Monday, March 29, 2010

Book Piracy

What was it, a few weeks ago I was talking about ebooks, the dangers, whatever? Of course the Internet world moves really fast and now, already, it seems someone is pirating my books. For obvious reasons I won't make a link to the site concerned. Nice hey. You spend twenty years banging your head against a wall to learn your trade and finally get your book published, you work non-stop to build a career, then some prick thinks it's quite fine to obtain a copy of your work and give it away. Hey, by all means lend a book to someone, but don't set up a fucking website to give it away to hundreds of people you don't even know! I guess the person doing this feels he is being altruistic, that he's giving a service (which in this case he wants donations for). I feel just like I always feel when someone rips me off; steals my property from me.


LarryS said...

Sorry to hear this Neal-the world is full of little shits these days!

Kirby Uber said...

boo. i was afraid your fb status was meaning ebooks.

this makes me cranky.

Neal Asher said...

I do mean ebooks.

Grim's Reality said...

What a see ya next tuesday. Charging as well, you should be able to to claim every penny he's made, plus costs, and get to drag him around like a Sheq would and feed him likewise.

David Britten said...

Well, this is what happens when 19th Century publishing houses get overtaken by technology and social change. The publishing industry needs to change as well as authors. What you really need is to provide Neal Asher(TM) as a service rather than as a manufacturer of literature. Get your publisher to setup an author subscription service. Your fans pay a subscription to your publisher and when your books come out they automatically get sent a copy. Also they have access to a members web site where they get to talk to you and finally you host an bi-annual party for your subscribers to attend and meet you and chat about your work. The 21st Century is about social interaction. You are the most valuable product not your books. You get a constant income as well as books sales.

Andy said...

People who love reading often share a common trait: we want to have a copy of the books we read on our shelves, certainly the best ones anyway. It's like a trophy, you pull it out at some point after you read it, months or years later, and think about the story and maybe read it again if you can't remember all the finer details, or you can remember all the details and loved it so much you read it again anyway. If I ever borrow a book from someone and really like it, I will at some point buy it myself, sure its probably from a charity shop or such like, but still I have to put in on my self.

With current tech I don't think that book piracy is causing the SF/Fantasy book industry a huge problem. (Does anyone have any reliable independent facts/figures on this?) I'm sure there are plenty of sites offering downloads etc, but I'm thinking about the actual impact on publishers cash flow these site have will be low..

I have a feeling that anyone jacking books from these ebooks sites are the kind of people that would not have bought the book in the first place, but as it's there for free they maybe download it and read a few chapters just to see if they like it.

Personally, with the current ebook technology at least, I cant stand ebooks and much rather have the real thing *a book* in my hands, in my bag, to take on planes, on holiday etc not some other bit of tech that can crash and wipe my data, or run out of power on me.

When ebooks take off properly, I think there needs to be some kind of game changing technology b4 the masses adopt it then perhaps the literacy world will go the same way as the music industry (I guess apple have the right idea with the iPad? They did it faster for mp3s and iPods were smaller are cheaper so penetrated the population faster). Only once the masses have the means to read ebooks as their preferred method of reading will the the big publishers will lose ground to independent writers who can now distribute their material easily are cheaply to millions via the web.

In this possible future the ability to duplicate and distribute material essentially for free is the common ground that ebooks and mp3s share. But there are still important differences; for one music is an instant fix, you plug in and enjoy the song. A good story on the other hand is a large investment of time. I feel that this is a crucial contrast between music/films and reading books in current society where time is so valuable..

One day we might just download a story into our 'gridlinked' brains. But until something like that is possible, or your average non-tech-loving Joe has a ebook reader in his home, I don't think book piracy is going to affect the publishers revenue massively and these large corporations will control what we are offered in the high street.

Who else has an opinion on the matter?

Anonymous said...

Ugh, the guy is trying to make money doing it? What an idiot, he might as well try to blackmail you in a police station.

This is always going to be issue with digital media, there is NO way to protect it. The digital generation is just. The only thing that hasn't been properly cracked is the PS3 and they just disabled linux support... thats a can of kick-assing worms they just opened on them selves.

