Beginning Ruby Author: Publisher Wouldn’t Let Me Give eBook For Free… So Pirate My Book (Sorta)

pistol alerts us to an interesting post from Peter Cooper, the author of Beginning Ruby, where he breaks down how he gets paid for the book, including the advance and royalties, giving a nice clean explanation of how authors get paid for their books. It’s pretty typical, but nice to see a clean breakdown.

But what’s a lot more interesting, is towards the end, he describes the negotiations over the second edition of the book, where he begged his publisher, Apress, to offer the ebook version for free, believing (strongly) that it would promote sales of the paper book. He even notes that the original version’s ebook barely had noteworthy sales, so it seemed reasonable to offer up the ebook for free to drive more attention. No dice. Even though Apress has done that with other similar titles, it wouldn’t agree. So, his response is to tell people that he doesn’t mind if you download unauthorized copies of the book… even if he’s not sure what Apress would do:

My reaction to seeing other Apress books getting the free, electronic version treatment is: I’m good with you pirating my book! Now, of course, I can’t actively participate in pirating my book but, heck, it’s around on plenty of “free e-book” sites and on RapidShare. There are even links on Twitter to torrents like this. I am happy for you to pirate my book, but I’m NOT A LAWYER, and I can’t guarantee what Apress would do about it – so you’d be doing it off your own back! So, uhm, don’t pirate it? ;-)

He also goes on to point out that, technically, he owns the copyright on most of the content in the book, so there may even be a loophole there:

Now, according to my contract, I own the copyright to the entire book except for the cover, table of contents, and the indexes. My contract also states that I have exclusively allowed Apress to publish and reproduce my content. So.. I suspect that if you took my book, removed the cover, contents and indexes, and turned it into a PDF with a cover of your own creation, Apress couldn’t do anything about it because everything would be my copyright. Now, I cannot allow you to do this, but I would not pursue you or enforce my copyrights if you did ;-) So, er, don’t do it!

Of course, something is seriously wrong with the way things are set up when an author has to go behind his own publisher’s back to tell people to “pirate” his own book. Eventually publishers will begin to recognize how to embrace new business models, but until then, it seems like it may be quite a struggle for many publishers (there are, of course, a few exceptions — and, for you supporters of Baen books, yes, we know about them, no need to keep pointing them out).

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