Sunday 4 August 2013

They're stealing my books!

On Thursday night I went to a strange do in Oxford. Held in a pub, of course, it consisted of a couple of plays without scenery and then an off-the-cuff performance which included members of the audience. It was a little odd, but rather fun. I didn't get involved in the extempore stuff, but did get talking to some of the actors over a pint afterwards. One was a bright young software engineer from Moldova (next to Ukraine, he informed me tiredly). His girlfriend is writing a book (who isn't?) so we got to talking about eBooks.

He was particularly interested, I recall, in protection. How could you ensure that your book wasn't pirated: copied then sold, or given away, by someone else? We talked a little about Digital Rights Management which is supposed to protect eBooks, but neither of us knew much about it. I told him that Smashwords (which sells eBooks in lots of formats) did not use it and claims that it is actually counterproductive: it's better to have your words out there regardless of the odd bit of pilfering, they say.

Recently, I made the exciting discovery that Smashwords had sold a number of copies of my novel, Shaken by China, in New Zealand and Australia. Since then I've been going a little Smashwords crazy. I now have seven books in their eBook shop and I told my Moldovan friend that I was quite happy with the odd person copying a book that they had bought of mine and giving it to someone else. It seemed to me a little like lending a paper book - but it isn't.

Next evening I did a search for "Hedy Rob Walters" I can't remember exactly why, I think I was trying to get to the Hedy Lamarr page of my own website without clicking the visitor count. Anyway, I was amazed at the sheer number of hits that came up and started to wade through them, then I came to this:

Yes, my Hedy Lamarr book available for FREE to anyone! I was stultified. That book took ages of research and months of writing and rewriting. I sell it through Amazon as a paper book and an eBook and though it does not sell in huge quantities, it does sell and I am gladdened by every sale. Meanwhile, I now find that anyone searching for my book can download it for free from this pirate website and I have no idea how long this has been so.

How did they get my book? I don't know. Why do they do it? Money, somewhere along the line, I suppose. How did I feel? Angry, despoiled, gutted, but unsurprised. I immediately bashed out a flame email starting with "How dare you..." and ending with the threat of action if the book was not removed within one week.
Later that night I met Jim in one of my favourite pubs in Oxford (Far from the Madding Crowd) and told him of my shock discovery. He was unperturbed. He told me that he had found one of his own publications offered for free recently and was pleased, but then he's an academic. Moreover, he also told me that he had software that can strip off any protection surrounding an eBook or document. So what can you do? Anyone else experiencing this?

Part way through writing this blog I found another shocker. Someone has put much of my novel, Shaken by China, onto their website for anyone to read. They call themselves Kilibro and claim to offer readers the opportunity to dip into books before purchasing them, yet they offer no means of purchasing the book! I'm afraid that the more I search for this sort of thing the more I will find. It's a rough world out there in the Internet.


  1. Rob,yes you will find lots more! A recent search for just one self-published title of mine located more than 50 such sites offering it as a free download. And once your stuff is on one of these sites, it will proliferate to others.
    If you want these free download pages closed down, you need to send out DMCA takedown notices to whoever is hosting each relevant page. Just google DMCA to find the correct form for these notices. Many of the download sites have a link at the bottom of the page for reporting abuse in DMCA form. In my experience, this is almost 100% effective, usually within a few days.
    Personally, I've found it worthwhile to pay Muso a few dollars a month to do the job for me, but this would become expensive if you're asking them to look after more than one title.
    You or Muso can also send notices to Google when you identify offending search results so that Google will remove the offending pages from their index. Google have said that sites whose pages regularly receive such takedown demands will be penalised in Google's search ranking. That seems to be the only way to actually get back at the people who are doing this. Others argue that you should leave the search results and just get the pages closed down so that people looking to get free copies of your book become frustrated finding that their searches lead only to closed-down pages. In some cases, you can even get the download page closed but if the referring page has a comment box, leave a comment with a link to where your book can be legally purchased.

  2. Thanks for this D'Arcy. Really useful.


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