Jebel Krong said...

meh for a tech guy i really can't see the appeal of an e-book myself... still piracy of any sort sucks, but is a way of life, unfortunately - too many people think they are entitled to stuff for free, and too many (read big studios) think they are entitled to charge outrageous sums for stuff that should be free, or a lot cheaper. as usual it is good people in the middle that get shafted.

Unknown said...

Piracy is an ever looming problem in our internet-based world, but I think some of the problem stems from the DMCA itself (in America, anyway). I read this blog/article:, which seems to sum up the some of the problems. It also suggests to me that, at least some, non-criminal types are simply fed-up with the limits of wayward technology. Again, I'm not suggesting theft is the answer; however, it does seem publishers need a better method of distribution.

Unknown said...

According to my daughter, the Sony PSP has comic book collection that can only be read on the PSP. I'm not sure about the facts behind her statement.

I think publishers should adopt the same mentality. Readers should be able to read ebooks on all ebook readers, yet not be able to read copyrighted books on their computer (through a .pdf program, for instance). It might cut down piracy distribution some.

vaudeviewgalor raandisisraisins said...

"Your fans pay a subscription to your publisher and when your books come out they automatically get sent a copy."

ding!!! light bulb changer there!
something's gotta happen, the book availability of Asher product is slim on the bookstore plateau.

on another knot, i turned people onto Cory Doctorow only by sending out tons of links to "After the Siege" which he happily provides at his website.

having said that, i can't read anything online more than an hr a day.

Andrew said...

I read all of your books on my sony ereader. (I have bought them all from the WHSmith website).

Books available from websites like pirate bay or even CD's from ebay are such poor quality that they are not even worth reading. Someone has scanned the book to a pdf and used text recognition software to turn it into something the ereader can understand.

It can understand pdf's but these tend to be too large.

You get what you pay for. If you don't pay for it you get low quality gibberish.

Also it this is theft and morally wrong

Andrew said...

On the subject of ereaders versus paper books I have to say I the ereader is growing on me.
I bought it because I was fed up with carrying large tomes of space opera (peter hamilton, alastair reynolds etc) in my work bag all the way round London during my working day.
You get used to them after a while.

Anonymous said...

I have many feelings about online piracy, some would probably piss you off tbh. I do however understand fully how you feel.

Hopefully these actions will be few and far between and will not affect you badly, we many that will always buy your books will I am sure endeavour to keep you in enough ink to keep producing your works.

I wonder why this irritates me so much compared to say downloading a movie... Hmmm, thats one for my blog one day soon I guess.

Scott said...

I make a conscious decision to buy books, because it is an industry that I want to support.

I can find any book I want to on torrent sites. Often by the thousands, in collections. I don't think that anything is going to change that. Even if authors stop allowing their books to be published as e-books, I guarantee that they will be available digitally. It just isn't hard to convert them. And while it isn't as much of a problem right now, while the typical person still reads files from an LCD screen, I expect that it will be a serious problem once good e-readers are common.

In any case: I'd subscribe to the Neal Asher service.

Anonymous said...

Movies tend to suck and tend to follow the same predictable lines OR they give it away during the trailer stating '...with a shocking twist' and then you know it's the hero who's the psycho killer. They make it hard to feel guilty when the same crap is the #1 movie for 3 weeks.

Books are different. There's one guy, sitting at his keyboard just trying to make enough money to pay his live-in wine steward.

Graeme. said...

I love the feeling of a 'real book' and as Andy said, it's great to mount them as trophies on the bookshelf.
Having said that, I also have a Sony ebook reader. It's a v cool device indeed. No more bulging holiday suitcases because of 6 pounds of books. I can read for far longer in comfort as the device is much lighter, easier to handle and the 'eInk' is really easy on the eyes. (if you think these sound like small things and you've never tried a Sony reader, I'd bet good money that you'd agree on some level if you did try one). I can get books online, usually cheaper, from the Sony store, WHSmith or Waterstones very easily, when it's sometimes a challenge to find paper versions in Singapore.
In my view, any author that stays away from them is massively limiting his audience.

