From The Times Online
: Book piracy on the internet will ultimately drive authors to stop writing unless radical methods are devised to compensate them for lost sales. This is the bleak forecast of the Society of Authors, which represents more than 8,500 professional writers in the UK and believes that the havoc caused to the music business by illegal downloading is beginning to envelop the book trade.
Obviously people will continue to write and push for their works to be published. However the authors in this case are the established professional writers such as the chairperson of Society of Authors, Tracy Chevalier. It seems Chevalier means to warn us the latent book piracy on the net will result in a possible loss of output by writers because they are not being compensated for the illegal trade in their copyrighted material. Again, output by established writers.
But to suggest people will stop writing because anyone can lift off a page of their published work online is really stupid. A confession: years after the second Harry Potter film, I decided to pick up the first book. Because our university library did not have a copy and no one else in the dorm did either, I downloaded a pdf off Morpheus. Although reading it in one go on a crummy screen gave me a headache, I was glad I did so. Why? Because that weekend I went out and bought all four HP books available at the time.
Chevalier says the book industry will become like the music industry, hobbled by outright theft online. Is the internet such a big threat to writers? As I'm not a published author, I'm not sure. Several of my favourite food writers post their recipes or sections from their book on blogs or other sites. Then there are those whose food blogs have been turned into cookbooks. Yes, there are torrents of their books online. Yes, I'm sure people download them. But I'm sure the majority of the readership continue to buy physical copies.
The question could be posed to other parts of the publishing industry, like comic books and manga. It is very easy to download scanlated (scan and translated) manga off numerous sites and doesn't cost a penny. Buying it in a store is about $10 a volume. There are loads of .cbr torrents of various comic books as well. A single issue can cost up to $5 nowadays. The decision for consumers is easy, isn't it? Well... it's the same thing with my HP example. Many download the scans, but a significant few then buys a physical copy.Then there is the compliance of the fans: when a manga title is newly licensed in the US, many fan sites will take down their scanlations and urge their readers to buy the title instead. scans_daily
is a good example of fans uploading significant portions (less than 11 pages an issue) of a copyrighted work in order to garner interest. And I've dropped a pretty penny since watching the community as it introduces me to loads of works I would have otherwise missed.
Despite this, has anyone outright given up? Have mangakas, with all the doujinshi (published fan work) decide the piracy is enough to make them give up their craft? I doubt it. It may make them even more wary and increase copyright protection for their works, like JK Rowling's lawsuit over a fan site trying to publish it's unofficial copy of HP references.
As a commenter at The Times article says, perhaps the digital revolution will result in greater quality instead of quantity. Post a couple of chapters of a new novel online. If the punters like it, they'll buy a copy in store or maybe download it in its entirety. The pay structure will have to be tweaked: the author may only be paid per downloads, or per copy. It sucks, but it'll certainly mean in a more streamlined process. The ones that don't do well will have avoided the waste of many unsold copies. This scenario's already in play with lulu.com
where you can set the price for your labour of love.
I've never bought a book from lulu.com, though. I think I still suffer from the bias that self-publishing is somehow inferior from the established publishing houses. But the more mainstream self-publishing gets, I'm sure that view will soon disappear. Would I mind then if my own work is available for free download? Hey, if it means someone actually bought a copy in the first place, I'd be happy and mildly annoyed.