Book Publishers Misguided Complaints About Scribd

from the sensationalism-at-work dept

If you're a bored journalist, it's easy to create a sensationalistic story about "piracy." Just find some pre-internet industry that's dealing with the shift to online content, get a few quotes about how awful "pirates" are, and then find a company to blame for all of it. That seems to be what the Times of London did with its story about publishers freaking out over people uploading books to Scribd. Scribd responded by pointing out numerous factual errors in the original article (specifically the parts that seem to try to place the blame on Scribd, despite it being a third party platform that actually has a pretty advanced anti-infringement system in place). However, this is the quote that struck me:
Peter Cox, a literary agent and editor of the Litopia blog, said: "These people are pirates. We don't have to give in to this. We can't afford to make the same mistakes the music industry did."
Apparently Mr. Cox hasn't been paying attention. The "music industry" (he means the recording industry) didn't give in on this. It fought it consistently. And lost pretty much every battle -- often making things worse for itself by simply never adjusting to the changing marketplace. So, Cox's response is to follow their exact mistakes by "fighting" this? That's exactly the mistake that the music industry made.

Instead, he might want to take a look at what folks like Paulo Coehlo discovered when he "pirated" his own books and saw sales jump. Or what Baen books has done. Or what tons of authors have found after they put their books online for free and combined it with a smart business model. Otherwise, Mr. Cox is making the exact mistake the recording industry made while thinking (incorrectly) that trying to "stop piracy" is somehow a workable solution.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    John Duncan Yoyo, Mar 31st, 2009 @ 1:59pm

    The Blind following the Blind and stupid.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    Geoffrey Kidd (profile), Mar 31st, 2009 @ 2:13pm

    Customer Loyalty is STILL the best business model

    You cite Baen Books as one of the best models to look at for dealing with necessary business model changes. I can second that, if only by examining how I feel about dealing with Baen.

    Baen gives some books away for free, yes, but you can also pay for the free books if you wish. Prices for the electronic editions are about that of a paperback book, and they don't use DRM to accuse their customers of being thieves or "thief wannabes."

    Result: I buy literally every electronic book they bring out. I pay for the free electronic books if I don't already own a copy. If somebody wants a copy that isn't available for free download, I try to steer them to the site and buy the book, or read the sample chapters and then buy the book. And I guard my private (unencrypted) copies of the book with an encrypted portable drive that only I and my wife know the passphrase. I've also had a policy over the last few years of buying every new hardcover and trade paperback they bring out and donate them to the local library to attract new addic... er, fans.

    In short, emotionally, Baen is family, and gets that level of loyalty as a matter of simple justice.

    BTW, I used to buy a lot of music and movies. I literally can't remember the last time I bought a DVD (cf. Netflix), and I only buy DRM-free MP3s from independent music sites like Magnatune or CD Baby.

    Baen has a better business model? Yup!

     

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  3.  
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    drkkgt, Mar 31st, 2009 @ 3:06pm

    Re: Customer Loyalty is STILL the best business model

    Yeah I am with you there. I downloaded the second Honor Harrington from them and read it (had read the previous in paperback from a friend) Since then I the paperback versions. I wound up giving those out to people to read then bought them again for my own library. I also got introduced to some series I might never have read via Baen's site.

     

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  4.  
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    Jason, Mar 31st, 2009 @ 3:37pm

    And by music industry...

    And by music industry, you mean recording industry...or "music industry" in the last line of the third paragraph...

     

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  5.  
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    Wayne Myer (profile), Mar 31st, 2009 @ 3:38pm

    Cue Masnick Effect...

    ...in 3, 2, 1...

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 31st, 2009 @ 7:28pm

    I am speechless that there are still authors among us who actually want to to be asked to give their permission before their work is digitized and shared with the world.

     

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  7.  
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    Mike (profile), Mar 31st, 2009 @ 11:30pm

    Re:

    I am speechless that there are still authors among us who actually want to to be asked to give their permission before their work is digitized and shared with the world.

    Hmm. Did anyone say otherwise? Nope.

    What we did point out (read it again to see) is that trying to fight these things has been shown not to work. Whereas trying to embrace them has been shown to work.

    Which seems smarter?

     

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  8.  
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    Pilar, Apr 1st, 2009 @ 1:01am

    Paulo Coelho

    Congratulations to Paulo Coelho, who dares to expose himself, being a world wide celebrity author, to defend the free content (aka piracy). Kudos to him

     

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  9.  
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    Peter Cox, Apr 1st, 2009 @ 7:49am

    A Suggestion

    Hey – here’s a novel concept for you guys to mull over.

