Friday, September 19, 2008

Ebook piracy - is it really a problem?

As you may know, my publisher agreed to release the first Hal Spacejock novel as a free ebook in open, non-protected txt/rtf/html formats. Anyone can download it, read it, share it.

If you listen to some authors (and most publishers), this is akin to handing out blank cheques - a sure-fire way to destroy the book-selling business.

Personally, I'm convinced that ebooks are nothing more than preview trailers for the main feature. Sure, some people will read an ebook all the way through, but they're in the minority. And if they do read your novel from start to finish on a cramped little screen I guess that means they're enjoying the thing, which suggests they might recommend the work to others ... some of whom will prefer paper over pixels.

I don't have any sales figures to back up my 'ebooks damage you not' claim, since the first book recently sold out of its second printing (a third is planned) AND the ebook coincided with the launch of Hal 4. There was a spike in Hal 1 sales, but that hit a wall when the stock ran out.

However, I do have one very interesting fact to share. I recently drew three more winners in my monthly Hal Spacejock competition, and in the email which went out to everyone I explained that they could still download the first book for nothing. So which book did all three winners select, given a choice of Hal 1-4?

A copy of Hal Spacejock book one - the same title they can download for free.

Three people is hardly a big sample, but I was surprised even one winner chose the first Hal book. Why pick that one when the full ebook version is just a click away? Why not pick the second so they get two Hal novels for the price of one?

It does show that an ebook was of very little interest to the lucky winners, and that maybe ebooks aren't paperback-destroyers they're made out to be.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)


WordVixen said...

Despite the fact that I'm online 13 hours a day, I hate reading on a computer! It's always going to be paper for me. I can't see me ever switching even for a perfected Kindle. (I actually run away from e-books, even free ones.)

Vooper said...

I think you're right about ebooks not doing much damage as of now. However,I love my Sony Reader and Astak is apparently set to bring out an amazingly affordable version of their own in the coming months. I've read of libraries interested in checking out readers to the public and my wife is researching the technology for educational use as well. I think all this adds up to a big jump in public awareness in the near future. Having said that, I'm also on your lotto list and despite enjoying my reader just as much as a hardcopy, I would also choose the first book if I were to win. Even with no difference in reading comfort, you can't beat the feel of a physical book.

Simon Haynes said...

The other thing is, if ebooks caught on they could well bring in a bunch of new readers who currently stick to their gameboys, PSPs, etc. Might attract them to reading, and that's not a bad thing.

MRJ said...

Personally I love e-books. I read on my windows mobile phone all the time, so if I won the draw I would totally get book 2.

Of course I buy most of my e-books, but I hate it when publishers price there e-books higher the soft covers it seems like a big ripoff. Of course mpst of my friends don't understand how I can read books on my phone.

Marie Beausoleil said...

Words are words. :) The thing I like about ebooks is that they take up much less space than my eight bookcases full of ink-and-paper books. However, they're harder to read in the bathtub and I have a bad habit of losing them. I know they're somewhere on my hard drive ... With my regular books, I can easily scan the shelves.

It's certainly not unheard of for me to have both an ebook and a hardcopy of a book I really love.

elena said...

Anything which is shared will do this world better anyway.I hope this "free sharing" approach last for long on the net,I won't be so interested when the great money makers will rule the pixel space.Of course,I prefer reading on paper,but as you say, younger generations have the opposite feeling and getting them into reading ebooks is a wonderful and hopeful achievement.

Spyder Z said...

Heh, as a long time fan of your software, it was the E-Book that convinced me to buy the Rest of the books. (Including a Hard copy of Book 1. ;P ) I was fixing to take a flight from WA to NC (USA) and I'd been curious about them for a while, so I downloaded it to my Phone, and yesh... it was enough to convince me to buy the rest. ;P