How Ebook Theft is the Best Thing Since Pumpkin Spice Latte

By Yuri Burchenya read
09 Sep, 2014

When you think about ebooks, there are probably two things that come to your mind (hint: pumpkin spice latte is not one of them).

It’s marketing pdf ebooks full of “guru advice” that companies try to thrust on you to get your emails.

And then there’s legit electronic versions of the books that authors prepare so you could read their writings on Kindle, iPad etc.

When we talk about ebook theft, we usually mean theft of the second variation of ebooks.

It may seem counterintuitive, but as a seller you should actually celebrate the moment when someone steals your work.

As a seller you should actually celebrate the moment when someone steals your work

Theft Defined

Theft – the felonious taking and removing of personal property with intent to deprive the rightful owner of it.

Marriam-Webster Dictionary.

“The outcome of theft is thus that the thief has the property and owner does not. In the physical world theft makes sense,” writes Joseph Moneti in his blog. “Property can’t instantaneously disappear or be instantaneously and infinitely replicated. In the digital world, things are a lot different.”

I know a lot of writers would disagree with this, and say that Joseph is just sugarcoating the issue.

The reality is, that “there’s no 100% fool-proof way to prevent someone from duplicating your downloadable ebook,” says Yuwanda Black on Inkwelleditorial.” Ebook piracy, copyright infringement, content theft, etc. is alive and well – and it’s never going to disappear.”

There's no 100% fool-proof way to prevent someone from duplicating your downloadable ebook

Deal with it.

But I Want to Prevent Ebook Theft

You can try making your download page noindexed, put it deep in the site, cloak it and change the URL regularly on top of that.

But this doesn’t come near solving the problem.

If you offer a PDF version of your ebook, you can stamp it, of course. And everyone who has paid for the book will have this weird feeling looking at their own name or email address on each and every page of your book.

Your loyal buyers will think: “Don’t you trust me?”

Don't You Trust Me?

Because if you don’t, why should they trust you? If they can’t trust you, why would they tell their friend about your wonderful ebook on in-house gardening?

If you have a printed version of your book pirates can go as far as scan your work page by page and create a PDF version of your book.

I’m not saying that resistance is futile, rather that users will always find a way to share your work.

What Shall I do instead?

Why not spend this time marketing your product instead? And just go with a digital service provider that hosts your ebooks in a secure environment? (Wink, wink.)

Take example from Paulo Coelho, who personally released a ‘pirated’ version of the Russian translation of “The Alchemist”. Sales in Russia jumped from 1000 copies a year to 100,000 the next year and 1,000,000 in the third year.

The ultimate goal of a writer is to be read

The only thing you should really care about is that someone is illegally profiting from selling your pirated book.

But how do you find out that someone is pirating your work?


“Google makes it simple to keep an eye on the happenings with your books and potential piracy,” explains writer Melissa Petrshock on Badredheadmedia. “I set alerts for both my name and book title so anytime they show up in Google’s search engine, I receive an email notification. I’ve found several incidences of piracy this way.”

Google makes it simple to keep an eye on the happenings with your books and potential piracy

It’s a good way to stay on top of any new book reviews that get published on blogs too.

Sometimes when you google the name of your ebook, you get these torrent links on the first page of the search engine results page.

That’s not good.

You’d certainly like people to find your official website or purchase links first.

What you can actually do is submit takedown requests to Google. They’ll remove these results from the search engine.

But Think About All the Money I’m Losing

You’re probably thinking something like..

“Oh God, I’m losing so much money because of piracy, look at all these reports from XYZ and ABC, saying that ebook authors are losing $436 billion US dollars from piracy. I must be losing a good chunk of that too..”


The truth is that “… illegal downloads can’t be counted as lost income,” says author Greg Barron on his blog. “Because the cheaters would never have paid for the book, but would simply have lived without it.”

See? You can breathe normally now.

Still, someone who got a pirated version of your book might be more likely to buy your new release.

Either having felt guilty for stealing from you or simply because he liked your work so much that he had to get it the moment it was out, and couldn’t wait for the pirated version to come out.

Ultimately, remember that piracy is the best compliment. It means people care about your product and you’re on the right track.

Over to You

What is your view on ebook piracy? Is it free advertising for writers or outright theft that has to be stopped? Let me know in the comments section below.

Yuri is a Content Crafter at Sellfy. He's focused on inbound marketing, copywriting, CRO and growth.