Brandon Sanderson, Joe Abercrombie, Neil Gaiman, Stephenie Meyer, and many more are all being pirated. This is the same problem that musicians and moviemakers face—the idea that everything offered on the net should be free.

I’m not exactly certain how to take this. I can’t say I like the idea of people giving away work that I am trying to sell. On the other hand—look at the company I’m in! I don’t know of any other independent titles being pirated. Is there some invisible line I’ve crossed that raised a flag saying The Riyria Revelations are now worth stealing? I’m also not losing the kind of revenues that these other authors might be, but perhaps I’m facing a larger percentage.

Part of me is pleased I have joined this fraternity. The more people who read my book the better—even if I don’t get paid—and there isn’t all that much difference between these sites and a library, except you have to return the books and you can’t copy them repeatedly and distribute them on street corners. So yeah, it’s not quite the same thing.

I recall something happening with Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series and a bit of pirating. As far as I understand it, Meyer planned to have Midnight Sun published some time shortly after the release of Breaking Dawn, but part of the rough draft was leaked and distributed on the Net. As a result, Meyer chose to delay the project indefinitely. So apparently this isn’t something new at all—just new to me.

While I can track each site down and ask them to remove the books, and some may do so, that is a bit like playing Whack-a-Mole. And at this point it could be argued that these sites are disseminating the books to an audience who might otherwise not read them. Very likely, those who are inclined to buy my books in dead-tree version are not about to skip the feel of paper and the sheen of that glossy painted cover for the chance to read it on screen or drain their printer dry of ink. Kindle sales don’t look to be hurting either. And realistically, like the lone and determined gunman, there’s really no way to stop them. I even seem to recall someone personally sat down and translated the—then—latest Potter book into French and offered them online in lieu of an official version.

Still I could make it harder. I could simply discontinue the eBook versions for the remaining three novels of the series. Kindle, who encodes their files, would still be available, and I might be able to manage to offer the LRF format native to Sony Readers, but all other versions would be cut off. This might not plug the hole entirely. A really determined fellow could use a scanner to read the books into text, but that’s a lot harder to do and requires equipment. Would someone really go through that kind of effort for Riyria?

I’m still not certain what I want to do, if anything, but I suppose at the very least I will ensure that eBook versions will be drastically delayed.

I would like to hear opinions, if anyone has any. Should free downloads be tolerated? Should those who properly pay for books on their mobile devices be punished for the actions of those who do not? Should some readers get the books free while others pay? Should I just be flattered? Should I refuse to release the last book out of spite? Should there be a law against people reading novels on such tiny screens that they might incur eyestrain?

Talk to me I’m listening.


  1. Hi, I have been following your work and am doing a piece on you at my blog. I wanted to know if you would like an interview to accompany it? pic of the novel and yourself. (ami)

  2. Thanks for posting.

    I would be happy to be interviewed Ami, and you are welcome to use images of the books and me. You can find what you are looking for at my website, or the Ridan site. (Links for both are on the side bar here.)

  3. I think Cory Doctorow said this, that authors should not fear piracy; they should fear obscurity. Please don't punish your fans and real customers by reacting against online pirates. I think the scenario that would cause you greatest harm (one where people want to buy your books but didn't because they can now download illegal copies) is less prevalent than some other scenarios (people who haven't heard of you now trying out your books, and people who wouldn't pay for your books anyway now trying out your books--both of these good things).

  4. You are in a lose-lose situation with this piracy question. Whether you decide to let the piracy continue or take actions to stem it, you are the one that loses. The pirates give the material away, and don’t stand to loose anything from any action you take. Piracy is always going to be one step ahead no matter how aggressively the publisher/author’s attempts to hinder the thieves. Until the industry comes up with a foolproof method for E-publishing I say being magnanimous is probably the approach that leaves you in the best light from the readers point of view. That being said, readers will still pay for your material whether you take a hard line on piracy or not. As long as you keep writing books like the Riyria series you are only going to get bigger.

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