In searching for the abstract of my book, I found more than I expected: What appeared to be a pirated PDF copy of the book in its entirety. What’s worse is that it appeared #1 in Google’s search. Numbers 2 and 3 were various pages on my site, #4 was my Wikipedia profile page, #5 was O’Reilly’s page, and #6 was Amazon’s page. So it’s easier to download a pirated copy of my book than it is to buy it. (It’s $2.03 at Amazon right now. Maybe I should buy some copies.)
I’m having trouble deciding whether that bothers me. The likelihood of me ever making another 25 cents off that book is slim. There was some talk at one time of releasing the book under some kind of Creative Commons license, but I never received the paperwork so I guess they changed their mind. As far as I know, it’s still under copyright.
And the copyright doesn’t belong to me, so ultimately it’s not up to me. I wrote it, but O’Reilly owns the copyright. So I e-mailed O’Reilly to ask them if they care.
And I received a response within 15 minutes, which sounds like a yes to me.
On one level I’m flattered. Someone thought it was worth the time and effort to scan the book in and make a PDF out of it. That’s less effort than I put into writing a single chapter of it, but it might have taken an hour to do. Possibly more, if they used a flatbed scanner. Nobody would spend an hour–or however long it took–scanning a book they didn’t like.
And part of me wonders if I should have grabbed a copy of it for myself before sending off that message. I don’t have a copy of it in PDF. I may not even have a copy of what went to press in Word format. I’m not sure I’m entitled to it, but if anyone is, it would be me. But I didn’t, so that point is moot. And as easy as it is to embed malware in a PDF, I don’t think downloading illicit copies of books is a good idea, even if you’re the author.
Does it matter anymore? Hard to say. Windows 9x is dead, and it’s been dead to me a lot longer than it’s been dead to the marketplace. Current and recent editions of Windows are more like OS/2 under the hood than they’re like Windows 9x. There’s not much in that book that works on current versions of Windows. When I was writing the proposal, I offered to write about Windows NT instead–much of which would remain relevant today–but the decision-makers opted for a Windows 9x book, so that’s what I wrote.
Could I write on the same topic for Windows 8 and make it relevant and useful? Sure. Do I plan to? No.
Actually, this isn’t the first time I’ve been pirated. I’ve found illicit copies of three articles I wrote in the 1990s, too. But considering I wasn’t paid for two of those three things in the first place, one was published completely without my consent, and the two publishers are defunct, I didn’t do anything about that.