… A funny thing happened on the way to the Internet. Starting about five to six weeks ago, the first page of Google search results for all of the titles of my fantasy books began containing links to free downloadable e-books of my novels, usually at number two positions right under my official home page, or beneath the ever-reliable Amazon link for any book you care to search for. Most web sites would kill for a no. one listing for a specific search term, including mine, so hats off to the e-book pirates as to how they are gaming the Google search algorithms.
And, much like the zombies in the new The Walking Dead TV series, as quickly as you stomp those SOBs down, another one comes lurching into view seconds later. HarperCollins, my UK publisher, now has a dedicated person to forward these links onto, which is great, but there’s only so many take-down notices she can serve in a day. Only one month in, and it’s already beginning to feel like a losing battle – one not helped by the fact that my U.S. publisher hasn’t produced e-book versions of my novels yet – so I don’t have any e-books yet for sale on Amazon.com, just amazon.co.uk, so I can’t even say to USA-based readers, ‘Hey, please support me by buying the real thing! Don’t give a couple of cents of Google AdSense Revenue to these pirates when you view their pages while downloading my work for free.’
I keep on thinking I should get myself a Kindle or Sony Reader, but still haven’t got around to it yet (I’m holding off until the next set of Kindles hit the street: which one of my industry contacts tells me will be in colour and a lot more functional). The pirated files for my novels are compressed in a .rar format, which I think is similar to .zip, and the end file is promised to be EPUB + MOBI, .mobi being Kindle-friendly as I understand it.
So my first question to you, dear readers (with dedicated e-book reader hardware), if you click on this link, do you actually get a genuine HarperCollins pirated e-book, or is this some inferior scanned-in monstrosity, or perhaps a digital turd re-keyed badly from a paper copy by third world child labour? My second question, which you can feel free to answer anonymously in the posts below, is whether you do now, or will in the future, get your e-books using these kind of links without then buying a genuine copy? Amazon already allow you to download the first chapter free of any e-book they sell – a great feature, my e-book owning friends tell me, so the full pirated version doesn’t seem to me to offer much extra utility in the way of free taste testing to convert pirating readers to paying readers.
Also, if you’re a name author, have you noticed a similar experience with a sudden explosion of pirated content? The only ones who seem to be making money out of this currently are Google, by helpfully directing readers to the pirates’ sites, then sharing the AdSense revenue with the pirates. Do No Evil? Hmmmmmm. I wonder if my fellow HarperCollins-published author, Cory Doctorow, has any advice on this subject? He’s bang on about the arms race between DRM and the content industry – you can’t beat the file sharers, history shows us that every time. Sadly for my future, unlike U2 and Take That, I suspect not many of you will be turning up at the O2 arena for £300 a seat to hear me read my book to you.
Oh well. If you’re in the UK, you get the genuine e-book for Secrets of the Fire Sea from amazon.co.uk here. If you’re in the US, the only legal way to do it is still by buying the old-fashioned paper copy here.