Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Re: Piracy, a Response to Andrieh Vitimus.

I mostly just like this woodcut for the poppets. Srsly.
 I was reading an entry from a couple months ago by another Chaos Magician about piracy, occult authors, and the current situation that stands. A lot of the points he makes are very, very good. But I still find myself somewhat annoyed by certain things. I don't blame him for failing to consider them, but I'm going to offer my thoughts as a counter-point – not to be antagonistic.

So, let's start off.

Let's imagine I'm currently 20 years old. I work at Taco Bell making 8.50$ an hour, or the minimum wage in California. Let's imagine I go to school and I'm not getting much help paying for it, and I'm carrying a full course-load while working just beneath the full-time arrangement. Something like 34 hours a week or so.

Discounting what comes out of my paycheck for taxes, social security, etc:
I make about $315 a week. Or I make $1260 a month.*

If I live alone and I've found the cheapest possible housing, in the cheapest possible neighborhood**, around $250 (if I have a roommate). If I live alone, I maybe pay something like $500 a month. I will probably spend at least 100$ a week on food, unless I want to live on top ramen or buy nothing but generic and healthy products, which might reduce that price by a 5th. I'm already nearing having spent half my money even before I get it, just on cost of living. Now, let's say I go to city college, so I need between $800 to $1200 per semester, before including books. Including books, I probably shell out between $300 - $500 dollars per semester. This means that of my remaining cash, I'm probably putting between half of what's left or more in a savings account and not touching it to continue my schooling.

In the end, I'm left with $200 - $300 per month to spend. If I own a car, then the rest of my expenses are probably sunk into it.*** If I choose to forgo quick and efficient transportation and choose to have some money, I'm left with a minute amount of spending cash. So I scrap together $100 or perhaps a bit more for books. I might even have $5 left over for Starbucks! Hah!

I pay somewhere around $20 - $25 per publication. This is maybe cheaper now that ebooks are easier to get... Only a dollar or two actually goes to the actual author, with the rest being sunk into publishing expenses and heading towards the publisher having the ability to publish future works. I get between 4 and 5 books per month.

With, as Mr. Vitimus puts it, the high signal to noise ratio, I have to be fairly selective at this. I have to make sure my money goes where it deserves. The problem that begins to occur is in direct relation to the publisher, and their desire to make money. Going out on a limb, let's say that most publishers – even the larger and mainstream ones – want to put out good material. But to do that, they still have to publish crap books that are essentially worthless to continue making money and putting out other books.

Like I've said, I'm not making much money. Let's assume I'm also a noob, and so I'm sinking my money into beginner books. If I should discover that the publisher has given me crap, then I'm out of my cash. I can try to get it back, but it can become fairly unlikely in some cases. The publisher makes money off of me, but all I get is some paper and ink with material I already have – it's effectively worthless.

Assuming that something like 10 out of ever 100 books are worth my time, that still leaves a very large amount of crap books. This amount may increase or decrease depending on the publisher and their commitment to quality material. Since their primary goal is to make money, especially if they're a major mover and shaker in these parts, they don't actually end up losing anything when they knowingly produce a book filled with crap.

The loss sits on my shoulders. I now have maybe two out of four or five books that's worth my time, and if I really want to learn magick to improve my conditions (which, I imagine, many younger magicians do – I know I did! I'm happy it worked occasionally), about 50% of what I just got is a money sinkhole. The publisher has knowingly produced crap, and they have absolutely no liability in this unless I write a downright scathing review and others do it, too.

So they've made money off exploiting me, and my position, and my lack of knowledge. They get to walk way more or less free of this situation and continue to do what they do, and I get to feel the total effects.

To suggest that this situation is bullshit is not to understate this factor. Around twenty years old, I began sinking most of my money into academic publications. These are far more expensive, but I at least know I'm getting decent material that's been subjected to a peer review process – unlike the occult paperback market. I'm getting something at least remotely historically correct and if I'm smart, I can probably use it. When I got my copy of Richard Kieckhefer's Forbidden Rites, I think I paid something like $40. You can find it cheaper now... I can immediately turn to using CLM 849, and summoning up demons and trying to recoup that loss. It's only twice as much as most Llewellyn books I've come across, but unlike them, it's actually worth my money. I have a Grimoire to try and work with, and an academic's take on it to take into account.

