Yesterday, I was approached by a couple of writers from the Russian Federation about e-books and copyright infringement. The discussion began because of my recent posts on e-books and publishing. It seems that things in Russia, the former Soviet Union, are very different than they are here in the United States. It's all about getting what you can and getting it for free.
Young Russian authors usually get from $800-$1000 per book, not enough to live on, but enough to keep them plugging away, and e-books are not great sellers becauseit is far too easy to crack the codes and get it for free. It could be a matter of economics or it could be perceived value.
As it was explained to me, trying out songs from an album on MP3 or getting a bootleg copy of a movie to check out production values, acting and story line is the usual practice before deciding to buy. After all, I was told, why pay good money for a lousy movie or buy a whole album if only one song is good? The movie ". . . must be out-of-scale good . . ." to be worth the money. Some movies aren't worth the price at all because ". . . they really suck."
According to my sources, the authors who complain the loudest write ". . . shitty love-novels . . . no one wants to read twice. And they are printed on the cheapest paper ever, so there is no way you could read it twice, even if you wanted to." These authors purportedly churn out two novels a month, so at least romance books are alive and well in the Russian Federation. E-books are another kettle of fish altogether.
Buying a movie or CD that has been downloaded for free or from a pirated copy that is not nearly as good as the original is a good investment, especially when money is tight, but buying the e-book after getting the pirate copy is redundant. With the file already on the hard drive, why buy another copy? Pirated or original, the file would be about the same. It's hard to encode an e-book the way CDs and movies are protected. In that sense, hardcover and paperback books, at least those not printed on the cheapest paper, are tangible and cannot be pirated.
Do I still believe in e-books? Yes. I think they are the next step in publishing evolution. Am I having my ups and downs with the system and getting my e-book recognized? Yes, again, but it's a learning process and I'm still learning a lot.
Copyright infringement of e-books in the United States is not unheard of, but I think there are fewer chances to get something for nothing and finding my e-book pirated. Someone would have to find it first and read enough to want to crack the codes and get it for free. At least, if my book is being pirated in the thousands or tens of thousands, I would be secure in the knowledge that the word is spreading and my books are being read. I wouldn't make much money from the pirates, but -- who knows? -- I might find myself with a whole underground group of fans avid for my next book. Not an ideal situation, but it's a start.