As to restricting book formats so they can only be read by specific devices, unfortunately the competition is massive in the relatively new market of ebookreaders and a big selling point is the ability to handle mutliple formats.

I'd guess that the kind of people who read Neil's books are much more technically literate, so they're likely to know how to find pirated versions, unlike perhaps someone who reads Jilly Cooper. OK - broad generalisation, especially as technophilia is spreading across an ever increasing age range.

No doubt some kind of control is needed but you wouldn't ban the internet because parts of it are used for less than wholesome activites - just like, in my opinion, you shouldn't ban open file sharing because some numpties share copyrighted material.

For me, it's just down to making the resource available to quickly bring down any ilegal sharers, and to get sensible with the legal system to quickly punish those responsible, or those who are responsible for the infrastructure used to commit the act. OK, you can't jail Volvo because one of their cars was used in a bank job getaway, but media piracy is a new problem ,and we have to deal with it in new ways. The scale of the problem has gotten so big, so quickly that nobody really knows where to start - which means nobody has really started !

rant ? me ? :D

Anonymous said...

@mr-maigo: I think your assumptions are correct about the movie downloads. Even though it doesn't make it right I never feel bad about it and I always buy what I like afterwards.

With books I would never "trial" one, just owning the original is part of the process, unlike say a DVD.

I tell ya what though Neal, we need some deal where those of us that buy your "hardcoded" works get a free audio version whenever they invent a decent fold away e-paper device :) In around 15 years...

NMM1AFan said...

Just bought The Gabble from Amazon today. The local Barnes and Noble and Borders here didn't have either that or Orbus in stock because they suck.

I never mind paying for an author's or artist's work. I want them to make more works that I can enjoy.

Andrew said...

The amount of choice given to people with ebooks is limited compared to the paper market.

I can see that if any author is not available in epub, pdf or other formats on a commercial basis they may lose out to torrent sites where there material is available.

A quick search of pirate bay has confirmed that none of Neal's books are on offer there. Maybe because they are available commercially?

P.s. I still do not condone this.

Scott said...

If the movies suck, don't watch them. Pirating a movie or a song is no more ethical than pirating a book. Making that sort of decision based on your level of sympathy for the creators simply means that you aren't making your decisions based off of principles or ethics. And don't fall to the delusion that book piracy isn't as bad because of respect. It isn't as bad because it isn't as convenient. It WILL be just as bad, as e-readers become common.

For my own ethics, I refuse to accept the argument that "stealing" a digital copy is equivalent to stealing a physical object. In the former case, you are copying, not stealing. In the classic concept of stealing, the victim is no longer has the object in question. That doesn't make it right, but the insistence on this equivalence and terminology, IMO, is a great enabler of those who wish to rationalize away their piracy. More intellectually honest language from the publishing side of this argument would do a lot to combat the pop culture concept that everything should be free and piracy is morally acceptable. Scare tactics hurt this case -- again, IMO.

And if you think that the argument isn't necessary, because "what's wrong is wrong", you are ignoring the reality that "people do what they do" and society only functions when we agree to go along with it.

Jezcentral said...

The problem with a Neal Asher subscription service is it wouldn't take take long before some little ****s with an inflated sense of entitlement started loudly demanding the next book, and harassing Neal until he produces it. And it better be about Cormac going to Spatterjay, 'cos that would be teh awesum. They are paying for it, after all.

Unknown said...

I am sure it must be a concern

The work involved in writing good books seems enormous

You have to take away the motivation though

How do I buy your books for my ereader?

They aren't available anywhgere near as quickly as the paperback

These are publishing decisions but seem to promote piracy not deny it

I am not condoning piracy
I respect the work you do Neal and will continue to buy your books

(I would rather read them on my kindle though!)

Harry Caper said...

In this developing digital age content creatives (authors, musicians, film makers, etc) need to really question what value their publisher/label/studio really adds.

In the book & music world I would argue that they add precious little other than access to the publicity machine. Yet their involvement adds significantly to the cost of the product.

I have no problem paying £15 for a physical hardback, or £8 for a paperback (as my bookcases will attest.) I'm paying the author for his work. I’m also paying for the paper, the printing process, storage & transport.

Why should an ebook cost the same as the physical book? Surely 99% of the cost should be the royalties for the author. The actual technology costs must be minimal.

Ditch the publisher. Publish straight to ebook. Make the first chapter free, then charge for the rest of the ebook - charge the same as the royalty you currently get per physical book.

The price of the ebook will be modest. With the option to try before they buy more people will give your work a go (and get hooked.) Pirating won't be worth it, and DRM goes away.

Sure the publisher/label/studio are never going to like this model, but we live in a capitalistic society, where the mantra is adapt or go bust.

Michael Stone said...

@Harry Caper, a publisher does a whole lot more than just package a book and arrange distribution. The writer is a cog in a machine that consists of many creative and skilled people. I'm sure Neal will be the first to admit he's learned a lot from working with his editor(s) over the years. Any author that pretends otherwise is more than likely bullshitting. What you are suggesting would just open the floodgates to all sorts of self-published rubbish. BTW, don't take this comment as a slapdown. If I was standing on an anti-piracy soapbox or dismising the creative commons approach I'd be a complete hypocrite. However, I do feel strongly that publishers are vital, whether we are talking about physical or digital media.

Carbonize said...

There is a lively discussion about ebook piracy at

One of the main problems at present is that the ridiculous prices ebook sites and publishers are demanding for them is putting people off actually buying the ebook version. I mean would you sooner pay £13 for the hardback version or £15 for the ebook version?

If you have ever downloaded a pirated ebook (yes I have but I own the paperback version of said books) they are mostly scanned copies and as such have misread words in them. The funniest I saw was anus instead of arms.

These days I am mostly reading books from which actually has some good authors. I just finished Simon of Space by Cheeseburger Brown and found it to be a very good read.

Michael Stone said...

@simonwoof, charging more for an ebook than a hardback does seem a bizarre and self-destructive marketing ploy.

Glaymore said...

Neal, actually, I'm not sure the book piracy is 100% bad. I first encountered your books while randomly browsing through dozens of pirated TXT files, and the next day I was like, "Damn I'd really like to have these on my bookshelf". Now I own most of them in hardcover, which is much more pleasing to the eye than an ebook ever could be.

So consider this - if not for the pirate thing, many people worldwide likely would never learn of your books and, therefore, never buy any of them.

And vice versa, people tend to buy the books they really like, even if they've already read them via piracy.

Carbonize said...

As Glaymore says book piracy is not necessarily a bad thing. I mean if I like an authors work enough I will buy the books. I will always buy any new Discworld novels in hardback form and I own all the Agent Cormac novels in paperback.

The main issue in the case at hand though is that this person is selling your product and not giving you your fair dues from it which, in my opinion, is actually worse than just downloading the ebook from a torrent site.

Jezcentral said...

Another thought: it's all very well using torrent sites to try out stories and then buying the books we like, but what of the next generation of readers who are not dinosaurs like us (who like hard copies) and will be satisfied just from reading the pirated digital copies?

Graeme. said...

Agree with Jez on that - future generations may consider an entry in their ebook list just as much of a trophy as we would a book on our shelf. Adobe editions and the iPad already present books in such a way.
Piccy here

I still think we need to get tough with the people responsible - huge fines or prison time. Seeing the first few thousand offenders taken down will discourage the rest.

Wonder if the same people that would choose paper books would also choose not to get aug'd ?

Glaymore said...

Jezcentral, if the next generation will be satisfied from reading the pirated digital copies, that'll be the fact of life and I guess we'll have to learn to live with it, because you just cannot send a whole generation to jail for reading wrong media. But then, maybe you actually can...

Q said...

this would be a minority opinion, but the first ever book of yours that i read was a 'pirated' one. (which was incidentally "the Skinner"); and like the other fans that you have, i have since then not only devoured your entire work in DT form but also cajoled, tricked and gifted friends with your books.

In this regard, i'd be interested to hear your thoughts on how this "illegal ebook" compares with a "library version"/"book club" of your book, which is something i get for free too

of course, it is easier to deliver homilies in my capacity as a (armchair theorist) consumer and as a producer of content, you'd have (naturally) aggressive & divergent views.

i am not justifying what that guy is doing, all i am pointing out is one example where it definitely lead to something good

David Britten said...

"I still think we need to get tough with the people responsible - huge fines or prison time. Seeing the first few thousand offenders taken down will discourage the rest."

Yeah that's the idea, worked great with drugs. It is estimated the illegal drugs trade is now worth $1tr. Drug lords are now more powerful in parts of Mexico than the government. Online piracy does exactly the same thing. It provides wealth to fun a host of illegal activities. Terrorism, prostitution, people trafficking. The more we make things illegal the more power we hand to the enemies of freedom. Governments and Criminals are two sides of the same coin. Neither of them want you to have power or freedom. They are interdependent, no law obsessed government criminalising everything, no product for the criminal empires to use to propagate.

Graeme. said...

Appreciate your point of view Drake.
Can you make a suggestion on how you think it should be dealt with ?

To your point, the money chain is different in piracy.
The money in drug dealing is paid direct to the suppliers - hard cash for a physical product. In ebook piracy, the money is made by the sites that host the torrents, through advertising. It leaves a completely trackable trail and if anyone actually directly requests cash for a file, they can be found.

Also, the buyers and sellers are completely different types of people - The people making the torrents and ripping the books/software are not hardened criminals who don't mind risking hard time for their efforts. They're geeks who set up infrastructure to encourage open file sharing, and hide behind the argument that they "can't be held responsible if some people decide to share copyrighted material"
Gavin the geek sits at home and, as mentioned in Neils post, feels big, clever, has some sort of Robin Hood moment and decides to rip a book and create a torrent - he's not going to get any cash for it.
Now Jeremy the geek is sat at home and, since nobody ever gets busted for downloading an ebook, decides he'll take a copy. There's no chance of any comeback.
Try asking Gavin to get in touch with a major drug cartel in S America to arrange a deal, and ask Jeremy to go to the seediest part of town to buy the drugs, or to even meet the type of person who would deal them.

This isn't drug dealing.

vaudeviewgalor raandisisraisins said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David Britten said...

"Also, the buyers and sellers are completely different types of people - The people making the torrents and ripping the books/software are not hardened criminals who don't mind risking hard time for their efforts. They're geeks who set up infrastructure to encourage open file sharing, and hide behind the argument that they "can't be held responsible if some people decide to share copyrighted material"

Honestly, I don't think we should waste our time fighting online piracy at all. The harder you push the more criminal you will make the enterprise. Like I said earlier add value to retain customer or you'll just drive away the customers you have.

Unknown said...

I think I know the site you're talking about Neal. David Edelman noticed his three books were on there a little while ago (He was quite pleased to be noticed though :) )

It's probably a rapidshare link though. If you report it to Rapidshare they'll disable it for you and probably boot the account used to upload it. It won't stop them but it certainly slows them down.

Scott said...

The problem that is facing all forms media creation, publishing, and distribution is not one that is going to be fixed with laws. It is already illegal. It isn't one that is going to be fixed with technology. What sort of police state would actually be capable of enforcing the uniform adoption of hardware DRM controls on a populace that doesn't want it?

The business model is going to have to change. I know this has been said before, but too often it is linked with some idiotic moral justification. The justification is practical. It is too easy to copy creative works. That isn't going to change. For centuries, the barriers to publishing and distribution protected content developers as much as did the law. That is no longer the case. Many content creators make the point that once it is too difficult to make a profit, they won't bother to create, or at least to share. Publishers make the argument that they serve a purpose by vetting the good artists. Both are valid points. But in the end, such appeals don't change the facts. Publishing and distribution are now trivial, and copying WILL happen.

Someone needs to come up with a business model that still incentivizes the artist to produce, or else I'm going to lose out as a consumer.

vaudeviewgalor raandisisraisins said...

'"I still think we need to get tough with the people responsible - huge fines or prison time. Seeing the first few thousand offenders taken down will discourage the rest."

Yeah that's the idea, worked great with drugs. It is estimated the illegal drugs trade is now worth $1tr. Drug lords are now more powerful in parts of Mexico than the government.'

yes, thats all well and good, think of the great usefulness those RIAA action suits against downloading did, it helped those poor lawyers with their empty wallets. it really worked! one of these guys got a great job with Obama even.
this is all moot; we can see how it all comes out here:

Unknown said...

Hi Neal,

Mate, I understand the pain and anguish this must put you through - all those months and years just to see your hard work uploaded and downloaded in but a few clicks of a mouse.

But I have been thinking about this for quite some time and was wondering, have you ever thought about creating a place where people can donate to you directly?

I'm not sure if this has been brought up before, or if other writers/artists do something similar, but I believe that even though someone may download something illegally, if they truly appreciate the book/song/movie etc., many of them will be willing to pay the author or artist for that book/song or movie. It may not be the cover price, but it's something, and a 10% of something is better than 100% of nothing in my opinion.

Just a thought. If I were you, I would seriously look into it - because if I've thought of it, thousands of others have too...

An avid fan


Unknown said...

One annoying factor to me is how, at least here in North America, is that you seem to be more or less locked into the Amazon/Kindle unholy alliance. All the rest of us without Kindles (i.e. Sony eReader) can only find one or two non-Kindle ebooks. After hours of searching I have managed to purchase legitimate copies of Gridlinked and Shadow of the Scorpion. I would buy every other book you have written, but they just can't be found for my reader. This might drive someone to piracy...lucky for you I just can't bring myself to 'shop' for ebooks on a site where the banner ads are for Russian hookers.

Graeme. said...

Hi - I often face the challenge of finding ebooks for my Sony reader as well - try this - it's a UK company so not sure if you'll need a UK credit card to buy from them:

Try this link

Unknown said...

Lovely site, Waterstones...has everything there, tantalizingly. Then reality hits me in the face again :

"Unfortunately, we can only sell eBooks to customers within the UK and Ireland. This is due to restrictions put in place by the publishers of the eBooks. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause."

Graeme. said...

D'oh !

Unknown said...

I buy them and when they want 15$ for an ebook I pirate it. Every time. 5.00? OK. 15.00 no way. never mind the insane 29.00 for kindle edition that they tried to get on amazon. Are you seeing one whole dollar out of that Neal?

Get your shit together and sell the ebook on you site. You don't have a Or a website? WTF. Take donations. Sell tshirts with those AIs drawn on them by boris vallejo, or Frazetta or Larry Elmore or whomever does that shit these days. Capitalize on your own work and offer the publishers a cracker. Coffee mugs. Video games.
Try not to give to much of a shit about piracy, it's like having mice. They snatch crumbs and wind up crushed in traps eventually. Or eaten. Fuck 'em.

On a personal note... get that fucking thesaurus out and get another word besides Somnolent for sleeping, hibernation, inactive or my favorite: DORMANT. Jesus H Christ somnolent like 25 times in each novel. Did you lose a fucking bet? "Sure M8 if Nigel Wibble-Pennelegion wins the Sussex Pudding eating contest I'll put the word Somnolent in every book I write, 30 times!"
Maybe also knock off the British empire lingo that stops a reader cold. Thousands of years into the galactic diaspora humanity uses fucking Shillings? Shillings. theatre. colour. bullocks.
Get that shit in context Mr. perfecting his craft. England is SUPER unlikely to be prevailing culture in the Big Cross The Galactic Ponding...
I love your stories. I hate it when dumb shit brings me up short asking WTF is this guy trying for with the obvious cultural refs. The super english AI names and ship names. Come on.
Again, I have read all your shit Neal. I've read A-Z. Asimov to Zelazny. You are a lot like Robert Reed and Alastair Reynolds. Both of them Limeys I believe, but they got a handle on that WankerSpeak you get caught up with.

But who am I to judge. I just read the stuff. Also, please don't even consider publishing this. So Rude. :D