Author Walter Jon Williams Asks For Fans To Help Him 'Pirate' His Own Works Better

from the piratesourcing?-crowdpirating? dept

Consumerist points us to a blog post from author Walter Jon Williams, where he discusses his disgust with pirate copies of his books — but not for the reasons you might expect. It seems he’s upset about the quality of the scanned copies and is asking his fans to help by creating better scans:

I embarked upon a Cunning Plan. I discovered that my work had been pirated, and was available for free on BitTorrent sites located in the many outlaw server dens of former Marxist countries. So I downloaded my own work from thence with the intention of saving the work of scanning my books– I figured I’d let the pirates do the work, and steal from them. While this seemed karmically sound, there proved a couple problems.

First, the scans were truly dreadful and full of errors. (Even if you’re desperate for my work, I can’t really recommend them.) A lot of time has been spent copy-editing, both by me and by Kathy– which isn’t really so bad, because this would have to be d0ne anyway.

But second, apparently a few of my books were so obscure that they flew under the radar of even the pirates! You can’t imagine how astounded I was when I discovered this.

I could really use some decent scans of some of my books, and I figure some among you must have better scanners and OCR than the piece of crap that’s currently sitting on my shelf.

Not only that, but he’s offering rewards to those who help him, saying he’ll send them signed (physical) copies of certain books, and also put their name on the scan.

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Comments on “Author Walter Jon Williams Asks For Fans To Help Him 'Pirate' His Own Works Better”

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Rekrul says:

Most OCR’ed text is chock full of typos. The problem is that most people don’t even bother to run a spell checker on it, let alone manually check it to see if it scanned properly.

I tried an OCR program once that claimed it could get the text out of any image. I imported a pure B/W image with perfectly clear block text and it only managed to recognize about 25% of the characters.

JustMe (profile) says:

Why not just post electronic versions?

(anonymously, of course, so he doesn’t get in to trouble with his publisher)

The author understands that some people are willing to read pirated copies of his books. There is some (probably large) percentage of those people would not normally purchase his books. Why not provide high quality electronic versions out to the pirating masses? The experience of reading without typos, formatting errors, wonky page rotations, etc. has got to make for a more enjoyable reading experience; one which might turn some of the pirates in to customers.

I’m not trolling, just proposing an a variation on the original Cunning Plan.

As a gift to the author I have added a new copy of The Praxis to my Amazon cart. I might also pick up “This is Not a Game:”

FYI to the author:

– The hardcover link for for “The Praxis” on your website says “Currently unavailable”.

– It is too bad the 3-fer book is unavailable (Dread Empire’s Fall, 1-3). I checked both and .com with no luck.

– Finally, why is the Kindle version of The Praxis the same price as the paperback at There are no printing, shipping or carrying costs.

Frost (profile) says:

Loss of revenue is never the problem that loss of exposure is

Many authors or musicians just don’t get that their biggest problem isn’t that people copy their work without paying, thus leading to loss of revenue – their biggest problem is getting exposure towards the greatest amount of prospective readers/listeners possible. “Illicit” copying can really help there and true fans of any artist will usually wind up paying for their stuff at one point or another.

Mike Raffety (profile) says:

Author scanning his own work?

Umm, if he wrote the book, doesn’t he still have the text on his own computer? Why scan anything? Or did he write it all out long-hand on paper?

Plus, then search engines will be able to index the text cleanly (e.g., someone’s trying to find the origin of a quote that came from his book).

But yes, assuming this was not self-published, his publisher may well have a vested interest in blocking this, it’s likely his contract explicitly prohibits him from circulating copies by any other channel.

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