So there’s news of a pirate site going around writerly circles today, spreading faster that gossip. There’s nothing that gets writers whose work is published primarily electronically angrier than e-book pirates. They’re stealing from us, plain and simple, so what we usually prefer to see happen is for those responsible to be held down and Garden Weaseled for a few years. Don’t pretend you don’t remember what those are.
Well, today I learned about one that’s even more diabolical. Mostly I use that word ironically, and while I don’t truly mean this outfit is satanic, I do have to wonder. Outwardly, Fantastic e-Books claims to be selling electronic copies of books from not only today’s hottest authors, but also schmucks like me as well as people who’ve been out of print for years (first tip off that something’s not right–publishers, which are barely getting the message about e-books now, certainly didn’t put out electronic copies of books published before I was born–1970 if any of you care).
As it turns out, they’re not actually selling pirated books. No, they’re using the promise of those books as bait to steal people’s PayPal information. I don’t like being used as bait. Of course, the so-called victims of this scam were trying to buy pirated copies of books, in my case, First Impressions, so my levels of sympathy for them are so vanishingly small as to be extra-dimensional.
Oh, and the servers for this outfit are hosted abroad so that cease and desist letter I sent? It’s as useful as tits on a tomcat.
So the moral of the story, kiddies, is that you can’t get something for (close to) nothing, and if someone tells you that you can, there’s a good chance s/he’s a grifter. I like that word, grifter. I just wanted to say it. Grifter.
So I think my midlife crisis started yesterday. The Kid Himself was due to meet me at my car after school yesterday, and I thought that if I changed plans and met him at his classroom, maybe I could help him find his lost hoodie and we could go to the school library and look for the last book he needs for the mission project.
[n.b. for those who don't live in California: the focus in history/social studies in the 4th grade is on California history and features a huge project on the history of the era of the missions in Alta California. TKH scored Mission San Juan Capistrano, so my parents and I took him down there before the winter holiday, when among other things, I had lunch with a dear friend I don't see often enough.]
I’m just about done with the outline for CalPac #3, Burning It Down. For some reason, I’d envisioned that this one would be the penultimate story, with Philip and Stuart’s story being the last full-length novel. Perhaps later on I’d write a story about Nick and Morgan because I miss them, but that would more or less be it for the world of the rowers of California Pacific College.
I’m not even done with the outline of the macroplot of Burning It Down and two minor characters have already jumped out as another couple with a story just begging to be told. Of course, with each iteration the connection to rowing becomes more and more tangential, but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.
Well, here we are, boys and girls and whatevers, another Thanksgiving is upon us. I’ve come to the conclusion that I dislike Thanksgiving and almost all it stands for.
For starters, why do we have to have a special day to be grateful for our blessings? Is that not artificial? OK, cool, here we are, fat, rich, and happy. Let’s drop a box of mac & cheese off at the homeless shelter to feel good about ourselves and re-enforce our position in life. Then we’ll go spend money at the mall the next day. No, gratitude is like New Year’s resolutions. If it’s that important, you shouldn’t wait.
The holiday might commemorate something the Pilgrims did to and with the Wampanoags, but its modern observation is laughably young when compared to the not quite 400 year old incident it commemorates. Lincoln instituted a day of thanksgiving in 1863 while the United States was trying to snuff itself, and wasn’t a federal holiday until 1941. So much for the Pilgrims. But then, I suppose all holidays are pretty much schmoozed together, like Christmas magically coinciding with the Saturnalia.
There’s also something about the food that disturbs me. Let’s start with the main course, the turkey. There’s nothing natural about it. Those poor birds are pumped full of chemicals, and are so overbred they can’t even reproduce without human intervention. My son’s godmother’s grandfather helped develop the technique. I don’t know why poultry that can’t fuck bothers me, but it does.
I’m not sure whether or not it was the time I walked into the kitchen to see my mother fisting the turkey, or watching Dad carve the thing up with some hedge-trimmer of an electric knife and seeing all the bits of meat scatter into the air. I’d resumed carnivory by this time I witnessed this, so the fact that it was a dead bird surrounded by a cloud of meat wasn’t it.
Maybe I just don’t like turkey, a sauce made of innards, and stuffing, which I pray isn’t cooked inside the bird because it won’t get hot enough to kill whatever lurks in the eggs used to bind it together. Hmmm, now that I think about it, perhaps this is the way the chickens strike a blow for their cousins, the turkeys. You want a piece of us? they say. Fine. But the eggs? Those’ll kill you.
Really? This is what the richest society on earth has been reduced to eating? We don’t live the way the Plymouth Colony Puritans did, so why must we eat like them?