Meanwhile, we might compare this with Christian Day's A Witches' Book of the Dead, which is also introduced by Raven Grimassi. Regardless of the validity of Day's book or not, which I've avoided reading, some issues occur. Some time ago Day came to the attention of the blogosphere when he hit the mainstream press for “cursing” Charlie Sheen for calling himself a Warlock. The ritual was uploaded to Youtube, and if it's still up, you can watch Day and crew botch the LBRP and make some massive mistakes. Based on the ritual on Youtube, some serious questions might be raised about the validity of his book, which was put out by Weiser last year. It apparently never occurred to Weiser that working with the dead and making huge, possibly dangerous, mistakes while working with the dead might be terrible for business... And consumers. The list price for the book is around $20 bucks. If I buy Day's book, I can probably look forward a bunch of techniques that might be dangerous even if they do work. Do I really want to trust someone that summons the dead and then leaves an audience outside the circle to watch? Do I really want to trust someone that can't even make sure the LBRP is performed correctly for a ritual publicly uploaded?

Or do I want to spend twice that amount of cash on a solid book?

Another example: Migene Gonzalez-Wippler's Santeria: the Religion put out by Llewellyn. However much the information on Santeria in it might be correct – and with what I'm about to say – the information contained in the chapter on Palo (chapter 19) looks to be complete crap, mixed in with drama and misinformation that can be best be said to be extremely divisive. Especially when considering the sheer number of practicing Paleros who are also Santeros or Santeras. Again, the price is around $20. For just a bit more, I could pick up a copy of Palo Mayombe by Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold from SI. I may not learn much about Santeria in it, obviously, but at least I'm not being spoon-fed bullshit and forced to reconsider everything written in the book when I stumble upon glaring issues. You can find Santeria in plenty of bookstores; you will have to order SI's book in most cases, especially in the U.S.

Now, Llewellyn could have fact-checked the bullshit. So could the editors at Weiser. They didn't bother, and produced their books. Why? Even if it's crap, if someone buys the books then they lose fuck-all. This is compared with their complaints about piracy, wherein Llewellyn has been hilarious. I won't even get into it. Every word I've seen that company issue on the subject has been hypocritical: they rip us off all the time, and never, ever consider that it might be wrong to do so. They take advantage of our communities and then pretend we should act like they help us. As much as I appreciate books from Patrick Dunn, Fr. U.D., and a few others that are worth reading, I'm still left with an overwhelming majority of publications that are rehashes of the same tiresome Wicca 101 bullshit, or recasting other forms of magick as Wicca (and thereby confusing beginners, who the rest of us are forced to try and educate: it's beyond tiresome, it's very annoying).

No accountability is held to the publishers for this glut of bullshit. Nor to many of the authors, who are often recast as celebrity figures and treated as a godsend.

However much I want to support the worthwhile authors, how am I to tell? Are we to begin requesting that future authors put a chapter of their forth-coming book on a blog so that we can get a feel for what's about to produced? Should we just accept the sink-hole scenario, which hurts everyone? Should I suggest that you never work with certain publishers again?

I believe that there are more reasons for piracy being frequently performed than many authors realize. I want authors worth being supported to be supported – but what about the crap? Who pays for that? Who takes that hit? As the former kid who lost money to Llewellyn, I think they owe me an either better policy when it comes to editing, or they need to accept that they poisoned the well. They pursued money above quality.

I contrast this with S.I., who has not only begun publishing paperbacks but also made cheap e-books available for the future magicians of tomorrow. When they began complaining about piracy, my biggest complaint was that the publications could not be obtained by everyone and therefore it was unfair to place the full blame on the pirates. If all of your publications range from $120 - $150, then only a select amount of consumers can obtain them. That means the only default for someone who cannot is to either pirate it, or sit around and save up until the book maybe falls out of print. This situation has been rectified, and I do applaud them for that.

So you have to ask yourself a question:
When I publish my work, do I want to ally it with a publisher committed to excellence, or someone who will put me in every store?”

If you choose the latter, then you reap what is to come of it. Buyer and writer beware! Your work may end up shunned, not because it's bad, but because everything around it is bad. It's not terribly fair, but it's also the way things are going.

As for “paying it forward?” I have discussed this factor with many of the pirates I know, most of whom are poor kids that I laid out earlier. Many of them actually state that they try to buy the materials in hardcopy the second that they can afford it. Plenty have told me that if they love something, they review it. I doubt more than a few could take you out to eat, though, bro.

As for actually paying occultists for their hard work? I love the idea. But I'm still left questioning it.

