11 supporters
Re: Book piracy discourse, take #1025

Re: Book piracy discourse, take #1025

Feb 08, 2023

i don’t care how poor you are and what third world country (aka country which is being stripped of its resources and most of its people live in abject poverty due to imperialism) you live in…

-white american woman on twitter on february 2023

Uh?? Let’s take that back for a bit.

Hello everyone! I’m Zainab or Em, and once again an obnoxious white Global Northerner has inspired me to write a post.

Piracy has long been a major bone of contention in the online book community, and for good reason. In fact, there’s a running joke about the book community yearly discourse bingo, and how many times book piracy will show up on it per year (spoiler: we seem to be on our third or fourth take of the year).

Today’s post is about piracy and rather a particular person’s (or more widely, a flavour of people) response to that.

For obvious reasons, book piracy is very upsetting to authors, and it goes without saying that authors (like everyone else) should be compensated fairly for their work, but the way and manner in which book piracy is discussed leaves much to be desired.

Piracy discourse, when done productively as it should be, can be a great way to get to the bottom of the issue and seek ways to rectify it. But this isn’t done, rather there’s focus on the wrong people and use of rather insensitive and unsavoury language (example, the quote above)

Book piracy is majorly caused by two factors: accessibility and affordability, both of which are issues in the Global South (see how I didn’t say third world).

To present to you the full picture, I’ll use my country, Nigeria, as an example. Today in Nigeria, the current exchange rate is 750 naira to a dollar, and you should keep in mind that this rate isn’t stable. According to Bloomberg, nearly two-thirds of Nigerians live on less than $2 a day. Also in a report by the National Bureau of Statistics, almost 133 million Nigerians, or 63% of the population, are “multi-dimensionally poor,” meaning they suffer simultaneously from multiple disadvantages, including a lack of access to clean energy, housing, health care, water and sanitation.

Many Nigerians spend a dollar or less on food daily, and to say to a people like this that you don’t care how poor they are, is a truly vile statement to make. I’m more than sure that you live on over twenty times of that daily.

Next is accessibility. Congratulations, you finally managed to cough up, as Nigerians will say, $16 dollars to get a hardback novel (the amount a person could use to eat for a 16-20 days), now you have to pay $20 on shipping. That totals 27,000 thousand naira, isn’t that just lovely!

But what about an ebook, you ask. Major electronic book retailers like Kindle, Google Books, Apple Books and Barnes & Noble’s Nook aren’t available/accessible in Nigeria. You can’t download Google Books in the Nigerian play store or Kindle in the Apple App Store. If you somehow manage to do so, it’s useless because it’s inaccessible for your location.

[Tip to those using an IPhone: To get Kindle, if you aren’t on any current subscription, change your location on your store to US or UK to download the app. If you have subscription on your account, create another Apple ID and set the location to US/UK or Canada, and use the ID to download Kindle. To buy books, you’ll need an address in of the countries it’s available in. You can ask a friend, if you can use theirs <3]

Hence suggestion like, subscribing to Kindle Unlimited (KU) is useless to most.

*The one subscription service or library that works in Nigeria is Scribd. If you can afford that, I recommend it or you can get a link for a 60 days free trial and remove your card before the payment dates.

Now that my preamble is over, time to move on to the main reason for this post. The person I quoted, oh so graciously, provided a list of resources that we (uncouth Global Southerners) didn’t possibly think about (yes, I’m being sarcastic). So I’ll quickly review all of them:

In a spreadsheet they created, they shared 12 resources and they made an infographic with a little more.

  1. Open library: This is a good resource available to most people, but in some places government restrictions make this inaccessible.

  2. Netgalley: Thank you so much for adding an industry wide ARC request site where publishers certainly don’t discriminate against accepting your request based on your geographical location (this is sarcasm).

  3. Brooklyn Library: Yes, Global Southerners can absolutely use a library for New York residents under the age of 21. Again, sarcasm.

  4. BookBub: I’d like for people to be serious. BookBub is an email subscription service that sends you emails on ebook sales from major electronic book retailers. Almost all of which are inaccessible to people in the Global South.

  5. Book Sprout: Book sprout is another ARC request site that is mostly used by indie authors and publishers, but not also very Global South reader friendly (of no fault of their own). A number of authors prefer for you to Amazon reviews but Amazon won’t allow you review things if you haven’t spent a minimum of $50, which can prove hard for GS readers.

  6. Free Booksy: Same as BookBub

  7. Book Sirens: Same as BookBub

  8. Book Raid: Same as BookBub

  9. Book Barbarian: Same as BookBub

  10. E-reader News Today: Same as BookBub

  11. Hello Books: Same as BookBub

  12. Red Feather Romance: Same as BookBub

  13. Robin Reads: Same as BookBub

  14. Akoo Books App: Now this would have been great for Africans, if it was expansive and not a tiny app with a very small collection, that composed mostly of children books and some of them were in Twi. Recommending Okada books would have been much better.

  15. ThriftBooks: Who’s going to pay for delivery? They also don’t ship to 30+ countries

  16. Book of the Month: This might actually be the most ridiculous suggestion ever. $16 monthly and international shipping fee? Please, be serious

Now that list has been addressed, before anyone says something ridiculous;

What about libraries?

What libraries? There are hardly any public libraries and the ones that do exist are affiliated with universities for their students and staff and contain only books for education and research which are likely outdated.

Surely, you have local stores?

Good question. Most stores carry only books related to education and the Bible. The stores that do carry fiction books published in recent times are very few and those cost from 5,500 naira (this is probably if you’re lucky and it’s on a sale for a low price, usually at an annual fest, or it’s an African book, which also may be on sale) and above.

Not bad, but again I ask you to revisit the lines about the standard of living and there’s the cost of getting to the bookstore from where you live or having it delivered to you. It costs a minimum of 2,000 naira for me on a very good day to get a book delivered or pick it up myself.

So you can see that your actual enemy aren’t Global Southerners, who are much poorer than you, it’s people closer to you. It’s the average American white middle class people who can’t be bothered to buy books though they can afford them, just as they plague other industries. It’s also publishers and the publishing industry as a whole, which has normalised their paying authors a suffer wage and taking huge chunks of the profits off selling books. And arguably, the government of your countries that created this crisis in other countries and set restrictions.

I believe that authors should be paid a living wage and have fair compensation. I also know that a number of authors are also poor, but to make disparaging remarks about people who have it worse that you is a classless and unempathetic.

Also for people who wants legal alternatives to read books that are available to the Global South, Shealea (@shutupshealea on Twitter) has a post on it that you check out on her website!

Thank you for reading long rant. If you’d like to tip me so I can add to the funds for my next book purchase, you can buy me a coffee 💕

Enjoy this post?

Buy em/zainab a coffee