Author Paulo Coelho says he encourages e-book piracy

Thanks to the internet, e-book piracy could hardly be easier, but most published authors don’t appreciate it. And who can blame them? It takes so long to write a book, find an agent, capture an editor’s interest, and finally get published, and then most writers still never earn enough to quit the day job (or if they do, they’re often flirting with extreme poverty in order to do so).

Bestselling author Paulo Coelho (whose fans include Oprah and Madonna, and whose 1988 novel The Alchemist has sold more than 65 million copies) on the other hand, not only condones book piracy, he embraces it. As GoodEReader reports, he’s happy to give his writing away for free.

He recently found out that a boy in India was photocopying his books and selling them on the streets, which publishers might not like, but seems inspired by necessity more than a desire to get something for nothing. Coelho approved of this, and what’s more, is happy to give his work away to anyone with an internet connection – even uploading it to file-sharing site The Pirate Bay himself.

Given his publishing history, though, it’s probably not that surprising. When The Alchemist was first realised in 1999, it was a flop in Russia and he was dropped by his original Russian publisher. But when he found another publisher, he posted a free digital copy of the book in Russian to his website, and sales went from 1000 to 10,000 within a year. He’s now sold more than a million books in Russia alone and still links to free downloads on his website.

Lots of internet entrepreneurs, like Seth Godin, have also found that giving stuff away boosts their careers. And online journalist and author Cory Doctorow argues that piracy is unavoidable. But many authors who haven’t sold 65 million copies of their books despair at seeing their work shared in this way, and their publishers aren’t happy either.

But the good thing about the UK is that you can always take a UK-based author’s book out of the library for free, and they’ll still get some money, through the magic of the Public Lending Right. Win-win – no torrents necessary.

Diane Shipley