I want to see Jason Miller travel the U.S. and get payed for his important work; I'd love to see the same of Barrabbas and R.O. and many more. Then again, do I think that Christian Day, or any other easily identifiable moron to get paid to teach potentially harmful techniques to noobs that know no better? Absolutely not. If that's the future of witchcraft or occultism, count me out. I'd rather write for free and never be paid a cent for a lecture, than tie myself to such a system.

We stand a crossroads, I guess, as an occulture. The question is: will you support more crap, or will you work on changing the situation by refusing to engage in a system that has become unthinkably filled with crap?

When you publish with a company, you're choosing to make a type of alliance, or a pact. Thus you will be considered not just on the merits of your work, but the works produced around it. I think many authors, especially the ones publishing today, forget this. Don't. Either work to change the issues with your publisher, or publish with someone else.

At this point, you are left with very little choice. I'm sorry it's this way. But it has been for $30 years. As the Depression and economic issues set in, you should expect the state of affairs to remain. Consider who is buying your work, how much time and effort it takes for them to get it, along side with your own concerns.

I wish him the best with whatever book Mr. Vitimus writes next.

*This is a very high estimate due to ignoring the issues that I've already said earlier.
** I can look forward to living next to drug dealers, etc. Which, in fact, was the case when my roommate and I lived for precisely around that amount over half a decade ago. So, yes, what I'm saying is more than a bit person.
*** To avoid those expenses, I used a bike. More physically taxing, but economically cheaper.

22 comments:

Jason Miller, said...

For the record, I have no complaints about anything. I bave the opportunity to travel and teach when i want, its kids that hamper that, not money.

The opportunities out there for pro occultists are better than ever, so no complaints from this kid.

M.C. said...

Very well put Jack... Your argument mirrors my own. 95% of the occult works being released these days are pure crap. In some cases they're crap wrapped in extravagant bindings, but crap is crap whether its packaged in uber rare gnome skin or xerox copy paper, and whining to me about "pirates" stealing your intellectual property when you have no intellect is going to fall on deaf ears. Those who complain most fervently about the injustice of their works being shared are those that know that once the occult market has had an opportunity to preview their cash for trash books, there's little chance anyone would spend their money to but the physical product. On the other hand, those of us who release genuinely valuable works don't have the same fears because someone reading a scanned copy of our books is likely to see the value and give you their patronage. If you're a publisher who sells crap like Day's book you're no friend to the occult community anyway, and I applaud the "pirates" for saving people from wasting their money on your tripe

Brother Christopher said...

or you could do what alot of creative types do. You have things that sell and make money no matter what but are essentially schlock with a smattering of gold and jewels in it so you can take your money and make things worthwhile and sell them as well for the smaller group that doesn't necessarily make you money, but shares the refinement and artistry that you love.


and of course before there was piracy, there was always the five finger discount. HAIL LAVERNA!!!

Andrieh Vitimus said...

But means everything thing you said before the but was a lie :)

I cant really agree with you, but if your going to quote me,, I still maintain that Stealing is stealing. Say what you wil that you have a tough class schedule, justify the poverty consciousness as you will, and likewise say "its the publisher making money"... its still not really ethically right. That said, people are going to do it, I am not stupid and I was criticizing as much the witch hunt against people who are going and trying TO ARREST pirates all the time. Again, this is part of the point I was making.

I agree with you that publishers in general suck its a money game like so many rips, but again, all those justifications you gave are just that. Justifications for that piracy are just that, be as annoyed as you want. I mostly think most books do suck and do agree with your comments, just disagree with the general justification. Amazon lets you return shit, so does Barnes and noble. I give my books to library, and sometimes if you came to me in person, Id probably say, heres a pdf of the book. Thats how I roll, but that SHOULD be MY choice. And thats the difference in the argument.

Musicians can charge for shows, in the end Authors Can't. So I will even GRANT your numbers, just not accept the justification. Do I think the authors should give away their books, yep... but then do I think they should they should be able to follow a similar path to professional speakers and musicians and at least get paid for the performance. Yes I do.

Still the notion that, I cant afford it as a justification for piracy isnt going to fly water. Art simply is a luxury item... make your own, the internet has enough.. Praise the pirates as you will, and you'll get the diminishing returns as we are.

Jack Faust said...

