So, over the past couple of months you may have heard about Son of Erebus. I have it on my "to read" list after hearing about it and reading the excerpt chapter available online through the publisher.
It seems there were a bunch of people who were much more interested in the book than I was....they swiped the book and posted the pirated copy online for download. The pirated version quickly grew legs and "went viral." I haven't seen download stats, but from the sounds of things, it spread across the web like wildfire
Today, the publisher and author released a press release talking about the positive angle they tried to take with this piracy. Basically, they posted a request on the author's Facebook page for everybody who downloaded the pirated copy to post a review of the book. I'm sure there were some who didn't post for fear of repercussions, but the publishers made the request in good faith and were rewarded with a ton of great reviews comparing the book to "the likes of Tolkien, Barker, King and Goodkind."
The book is slated to be the first in a trilogy. And even though the first copy was pirated, it's getting a ton of great hype and added press from the piracy. I'm sure the piracy hurt the sales. I've been involved in many discussions about how piracy can hurt actual sales of products (talking in the past with regards to music, movies and video games) though I'm sure there are also a lot of people who have now legitimately purchased the book as a result of the media spin around it and the great reviews that are out there.
I know that with the increased use and acceptance of electronic versions of books, there was a lot of concern from the literary world that they would see pirated versions of books in the same way as there have been pirated versions of other media. The past couple of years have certainly proven their fears to be valid as a number of books have been pirated.
However, the debate once again opens with the question of - Is there a way to spin piracy in a positive light and actually reap some benefit from the downside? The author, J.S. Chancellor, notes that she was flattered that it was stolen, but also left feeling sick at the thought. And the press release points out that, although the publicity is certainly not coming in the preferred method, "the book is quickly gaining notice".
My personal opinion is that there are (sadly) always going to be thieves and crooks out there. There are always going to be hackers who try to break through a DRM or other form of security system just to prove they can do it. At the same time, there are going to be people who will work through the system legitimately as designed...shopping and purchasing and generally doing things the right way. I optimistically hope and believe that the majority of people actually go through legal rather than illegal means. I would potentially worry about those who got the illegal copy without knowing it was illegal (if someone just posted a version online and they got a link saying "check out the new book for free"...a person may think it was part of a promotion or something) but still, I think the ignorant pirate is another fairly small category.
With regards to books (and even some movies, music, and games), there is almost ALWAYS a way for the frugal reader to get a FREE copy of the book (even the ebook in some cases) and that is to simply make a trip to their own library. The literary world is somewhat unique in its use of the library system...there is actually an acceptance of "getting the books for free." However, even then, this free copy is given with certain rules and with certain protocols to be followed...which again brings me to my earlier point that I think a lot of piracy (especially book piracy) begins more with those who just steal the copies for the sake of stealing them.
As a person who eventually wants to see my own work published and for sale, my heart really goes out to J.S. Chancellor over this issue. I'm very saddened to see her lose out on the sales and have her book dragged through the mud of piracy. At the same time, I agree with her that it must be somewhat flattering to have her book the subject of piracy and then to see it spread so virally. Furthermore, the reviews that came of it have been good. I think she and her publisher did an excellent job of making lemonade from lemons and doing what they could to turn a bad situation to their advantage.
I would love to see piracy go away entirely. There are also a lot of other bad things in the world that I'd like to see go away. But the sad fact is that many of the problems in society/world are here to stay. I think Rhemalda and Chancellor handled this example of privacy very admirably and set a good example for the future. I'm not saying publishers and authors (or musicians, movie/game studios, etc) shouldn't try to stop piracy or should endorse/promote piracy, but I think they should strive to wind ways to turn negative situations to their advantage rather than just bemoaning the situation and looking to post fines all through the dark underbelly of the Internet.