I don’t like pirated books. I have repeatedly been very vocal and passionate about my criticism – I don’t like the quality of paper, I don’t like the quality of ink, I don’t like how cheaply reproduced it looks. All this, from the point of view of the reader.
From the point of view of a potential writer, right through college, I actively discouraged people from buying pirated books. An author gets paid so little anyway – a budding writer gets about ten rupees per book! Is it even fair that people photocopy the book, sell it cheap, and pay the author nothing? I’ve spoken extensively on the subject.
A few years ago, though, when writing was really becoming more and more my chosen profession, I was walking past a pavement book-store that was proudly displaying its wide range of pirated books. I was walking with a friend, also a writer.
“What would you feel if you saw your book here?” I can’t remember which of us asked that. We were both thinking of the same thing.
We exchanged glances and grinned a little guiltily. “You know what?” I confessed. “I’d be thrilled.”
“I would too!” he agreed, joyfully. “It means that there’s a market for my book!”
“That real people are reading it,” I put it. (It seems like real people, in my opinion, don’t read original prints)
And then we talked about what all we would do when we saw pirated copies of our (thus far non-existent) book there. We would ask a friend to buy the book and engage in conversation with the seller. We would find out how many pirated copies were being sold and feel good about ourselves. We would then know how much people were actually willing to pay for the book. We would know what the market wanted. We would know that strangers were buying our books, not just people who wanted to support us as individuals. We would strike a deal with sellers and offer to supply books.
We talked ecstatically about all our ‘we woulds’ and then went home, feeling grand, and wondering what to write that would one day be published and then one day be pirated and then one day be bought and then one day…