I'll not contest your comments about justification, Mr. Vitimus. I did my best not to justify piracy, but to point out that we're your consumers and if we don't get a worthwhile, quality product, we won't buy it. I will again repeat that America is in an Depression. Even without piracy undercutting some profits, you must expect diminishing returns. I have yet to see anyone but S.I. take this into serious account.

To account for industry losses we must account for:
1. How much avialable spending money given consumers have.
2. Piracy, and its ability to annihilate profits.
3. Whether or not the work can stand on its own merits and sell itself.

For years certain publishers could count on bubble economics to get them by. This is no longer the case. Furthermore, they soiled themselves producing crap "wrapped in more crap" as Mike put it. Once you account for all three, diminishing returns make complete sense. If you want to overcome piracy? That book better be awesome. Otherwise, why on earth would I give you my hard earned money?

Jack Faust said...

For the record, I prefer physical books. I just like the smell and feel. If I'm lacking money, an ebook will suffice.

I have no idea what precise amount piracy contributes to the dearth of sales. I'd guess, what, 30%? That's 30 cents on every dollar. That totally sucks. I do feel that!

But, again, overcoming it would rely on a better product from a better source. The publishers of larger presses have yet to catch on to this trend. It's really astounding to see the same mistakes repackaged because it sold well way back when. Crap may float, but gold still sinks and glitters from the bottom of the well.

0ccd7456-0793-11e2-90ff-000bcdcb8a73 said...

Very excellent read jack! A couple of gaps that may merit further thought. What is up with a higher quality of peer reviewed books, but not wanting to invest in the system? It crossed my mind that the system is flawed at every level: economic, educational, business, government, social. So how do we presume to exist in such a state? In a fascist empire, can we expect not to be exploited? Are not the Sudanese and Palestinian exploited by Israel? Can we live in shared exploitation? How do we live? How do we transcend this place for deeper space?

Jason Miller, said...

Ok, I do actually have some things to say about this. Not really arguments. Just points in no particular order.
1. I think that the whole idea of publishers as clubs that you belong to and are defined by is completely fucking bullshit. I mean, honestly, its getting like goddamn west side story up in here.
The fact is that I publish with New Page, a publisher that will place my books on shelves, translate into other languages, and make my books available through mainstream wholesalers, precisely because they do that. It suits my business model in three important ways. If I have something that I think needs to be published in a limited fancy edition or something like that, I can still do so.

Similarly, a few people who HAVE published with small imprints have written me privately expressing a desire to do something for a wider audience. It is a different thing. Thats all. If next year, I decide to publish a book with Nephilim or SI and Mike Cecchetelli decides to write a book for New Page Press, nobody should read anything more into it than it fit our business model, the nature of our work, and our spiritual guidance at the time to do so.

2. Honestly I think that anyone who decides to ignore my book because it is published by someone that published other things they don't like is being a complete ass.

Back in the day, Llewellyn was publishing as much crap as they do now, but I never felt the need to define Stephen Flowers Fire and Ice by the fact that it was put out by the same people that put out Enochian Yoga. I don't hate on the Three Books of Occult Philosophy because they are published by the dudes that publish Silver Raven Wolf.

Similarly, I will not look to SI to be the arbiters of what is cool and good. I think they are doing an amazing job, but in Ten years we will look on some of those books as being pretentious shite. I know that some of the "crooked path" stuff that I was all aflutter over 12 years ago certainly seems that way to me now.

Jason Miller, said...

3. A lot of what we are talking about as "bad" is really just stuff that we don't like. While Christian Day might indeed be bad, there is a lot of basic Wicca stuff that is just what some people might need and like. I don't want it, and you don't want it, but that doesnt make it bad.

4. When I was coming up, I bought my fair share of shlocky books. I returned a few as well (you can in fact return books that turn out to be crappy...). Its the price of playing. You learn how to tell the wheat from the chaff pretty quickly, and honestly there are better tools for that now than ever before.

SO, given the tools at the disposal of the poor pirate, I have no sympathy.

5. That said, I also am not getting all worked up about it which is why I dont post about Piracy. I am pissed to the gills when I see my entire course pirated, but the reality is reality. I have read PDF's passed to me as well, and so has every single person in this conversation (no? oh, I bet you have never seen porn either...). When I do it though, I know that I am doing something ethically shady, ultimately wrong, and doing it anyway because I am serving my own purposes. If people can just admit THAT rather than making arguments for why it is OK, maybe we could just all get on with it.

