Digital Piracy vs the Left Hand of Darkness

TheLeftHandOfDarkness1stEd Pirates are upon us!  They’re assailing us with their dastardly ways, their electronic disseminations, their digital altruisms.  Quickly, assemble the attorneys and dispatch them to litigate the readership!

That quivering lip is corporate book publishing wondering what to do next about file sharing, bit torrents and the stealthy denizens of the Pirate Bay.

Digital book piracy has made it to the pages of the New York Times and it seems that the hand wringing is about to begin in earnest about how to deal with digital books leaked to the web.

Kassia Kroszer lends her sensibility to the argument with this post on the issue at her Booksquare blog.  She notes while Ursula Le Guin and her publisher are dismayed to find digital versions of her book the Left Hand of Darkness on file sharing sites that it may actually indicate that there’s an unserved market for her work in this format and not an opportunity for panic.

Cory Doctorow closes the NYT article by saying, “I really feel like my problem isn’t piracy,” Mr. Doctorow said. “It’s obscurity.”

The waters are churning.

Sean Cranbury is the Executive Editor of Books on the Radio. He's also Founder and Creative Director of the Real Vancouver Writers' Series. Sean is General Manager at the legendary Storm Crow Tavern and consults with literary arts organizations on digital communications strategies.


  • Reply May 15, 2009


    where do you see this going?

  • Reply May 15, 2009


    Good question. I am not a prognosticator but I would say that it needs to go as near 100% DRM free as it can. That doesn’t mean that there’s no place for paid digital content but it does mean that the publishers would be wise to relinquish control and use digital content to augment and support the physical product. The publisher’s job is to make the content easily accessible. Litigation is out of the question.

    My recommendation is drop the issue of DRM and make all content available and make better, more appealing books.

  • Reply June 11, 2009

    Corey Redekop

    But how can we even detect the pirates? I can’t even fire upon them before they board me. Then, before you know it, I’ve been pirated by Somalis.

    That’s the way it works, right? I’m a bit fuzzy.

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