The issue of ebook piracy, or digital piracy in any form, is the topic of many debates all over the world. Within these discussions, it is generally concluded that those aiding in piracy are considered equal partners in the crime. One such site that does not have a clean record is BookOS.org, which many accuse of having a large number of pirated ebooks in its collection. The site, which claims itself to be the largest ebook library in the world, is also reported to have been down once, though it seems it’s back to business as usual.
Needless to say, the author community is up in arms against the site and they have a valid reason to do so. If their works are pirated and sold or doled out for free, the authors are deprived of their livelihood. Authors typically are paid a percentage (which can be up to 40%) of the sale from their ebook or agree to a flat fee from the publisher which will remain fixed regardless of the number of books sold. The latter is generally applicable to the more renowned authors, and while they are less prone to suffer from piracy as far as their livelihood is concerned, those that depend on royalties are the ones that suffer losses if their works end up being pirated.
Now imagine their surprise as authors discover their ebooks listed at bookos.org without their knowledge or consent. Bookos.org does have a provision for authors to have the links to their books removed, if they report it, although there have been many instances of ebooks coming back online again. A Facebook campaign called “Shut BookOS Down“ is also underway, though it only has a paltry 62 likes. The Facebook crusade seems to be working, however, due to constant pestering, which has forced BookOS to vastly limit its Facebook presence. In any case, BookOS still has managed to garner over 18k likes.
As for the users, they don’t have anything to complain as long as they have their books delivered completely free. It can be hard to remain ethical, especially when it can be about saving a few hundred dollars. Opinions are divided throughout, and some believe it’s only a book that is priced too high that runs the risk of being pirated. Tor Books UK, a publisher of science fiction and fantasy, ran an experiment in which they stripped all copy protection from their books for a year. They claim this did not lead to any remarkable increase in piracy for any of their titles.
However, in the end, what must kept in mind is that the author community runs the risk of being eroded in the digital age, where piracy is widely accepted. When a pirate website has more Likes than the site trying to shut it down, we have problems. When it comes to the success of BookOS, who is responsible for shutting it down? The publishers? Authors? Users? Pirate websites like this thrive when users refuse to pay for content, and in the end, authors suffer the most.