Written By: Joanne Biju
Picture yourself in the late 2000s, jamming out to the songs on your iPod Shuffle. How did they get there? Did you pay $1.29 for each song from the iTunes library? If you were anything like me, you may have used alternative means to download an extensive and completely free collection of songs. No big deal, right?
Piracy has been a long-standing issue, not only for the music and film industries, but also for the world of publishing. There are several reasons behind this, including a lack of accessibility and affordability. At the start of each semester, students flock to pirating sites for required readings, hoping to cut costs where they can.
A well-known pirating website was recently taken down, resulting in a current of complaints on BookTok — a community on TikTok that focuses on books and literature. Some users made videos suggesting alternative sites, others joked that this was the result of Colleen Hoover readers flagging the website (her novels have spiked in popularity due to BookTok), and several authors, like Victoria Aveyard, came out expressing the negative effects of piracy.
Yet, piracy prevails and authors face the consequences. Many self-published authors distribute their books through Kindle Unlimited — a program authors are contracted to use exclusively. Due to piracy, versions of their novels are widely available on the web, leading to an unintentional, and largely uncontrollable, violation of Amazon’s standards. As a result, Amazon has been removing works by indie authors without notice, leaving livelihoods at stake.
Indie authors aren’t the only ones affected by piracy. In 2016, Maggie Stiefvater, author of The Raven Cycle series, conducted an experiment to test how piracy was impacting her book sales. After a decline in eBook sales for the third installment of the series, Steifvater’s publisher decided to cut back on print production for the final novel, The Raven King.
With a sneaking suspicion that piracy was indeed the root of her troubles, Stiefvater chose to eliminate e-ARCs (electronic Advanced Reader Copies) and instead post fake PDFs of The Raven King across pirating sites. Instantly, online forums were buzzing with readers saying they had caved and bought a physical copy after unsuccessfully scouring the internet for a legitimate pdf. As a result, Steifvater’s initial print production sold out; her publishers scrambled to reprint and fulfill orders.
As tempting as piracy may be, it is crucial to support authors and their livelihoods. It’s also important to recognize that reading can be an expensive hobby. Luckily, there are plenty of ways around buying books at sticker price.
While a seemingly obvious resource, many people fail to take advantage of their local library. Most libraries have eBook and audiobook collections on services such as Libby or Hoopla, allowing you to utilize the library from the comfort of your own home.
Readers aren’t just limited to the selections available at their local libraries. Several libraries have interlibrary loan services that allow you to borrow books from other locations. And for a limited time, teens and young adults across the nation can apply for a library card at Brooklyn Public Library, giving them complete access to their eBook collection as part of their Books Unbanned initiative.
For more information on how to find affordable books, check out “A reader’s guide to getting more bang for your buck.” Piracy may never go away, but you can combat its effects by ethically-sourcing your next read.