No such thing as a free lunch

Sharks enjoy free lunches right up until fish and chips time.

Sharks enjoy free lunches right up until fish and chips time.

One of my friends pointed out to me this morning that Farewell to Kindness and Candle’s Christmas Chair are both up on a free ebooks site.

As we explored further, we found some peculiar things.

First, every book we looked at had been downloaded 600 and something times, and had 40 something reviews.

Second, this included books that had never been published, some of which we haven’t finished writing.

Third, the text describing the books, the cover images, and the reviews (where there are reviews) are identical to those available on Goodreads.

And when we clicked on the links to go to the sites for downloading and for reading on line – both supposedly separate sites from the front-end listing site – we found identical text, complete with grammatical errors, on all three sites.

When we tried to go further and were asked for our credit card details, we stopped.

So here’s the thing. Don’t try to read free books from an internet site.

  1. Many of them are virus traps or fronts for scammers who want to steal your money, your identity or both.
  2. Even if you don’t nuke your computer or lose your life savings, you’re likely to get a substandard product, particularly if it has been scanned in a hurry by someone who needs to get the book through the OCR software before they have to get it back to the library.
  3. And let’s not even talk about the writer, who has put in months, maybe years, to write the book and who is lucky if they get $1 in the hand for each sold copy. Figures for average number of books sold vary depending who you’re talking to, but 100, 250, and 500 are the numbers I hear most often. A week, you say? A year? No, good reader, ever. In the book’s entire life. If you don’t feel bad about taking a dollar off someone who gets paid $500 for a year’s work, then drop me a line. I have a url for you, and all they’ll want in return is your credit card information.

We authors understand that budgets aren’t infinitely flexible, and that – while food and housing come before books – books are a life necessity. We understand because nearly all of us have lived on constrained budgets, most of us still do, and few of us make more from writing than the writing habit costs us.

The world is full of ways to get cheap good books: libraries, subscription schemes, legitimately free books or books for 99c. Join a few readers’ groups on Facebook or sign up for an eretailers newsletter to find out when books are on sale. Come to book parties and join in the games. If you’re a keen reader, why not write reviews? Many people who have set up a book review site have more books than they can handle given to them, because writers need honest reviews like babies need milk, and for many of the same reasons.

In the end, I can’t stop people pirating my books, and I wouldn’t if I could. At least they’re being read. And maybe the people who read them will go on to buy other books from me later. If they survive the shark-infested waters of pirate land, that is.

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