Brian Napack’s piracy plan made me laugh.
And then it made me excited because I figured it would make for an excellent rant. I heart controversy and what better way to spark discussion than to write about the president of Macmillan and the dumbest plan in the history of publishing?
Then I logged onto Twitter.
Well… That totally popped my balloon. Everyone was tweeting about it, and worse, everyone agreed with me. I thought I had made some incredibly insightful discovery; one that would catapult me into publishing awe. Apparently this was not the case.
Here’s a sample tweet:
Okay, so I wasn’t the only person to notice that Macmillan’s plan was lacking, and after a bitchfest with Guy LeCharles Gonzalez, I realized neither was I the first.
He pointed out that it was impressive for Napack to bring up a plan at all: “Usually these guys skirt around the issue and don’t put forth a solid plan.” Instead of playing the politician, Napack produced a concrete proposal of Macmillan’s next steps, regardless of its ability to actually be effective.
[NOTE: DBW Members can listen to the entire presentation here.]
Let’s go over Macmillan’s provocative strategy (you know, the one no one has ever tried before):
1. Target facilitators
2. Target pirates
3. Pursue legislation and enforcement
Apparently they’re going to hire people specifically to fight book thievery. The next generation of publishing wannabe’s will attend interviews like this:
Interviewer: What did you major in?
Wannabe: Pirate studies!
Interviewer: You’re hired!
(Let me just point out this puts my Facebook ads in a whole new light. That light looks like crap, by the way.)
What a supreme waste of time and energy. Not to mention money. Aren’t book publishers not really hiring? Isn’t big publishing in a bit of a pickle?
It’s not like taking down all pirated books is going to increase sales. People download illegal copies because they don’t want to shell out the dough for the “real” thing. If the illegal copy goes away, the “real” thing might as well not exist. So not only will Macmillan have wasted the money hiring someone to beat piracy, but now no new readers are finding their books.
I, for one, am much more likely to purchase a print book if I already know it’s going to be awesome. Most people (especially poor college grads like myself) don’t buy books to read them once. This is one way where pirated books can be incredibly useful.
4. Create a viable consumer marketplace
This is a much needed plan of attack that hopefully won’t have youth running for the torrent hills… and yet Napack spent a grand total of two seconds on it. This could have been an entire panel discussion. An entire conference.
We need more Netflix-type rental systems or something along the lines of eMusic where you can download a relatively unpopular song for something like $0.20. Oooh, and free trials! (Except see no. 6; not sure these two can exist in harmony.)
5. Protect content in-house
According to Napack, Macmillan has a little problem reigning in its employees as apparently many illegal eBooks are created from prepublication sources. He made it seem as if Macmillan employees are the biggest group of pirates around and didn’t even mention the fact that prepub copies are available to other people as well, for advance reviews to create awareness and increase sales.
That’s the whole point, right?
I find it very hard to believe that the lucky few in publishing who are still employed are going to not only encourage book piracy, but partake in it.
6. Protect content in the marketplace (basically limit free eBooks in whatever capacity – giveaways, galleys, etc)
Maybe these copies get leaked, but we can’t deny their effectiveness! Just last night I signed up for a free sample of Seth Godin’s Permission Marketing. The promotion went like this: I provided my email address; I got first four chapters delivered to my inbox. What’s not to love?
If bookstores continue to shut down left and right, readers have a limited ability to physically browse through books. Free chapters of eBooks = browsing in the digital age.
7. Engage in public education
If that’s not a euphemism for “scaring the shit out of kids who don’t know any better”, I don’t know what is. Here’s the image I have in my head: you know those commercials you see a lot in movie theaters? The one where some teen is downloading torrents and another is stealing a DVD?
Big booming voice: YOU WOULDN’T STEAL A CAR.
That’s the one. Here’s a favorite parody of mine: “YOU’D PROBABLY STEAL A WALLET… Regardless, this advertisement is annoying.”
I’m not condoning piracy (sort of), but if major publishers are only going to look at the “legal” side of things and spend precious time and money fighting the inevitable, they are going to crash and burn.
I’m poor, I understand technology, and I guarantee I can find any book online, for free, in 10 minutes or less. You can delete and sue all you want, but at the end of the day the internet is a wide and limitless place, meaning it’s a waste of time, money and energy to fight it. Embrace the change and find another way to make money without a) annoying your audience, b) suing your audience, and c) losing you audience by wasting cash on completely ineffective “precautions”.
Instead, how about hiring people to create awesome new avenues of affordable, accessible and reader-friendly eBooks? Create a system where libraries can lend out digital copies as well as physical ones. My family gets books from the library all the time and we share them with each other until they’re due.
This is called lending, not thievery, my friends.
The whole point of a conference like Digital Book World, filled with over 500 book and tech nerds, was to create an environment to explore new possibilities. Possibilities no one has tried. Sir Brian, do you honestly think no one’s attempted anti-piracy plans before?
I guess we all know now which major publisher is going to tank first.
Marian Schembari digs social media and books. Usually at the same time.