Not afraid of pirates

Boing Boing recently posted an article about Penguin’s policy which restricts access to digital galley copies.

At the heart of the issue there are two items – the first is that the work of layout artists has value, and that layout and book design are value adds which publisher contribute above and beyond an author’s work.

As Doctrow did I can kind of buy that. But like Doctrow I agree that it’s a bit of a cop-out. That value add is one of the top reasons to have a publisher. Without publishers contributing that value we’d all probably be self-pub by now.

But, of course, the big elephant in the room is the risk of piracy.

If a galley gets out beforehand, especially one with little or no DRM the book could end up leaked. And once a book gets leaked there’s no putting the genie back in the bottle.

Here’s the thing though. There’s basically three types of people who pirate stuff:

  1. People who will never buy your product. They might pirate it but they will never be customers. Them pirating your book doesn’t cost you any money because they weren’t ever going to buy it.
  2. People who might buy your product. This is the hardest category. Try-and-buy pirates might choose to buy the product, they might not. People in this category are the ones everybody worries about. My argument is that the best way to convert try-and-buy pirates into customers isn’t to use DRM. It’s the opposite. Make it easy for them to buy your product. Make the product reasonably priced and put yourself out there enough for them to feel connected to the product creator. Don’t be a faceless machine.
  3. People who want to buy your product but can’t. This is your own fault. See above in point two on making it easy to buy the product. Develop your supply chain to get the product into their hands.

So either pirates are non-customers or prospects. Why are we punishing prospective customers out of spite about non-customers?

So, yeah, I’m not worried about pirates. And the truth is that Penguin probably shouldn’t be either.

P.S. Belated props to Tor/Forge books for going DRM free.

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