Google helpfully sends me alerts in my email when their multitudinous clever little crawlers stumble over a reference to me or my website. That’s good. What’s not so good is when Google helpfully informs me that my book, Ather & Rhyme, Being a Collection of Beloved, Morally-Improving Faerie Tales & Nursery Rhymes from the Dawn of the Great Age of Steam, with Accompanying Illustrative Photography of the Period, is being offered as a free PDF download by a web service in the Russian Federation. Hence the title of this blog entry is “Aether & Rhyme” in Cyrillic (or a close approximation, courtesy of Google’s translation algorithm). Under the circumstances, a bit of linguistic snarkery is probably defensible.
Here is the site I was helpfully pointed to. I’m omitting the URL because (a) I don’t want to help these evil pirates with their evil piracy and (b) I suspect that the download of the Aether & Rhyme PDF from this site may not be entirely free of unpleasant viral hangers-on. Interestingly, when it first popped up from the link Google helpfully provided, the header and much of the text was displayed in Cyrillic, which auto-adjusted within seconds to display in English. (And while I’m woefully monolingual and not at all in a position to mock anyone’s adeptness at a second language, I do take some huffy umbrage at my delightful little confection of steampunk versions of fairy tales and Mother Goose rhymes being referred to as a manual. Here are some sample stories, so you can decide for yourself. “Manual” indeed!)
The text reads (in case you have to squint at the image to see it):
If you are searching for a book by Evan Butterfield Aether & Rhyme: Steampunk Fairy Tales and Nursery Rhymes in pdf form, in that case you come on to the right site. We presented the utter option of this ebook in txt, doc, ePub, DjVu, PDF formats. You may read Aether & Rhyme: Steampunk Fairy Tales and Nursery Rhymes online by Evan Butterfield either downloading. Besides, on our site you may reading the manuals and other art eBooks online, or download them as well. We want draw on attention what our website does not store the eBook itself, but we grant ref to site whereat you may load either read online. So if have must to load pdf by Evan Butterfield Aether & Rhyme: Steampunk Fairy Tales and Nursery Rhymes, then you have come on to the loyal website. We have Aether & Rhyme: Steampunk Fairy Tales and Nursery Rhymes doc, txt, DjVu, PDF, ePub formats. We will be happy if you come back to us again and again.
OK so this “loyal website” misspelled “Faerie” (or spelled it correctly, but not the way it is used in the title), and while it offers the “utter option” of a variety of file formats, I hasten to point out that not a one of them is an utterly legitimate copy of my book. This, ladies and gentlemen, is what Internet Thievery and Piratical Evildoings looks like.
Anyway, you can imagine my delight.
Now, let’s be clear: it’s not like Aether & Rhyme is a hard-to-find book, so offering a freely downloadable version could somehow be defended as a public service. It’s available for the unconscionable price of 99 cents for a Kindle version (if you’re in the US that looks like this) or $14 for a printed copy at Amazon:
And it’s available from a French seller on ebay for about $24.54 (plus more or less $17.60 shipping from Ambonil, France, depending on the exchange rate between the dollar and Euro at any given moment). That seems like a lot to me, but then again the seller assures buyers that it is “Magnifique livre, je le recomande” (“Beautiful book, I recommend it”), for which I say, Merci beaucoup!
And of course I promote it on my website:
But that’s apparently not enough for these particular Russians. Not content with cybernetic mischief-making in the US Presidential election (allegedly, of course, and I promise that’s the last I’ll say about that whole mess), they apparently have so much time on their wicked little hands now that they have nothing better to do than lurk about the Internet searching for random unknown steampunk authors and steal their books. Perhaps in the old Soviet days they would say they were “liberating” Aether & Rhyme and expropriating it for the people. Today they really don’t have the old Leninist go-tos to fall back on anymore, so I’m not sure what the excuse is.
This just goes to show you how fragile copyright protections are. As in, they really aren’t very protective. I mean, to whom do I address my angry email, or where does my lawyer send his saber-rattling cease-and-desist? These folks just don’t exist anywhere in the real, and yet their tech can pull a PDF from somewhere. Still, it makes me wonder: Did they hack Amazon and convert an AZW3 file? Do they have a warehouse full of underpaid babushkas scanning hardcopies?
In fairness, it appears the Russians are not alone in their nefarious disregard for intellectual property rights. A quick bit of net-sleuthery discloses that indeed others have apparently found my little book impossible to avoid stealing:
Now, I’m not really a greedy person, and it’s not like these things were flying off the virtual shelf. It doesn’t represent a loss per se. But it does represent theft. It’s taking something that’s not yours and giving it away to other people (that’s really all you need to know about US copyright law, by the way: if it’s not yours, don’t take it). At least all these PDF sites are including my original cover and (presumably, since I didn’t open any links, being fundamentally afraid of opening the door to trojans and polymorphics and worms and boot infectors and multipartite/FAT/web scripting viruses, and heaven knows what else is out there) my copyright page.
And yes, I understand the value of promotional offers and giveaways. I mean, I’m perfectly happy to give stuff away free. But it seems kind of rude for other people to make that decision for me. As long as it’s my stuff, then I’d kinda like to be the one to give it away, right? Let me say that first bit again so the whole Internet can hear: I’m perfectly happy to give stuff away free.
All during December and on into this month, in fact, I’m offering the Gentlemen of Steampunk 2017 Calendar on my site as a free download (it’s still being offered, although the year is slowly slipping away). For those who don’t recall, the Gentlemen of Steampunk Calendar is a steampunk-meets-beefcake thing in which scantily-clad attractive male models are shown cavorting about with various bits of neo-Victoriana and fanciful goggles (as well as other complicated-looking props and old rust farm equipment). Here’s a little look-see:
I responded to some feedback from folks who loved handsome steampunk boys but were not thrilled with the fleshly display by creating another version, the Gentlemen of Steampunk 2017 Calendar – Proper Victorian Gentlemen Edition. It was also posted as a free PDF download on my site, and is also still there.
(And yes, I know that was a fairly blatant little exercise in self-promotion. But with all these pirates about, a fella’s gotta do something.)
Anyway, the bottom line is I don’t have any capitalistic deep-seated aversion to content being made free. In a lot of cases, particularly the odd little niche in which I operate, it’s more realistic to view “success” in terms of downloads and usage and clicks and visibility than in dollars. God knows, if I measured my photography’s success purely in revenues generated, it would be a very sad measurement indeed. But if I adjust my expectations and align myself with the hard fact that the sales market for steampunk photographs of pretty people–particularly, I suppose, the sort of dark-and-strange sort of approach I take–is much, much smaller than the universe of people who would be delighted to look at such images, then notoriety becomes a much more achievable measure of success than the 45 cents Amazon occasionally lets me know I’ve earned on a download of Aether & Rhyme.
So no, I don’t hate free per se. And I’m perfectly happy, as I said, to give stuff I’ve created away for nothing. It would just be nice if I were the one to make that decision, please.
Spasibo and dosvedanya.