Discussion: book piracy, representation and international readers

Discussion

When you start being active in the book community, you start seeing how nuanced some issues are that you previously thought were completely black or white.

This time the talk is about piracy, and before you start angry-typing in the comments, let me make this clear from the start: piracy is illegal. This is a fact, not an opinion, and I start this post this way because I don’t think serious discussions can be had without having the facts straight.

With that said, this is a recurring thing that comes out every couple of months in the book community, usually when famous authors tweet about it. Last time it was Maggie Stiefvater, this time is author Lindsay Cummings.

Until the words “& hurt their sales” there’s nothing wrong with her tweet. You can’t really expect anyone, much less an author who has probably already been hurt by it, to publicly condone piracy.

My issue (and any international reviewer pretty much agrees on this) is when it comes to: “GO TO A LIBRARY! It’s free!”

This is what everyone always says an argument against book piracy, and even though international readers keep @’ing authors telling them that thanks a lot, but this is not an option for many of us, nobody actually seems to give a shit.

The possible reasons why the “go to a library” argument keeps being thrown around are three:

  • Authors don’t know that a huge part of their readership is international, meaning that a lot of people who live in countries where English isn’t a first language still read their untranslated books (often because these books simply aren’t being translated);
  • Authors know about international readers and they simply don’t give a shit about them;
  • Authors know about international readers and they ignorantly assume that the whole world has access to libraries with lots of books in English, even the recently published ones.

For the sake of this post we’re gonna assume that the third option is the most likely, because authors have repeatedly acted like anyone. A N Y O N E has access to libraries.

Spoiler alert: not everybody has access to libraries!!!

I feel like even if we restrict this argument to only the US-based readership, this wouldn’t be advice that everyone can take. I happen to have spent two weeks in the US just this past year, and in no way does this make me an expert obviously, but one of the things that shocked me the most is how BIG and massive everything is, and how far some small towns are from… well, from everything really. I doubt that they have huge libraries the along the I-40 in the Mojave desert. (I could have named other places I’ve passed through but I really love the word “Mojave”)

As I type this I keep coming up with more things to say so this will become a mess, but I’m gonna try to break the issue down in a few sections.

 

English isn’t the first language everywhere

This might come as a shock (please sit down, I don’t want anyone to faint) but not all countries are English-speaking!
Immagine correlata

When we read in English, we do so with our own money (when that’s possible). Often we need to resolve to buying books online, either physical copies or digital ones (I usually stick to ebooks). Depending on where you live you’ll have more or less access to a number of books in English in physical bookstores. However, even in the major city in Germany where I live I can only find a very limited amount of English books, and those are obviously the most popular ones. Usually, most popular = no or bad representation. 

Are you still following me? Good.

If we’re talking about libraries, I think you might find Harry Potter in English and maybe a few old classics. The Abyss Surrounds Us? Simon VS the Homo Sapiens Agenda? You won’t find those.

If you’ve ever felt the need to see yourself represented in a book you will know where I’m trying to get in the next section, but let me finish this part by saying that even for me, living in central Europe, in a country where English is becoming more popular each second, it’s basically impossible to get recently published books in English unless I’m paying with my own money. So far the only “cheap” and legal way I’ve found is to stick to ebooks (which is my favorite format anyway).

I think it should be up to people from other countries to talk about their own experience, but if Europeans are having trouble finding English books in libraries, I can only imagine it’s much harder in other parts of the world.

 

Reading as entertainment VS reading for representation

Have y’all ever considered that a lot of the teens who are illegally downloading books do so because they know there’s lgbtq+ characters in it? And maybe these kids are too scared to even come out to themselves and they literally can’t go ask their parents for money for fear of being asked “Why do you want to buy these gay books?” and everything that that might imply.

Being monetarily dependent on someone sucks. I was very privileged in this because if there’s one thing my parents have never denied me it was books, and even if I had read a lot of lgbtq+ books back then (which I didn’t), they wouldn’t have questioned or prohibited it. Even if they had questioned the reason behind all those books, I wouldn’t have been in any danger.

Of course that isn’t true for a lot of people, and this is also only one part of the whole issue of of representation (but it’s the one of the things that people, teens, usually tend to try to keep hidden as best as they can).

So I think when talking about piracy we should make a distinction and think about reading as pure entertainment VS reading because it’s actually fucking important to you because you don’t know how else to understand and deal with parts of your own identity.

This also ties back to the needing to read in English issue because the English-speaking book industry is miles ahead in publishing diverse books than (I’m gonna stick to what I personally know) the Italian industry, for example. If I only knew how to read in Italian and were still living in Italy and wanted to find books with queer girls, I still wouldn’t find any for free in the library.