I suppose the real reason I dislike Thanksgiving is because it’s one of the few family gatherings I’ve not managed to avoid. It can be very dispiriting to see just how polluted my gene pool really is. Nature or nurture, can there be anything more damning than seeing everyone at one time? There’s the grandparents, who think a jar of “pickled buns” (a jar of full of tiny butts made of panty hose and cotton balls) is the acme of humor. There’re the dead-behind-the-eyes second cousins who, in the amount of time one has earned a BA, an MA, a PhD, and started a family, can’t quite manage to graduate from community college. Or what of the mysterious relatives—no one’s really sure how exactly they’re related—who always manage to find their way to the buffet table, but can’t seem to figure out how to prepare anything to contribute?
Or there’s the utter mind-numbing tedium of a day spent waiting for a meal one doesn’t wish to eat in the first place. Football, you say. If I’m going to watch TV all day, football is not what I’d choose. Puzzles? Cards? Board—or is that bored—games? Save them for the retirement home. It call comes down to the people, and Mom and Dad, if you’d wanted me to spend time with these, we should’ve seen them more than once or twice a year while I was growing up, because now that I’m in my forties? Good luck with that. No, Grandma, I won’t pull your finger. It wasn’t funny last year, or the year before, or the year before that…
I suppose it could be worse. It could be the time a much older relative of my husband hit on him at Thanksgiving dinner. Or maybe that was Christmas. Whatever, it was just creepy.
I just got a Google alert. Apparently Rocking the Boat has just appeared on a pirate site. I knew it would only be a matter of time as many of my fellow authors have experienced this same dubious honor. In fact, not long after I joined Dreamspinner Press’s authors’ group piracy was a one of the topics that people discussed in depth.
Can open, worms everywhere.
Piracy constitutes a real concern with digital publishing. For one thing, it’s easy. Just upload a file. For another thing, it’s apparently victimless. I mean, it’s just digital signals, right? No one’s really hurt by. I imagine that’s what these brave new digital cowboys tell themselves as they trample all over my intellectual property rights. I mean, they took down the recording industry, right?
Except that they didn’t.
Or maybe they think they’re striking a blow against the Man. Yep, an author’s sure the Man. I’ve made a whopping $106 off Rocking the Boat as of the last royalties statement. That’ll sure keep me in…lattes, maybe? Well, at around $5 a pop that kept me in 21 lattes. My publisher is a small outfit with a similarly small profit margin. Writing and selling these books makes no one rich.
Piracy is the only real con to e-publishing I see. People are free to duplicate their copy of my book as much as they want to. Technically—and I hope it’s that people don’t realize this and not that they don’t care—when they download a book, it’s more like it’s being licensed to them, rather than if they went down to their local independent book seller and bought a book. Read the fine print before you download.
If they went to a book store, or bought a copy off Amazon, they’d have a physical copy of the book to do with as they pleased, like loan it, give it away, or re-sell it at a used bookstore. People think that’s what an e-copy is, but from the standpoint of intellectual property, it’s not.
As a writer, I’m interested to see how this develops. I don’t know if we’ll evolve towards some kind of common license, or how copyrights will change, if change they will. The legal foundation for patents and copyrights and things like that is in the Constitution, and that’s hard to change and deliberately so.
Don’t like the fact that you can’t share my book infinitely? Too bad. Lobby Congress to take up a Constitutional amendment. In the mean time, pirates are nothing but petty thieves.
For remedy, I think we can look to the music industry, since it’s so much further along with digital-rights management, even prosecuting people who’ve downloaded pirated music. I don’t know if that’s the right approach or not, to be honest, but I don’t have a better suggestion, either. And right now, I’d love to see a few book pirates strung up by their short-and-curlies.
As a reader, I buy books and I read them on my iPhone. It’s fantastic. I’ve got a whole library in my pocket, and as a…I’m not a soccer dad, a karate dad? Anyway, I’m away from the house a lot, and it’s very convenient to have a choice of books on my phone. My husband’s similarly enamored of his Kindle. While there’ll always be a warm place in my heart for the aesthetic of a book in my hands, and the peace of a library, I live by the convenience of digital media. This isn’t some neo-Luddite rant about new-fangled technology and get the hell off my lawn, you damn brats.
This is about someone’s flagrant disregard for the law and what is morally right.
So what did I do? As soon as I got the Google alert, I complained the host under the DCMA link, and since it was the Kindle edition of my book, I let Amazon’s copyright infringement office know, too. There’s a not a lot more I can do, I guess, although if I get any pushback, I just might hire an attorney.