    Instead of regurgitating other peoples’ websites, why not do a little original work of your own? I know, it may involve some – ugh – work... but you might just find it pays off. Radical idea, I know.

    Let me make it easy for you. The Scribd/piracy issue came to the fore on LITOPIA AFTER DARK. Instead of jumping to ill-informed conclusions, maybe you should listen to the shows in question. And then comment.

    I know... I told you it was a radical idea...

    Peter Cox
    http://podcast.litopia.com/

     

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  10.  
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    Mike (profile), Apr 1st, 2009 @ 10:34am

    Re: A Suggestion

    Hey – here’s a novel concept for you guys to mull over.


    Hi Peter, thanks for stopping by.

    Instead of regurgitating other peoples’ websites, why not do a little original work of your own? I know, it may involve some – ugh – work... but you might just find it pays off. Radical idea, I know.

    Instead of showing up on a website you know nothing about and assuming you do, here's an original idea: why don't you spend some time figuring out what the website is about. I know, it may involve some - ugh - work.... but you might just find it pays off. Radical idea, I know.

    Let me make it easy for you. The Scribd/piracy issue came to the fore on LITOPIA AFTER DARK. Instead of jumping to ill-informed conclusions, maybe you should listen to the shows in question. And then comment.


    Let me make it easy for you. Techdirt has been discussing "piracy" for almost 12 years. Instead of jumping to ill-informed conclusions, maybe you could read it a bit. And then comment.

    I know... I told you it was a radical idea...


    I know... I told you it was a radical idea...

    See how that works?

    Pot? Kettle?

     

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  11.  
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    K. C. Rourke, Apr 1st, 2009 @ 12:05pm

    Marketers vs. customers

    Production/distribution companies, whether their product is music, movies, books or other things, fill their rice bowls by buying content, adding a value to it (convenience, distribution networks, packaging, publicity), and selling it to consumers.

    The big traditional marketers (studios, publishers, etc.) are locked into an age when mass production/distribution was so expensive that everyone had to come to them. Many of them cheated both their suppliers and their customers, but got away with it because there were no viable options.

    When technologies came along that threatened their monopolies, they went to war to suppress them. They had some successes, but time is always on the side of change, and trying to force money out of the pockets of customers who have choices (and know it) is a big mistake.

    Today, the game is very different. Artists/writers/performers can produce their own work and market it alone, or through networks they create with others. We live in the age of YouTube and CD Baby. The big marketers can keep a death grip on the beloved "legacy ware" of their heyday, but that's the past, not the present, and certainly not the future.

    The only real way to get people to buy from you is to offer them something they want and make it pleasant for them to get it from you. Go to war with preschools for showing your cartoons without paying a ransom and you'll send them to the nearest competition, which won't be far away. There's an army of talented young cartoonists out there, just like there was in the last century, and their tools are better.

    Jim Baen had the sense to make his market happy to come to him. The model is working -- of COURSE it is. Who needs to fight with companies who treat consumers like enemies? The ones who mickeymouse the market will slide into irrelevance, and the beat goes on.

     

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  12.  
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    Peter Cox, Apr 1st, 2009 @ 1:41pm

    Re: Re: A Suggestion

    Mike...

    That is so lame.

    I'm always happy to engage in ful-contact debate with those who believe IP should always be free.

    But I won't do baby-talk.

    PC

     

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  13.  
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    Peter Cox, Apr 1st, 2009 @ 1:47pm

    “Many of them cheated both their suppliers and their customers, but got away with it because there were no viable options”

    Questionable, huge generalization, but as an agent I would tend to side with you on this.

    ”Today, the game is very different. Artists/writers/performers can produce their own work and market it alone”

    Not really true in the publishing area yet.

    “The only real way to get people to buy from you is to offer them something they want”

    You’re right.

    But none of the above excuses wholesale copyright piracy.

    When you steal a book by – for example - using Scribd, you’re taking money directly away from writers. And most writers are close to minimum wage already.

    Justify that, if you can.

     

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  14.  
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    hegemon13, Apr 1st, 2009 @ 1:52pm

    Re: Re: Re: A Suggestion

    You pretty much started out with baby-talk, so you proved yourself wrong there.

     

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  15.  
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    hegemon13, Apr 1st, 2009 @ 2:03pm

    Re:

    Really? Did the author use their bandwidth or equipment to bring the user that copy? No? Then they didn't take money directly from the writer.

    Except for the very few full-time, career, freelance writers out there, most writers write with no expectation, let alone any guarantee, of being paid. They work other jobs and write in their free time. It is not work, but an immensely enjoyable way to spend their time, regardless of pay. How do I know? Because I am one. When I am published, I don't care how many unauthorized copies of my books get downloaded. The more my work gets shared, the more people know and like my work. Even if 90% of the copies of my book are pirated, I want to see sharing increase. Why? Because an increase in numbers in the 90% group will also lead to an increase in the 10% group.

