This is interesting. Ray Banks – who is good – talks about ebooks with Allan Guthrie – who is also good – and the conversation turns to book piracy. Banks:
Authors should be pleased they’re being pirated. I know I was. Over the last twenty years or so, branding has shifted from publisher to author, so when someone illegally downloads and enjoys your book, they’re going to remember you, not your publisher. Plus, it means there’s a demand for your books not currently being met. As for publishers, especially those spending bucketloads of money to play Canute, why can’t they harness the potential of the torrent to their own ends? After all, these are people who like to read so much, they’re willing to go to that extra length to get free copies. That’s word of mouth right there, and I’d much rather see a thousand copies of my book go for free to people who wanted it than see another ARC show up on eBay. Also, P2P networks still represent a no-maintenance, utterly free and worldwide channel of distribution. Most companies would kill for that kind of reach with that little overhead.
I’d just add two things to that. One, many of the ebook pirates I’ve seen are collectors – not in the sense of collecting something and valuing it, but in the sense of wanting to have something just for the sake of having it. It’s the volume that matters, not the content, so for example you’ll see torrents promising X hundred Kindle books and those books have *absolutely nothing in common with one another*. It’s very unlikely that you’ll like Ray Banks and bodice rippers (it’s possible, but unlikely), so I’m not sure that there’s any benefit to authors from that particular kind of piracy.
The other point I’d add is that many apparently pirated books are no such thing: many pirate sites are frauds, listing books they don’t have in the hope you’ll pay for membership.
For what it’s worth I’m not hugely bothered by the idea of piracy, unless somebody’s making money from it. I’ve specified DRM-no and Lending-yes options for my own stuff.