The title of this post was one of the top search results for this blog yesterday. That means one of two things: either people are really hoping Second Set shows up on Comixology or one of the other legal, for-pay download sites soon, or they’re trying to find a torrent for the book so they can steal it. I wonder which it could possibly be?
I don’t want to be too negative about this stuff, because I know that having an audience is important, and the idea that people care enough about what I’m writing to seek it out – legally or illegally – is still fairly novel to me. But it still burns a little. A friend of mine sold a few copies of an upcoming issue of his book at a con, only to see it hit the torrents the next day. That meant that someone had to buy it from the creator, make small talk with him, look him in the eye (well, probably – you get some weird types at cons), and then turn right around and screw him as hard as he could. I’m not necessarily even faulting the downloaders that much. I don’t love that, but I understand it. Books are expensive, and a lot of them suck. Sometimes you want to try before you buy, or get something that’s out of print, or… hell, it’s just easier. I get that (although it’s still crappy!) But the SCANNERS… now those guys I don’t get. It’s not like with a CD, where you just have to rip the MP3 and upload it. That’s a two-minute process. But scanning a comic book, at least as I understand how it’s done, takes a minimum of 40 minutes, and can be much longer for complex books with lots of 2-page spreads.
After writing that last paragraph, but before writing this one, I headed over to a chat room I know where a bunch of scanners hang out and started asking questions. I learned that people do it for reasons they mainly think are altruistic (making books accessible, creating archives of old, out of print material, sticking it to the big companies who charge too much for middling-at-best books, etc.) I didn’t get much of an answer when I asked about books from creators who have to pay to create their own books, and who live and die by monthly sales that can be influenced in a big way by piracy.
I heard a lot about “try before you buy,” and I can understand that, because there is a lot of bad stuff out there, and times are tough. On the other hand, isn’t it really just that people want to get stuff for free? I also don’t want to be hypocritical here – I’ve downloaded tons of stuff in my time, including comics. My personal reasons weren’t much more complex than those described above. Knowing that, there’s no way I’m going to go on some sort of moralistic rant about downloading. But, again, scanning – what I heard was that most of the scanners call themselves “fans.” They see themselves as Robin Hoods, stealing overpriced books from the rich conglomerates and giving them to the poor masses who can’t afford or can’t find the books.
But holy crap, man – when you do it to almost any creator-owned book, it’s most definitely stealing from the poor to give to the… well, probably richer, because the downloaders aren’t spending all their dough to make comic books.
I left the chat room just by asking people to consider supporting the indie books they like. I think it’s okay to check out something before you invest in a trade or even floppies, but once you’ve done that and you realize you DO like it? Continuing to download at that point is just the worst. If that’s what you’re doing, then me and all the other indie creators whose books you like (and steal) think you suck. In this day and age, there are endless ways to get books at all levels of obscurity even if you don’t have a cool shop near you, from great online retailers like Midtown Comics, to DCBS, to Comixology. Prices are often deeply discounted, and you can get them in print or digital versions. No excuses.