    If I could bring in the equivalent of a part-time job writing fiction, I would be thrilled. Until then, I use my skills to generate a lot more than minimum wage by working as a technical writer, and I am perfectly happy to continue doing so.

     

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  16.  
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    Peter Cox, Apr 1st, 2009 @ 2:57pm

    “Did the author use their bandwidth or equipment to bring the user that copy? No? Then they didn't take money directly from the writer.”

    If you steal someone’s property - in this case, intellectual property- then you have stolen something of value from them. Disagree?

    I suggest you learn something about the long, hard struggle authors have had to be paid for their work. It’s an enlightening history - involving, amongst many others, Mark Twain and Charles Dickens. Please educate yourself.

    “Except for the very few full-time, career, freelance writers out there, most writers write with no expectation, let alone any guarantee, of being paid”

    This is nearly risible. Your essential argument, if one can call it such, seems to be:

    • Most writers aren’t paid
    • Therefore, no writer should be paid.

    Apologies, but your logic escapes me.

    And just where does this end, in your utopian existence? Clearly, writers should not be paid for their work. But what about programmers? They produce IP – maybe they shouldn’t be allowed to earn anything, too. And people who run websites like Techdirt? Nope, they shouldn’t be allowed any remuneration, either.

    An interesting world, certainly. You and Josef Stalin would be very happy there.

     

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  17.  
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    Mike (profile), Apr 2nd, 2009 @ 12:57am

    Re: Re: Re: A Suggestion

    That is so lame.


    Wait, wait, wait... Me, showing that you did exactly what you (falsely, I might add) accused us of doing is "lame"?

    Oh, I get it. Proving you *wrong* is lame. You would have preferred that maybe we simply accepted your incorrect accusation and kowtowed?

    I'm always happy to engage in ful-contact debate with those who believe IP should always be free.

    Then you've come to the wrong place. I don't believe IP should be free, but you would know that if you read what we write. Apparently you are choosing not to do so.

    But I won't do baby-talk.

    Ah. Considering the words I used were yours... um... I think we've found the baby!

     

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  18.  
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    Mike (profile), Apr 2nd, 2009 @ 1:09am

    Re:

    If you steal someone’s property - in this case, intellectual property- then you have stolen something of value from them. Disagree?

    Intellectual property is not property. It is not "stolen." For something to be stolen, it needs to have been removed from the original owner. That's not the case here.

    Even the term "intellectual property" is a recent invention. It is highly inaccurate. Arguing that IP is the same as real property will get you nowhere. That idea has been debunked for years. It's difficult to take anyone seriously if they don't understand the difference.

    I suggest you learn something about the long, hard struggle authors have had to be paid for their work. It’s an enlightening history - involving, amongst many others, Mark Twain and Charles Dickens. Please educate yourself.

    We've written in great detail about the history of copyright from its earliest beginnings -- and even explained how misguided folks like Mark Twain were in their belief that copyright should last forever. Dickens, by the way, is also a dreadful example -- because part of his fight was over the US's lack of copyright... and recent studies showed two things:

    1. American publishers quite often STILL PAID UK authors such as Dickens for their works -- sometimes MORE than other countries where foreign copyright was respected, because there was value in having the official versions.

    2. The more efficient market in the US allowed Dickens' books to become MORE WIDESPREAD in the US than in the UK, his hometown.

    In fact, there are arguments that the lack of copyright coverage for Dickens works in the US is WHAT MADE HIM SO POPULAR in the US.

    Don't try to school us on history lessons when it's apparent you haven't done your own homework.

    • Most writers aren’t paid
    • Therefore, no writer should be paid.


    Don't twist someone's words. That's not what was said, and it makes you look much more of a fool than I'm sure you are to set up such a strawman.

    Apologies, but your logic escapes me.


    Ah, when you finish history class, try the basic logic 101 class next door.

    And just where does this end, in your utopian existence? Clearly, writers should not be paid for their work. But what about programmers? They produce IP – maybe they shouldn’t be allowed to earn anything, too. And people who run websites like Techdirt? Nope, they shouldn’t be allowed any remuneration, either.

    The only logical fallacy is yours. No one came anywhere close to saying people shouldn't get paid. The question is what WILL (not SHOULD) they get paid for.

    The whole point of what we discussed is that authors who have put together smart business models GET PAID MORE than those who do stupid things like freak out over free copies online. It's about putting together a smart business model. It's got nothing to do with not getting paid. It's got everything to do with getting PAID MORE.

