Farewell and good riddance oceanofPDF. For those who somehow missed it, this site offered free pdf downloads of books regardless of whether the books were still in copyright or not. It was driven by user request and if a writer or publisher requested a book be removed, the website refused to do so.
The site’s founders appeared to be aware that they were not helping writers and urged users to “leave reviews so authors get something back” and use word of mouth to recommend books to others. Urging others to use free downloads does not help writers either.
I get that
In some places books are difficult to get hold of or heavily censored or prohibitively expensive, but that doesn’t give you a right to a free download
Books are viewed as expensive by the same people who will buy an ebook reader, spend money on tickets to a one-off event like a sports game or cinema visit when a book can be revisited many times
Sometimes your money just doesn’t stretch to accommodate a reading habit so why not take up reviewing and get free books in return for a review, or is that not a fair price (and why is it not a fair price)? Do you demand supermarkets give you groceries for free because you’re too busy buying books to afford food?
It’s too inconvenient to visit a library. Tough. Try Project Gutenburg or Google Books. In the UK, writers do get paid when books (print, audio or ebooks) are borrowed so borrowing from a library instead of freeloading does make a difference.
People who use free downloads aren’t necessarily going to buy the book so the download doesn’t represent a lost sale. That doesn’t give the freeloader the right to make the download available to readers who might have bought a copy and helped the writer.
What if I buy a book and loan it to my friends? Great. But you probably don’t have 10,000+ friends; free downloads are available worldwide on a larger scale.
Shouldn’t writers be glad they’re being read? Samples of my poems are available online. These are free to access because I have chosen to make them free to access. You can read my work without infringing my copyright.
From a writer’s viewpoint
Free downloads aren’t recorded as sales. If sales for a current book are low, publishers won’t risk taking on the next book. Lack of sales also impact the amount of marketing budget publishers are willing to spend on the next book.
Writers don’t usually set the prices for books. Even self-published books can be discounted by stores so giving writers little control over how much they earn since their earnings are usually a percentage of the (discounted) sale price. A percentage of nothing is nothing.
The Society of Authors’ earnings survey indicates writers in the UK earn an average of £10,000 (average wage in the UK is £26,000). Most writers already do full or part time jobs in addition to writing. Taking away chances to earn money from writing mean writers get to do less writing. This not only means fewer books but also impacts on a writer’s ability to experiment and develop their craft and talent.
Unless a writer signs their rights away, copyright is still owned by the writers. Infringing that copyright impacts the writers and has a negative and demotivating effect on them.
It’s relatively easy to take a document and convert it into a pdf, stick it on a site and let others download it. But you can only do that if the document exists in the first place. Writing a book takes work, effort, emotional labour and time. Writers deserve to be paid for that. Depriving a writer of the opportunity to be paid means depriving the writer of the means to produce future books. Do you want all your books to be written only by those who can afford to work for free?
I have a search engine alert that lets me find sites offering downloads of my book and I will request my books are taken off and report the site to Google. I am fed up of having to do this because it eats into my writing time.
I know that the model behind oceansofPDF will be replicated elsewhere. I know many oceansofPDF users were adamant they loved the site and want it back. But not one of those users was supporting the writers they purport to love. Every free download comes with costs, are those costs acceptable to you?