Picture by chotda on flickr
Man is it SOAPBOX time again today. Hold tight. Lean back. Get the popcorn out.
This story was handed to me by a friend. Let's call him Thomas. Thomas lives in Germany.
Thomas recently got a recommendation by another friend of mine (let's call him Michael) to check out the work of a Science Fiction author (let's call her Sue). "If you're a fan of Heinlein, Gaiman and Gibson, you've GOT to read her books, she's excellent! A real discovery!"
Being the modern guy he is, Thomas got online to buy one of her books. The original English version, not the German translation. Not as a hardcopy, but as an eBook.
With the iPad on the horizon (first deliveries in Germany will start in about a week) he also wanted to future-proof his investment. Buy it now, start reading on the iPhone, continue reading on the iPad as soon as it arrives. Sounded like a plan.
Apples iBooks app and iBookstore aren't an option here in Germany yet, so he looked into Kindle. Turned out the book in question wasn't available in the German Kindle bookstore. Bummer.
Next stop Stanza. Yes, it's not available as a native iPad app just yet, but with the Kindle app having made it to the iPad, there is a chance that Stanza will be allowed in too. So Thomas installed Stanza on his iPhone, fired up the built-in book search and lo and behold, there was the book in question, available on the BooksOnBoard store right from within Stanza. For $12.72. He hit the "Buy" button, was transferred to the BooksOnBoard web store in Safari, he registered an account with BooksOnboard, diligently filled in all his information, got to the book page, put it in the shopping cart, clicked the check out button in anticipation, and ...
"This title is not allowed for sale within your country. Item failed to add to cart! Please close this window and try again."
OUCH. BIG OUCH.
After some more research Thomas had to learn that it seemed impossible to legally buy the book in question as an English version in Germany in any eBook format.
Thomas was ready to spend $12.72 of his hard earned money for this eBook. He happily wanted to throw money at an online store (e.g. the entire chain: the shop owner, the publisher, the author, and even the government if you take taxes into account). But for some very stupid reason he wasn't allowed to. What's wrong with this picture? Everything!
And this is where Thomas had it. He wanted the book. "If they don't want my money, I'm savvy enough to get a hold of this eBook in another way."
20 minutes later he not only had a copy of this one eBook on his hard drive, but about 500 others too. Five friggin hundred. Why? Because he couldn't find the book on its own on BitTorrent, but instead had to download it as part of a ridiculously large Science Fiction book collection.
Just to make it clear: this download was not a paid download. At this point let me add a quick word about BitTorrent: No, not everything on there is illegal. By far not. BitTorrent is first of all a great technology. The telephone is a great technology too, and I don't even want to start thinking about the amount and kind of illegal activities that the telephone is being used for at this very moment...
Back to the story:
Let's do the math. Thomas was ready to pay $12.72 to BooksOnBoard, and I'm sure they would have loved to take the money and give him the book. Instead he now had 500 not-quite-so-legal eBooks sitting on his hard disk. Assuming the same price, those books summed up to over $6000 in lost sales potential.
Book industry? Government? Authors? Collecting Societies? I don't really care who's fault this is, but are you reading this? Instead of losing a sale of $12.72 you have just lost the potential to make $6000. If Thomas wasn't such an honest soul, that lost potential could have easily multiplied many times. "Look what I just downloaded, let me send you a copy..."
Imagine the amount of people searching for (not necessarily legal) ways to get a hold of digital goods, that they cannot get otherwise for ridiculously stupid reasons.
PS: Honest soul that he is, Thomas of course deleted the 499 eBooks that he had to download to get to this one book. And he hasn't shared the downloaded copy with anyone. Not even with me. He's now trying to find out if there is a way to send Sue a donation, because he loved her book so much that he wants to give her something in return. Which will probably be way more than what she would have earned if he had bought it the "normal" way.
What is your take on this?
Wow, what a journey, what a trip. And we all returned safe and with lots of pictures, not only on our memory cards but most important in our mind. It's often impossible to portray the true scale of things, so taking a scene in instead of shooting a quick snap of it is sometimes the better choice.
I have now started posting some of my photography from the trek here: