The Downside of Ebooks


I don’t know why this post needs to exist, but it does. I love ebooks. Even more, I love when authors give the first ebook in a series free. Especially since I’m an incredibly picky reader. I’ll stick out a few books in a series if the first is free, just to give the author the royalties from the non-free book.

I’m not just a writer, I’m a reader. And I read a ton. I have a Scribd account and I have Hoopla and Overdrive on my phone and connected to my local library. Now, I’ve stuck to audiobooks recently because they are easier on my brain. But I can find my own ebooks on Scribd.

Scribd and Overdrive both pay me. If a library wants one of my ebooks, they get it at a discount, but I still make money when the library buys it through Overdrive. And Scribd pays me a small portion of the user’s $8.99 monthly fee for every book of mine that gets read.

Why am I pointing this out? Because I understand that sometimes a good book is hard to find. However, downloading an ebook from a free site (ie: a pirate site) is wrong. If the author is offering the ebook free (I have 5 I think right now – maybe 6) that’s fine. But download it from an authorized retailer. Remember earlier I talked about bestseller lists and even commented that the USA Today uses the digital as well as physical book sales for their list. When you “buy” a free book via Amazon or iBooks or Nook, the author gets credit for the sale even though it’s free and it ups their chances of making the Bestseller list at the USA Today.

Any free ebook downloaded from a pirate site is stealing from authors. I make $3.50 off each ebook sold on Amazon. Those stolen downloads quickly add up to take lots of money from my pocket. For example, let’s say a person downloads all 15 D&R books from a pirate site. The first 2 are already free. I can afford to make them free, because about 20% of people that read the first 2, read the rest of the series. So, 15 – 2 = 13 books left that are pay out royalties in the series. On 12 of those 13, I make $3.50. On the 13th, I make $2.79, because Triggered Reality is only $3.99, not $4.99.

If someone reads the entire D&R series, I make $44.79 on the sale of the series as a whole (and buys it). 1 entire set of the series stolen (pirated) is the equivalent of an entire month’s worth of prescription medications for me. And while 1 set doesn’t seem like a big deal, imagine if I walked into your house and stole $44.79 out of your wallet or purse, because that is literally what is being done when a book is pirated.

Also, I’ve said before that most indy authors in the US make less than $10,000 a year off book sales. And most traditional authors only make $31,000 a year or so on average. While most pirates think “oh, it’s just a couple of dollars” those couple of dollars, it can add up pretty quick. Furthermore, if it’s just a couple of dollars, why not just pay for it.

It isn’t like you aren’t getting your money’s worth when you get a book. Even terrible books have the potential to surprise us. I recently listened to The Devil in the White City audiobook. It’s “theoretically” about HH Holmes the serial killer. However, it was mostly about the World’s Fair of 1893. And while I didn’t learn anything new about Holmes, I did get a refresher course in the history of the World’s Fair in Chicago.

And, Amazon will let you return ebooks for a refund. I don’t know if there’s a time limit on it or anything, because I don’t return ebooks. But I know it’s allowed because since I started publishing in 2012, I’ve had an ebook returned nearly every month.

The point is, pirating an ebook is theft. For traditionally published authors, if pirated ebooks are rampant, it can force them to return any advances they received on a book, diminish their chance of hitting the bestseller list, and even lead to a termination of their contract. And eventually, all readers will start paying the price for those that are morally rudderless enough to pirate ebooks. I know at least indy author (who had a problem with pirated ebooks) that put a disclaimer in the front of book discussing the fact that there were multiple endings for the book, so they could track which digital copy was being pirated and another who upped their prices for ebooks by $0.25 for each pirate site they found their books on.

If you know someone that pirates ebooks, please talk to them about stopping. If they don’t, you can report them to the local police or the FBI. Which may seem extreme, but they have probably stolen thousands of dollars in the form of pirated ebooks.

4 thoughts on “The Downside of Ebooks

  1. I want to be sure I’m not on pirated sites. I subscribe to various book sites, but when I get free or reduced cost books from them they all come from Amazon. Am I correct in understanding that this gives the author credit and I’m not ripping anyone off? I want to be sure.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If you are grabbing them from Amazon, iBooks, Nook, Google Play, Kobo, Scribd, or any of the other 6 ebook retailers, you aren’t pirating. Most of us authors offer reduced price ebooks at least once in a while and we pay to get into those email newsletters. Pirate sites are not going to be regular, familiar ebook retailers. One has an address that’s something like getfreeebooks.com

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