A Thing I Will Never Understand

I see this pop up on Twitter on a semi-regular basis but it seems that maybe something similar has hit Tik Tok. And it’s this notion that it’s okay to pirate or read and return books because “capitalism sucks” or some such nonsense.

What people don’t understand is that the person they punish when they do that is not the big corporation that they think they’re stealing from. It’s the creators.

I mean, do you really think Amazon takes that financial hit when you return a book? No. They pass it on to the author. That money you got back to buy that next book? Came right out of the author’s pocket.

And piracy? Reading off of some random website instead of paying for the product? That’s why great series get cancelled before they’re finished. Because the economics aren’t there to continue it so either the publisher or the author thinks, “well, guess we’ll put our time and effort into something that might pay the rent instead.”

I mean, you have to understand that a creator is probably making anywhere from 35 cents to a few bucks off of most of their sales.

Each month they have to scrape together enough of those sales to add up to a mortgage/rent and food and car maintenance and all those other little pesky things in life.

It’s why most writers have to have other jobs.

Because, let’s be generous and say that a creator makes $2.50 per sale. And let’s say that their rent or mortgage is $1,500 which may be high for some places but low for others. That means that a creator needs 600 sales per month just to keep a roof over their heads. And that’s not covering pesky things like food. And health insurance. And clothes. (Although, admittedly, working from home by yourself means your clothes needs are pretty minimal.)

And you know what happens when an author has to have another job just to be able to eat? They don’t write as much. That book you loved so much you just had to steal it? Doesn’t get written. Or more of the same doesn’t get written. Or what does get written is fast, easy, derivative stuff that all starts to sound the same.

Take it far enough and what you end up with is books written by affluent white men and housewives with some free time on their hands. Not the diversity of stories that people claim they want so much.

If you want interesting and different stories, you have to make it possible for them to be written. By, you know, paying real cash money for them. (Because, yes, we do live in a capitalist hellscape where nothing is free and no one is guaranteed a roof over their heads or food on their table. At least in the United States.)

I honestly hate this notion that seems to exist out there that “life is hard for me so I’ll make it hard for others”. Yeah, the world needs to improve. Absolutely.

But stealing books? Not the way to do it.

And if you don’t have money for a book? Try a library. Authors get paid for library sales and they’re a great way to be discovered by other readers, too.

Or read free books. There are probably more free books available right now, today, than a person could read in a lifetime.

(And if you’re like, “but not the book I want to read” well sit and think about that a minute would you? It means someone created a product that you liked enough that, I don’t know, maybe you could pay them for it? Just a thought.)

Seriously, people. If you want the world to be a better place, start with your own actions.

(And my apologies to most of my readers who do not in fact pirate books or read and return who just got a little blast of negativity in their day. One of the things I generally try to do is not pass on negativity, but I seem to not be doing so well at that the last few weeks. I will try to do better, but this one really had to be said for that one person who might see it and change their behavior. Each person who tries to do better is one more drop added to making the world a better place, and enough drops of water can topple a mountain.)

Author: M.L. Humphrey

M.L. Humphrey is a former securities regulator, registered stockbroker (although only briefly), and consultant on regulatory and risk-related matters for large financial institutions with expertise in the areas of anti-money laundering regulation, mutual funds, and credit rating agencies. Since 2013 M.L. has also been a published author under a variety of pen names and across a variety of subjects and genres. You can contact M.L. at mlhumphreywriter [at] gmail.com.

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