6. You do not have to be Christian Day to make money at this. Nor do you have to produce crap. I like each and every one of my books, and honestly, I think my course is an incredible fucking deal. I think it would be an incredible deal at twice the price, and more people have told me that I should raise the price than have told me I should give it away for free. I like the course for money model because in many ways, it is more honest than the "join a secret order" model.

It's late, and I am tired, and I hope some of this made sense. But we REALLY need to get beyond the whole "this is a Llewellyn book so it sucks, this is a Scarlett Imprint book so it must be cool, and never the twain shall meet" mentality. I don't want to have a rumble with MC at Crucible because he is a Shark and I am a Jet.

Jack Faust said...

@Jason: Lol. Okay, fair points. Lest I sound like I'm trying to be all West side story:
2. I will not simply "ignore" a book by Llwewllyn because they've produced crap. I mentioned Mr. Dunn and Fr. U.D. They provide quality materials despite being published by Llewellyn. I love their books, and I'd buy them regardless of the publisher. I will be less likely to do so with new authors because I don't know them, their merits, or their work. Unfortunately, the signal to noise ratio remains high and I would rather buy a bottle of Jack rather than take a chance on more crap. I wish more new authors would preview their work for the public to see and consider. It beats some other options by far, but few take advantage of it.
3. That's all fair, actually.
4. Arguably, if authors are feeling heat from not getting sales, perhaps their promotion techniques for their work needs to change.
5. 'Eh. It won't end while authors repeat the comments that Publishers make. But, again, fair enough.
6. Again, fair.

Additionally, I still like Mr. Vitimus' idea about lecturing. My only objection remains to the idiots. I don't mind the idea of setting up circles and plans where people could get cash to come and lecture on an awesome subject. That sounds fantastic. If it helped those unduly harmed moneywise by Piracy, all the better. I also like the idea of authors setting up paypal accounts to recoup losses from piracy from those happy to get it. If I saw Stephen Mace set up a Paypal, I'd get him $60-$100 just for all the people that probably pirated his work after I repeatedly plugged it.

But what I want to clarify is that just because a book is on the market, does not make it worth buying and estimating losses due to piracy rather than a myriad of factors in which piracy is but one is absurd.

If I like a book, I plug it. Others do this, too. We, the consumers, haven't abandoned everyone.

Jack Faust said...

@Alphanumerics@AOL: Uh... A lot of interesting questions you bring up. I'm afraid some of them are unanswerable by me. Lol.

Jack Faust said...

*laughs* If all someone took away reading this was "fuck you, and fuck your publisher!" ... Then I apologize. That was not my intent, and I failed to write what I intended. My bad. Next time I'll work at more effective communication...

Jason Miller, said...

Its not that it is all I have come away with Jack, but I do think that there has been this sort of false equation between book and publisher (or worse author and publisher)that is totally bogus. Viewing books this way is misleading and will not serve anyone well.

Again I say that the tools we have today of Amazon and Google previews, more targeted reviews, and dozens of blogs and communities make it pretty dam,n easy to know what you are getting ahead of time. And again, if you get something you don't like: RETURN IT.

One of my favorite things on earth is Linda Falorio's Shadow Tarot, but when I bought her book that revealed the minor arcana I was so incredibly disappointed that I actually returned it to Amazon.

The idea that Authors should make their books available for free or give a thumbs up to Pirates is also bogus, and I think you know that it is.

Ultimately I don't give a crap what the Pirates do because I know three important things:
1. There is absolutely nothing that can be done about it.
2. It doesn't effect sales in a significant way.
3. It makes you look like small minded to be spending time and energy railing against it rather than just getting on doing your own thing.

Funny enough, the lecturing part of Andrieh's post is actually the part that I disagree with.

Jason Miller, said...

You wrote: " Arguably, if authors are feeling heat from not getting sales, perhaps their promotion techniques for their work needs to change."

In this we agree 100%.

The author is an entrepreneur, not an employee. It is up the the entrepreneur to adjust to the market, change the market to fit his needs as much as he can, and tend to his business.

Again, its not so much the Piracy that I hate: its the people complaining about it on one hand, and justifying it on the other.

Andrieh Vitimus said...

Right, and for the record, while I just dont think there is a justification for the Piracy... I want to say its totally out of control what the government does.

I cant stress that enough.

I already acknowledge the bad books and by the way, I pretty much used every bit of leverage I had to force Llewellyn to put my book on Google Preview and the full book at that. Sure you can't download the whole thing at once, but its all there. Why, Cause I was willing to stand behind it in full on the quality of the work.

