Stealing Books

Paulo Coelho wants you to steal his books.

Coelho has recently announced a partnership with the notorious pirating site, The Pirate Bay, encouraging people to steal everything he has ever written.

The theory’s pretty simple:

“Download my books for free and, if you enjoy them, buy a hard copy”

Apparently Coelho has had some success with this in the past, and he has some theories about why it works:

“If they like the beginning, they’ll buy the whole book the next day, because there’s nothing more tiring than reading long screeds of text on a computer screen.”

I agree with parts of this point. Before eReaders, reading an eBook on a computer was a chore. But now that I have my new Kindle Fire, even without the eInk of the conventional reader, reading a long book is not unpleasant or tiring. As I’ve talked about before, I’m starting to think about clearing out some of my physical inventory in favor of eBooks. If, as Coelho suggests, I stole his books in digital form, I would transfer them to my Fire and be able to read them pleasantly with guilt or honesty as my only motivator for buying his actual product.

That said, I do use samples of books from Amazon to determine if I want to buy a digital book. This week I sampled another book by Noah Lukeman about punctuation. I was able to read the introduction and first chapter to determine if this was a book I wanted to read in its entirety. When I got to the end of the sample, I was one-click away from buying the rest.

Interestingly, one publisher has been giving out entire books for years. Baen puts out a free library of books on its website, as well as distributing a number of Baen Free Library CDs with their books and audiobooks. The CDs can be copied and distributed freely and legally and provide the full text of hundreds of books in a variety of formats. One of my favorite new series is the Honor Harrington series by David Weber, which has a dozen books in the series proper, as well as a number of side books. Has this resulted in me buying books from Baen? Yes, though I did buy them used.

Why does Coelho want people to “pirate” his work instead of putting it out legally in eBook format for free?

Most pirated copies are created through OCR scans of the physical book, or by cracking the encryption of a legitimately distributed eBook. The result is not AS polished as the original, but for many the small differences would not matter. The pirated copy isn’t particularly inferior to any other electronic copy, and on a suitable eReader, is not inferior as a product to the original.

Coelho states that “all writers want what they write to be read, whether in a newspaper, blog, pamphlet, or on a wall“.

I think we can take this as a given. By posting on The Pirate Bay Coelho accomplishes two things:

  • He brings his work to a wider audience.
  • He adds the “mystique” of being associated with something infamous.

I’m not sure how the audience of The Pirate Bay stacks up against that of Amazon, but it is a world audience. eBook pricing on Amazon varies greatly between countries, and makes eBooks unavailable in almost half the world. Other electronic book publishers are similarly restrictive. Even if Coelho put out his book for free on Amazon in America, it might not be free everywhere else due to service fees and other differences in Amazon pricing, and there would be many places he would not be read at all. The Pirate Bay is accessible to all and would be the only way in many cases for people to see his work in the first place.

Now there are other ways to distribute an eBook for free, set up a website, or post in online stores that do service all countries, but none are the one-stop shop of pirating.

Does getting something for free, legally or illegally, motivate you to buy something in return?

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4 Comments

Filed under Books + Publishing, Trube On Tech

4 responses to “Stealing Books

  1. Perhaps he’s trying something similar to Chuck Wendig on terribleminds http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2012/02/01/the-experiment-ends-and-other-news/
    ‘As of late, a number of folks have noticed a phenomenon. You put your work up for free, and then when it once more re-enters paid gravity, suddenly the book becomes a Purchasing Magnet whereupon droves and flocks and herds and gaggles of Amazon readers come out of the woodwork to buy the recently-free book. A lot of authors have been attempting to jump this promotion’s bones (evidenced by the sudden flurry of “My work is free suddenly!” broadcasts).’
    And he doesn’t want to do it through Amazon. What do I know?

  2. Pingback: Publishers Steal | Ben Trube

  3. Pingback: Quit Giving My Books Away For Free! | Ben Trube

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