Arthur Shippee forwarded a link to this article from The Chronicle of Higher Education about an author's experience with pirated electronic versions of his books. It looks at the issue from both sides, examining whether the existence of free copes helps or hurts.
When a collection of new essays I edited for an established university press finally came into print, four years ago, I assumed that my responsibilities for it had ended. As I recounted in an earlier column, I had navigated through numerous problems in preparing the book for the press, so imagine my surprise when I recently discovered a new difficulty.
A popular file-sharing Web site was offering pirated electronic copies of the book. Someone had stolen a copy of the e-book version and uploaded it to the file-sharing site. Now it could be downloaded free by anyone.
I was startled for several reasons. First, the retail price of a print copy of the book is $90, and the official e-book version is $74, so its free availability online seemed an obvious disincentive for anyone to buy it. Second, as I described in another column, I have mixed feelings about open-access scholarship. Several years earlier, an open-access project of mine had been plagiarized and printed in a commercial "closed access" book, and now my commercial closed-access book was in some sense made open-access to everybody—again without my consent. Third, even I—the editor—didn't possess a copy of the official e-book version, yet there it was for everyone else.
But was the piracy my problem? And was it really a problem?
According to the file-sharing Web site, the book had been downloaded 123 times in the past month. I was impressed that there could be so much interest in the text, which covers a relatively minor figure in philosophy. Could the pirated copy of my book be generating interest in an obscure corner of my field? If so, maybe this piracy wasn't such a bad thing.
I would like to believe that my edited volume has made a real contribution to the world of scholarship, and here it was circulating more rapidly that I had imagined. Maybe there would be some professional benefits from an expanded audience for the book, as more scholars might become aware of my work and cite it in their publications.
On the other hand, financially, the piracy seemed to be harming both the publisher and me.
To read the complete article, see:
My Battle With E-Pirates
Wayne Homren, Editor
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