    An interesting world, certainly. You and Josef Stalin would be very happy there.


    Huh? So you totally misinterpret history and basic logic and then finish off with a total non sequitur. I'm at a loss. What does Josef Stalin have to do with better business models for authors?

    In the meantime, Peter, you still haven't responded to the basic criticism of your quote. You claimed that you didn't want to "make the same mistake" as the music industry. But what you're proposing is exactly what the music industry DID. And it failed. So why repeat it?

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 2nd, 2009 @ 8:44am

    Re: Re:

    Even the term "intellectual property" is a recent invention.

    It has been reported in various law journals that the above term appears to have entered our lexicon in the early 1800's, its origins generally being attributed to France.

    By at least as early as 1845, the term was in use within the United States. See, e.g.:

    http://rychlicki.net/inne/3_West.L.J.151.pdf

     

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  20.  
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    Mike (profile), Apr 2nd, 2009 @ 12:15pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    By at least as early as 1845, the term was in use within the United State

    Heh. Neat lawywer's trick: focus on the trees (words) rather than the forest (actual point).

    Intellectual property was not used *COMMONLY* to refer to what we now think of it as referring to until just a few decades ago.

    But, you know, details...

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 2nd, 2009 @ 3:38pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Admit it. What "burns" you about the term is that it uses the word "property", and in the economic matters you discuss you believe (as do many economists) that only tangible goods should be so identified.

    I well understand the economic arguments, but also understand that all property in a societal sense is a creature of law. What may be deemed property in economic arguments does not necessarily carry over to our system of laws.

     

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  22.  
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    Mike (profile), Apr 2nd, 2009 @ 5:23pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Admit it. What "burns" you about the term is that it uses the word "property", and in the economic matters you discuss you believe (as do many economists) that only tangible goods should be so identified.

    No, what "burns" me is using a term that is wrong to explain your position. It makes you look stupid, and I'm sick of arguing against stupid arguments.

    I well understand the economic arguments, but also understand that all property in a societal sense is a creature of law. What may be deemed property in economic arguments does not necessarily carry over to our system of laws.

    For example, that is the stupidest argument I've seen all day. So you are basically saying that it's okay to use the wrong definition because it's all semantics? That makes no sense. Copyright is not property because IT IS NOT PROPERTY. It has VERY DIFFERENT characteristics, both ECONOMICALLY and LEGALLY. Saying they're the same or using real property as an analogy is wrong. It makes you look like a fool.

    I mean, this is pretty basic stuff. Arguing against it makes you look stupid, and I'm sick of arguing against stupid.

     

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  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 2nd, 2009 @ 7:24pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    You appear as if you are becoming more easily agitated. Time to sit down and take a deep breath.

     

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  24.  
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    Mark Easterling, Apr 2nd, 2009 @ 8:57pm

    I hate that site

    I find it so hard to find anything on that site. I used to use http://www.freebookquest.com, but I have found it easier to use the gutenberg project nowadays. No one cares if you download those, and nothing beats those old westerns. I can understand their complaints. But it is only going to get worse. Things that can be replicated, will be. There is nothing the other industries can do to stop it. They better find a new business model or else.

     

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  25.  
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    Mike (profile), Apr 2nd, 2009 @ 11:16pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    You appear as if you are becoming more easily agitated. Time to sit down and take a deep breath.


    Heh. Comments here don't agitate me. Discussing this stuff is fun. It's just every once in a while a moron needs to be called out for being a moron.

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 3rd, 2009 @ 11:00am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Copyright is not property because IT IS NOT PROPERTY.

    Now this is an unassailable statement carrying immense persuasive force.

    Saying they're the same or using real property as an analogy is wrong. It makes you look like a fool.

    Thank goodness I never said any of that.

     

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  27.  
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    rogerpaul, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 12:05am

    scribd is not the only place!

    This is ridiculous!
    There are hundreds of sites where you can download books...........as for the argument that you piracy affects sales------Hello! Shakespeare is freely available on the net.......and have people stopped buying him ?!

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    Craig Olson, Jun 14th, 2012 @ 5:22am

    Royalty Free Publishing

    I was shocked to find my book in its entirety on Scribd. I am beginning to wonder if I might have checked a box somewhere when I was signing up for something else (like an online book club) that ceded publishing rights to this company.

    At least Amazon.com omits significant sections of the book in its "Look Inside" feature. I can't see that Scribd has omitted anything. And I can't find any way to contact them on their site.

    I have 671 "Reads." Whether that entails any sales or not, I have no idea. I did buy one download myself to see if that affected the stats. It did not. And I never get an email from these people.

    Does anyone know how this outfit works?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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