As per your marketing comment, yes and thats a hard thing. Although, Id argue you work against yourself Jack. Christian Day is unbelievably good at marketing and hence his book sells. So if you want quality, the "good" at marketing is a double edged sword. Many people are QUITE good at marketing, and their work sucks.

With Jason, I can understand your objection, but simply put. The structure and general free lecture of modern festival structure is deeply and horrendously flawed to me and should match other industries at least in part. Either this is a serious pursuit or its a hobby. My objection is consistently, that at all organizational levels, speakers are treated as hobbyists despite their skill level or the quality of teaching which gives NO incentive for improvement other then self gratification. AKA the culture supports and maintains mediocracy in a way I am not comfortable with and I do think there should be to engage as there is in other professional fields. A band that Rocks the house, gets more people in the house as it were. At most events, speakers are simply a sideline.

Jason Miller, said...

I guess I just don't really see where you are coming from with the lecture thing.

Festivals really can't charge more than they do without loosing attendees. Furthermore a lot of their expenses go towards entertainment, security, etc. You are right that lecturers are the side line, and they will be at events like that.

The fact is that a lecturer is not and never will be a musician. When you have a lecturer at a festival, there is a bit of a value add, but not enough to warrant a big check. I can give the best, most entertaining lecture in the world, but it is not going to draw as many people as a band or magic show at a festival. PLUS I think we have already established that the best occult material, does NOT appeal to the masses.

At Hotel conventions, lecturers occasionally do get paid, like at Sacred Space in MD. It's nice, but not really sustainable.

But think about the quality of the lecture that you can give at a festival? Not exactly an in-depth teaching.

From a purely business model perspective, I don't expect to make much at festival lectures or conventions. I expect to: have fun, network with peers, advertise for things that do make money by delivering a good lecture that gives a window into my more in-depth teachings. It is the same with the New Page books - I don't expect to make a bundle of money, and I cannot understand why anyone would.

When I give a lecture at a store, I get paid decently and I am sure that you do as well. If not, then demand more. When Lon Duquette comes to a place to lecture he says "Ms DuQuette expects me to come home with X" and he does.



Harold Roth said...

Not making much money is not an excuse for stealing content. I make very little money, less than half the average annual income. I nevertheless manage to BUDGET money for books. I buy a lot of used books, but I also generally do NOT buy pop occult author type books because I pretty much know what is in them already. If I am curious, I can read the reviews, I can page through it, usually, on Amazon, and Google Books might have sections of it available or even the whole book sometimes. I can take it out of the library. I can get it on interlibrary loan. Etc. Academic books on the occult are especially cheap used. I bought Dark Shamanism recently for a dollar. So I have not found it difficult to buy books, even though I make very little and have for a long time--ad that income level is my choice, because I want to do what I want to do when I want to do it, and my work might not pay a lot in terms of cash, but it pays a lot in other ways and allows me precisely that freedom. So I do not accept any excuses on that score.

Yes, some books are expensive. Some cars are expensive, but that doesn't mean go steal the next car you see. It meas you realize you can't have it and find something else to satisfy yourself with. Somehow that has become an old-fashioned or even reactionary notion.

The whole steal-a-book thing has led to authors treating books like ads for their lessons, their sites, their workshops, whatever. What next, product placement? To me, this lowers the value of a book. I don't want to buy an ad. I want a stand-alone book that was put together for the purpose of being a book and communicating ideas to the reader. I don't want to buy a whore for a online course.

That said, precisely because of the issue of theft of content and because people seem to be totally willing to treat a book like an ad, I decided to turn my book into a site that will be supported by ads and constructed in ways that make it difficult to websuck, which subject I have been researching for quite a while. If people find that upsetting, well, I guess they should not have stolen so many books that it is not worthwhile to write one. I'm working on the site now. I too love real books, but no one is going to fuck me out of all the work I have done on that material, especially not someone who is going to excuse the theft with "your book was crap anyway," "I'm a poor student," "your book costs too much," "your book is out of print," "knowledge is about SHARING." Before I ever opened my shop, I was a freelance ghostwriter. I made much more than I have ever made with the shop--or as a professor. That is exactly how I know how much a writer's skill is worth.

Jack Faust said...

Harold: You know what? I'd prefer not to have a throwdown with you this week. Your comments are fair, as I opened this can of worms. We think differently and feel differently. That's all.

