Cory Doctorow, eBook Piracy, and DandelionsBy
One of the most entertaining speakers at this year’s TOC event–or any publishing event, for that matter–must be self-publishing expert and author Cory Doctorow. While also known for his work as the co-editor of BoingBoing.com, Doctorow’s science fiction titles have made him both a beloved author and a major proponent of DRM-free content.
Following his morning keynote, Doctorow spoke to GoodEReader about one of the metaphors he used in his presentation, that of the dandelion, a flower that doesn’t concern itself with how it reproduces other than to make sure that dandelions grow out of every sidewalk crack.
“Saying piracy is not acceptable is like saying gravity makes my back hurt. There is a difference between a problem and a fact. You can say that the Earth is only 5,000 years old, but if you want to make money in the oil industry you have to dig where the Earth would be four billion years old.”
The problem-versus-fact scenario that Doctorow refers to is one that he feels is being fostered by people who see a difference in readership and sales.
“You can very firmly believe that it’s incredibly bad for people to pirate things, but there’s no future in which the internet makes it harder to copy. There’s no articulatable theory of reducing piracy on the internet that doesn’t come from someone trying to sell you something.
“The difference between facts and problems is facts are things you try to accommodate, problems are things you try to solve.”
Some of the specific tactics that publishers and authors have tried in order to reduce ebook piracy have included DRM restrictions, which limit content to one specific device platform and eliminate the ability to share beloved books with fellow readers, and other professional tactics like the watermark that the Harry Potter ebooks contain, theoretically pointing out which reader posted them on file sharing sites.
While data presented at last month’s Digital Book World conference did suggest that piracy does hurt book sales for both authors and publishers, critics of that belief would counter that allowing books to be shared openly rather than fighting every illegal copy leads readers to pay an honest compensation for a quality book, while also encouraging a growing fan base.
“What I say when people claim that piracy is unacceptable is, ‘Well, what do you plan to do about it?’ You end up diverting a huge amount of money into alienating people.”