So, there was an article in the New York Times today that has generated some online discussion, much of which centers on whether it’s “stealing” for a Kindle user to allow a few friends to share her downloaded books. It’s not stealing, according to the terms of the Kindle user agreement. Customers are allowed to download a purchased book on up to five devices, much the same as a reader can pass a print book she’s purchased to her family and friends. Courtney Milan has a brilliant post today opining that such sharing is a reader’s right.
My own belief is that the sharing of books is not only a reader’s right, but an author’s benefit and a public good (that’s my librarian side showing). I’m not talking about piracy here, where a book is illegally downloaded thousands of times, but rather the sharing of purchased books amongst friends, family and neighbors. There’s a huge difference between the two.
I’ve had readers write to me to tell me they enjoyed my book(s), but then go on to apologize for the fact that they got the book from a library or a friend, rather than by purchasing it themselves. It just makes me sad that they feel they should apologize! Please, if any of you reading this feel that way – don’t. Feel free to write me and tell me your reactions about my books, however you obtained them. If your life is anything like mine, time is your most precious resource. The dedication of the 4, 6, 8+ hours it takes just to read the book is an investment worth far more than $6.99. However you got the book, if you expended the time, imagination, and emotional energy to engage with a story I wrote, I am grateful to you. You’ve certainly earned the right to comment on it!
Of course I like sales and royalties. Depend on them, as a matter of fact. But as an author, especially as a new author, I firmly believe that the total number of readers is the key to my building an audience. Some of the readers who’ve written me these apologetic letters go on to say that after borrowing my first book, they went out and bought the other two. Woohoo! That’s exactly the point. It would be shortsighted of me to look at that first instance of borrowing as a “missed” sale, when it in fact led to two additional ones.
In my debut trilogy, the heroines pass a book from one to the next–a bawdy little novel called The Memoirs of a Wanton Dairymaid. Essentially, it’s a romance novel. Lucy gives it to Sophia; Sophia gives it to Bel; Bel passes it on to Hetta… Along the way, a second copy must be purchased due to some of Sophia’s…ahem, artistic alterations to the original. Et voila! The Wanton Dairymaid‘s author (Portia, by the way, from The Legend of the Werestag) has just scored a second sale–one she never would have made, had Lucy kept that book hidden beneath the false bottom of her stocking drawer.
Please, share my books with your friends. Borrow them from libraries. And don’t ever feel you should apologize.