I'm also way more concerned with why Piracy occurs (mostly technological innovation and the failure of traditional industry to get with the program) than who performs it ("thieves!"). So, I'll leave it at that. Your points are fair and I'd prefer not to antagonize you further.

Mr. Vitimus: I respect what you've done with your book. I hadn't been ware of that, and really want to give you props. It's one of the few times any author, from any company, has said something along those lines to me. Very cool.

I do admit to arguing against myself! Mr. Day is pretty damn good at marketing himself and getting his name out. My objections to him aren't failure to market, but that he's clearly an idiot and I have no idea why Weiser decided on him over... Anyone else. But Weiser's concern is money, and so the only way for me to vote is to not buy. I'm happy to oblige them in that. heh.

Jack Faust said...

Basically, I'm willing to admit that producing this entry, despite that I don't feel my arguments are fundamentally wrong, was a mistake.

I dislike the "justification" game. I do. I may sound like I'm justifying piracy, and to a degree I'll admit that I am, but I feel there are factors that sit outside of discussions because the "ethical aspects" are easier to focus on.

At the same time, it's probably not fair to trash-talk an entire company of individuals because some of the books they produce are crap. Yes, you can return them. Yes, you can also buy a book after pirating it (I see these two factors balancing each other out, basically), but I was still wrong in being an ass.

I get pretty angry at Llewellyn, but I should just ignore their comments and stop opening my mouth. It doesn't help much.

Jack.

Solomon Buccola said...

The leading question seems to be whether poverty is a valid reason for stealing. My answer is: yes, it is, but we still need to ask exactly what and how much stealing it justifies. Is your conscience really sharp enough that you will recognize the line once you have crossed the legally demarcated one?

But, in fact, we have yet to determine whether pirating intellectual property really is stealing, as some seek to assert with blind force. I understand that authors need to be able to make a living, and that payment for books is a traditional avenue to that living, but this does not allow us to uncritically confound the two categories of IP piracy and theft of a physical object.
We are not the only culture to treat an immaterial cultural artifact as an object that can be owned. In the culture of the northwest coast indians (the tlingit, haida, salish, etc), one could be the unique owner of a song - which was not treated just as an intellectual gem but was an important ritual element - and nobles would blow small fortunes to purchase a song. On the other hand, those peoples had a very hierarchical culture that I would not want to see us reproduce. (And, of course, this ownership did not apply to any song that person might make-up, but only to certain traditional ritual songs.)
I dont have any simple answers, but we should recognize that: (a) plenty of cultures have managed to foster creativity without intellectual property rights, (b) times are changing, and (c) the situation is murky - you cant just go around stomping your foot and asserting that "stealing is stealing."

Jason Miller, said...

Just a quick clarification. Harold Roth pointed out that;
"
The whole steal-a-book thing has led to authors treating books like ads for their lessons, their sites, their workshops, whatever. What next, product placement? To me, this lowers the value of a book. I don't want to buy an ad."

Two points:

1. Piracy has nothing at all to do with it. The fact is that writing books is just not lucrative enough to make a living out of unless you hit it big. Even then, big name non-fiction authors still make most of their money lecturing and such.

2. When I said that the book is adverizing, I did not mean that I wrote the book as an ad. I meant it in terms of: If I write a kick ass book, people will WANT to join my course. There is nothing in my books that leads you to my course directly. The books are all self-contained.

Nick Farrell said...

I think this is part of the problem. If a book is simply an advert for a course then it lowers their value. So as a marketing tool for expensive workshops they are not going to be good books. If a book does not make enough cash to justify an author or the publisher's time then it is not worthwhile for that arrangement to exist. Also some of the pirate sites want money for membership which seems a little unfair. I think it will be one of those things that are resolved over time. We are between models. I have bought a lot more books since I got my kindle and I think that as cheaper legit content appears then this problem will fade. I have released free ebooks and allowed my back uncatalogued to be pirated. However once a book is in print I tend to be a bit of a nazi with the DCMAs. I dont buy the "cant afford a book" argument mostly because I have heard lot of people say that they cant afford things... only to discover that they want to spend their money on different things. I also dont see why (the author) should make sacrifices because someone else chooses to spend their cash elsewhere and does not want to buy my book. Recently another author was emailed by a bloke who asked him to email him free copies of all his books because he could not afford them because he had spend a fortune on deluxe copies of some books by someone else. The situation is similar. Anyway in the meantime I make some stuff free in the hope that some people will buy my books.