Sunday, December 27, 2009

Cracking the e-books

It can take years to write a book but it takes only a week to read one, so the question a writer is asked most often is probably, "When's your next book coming out?"

Recently there has been an even more annoying question, if that's possible.

"When's your book coming out as an e-book?"

The reason that's an annoying question is that it takes longer to read this sentence than it takes to download an entire book from an overseas file-sharing site that is conveniently making e-books available at absolutely no cost whatsoever.

E-books are making suckers out of authors and publishers, who are currently on the phone screaming at each other over how to divide the royalties from e-book sales.

E-books are also making suckers out of consumers who pay hundreds of dollars for the latest e-book reading devices. Hackers cracked the proprietary code of Amazon's Kindle before the Christmas trees were even up and e-books are now available in the ubiquitous PDF format that can be read on any computer running Adobe's Acrobat Reader.

Which is a free program, by the way.

So in about twenty seconds you can find and download the brand-new book of your choice. And don't worry, there are no security cameras or mall cops to catch you.

Don't be afraid that this is too technical or difficult. Let's try it together. What should we steal? How about Sarah Palin's new book?

First, we'll go to Google and search for "Rapidshare" (that's a file-sharing site "in another land," as comedian Robert Klein used to say) and the title of Governor Palin's book, "Going Rogue."

Why, look at that, we can steal the audio book, too. Isn't that nice. So convenient.

But for now, let's just click on the second search result,

Well, that didn't take long. Here are four different links to take us to free pirated copies of Governor Palin's book. Good thing she didn't spend six years writing it or she'd really be aggravated. Let's click the "trusted download." As Senator McCain can attest, it's best to deal with someone who's been fully vetted.

This link has brought us to, where we can see that the book is available in an assortment of formats. Number seven on the list is in PDF format, which any computer running Adobe Acrobat Reader can open with a single click of a mouse.

It's easy to print, too, in case you're one of those people who doesn't like to read on a screen.

Of course, then you'd have to pay for paper and toner. Unless you're at work. Hey, why not, you're done with your Internet shopping, right?

Okay, let's click on the PDF link and see what happens.

Here the web site asks us to select our country from a list. Is that because the laws in some places don't allow us to steal Governor Palin's book? Don't be silly. They just want to give us better service. "Choosing the download server closest to you will result in faster download speeds," the web site helpfully explains.

Isn't that nice? Don't you feel like an idiot for buying a Kindle?

Now let's click the download button and see if we have pulled this off successfully.

Uh-oh! We got a warning! Let's see what it says.

"In order to download this file you have to be registered and logged in. If you have NOT registered yet, click 'Register' and follow the easy steps. Creating an account is free, easy and only takes seconds."

So, have we hit the security barrier? Is this where we have to put in our real name, credit card number, verified PayPal address?

Don't be silly.

All they want is your e-mail address. They promise to protect your information (" never releases e-mail addresses to third parties for any reason whatsoever and your personal information will be securely stored in accordance with our privacy policy") but if for any reason you're worried that they can't be trusted, just go over to Yahoo or Google or AOL and sign up for a free e-mail account. Use a fake name. What, is this your first robbery? You don't know this stuff already?

You can see that you're required to check the box next to the words "I have carefully read and agree to the Terms and Conditions." Be sure to click the link and read those terms and conditions. That's where it will tell you that you may not use this file-sharing service for the purpose of stealing copyrighted material. And the next time you park your car next to a broken parking meter, be sure to put money in it anyway.

Hey, what's THIS? They want us to pay a membership fee? That is SO not going to happen. If we didn't pay the author and we didn't pay the publisher and we didn't pay for the Kindle we're certainly not going to pay YOU, pal.

These people have a lot of nerve, asking us to pay $1.95 for membership (marked down from $39.85, which apparently they had no luck collecting). offers testimonials from satisfied customers to help convince visitors to part with two dollars for their service. Here's one:

"I have found Download ZZZ to not only be helpful in getting the freshest media content and software versions, but also reliable and fast," writes the happy customer. "In today's market, such service is a really rare example of quality. Customer support is very good as well: quick answers and quick results for me. And I got all of this at a very reasonable and fair price."

Look, it's only two dollars, and people are entitled to be paid for their work, right?

Just kidding.

You can go back to Google and search "Rapidshare" and "Going Rogue" and "FREE download," and this time don't fall for that "trusted download" scam.

This is all just another way of saying that the authors who are calling their publishers to demand a share of e-book revenue are never going to recoup the cost of the long-distance phone call. That is, if they pay for long-distance phone calls. You can call on the Internet for free, but some authors still use typewriters.

America Wants To Know started a small publishing company this year and is currently writing a series of slightly twisted detective novels which have been and continue to be one hell of a lot of work.

When's the next book coming out?

Aiming for the fall of 2010.

When's the book coming out as an e-book?

Sometime after Sarah Palin is elected president. Look for it midway through her third term.

Copyright 2009