Seanan McGuire (seanan_mcguire) wrote,
Seanan McGuire

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Sticky fingers and broken hearts.

I would like to begin by noting that this is not a post about the ethics, morals, or legalities of creating free torrent files of material which does not belong to you. I've talked about this in the past, repeatedly and at length, and while I'll doubtless talk about it again in the future, that's not today's target.

Instead, I want to talk about illegal resales.

Yesterday afternoon, some bold soul wandering the internet jungles encountered a site that looked too good to be true: a private seller offering huge numbers of ebooks, some by extremely popular authors, for two dollars each, or ten for ten. That's, like, amazing! That's incredible! And best of all, that's totally against the law! This individual told a few authors, who told a few more, who told a few more, and then the wrath of the internet came down upon that seller's head, since people don't take kindly to being stolen from. The sales page was taken down. The seller changed the name on her twitter. All done, right?

Not quite.

First, there's the matter of the seller herself. She's not going to be named, because I don't play that kind of game, but I think it's important to note that she justified her actions by saying that she was trying to make money to pay for her kidney transplant medications. This? Is a sad story. It may even be a true story. It's also the kind of thing that's sort of calculated to make people back off and not want to be the bad guy by yelling at the woman who's just trying to afford her drugs, so she doesn't die. To this I say...

I am so very, very sorry that people are ill. I hate that we live in a country without medical care for everyone. It's a huge, scary, horrible issue. But I can't sit back and let people profit off my work because they're sick. There are a lot of sick people, and sometimes, I'm one of them. If I said "oh, it's okay because you're sick," I'd wind up in a world of trouble. And Alice would be dead, since only being paid for my work enabled me to pay for her extremely expensive, extremely unexpected vet bill last year.

Second, I can almost understand people who put things up for free. Yes, they're stealing, and no, I don't condone it, but they're not trying to profit off someone else's property. They're not taking cookies out of the back of a bakery and selling them for half-price at a food truck down the street, they're giving out cookies for free. One of the big "you're over-simplifying, you're not seeing the big picture" arguments in the whole book piracy discussion is "not every download is a sale." Well, if someone is selling my books, independent of my publisher, every download is a sale, and it's a sale I'm not getting paid for.

People like getting things for less money. It's the natural way of mankind. It's why we clip coupons, shop at Ross, and wear last year's sweaters. But there's legitimate discounting, and there's stealing, and sadly, it can be hard to tell them apart.

Finally, and most troubling to me, this represents a snapshot of the biggest problem I see coming down the pike, as ebooks become a bigger and bigger percentage of the books sold: there is no ebook secondary market.

I love used bookstores. I exist because of used bookstores. In the last month, I have been to three Half-Price Books, two independent used bookstores, and a library book sale. When I was a kid, eighty percent of my books came from these places. Without the secondary market, I wouldn't have been able to read the way I did, and I would have grown up to be someone very different. I am worried about the smart, poor kids of today, and I can easily see more and more sites like this cropping up as people try to "resell" things that can't actually be resold.

I don't know that there's a solution. I'm worried, and I'm scared for what comes next. But this pirate site, at least, came down.

Please, remember that there's no secondary ebook market, and that if a price seems too good to be true, unless it's a promotion offered directly by a publisher... probably isn't legit.

ETA: Please stop trying to make this a discussion about piracy. As noted above, that is not this post. We are treading old ground, and I do not have the energy or time to moderate this conversation right now.
Tags: cranky blonde is cranky, technology, utterly exhausted
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