Thursday, 25 June 2015

Dear Someone who is making The Middle Ages Unlocked available for free,

I would really, really love to know why you are doing this.

I mean, I totally get being motivated to offer a book for free download when it's old, and out-of-print, and you know there is need for said book but it just cannot be gotten anywhere at all (or for a price that is in the hundreds, if not thousands, of Euros or Dollars or Pound Sterling).
I totally get not wishing to pay for a five-page scientific article that is fifteen years old, costs an arm and a leg to access for twentyfour hours, and of which you a) don't know whether the content will actually be of any use for you and b) do know that the author is not getting paid for copies sold.

I totally get that. But "The Middle Ages Unlocked" is brand new. It is easily accessible and it is fairly priced (at least I do think so, and I know that the price may still be out of range for some, and though I'm sorry for that I cannot really help it, but that's an entirely different topic and one only partly related to the book piracy issue).

The thing is... to upload our book to a filesharing site, or a download site, either as epub or as mobi or even as pdf, you must have gotten hold of a copy first. Did you buy it? (At least the very first of you uploaders must have bought it.) Thank you. Your buying the book supported Gillian Polack and myself. We are both freelancers, and income from our books are part of what we live on.

And then? Why did you upload it to share? I really don't understand. This is not like handing out a few copies to friends and relatives, because you are so excited about the book. Or like getting one copy and splitting the price among a small group, and then sharing the book. It's giving away somebody else's work, a book you presumably liked or found important and good enough to be worth reading, for free to a gazillion of people you don't even know. That's what I cannot understand. (Except if you got the book to upload it as bait for a scammy site that tries to spread malware, or get people to divulge their credit card information. That's something I could absolutely understand. Even though it makes me feel a bit sick to have our work used for that purpose.)

If you liked The Middle Ages Unlocked, wouldn't you want to have more books by Gillian and me? Wouldn't you want to support us so we can actually do that? Giving our work away for free is not a good way to go about it. Unless you buy multiple copies and give each of them away - that would be a very good way. (Also unlikely, I know.)

Or is offering the book for free download a way for you to make us suffer, because you hate the book, or you hate us personally? If so, congratulations. You have achieved your goal - we are both feeling stressed out by this issue, and are wasting time and effort on keeping the situation as much under control as possible. We are also both losing income over this. It's not much per book, but it is going to mount up over time. Gillian told me she lost a lot, almost all, of income from one of her books due to ebook piracy from free download sites. We are not getting advances (not every author does) so each sale lost is a real loss to us.

Authors put in work to make books, any books. It's nice to have that work appreciated, and a very tangible way of that appreciation is getting paid for it. If I have the impression that writing can actually contribute to my making a living, I will be happy to write and publish more. On the other hand, putting in a few years' worth of work, but getting very little or nothing in return... it's not going to make be utterly motivated to sit down at the desk and in the library again.

Having "The Middle Ages Unlocked" pirated and offered for free download so soon after its release also makes me wary of having ebooks of my work in the future. I'm a physical books girl by default, though I do know a lot of people appreciate ebooks, and I was beginning to change my stance. Now? Not so happy about it.

So. If you are thinking of uploading "The Middle Ages Unlocked" by Gillian Polack and Katrin Kania to some warez or dealz site for free ebooks, or some filesharing or torrent or bittorrent site because you like the book so much - please think again. You are not doing us a service.
If you would like to read our writing for free, I have this blog here, and Gillian blogs, too. She also posts on History Girls. Yes, it might not always be a topic that interests you, but in case of my own blog, you are invited to engage with me in the comments to ask for specific topics, or any questions you might have. I won't promise that I will be able to answer all of them, but it could not hurt to try.
If you would like to spread awareness about our book, blog about it or leave a review on some site offering the book for sale (Amazon has the most impact, but any bookseller will help). Or, even better, do both. Facebook-post about it. Share it on Twitter, or whatever other socialising site you like to use. We're happy about reviews, and we're happy if you spread word about The Middle Ages Unlocked.

If you're thinking of uploading it because you hate either Gillian, or myself, or the book - well. I think we'd both much prefer to get a personal hate mail to this, or even better some constructive criticism on what we could do better, but I guess there is not much I can do to keep you from making us suffer in this way.

And if you're a scammy baiter... well. Probably nothing I can say here will change your mind anyway. If you are indeed offering our book as ebook and not just pretending.


Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry you have to deal with this. :( There's a culture among a lot of people that having to pay for anything just evil and restrictive and all information and creative works should be available free to everyone. I don't think any of those people have ever created something they, or anyone else, can actually value because I can't get my head around how they could feel that way if they have.

I will be buying your book as soon as life allows. I'm moving to Germany in two months and I already have 500 books to move, so I've banned myself from buying more until I'm there. I've followed your blog for a number of years and learnt a lot from you, so the least I can do is throw some money your way and get an interesting book to boot.

Good luck tracking this person down. I hope they just give up.

a stitch in time said...

Thank you for your kind words - they are much appreciated!

Anonymous said...

Tut mir echt Leid wegen Deinem Buch. Ich hab daran gedacht mir ein Exemplar zu kaufen, aber mein Bücherregal quillt eh schon über. Aber dafür habe ich veranlasst, dass die Bibliothek der Universität Innsbruck ein Exemplar ankauft.

a stitch in time said...