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Sunday, February 03, 2013

Publishing Milestone: Piracy!

Last week, a friend of mine noticed that one of my books was pirated on ScribD. In some ways this is a milestone --- I didn't expect a book whose most valuable chapter is boring tax advice to go through three editions and get as much attention as it did, let alone be worth the trouble to pirate (especially since none of the 3 editions have DRM). It is a testament to the integrity of my early and current readers that this had not happened until now. As the license to my books indicate, you are free to lend, backup, or even resell my books without any penalty. There are many countries that are famous as being "one-book" countries --- meaning that you're only able to sell one copy of the book to the country before it gets pirated wholesale. Yet I've even managed to sell multiple copies to some of those countries.

Different self-published authors have different approaches to the piracy problem. Gayle McDowell's best-selling Cracking the Coding Interview, for instance, has been so frequently pirated in India that she had no choice but to stop selling electronic copies of her book and only sell paperbacks on Amazon with a special cheaper edition for the Indian market. The externalities are clear: the pirate gains access to the book, but the rest of us lose the convenience of buying an electronic book.

For now, the indications are that my books haven't encountered runaway piracy (in India or other places), so I won't be taking any measures that drastic. However, if it does happen, I expect to have to take measures similar to what Gayle's been forced to take.

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