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Sunday 8 January 2012

Penny Pinching Pirates

Yesterday I found out that my latest Peter Cotton novel, Icelight was being pirated. Flattering? I am not sure.

Publishing has long been a compacted cottage industry, by which I mean that multinationals aggregate a great many individual writers to look like one big umbrella with a logo on it. Experience of other industries suggests this model does not always work. Music, for example.

What does appear strange is the great divergence in demand. Very many people want to read – or have wanted to read – the Twilight Saga. Likewise the Harry Potter books. In my case, however, the pirates are now catering for what I can only describe with any politeness as a boutique interest. To be blunt, Peter Cotton has no theme park, nor film series.

No. We are talking here of penny pinching pirates.

My cynical husband has assured me that the meaning of ‘copyright’ has changed. It now indicates a right to copy.

Since my sales really do not justify a J K Rowling type legal team using a ‘watermark’ to trace buccaneers, he has come up with what he terms ‘an oblique response’ – namely the manufacture of pins and T-shirts. The pins will be ‘P’ for pirated. The T-shirts will bear legends like ‘I’ve been pirated.’ He suggests the margins would match royalties and invites suggestions.

I am a little surprised that the pirates have bothered. There is inclusive and there is swashbuckling. Not much swash here, I think. This is more like Scrooge than Jack Sparrow.

Thursday 5 January 2012

Twelfth Night - Noche de Reyes!

Everyone is back at work in Britain, tinsel and Christmas trees tidied away, but in Spain, this is ‘Noche de Reyes’ the time for present giving, and the official end of Christmas. This year for the first time, my little grandson who lives in Spain was aware and excited about Santa coming (Santa duly did) and tonight eagerly awaits the Three Kings – los Reyes Magos.

Twelfth Night is of course the title of a Shakespeare play, so called because Shakespeare was commissioned to write a play for the celebration of the Epiphany – the twelfth and last day of Christmas. The play itself has nothing to do with Christmas or the Three Kings, but it has been one of my favourites for a very long time – deliciously funny and witty, and who could not be in love with Viola, the strong young heroine who (as do a number of Shakespeare’s heroines) dons men’s clothing to survive and speaks wonderful lines? When I was about 12 I had a Twelfth night party in which everyone had to assume the name of one of the characters of the play. It ended with us dismantling the Christmas tree. As a tradition, I have to say, it didn’t catch on.

This Christmas, record numbers of E-readers have found their way into people’s stockings. It was only to be expected, therefore, that downloads of ebooks would soar. According to some sources millions of ebooks have been purchased in the UK alone since Christmas. I will put to one side for the moment the Daily Mail’s characteristically measured report of the seemingly unstoppable rise in piracy, echoing what has happened in the music and film industry. One of the things that has struck me is the number of people who have been downloading classics (many of them free) and have announced that they are going to include them in their reading along with their habitual literary diet. For some, this is about trying something they have never read before; for others, revisiting well-loved books.

So, on ‘Noche de Reyes’, if you want a free ebook for your fine new e-reader, resist the temptation to download a pirated version. Instead, be adventurous. Find something surprising, that is new for you, unlike anything you normally read, among the classics legitimately available for free download. Or download an old favourite, to carry with you and dip into wherever you are.

I, of course, have downloaded Twelfth Night.