Saturday, July 17, 2010

Authors, e-book Pirates, could we get along?

Pirates, file-sharers, lend me your eyeballs for a moment. You want to read the latest releases without paying for them, and you'd like to make some money at the same time.

Your reasons vary. Maybe you are in a foreign land and cannot purchase books legally for one reason or another... price, currency restrictions, censorship, the Western Decadence in your favorite genre. Maybe you think that you are making a noble protest about the cost of books or ebooks. Maybe you are unable to find honest work, so you make money from commissions from file-sharing sites, or from AdBrite-placed advertisements.

Many of you are articulate, literate people, and while you cannot possibly read the 400,000 books that some of you are on record as downloading in a year on 4shared, you are voracious readers and you like to recommend what you have enjoyed to others.

Meanwhile, authors cannot get reviews. Review sites are crying out for staff reviewers... but the positions are usually unpaid. As more and more authors write better and faster, and publish electronically, the shortage of reviewers becomes more acute.

I object to any whiff of blackmail on principle, and the literary world looks down on "paid" reviews as being somehow dishonest. Goodness knows why. The purchase of a print advert in any number of magazines guarantees an author a review. Not necessarily a good review, but a review.

What would happen if pirate sites became legitimate book review sites?

Former pirates would get free books to read before they went on general sale. Maybe authors or publishers would pay a small fee, or purchase advertising so their cover legally showed up beside the review. Pirates could be anonymous. Legitimate ebook distribution to ex-pirate reviewers would be no different or less accessible, because review copies go out at no charge anyway.

Your reviews would probably be way more popular than the most popular and well trafficked review sites such as Amazon, or RT, or Dear Author. You could have legitimate advertising, syndicate (or not) your own copyrighted reviews, and continue to make friends and influence people.

What am I missing?

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