 

Piracy is illegal (in case this still wasn’t clear)

Keeping in mind all I said, the fact remains that piracy is illegal. Here’s a post about piracy and how it affects more than just the authors themselves.

That post was written last time that this topic came up, and a lot of people in my circle of mutuals dismissed it and the way they did it made me so uncomfortable that I had to ignore twitter for a couple of days.

I think even if you dislike the author for whatever reason, to dismiss everything she’s saying in that post is arrogant and it hurts the very argument you’re trying to make. Specifically, one thing people loved to talk about was how the author in question is privileged and therefore they implied she didn’t deserve to be paid for her work.

Please understand that I’m not trying to attack my mutuals, some of which I almost always agree with and I consider my friends, but I find this line of thinking very bad and hypocritical.

 

TL;DR so far: 📚 not everyone can get books for free and legally; 📚 sometimes books are about so much more than entertainment; 📚 piracy is still illegal.

 

“So what do you suggest, Silvia?”

Hey now, I wish I had a solution but I don’t.

Risultati immagini per gif booing
Y’all @ me right now

However, what I would ask of authors is that they did some research on what it means to be an international reader and stop saying “go to the library” as if that’s the magic word that solves everything.

Authors: you do research on mythology, ways to kill people, when exactly the sun set on April 7th, 1876 in some unexplored place in Siberia; why can’t you do some research on ways you can help your marginalized readers? Or at least, you know, admit you don’t know how to help but at least ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR INTERNATIONAL READERS.

We keep getting hurt because no one, NO ONE ever acknowledges us and the work we do as international bloggers. Goodreads is waving the middle finger at us, netgalley is literally the “then perish” meme I posted at the beginning, and although many authors do what they can to host international giveaways and whatnot, they also keep ignoring us by go-to-library‘ing us.


For more discussion posts about this topic, please go check out Marta @thecursedbooks’ post where she talks more about how authors dismiss international readers when they talk about piracy, and Maja @bookishaddicted’s post for a great list of sources of free books (yes, international too!)

I would love for everyone to add their own thoughts below, unless you’re gonna be rude and disrespectful, then I’ll gracefully ignore you.

Advertisements

49 thoughts on “Discussion: book piracy, representation and international readers

  1. You make some excellent points here and I whole-heartedly agree with you. I am anti-piracy, especially for the smaller named authors who are trying to earn a living. But then there is the other side where we have people who are low-income and don’t have access to a library. I wish there was a way it could be solved, because I think everyone should be able to read. This is a great post 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve recently saw on Facebook the advice of “Just don’t read”. This usually comes from people who also say they can’t live without reading.

    Living in a country where kids/teens and even adults are being shamed for seeking psychiatric counseling, I just wish there were more resources for them to feel less alone. I’m not saying that books can replace a proper treatment but I’m sure many can say that reading has helped them with their MI. I was lucky enough to go to a private highschool that had a mini-library with Harry Potter.

    You can’t expect a 16 year old to find someone coming from Europe or the US, pay for the book and pay the person for the shipping. That’s what we actually do in here because no website includes us. I don’t even know why 😂. During Christmas I received a mail from Book Depository saying that I can finally order from Morocco but when I sent them an email to verify this info, they said it was a mistake. I had already told all my friends and literally tweeted about how I finally felt like I was part of the 21st century, lol. 💔 That is to say that many people are actually willing to buy the books but have no way!

    I have no idea how it all works but I really wish authors/publishers or any website start considering people outside of Europe and the US.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Your comment broke my heart 💔 my good friend also used to live in Morocco until a few months ago and she also had to get physical books that way.
      I wonder how the hell did BD send you that email by mistake??? That’s so upsetting that you got your hopes up for nothing. UGH.
      I hope something changes soon for you 😦

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Wonderful discussion post Silvia!!! I agree with you so much! Of course no one is saying piracy is right – we all know it’s illegal. The problem is when American authors – and reviewers too – are unable to put themselves in an international readers’ position and understand why they may decide to pirate a book.

    I think the issue goes beyond what many authors think: stealing a book is wrong, if you want to read my book, go borrow it from the library. Sure, that’s easy … unless your country has a poor library system or doesn’t cater to the types of books you want to read. It’s not JUST about feeling entitled to books or just simply not caring about how piracy affects the book industry. I’m a publishing student, I’m learning about this stuff, and even I can see that there are deeper issues than resorting the piracy issue down to simple entitlement.

    This is a comment from an international blogger that I received on my Netgalley letter which relates to the piracy issue too:
    “I live in France and we already have a great disadvantage; it’s hard to have translated book. It takes up to 4 years to a book to be translated and sometimes they just stop right in the middle of a series. So most of us had to learn to read in English, and if that wasn’t enough now we can’t get arcs? I mean I try every year to go to book fairs but with the flight tickets that’s way too expensive for me. So yeah basically Netgally was my last chance (and I already noticed that more and more books were for US citizen only).”

    And then this comment kind of broke my heart: “This is very heartbreaking. Being a recent book blogger from Bangladesh, a country often forgotten as a part of South Asia (some people in western countries don’t even there is a country named Bangladesh in this world), where Book Depository and Wordery don’t operate, it’s very hard to obtain recently published books, let alone ARCs! What US publishers dunno is even in this small country, there are hundreds of readers for their books. I was lucky to receive three eARCs this month and last month from NG but to think that even eBook will not be granted for us is very heartbreaking and frustrating. Did we do something wrong? In a country which is often excluded from 90% GR giveaways as well as giveaways that are said to be “international but where BD ships”, this punches in the gut. Sometimes I wonder if they even care about the fact that we take precious time and energy from our lives to help them gain more readers and sell books </3 "

    Sometimes its just physically impossible to gain access to books of all kinds: library, physical books, arcs, etc. You can't just condense this complex issue down to "just go to the library". That smacks of white privilege.
    Again, not saying I think piracy is right – clearly its not – just don't judge and perhaps think about the reasons someone might resort to that.

    Not too mention, books can be expensive. In Australia, at an independent bookstore, a book is around $25-40. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was $45 at an independent bookstore, around $25-30 at a chain bookstore, and $15-20 at a discount department store. While I would love to support independent bookstores, I'm also not going to drop almost $50 on a book. I usually buy at discount stores, but sometimes even those prices can be a bit much – sometimes I can afford it, sometimes I can't. I'm very lucky to live near a library, and if they don't have a book I want to read on their system, I can request they purchase it, and, if it's been published within the past 2 years, they do. But I also know others don't have the same kinds of privileges that I do, especially those that come from rural areas. Hell, my friend lives 20 minutes away from me and doesn't have a library – instead, a "travel library" (basically a van full of books) comes around once every 2 weeks. And that's the only time she can borrow a book.

    I can't imagine how difficult it must be being an author and seeing your book on a pirating site. It's upsetting, but attacking international readers is not the way to go about ending piracy. Tbh, I don't think it ever will end. But just acknowledge that not everyone has the same book privileges as Americans. That's it.
    (And I would love to know if all those people who hate book piracy, feel the same way about movie/tv show piracy. I doubt it.)

    Great post as usual 💕

    Liked by 2 people

    • Those comments break my heart I swear 😦
      And definitely, this was not a post pro or against piracy, but as with all debates I think it’s important to state facts, like I said. It’s just…OF COURSE piracy is illegal and it can actually hurt marginalized authors themselves. But being constantly ignored by authors who are supposedly educated and should be able to look past their own privilege doesn’t feel good. Maybe if more people acknowledged us they would find ways to bring piracy down by letting people borrow ebooks or something in a legal way. Idk.

      Liked by 1 person

        • You literally did it in the comment above??? At least it shows bold text from my notifs, but it doesn’t show it if I go to the comment itself. And btw, it also didn’t show me half of your comment in my notifs! Wtf WordPress????? Anyway yeah books in Australia seem so damn expensive it sounds insane!!! Also “buy from indie stores” is another great advice……………if you’re privileged etc etc etc

          Like

          • it did??? If that happened I definitely didn’t do it on purpose lmao!!
            wordpress is the Worst omg

            Yeah I remember in publishing class we were talking about indie stores vs. other book stores, and this chick went on a rant talking about how we should all buy from indie book stores and how you’re terrible if you don’t and I was like but some people literally can’t afford it??? and she’s like that’s no excuse. the whole class was just silent because it was such a disgustingly privileged comment ugh

            Liked by 1 person

  4. Hey, this is a great post. I’ll admit, I’d never thought about the connection between piracy, representation and international readers, so thank you so much for bringing this to my attention! I’d honestly never thought about this side of things, and I think you make some really great points, and it’s really important to consider that not everyone does have access to libraries and particularly to more diverse books.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ahhh this comment made me happier than you know. Of course I’m also not saying that everyone who pirates is a marginalized teen – that would be a lie and now I’m curious to know exactly what percentage of teens vs adults pirate books. But all I wanted was for people to start thinking about the different nuances in this issue, so I’m happy that you said this post did that to you 💟

      Liked by 1 person

      • Aw, I’m glad!
        Yeah, there are definitely a lot of people who pirate who don’t have any need to, but I’m glad you’ve shown me that there are a lot of reasons people might actually not have other options.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I live in Cape Town and although it is supposed to be a African city with more international connections, we still have trouble buying new books. Many stores only order limited stock. Amazon has South Africa on a naughty list, so buying from them is a ridiculous amount of work around. Thankfully some local online stores have taken off and made things easier.
    I personally rely on audiobooks the most for a more cost-effective book habit.

    I can’t comment much on our libraries. They do their best with outreach community projects, but are always underfunded compared to their worth.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Silvia, this is such a fantastic post!!! I couldn’t agree more with all of your points, and it’s especially a frustrating issue bc there isn’t any easy solution. It’s definitely a very complex issue, bc obviously piracy IS illegal, but there are so many reasons why people do it that I can understand and sympathize with. I’m lucky to be able to access a good library when I’m in the US (and enter giveaways & such), but I’ve spent most of the last few years living abroad and I know how privileged I am as an American (and native English-speaking) reader. It’s a really unfair situation, and the fact that so many writers can’t take the time to think about readers who don’t have the same access is so awful and inconsiderate.

    Like

  7. Great post Silvia, you really hit the nail on the head with everything you’ve said. Do you mind if I share this onto blog? I’d really like more people to see it and understand.

    Your discussion are always amazing. 🙂

    Like

  8. I had made a thread about this when the issue with this same author you mention started and even if I DID put a disclamr that I’m not talking about piracy itself but more about the dismissive and condescending “go to a library” people still came at me to say “PIRACY IS ILLEGAL”….bro. they miss the whole freaking point. And my favourite is someone who told me “you don’t have to read the books you read, read classics, classics are free”
    First of all, classics suck ass in my opinion. You can find every kind of bigotry in most of them and I ain’t about that life. Like you said, I read for entertainement sure, but i also read foe representation and i would like to not get hurt in the process of reading.

    Anyway I’ll stop rambling haha, great post! 💖

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yep I’ve gotten all kinds of condescending/patronizing comments on this post that I haven’t even approved lmao. Nobody is arguing that piracy isn’t ILLEGAL and I’m not even trying to say whether it’s right or wrong, but people aren’t willing to see nuances. It’s easy for them to see themselves in classics but that’s not the case for a lot of people. Literally nobody asked them to change their minds about piracy but they should just learn that there are other realities than the ones they know.

      And don’t worry about rambling, I loved your comment!

      Like

  9. Reblogged this on and commented:
    Hello Everyone. ☺️👋
    My friend Silvia has written a really important discussion about piracy and the issues involved. Silvia discusses everything brilliantly. I thought I’d share it here with you guys. I recommend everyone checking it out.

    Like

  10. You’ve made some really good points. I can see the reasons international readers get frustrated. It is true, in many countries the only way you can get access to a library is if you attend university. And, I’m also thinking of the issue with banned books, both in the US and overseas. I can imagine if parents and/or schools are highly involved with a child’s readership, then it may be hard for a reader to really pick and choose what to read. I was lucky enough that my parents were never really cared about what I read, so I definitely had a lot more freedom vs. children who grew up with parents involved say, with the Parents-Teachers Association.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah I keep thinking about closeted children and I know that’s only one example but it’s important that these children have a way to read something without their parents supervising them. It sucks that the only way many of them have to do this is piracy and I’m not trying to say whether it’s right or wrong that they do that but I wish more people understood that it’s the only way and they can’t tell them to “just go read classics” because they won’t see themselves represented in those books and representation matters

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Thank you so so much for this post! I read Marta’s post some days ago and your post just rekindled the anger and feeling of injustice to me. Some authors have even blocked me on Twitter for telling them that libraries aren’t available in many countries.

    IT’S SO ANNOYING!! In my country, Nigeria, libraries have textbooks ONLY. Online shops that ship free like Book Depository and Wordery don’t ship to Nigeria. KINDLE ISN’T EVEN AVAILABLE IN MY COUNTRY!! And then, as you mentioned, the Netgalley and Goodreads rules.

    So many authors talk while ignoring the comments and complaints of many international bloggers.

    Thank you for writing this post. It’s really appreciated.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for sharing your experience!!!
      I’m sorry authors treated you and others that way. Nobody is asking them to be okay with piracy that directly hurts them but constantly being ignored sucks and they should just apologize for always ignoring a good chunk of their readership that does the best they can to support them.

      Like

  12. This was fascinating! I do wonder what the internal policy on international readers is for book publishers. What do they tell their authors? How do they view international readers? I feel like a lot of an author’s opinion starts there. I’d love to hear the numbers behind international or at least their legal position. It could be (unfortunately) that its a numbers game. I have a couple international friends so I know libraries aren’t actually an option for much of the world! I wonder though what publishers need to do something about that?! Maybe we actually need a digital library where there is international access. Or a book club that is international where you check out ebooks and pay a monthly fee (to pay for the library to buy books!) I don’t know but a library is my best place to get books and I want international readers to have access too. (As well as diverse readers gaining access to books with characters like themselves!!)

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think an international online library would be the best way for everyone to be able to access titles! Maybe it could be a library of only diverse books, categorized not only by genres but also by types of representation. That would be really good and it would help marginalized readers a lot.

      Like

  13. Oh yes someone said it. While there is a bookstore here in Slovenia that now gets some popular books, it is still relatively hard to get them. And the library? The biggest library in Ljubljana, the capital, is pretty bad. Their books are outdated and there are few for example of YA and such. Historical books only have like five short shelves 😦 I buy A LOT of books, but I am a student with limited money and no income so I use almost all my money on that 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for sharing your experience! Yeah, it’s really a struggle to get books as an international reader. I also understand that libraries don’t have an unlimited amount of money to get books that only a handful of people would read, but there’s gotta be some way to change things.

      Like

  14. I was hurt when I saw Cummings’s tweet as well. Everything she said was right except the last statement. I’m pretty sure if I even went to a library I wouldn’t find her book especially because hers isn’t even in the bookstores here! Ugh.
    Great post! You made some really good pointa.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Exactly! When I learned that libraries in the US and other English speaking countries have YA books, and even recent ones, I was shocked. To think that it would be that way worldwide is just plain ignorance. It erases the fact that other languages exist and that a lot of books are being published in those languages as well, not only in English. It feels like something an author should know.

      Like

  15. Yeah, I do get that it’s sometimes hard to get hold of books- but there are still alternatives and free options (like classics) in non-English speaking countries- I think you made the most important point here: book pirating is illegal and not okay.

    Like

    • Actually, my whole point about representation is that hardly nobody who isn’t white and straight will see themselves represented (in a positive light anyway) in classics. Marginalized people deserve to see themselves represented and to have a free way to do that, just like white and straight people get to read about themselves in books they can legally get for free. If they can’t find a free legal option then pirating is the only way (and I’m not trying to say whether that’s okay or not – I purposely stayed away from judging that in my post and I’m staying away from it now)

      Like

  16. YES TO ALL OF THIS!
    Once upon a time, Baby Grey would read pirated books because she was both broke and had no idea how to juggle her finances.
    Keep in mind that I’m from Australia which is very much a primarily English speaking country, live in high populated areas and it was still super hard for me to purchase books because our book stores are expensive AF, there is are now far less of them, and many online retailers don’t ship to Australia and if they do shipping is ridiculous, prices are insane so you might as well just buy from the expensive book stores if you can find one.
    I can’t imagine how much harder it is for non-English speaking countries, or living in rural areas.
    I did usually go on to buy them when I had the money, and I didn’t read many pirated books but I still did it and I will raise my hand for it.
    Not reading wasn’t an option because reading is everything to me, and I was reading more books than I could afford to buy.
    I am still broke, but I now know how to budget but also all the libraries in my state are now linked so its so much easier to get a hold of a book I’m after, I found a reasonably priced online retailer with free shipping, as well as a decent department store that is starting to stock the most hyped books, I made enough money to splurge on a kindle, giving me the option to buy cheaper formats of the books I want as well.
    But I haven’t forgotten what it was like before I had these options, and how much I used to beat myself up for reading pirated books. Sometimes its the only option for a lot of people and I don’t think they should be judged on that.
    I understand it can be upsetting to authors to lose money but I also know that if I was an author, I would much rather have more people reading my books than more money. I don’t think they deserve less money just because they’re privileged, I just think maybe they should try and understand and empathize a little more.
    I really love that you talked about the representation part of it all because I had not thought about that at all and I think it’s a very valid view point!
    Great post! I’m glad someone else has a similar viewpoint to me on this!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have many friends in Australia so I know how expensive books are there! They’re much cheaper in Europe so even though English isn’t our first language i feel like we have it easier with online shopping because Amazon makes it easy to get them with no shipping fees.
      Thank you so much! I’m glad you agree 💞

      Liked by 1 person

Chat with me!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s