I don’t buy the idea that piracy is hurting the entertainment industry – at least not to the point that the entertainment industry wants us to believe. What is hurting them the most is a failure and complete unwillingness to adapt to technology and changing consumer desires and demands.
Consumers want convenience. Consumers want high levels of customer service. Most importantly, though, consumers want their purchases to conform to their needs and desires, where and when they want it, not the other way around.
I say this as a person who consumes a large amount of media. I love reading, playing games, watching movies, watching good shows. When I go to purchase something, though, my main question is ‘will I have to go out of my way to buy this?’
If the answer is yes, often times I don’t bother.
I’ve not bought books because they weren’t available at my local book stores. I’ve not bought games because I’d have to go through 20 minutes of set up with CD Keys and Games for Windows Live. I’ve not gone to movies because they weren’t playing at convenient times for me. I’ve not watched television shows because I’m unwilling to schedule my life around a show.
These are all barriers – very real barriers – to purchasing.
So then piracy becomes an answer to these inconveniences for many people. It offers the consumer convenience to consume on their own time, in their own house, and try it out risk free. Do I want pirates to reward people for doing good work? Hell yes! If someone gets something through illegal means, I want them to give the creator money if they liked it if possible.
The reason my partner and I decided to do what we did with The Keep is because we understand that readers are taking a chance on us. We’re a small, niche market that does what we do well, but aren’t very well known outside of certain groups. If someone sees our book up for sale on Amazon or Smashwords, they might be willing to take a chance on us – or they might not.
So we’re offering the majority of our work available, online, for free. It’s not as convenient of a format as reading an ebook of it, and the information will be put out slower (the Forgotten Thrones Series will have books available at the start of every month, and the stories will get published over the course of the month online), but it allows new readers to try us out and see if they like us.
And we hope that, in the end, some of them like us enough to pay money for our services. That’s what all creators hope for – that they can make money doing what they love. Hell, isn’t that the truth for everyone?
But people have become less willing to risk spending money on something they won’t like in difficult financial times. Piracy allows people to try things out that they’re not sure they’ll like – an important part of the consumer process that demos, and teasers, and libraries do try to fill, but aren’t always able to.
Don’t get me wrong – some pirates are going to download whatever they want and can get their hands on, and never spend money supporting those artists. There are, however, numerous reasons behind the act; from greed to lack of money, to lack of availability to purchase, and yet even if true, pirates don’t all have to be bad. Some don’t support the artists financially, but they try to do so by spreading the word about something they liked through blogs, comments, forums, or friends.
If you stop creating because you fear pirates will take it without paying, you’re not hurting anyone but yourself and your fans. The pirates won’t stop downloading – they just won’t have anything new by you to download. You’ll lose your sales, and your fans will be disappointed because they want to legitimately purchase more of your work, and they can’t.
Truthfully, it’s the easy way out. It’s a convenient excuse. If saying “libraries hurt sales” sounds ridiculous to you, so too should saying “piracy hurts sales”. Both are giving your work out for free and reaching people who potentially don’t have the means to purchase your work.
Think of it as advertisement and promotion and encourage people who have read your book, no matter how they got it, to leave feedback and reviews for you. Make positive use of all advertising avenues as they present themselves.
The Internet is changing how we consume media, and it’s better to adapt to the new consumer demands and make the best of it rather than fighting against something that will not cease.
To quote someone else who said it much more eloquently than I.
Boasting of his strength, the proud oak tree offers to shelter the frail reed. But the reed rejects the oak and, when a storm blows, the reed bends with the wind and survives, while the oak is torn up by its roots.