Cory Doctorow says that the problem for most writers isn't piracy, it's obscurity. I disagree. If 10,000 people read one of my books, but I only sell 2000 copies, that is work I am not getting paid for. That is $8000 out of my pocket, with no guarantee the readers will actually buy the next one. More likely they'll simply steal it too. My books fall into the "good enough to download, not good enough to buy" category, and I expect most other people's do too.
(I was told that a certain conference was about "giving back to the readers." My response was "I give back by continuing to write, even though they're stealing me blind on pirate sites.")
A confession: I have bought four ebooks in my life. I haven't bought a paperback in four years, new or used. Yet my library numbers in the hundreds. I download the free promotions from Amazon, from Harlequin, from All Romance. I get them from Project Gutenberg. I do not get them from torrent sites. Very seldom do I go back and buy another book by that author, no matter how much I enjoy the one I just read. I look at the to-read stack, and realize I will never get through it, so actually buying books is out of the question. Maybe it's me being tightfisted, but I'm sure I'm not the only one.
A friend of mine is doing a survey on e-book piracy and asked me to get the word out. This will be going out to Google News. I'm asking friends who are writers, especially on the ebook front, to fill it out.
1. How much has digital piracy of books hurt your sales? How do you measure the loss in revenue?
2. Do you know of any other authors who have had sales of their works hurt by digital piracy? Which authors, and do you know much they believe their sales have been hurt?
3. Do you believe that certain genres are more likely to be pirated than others?
4. Have your publishers been helpful in combating piracy? Is the industry taking steps to combat piracy?
5. What steps would you advice authors to take to prevent digital piracy?
6. What legislation are you aware of that has come up to address this? Do you believe that proposed legislation goes for enough in protecting professional writers?
7. Do you believe that free culture advocates are helpful or harmful towards professional authors? Can you give any examples demonstrating why you hold this belief?
8. Do you think digital piracy has the impact to change the model for publishing? Will digital piracy force authors to rely more on business models like kickstart as a way of making a living?