Susan Slaughter

Does Crime Pay?

In Everything, Little SAS Book Series, Publishing, SAS on August 18, 2010 at 9:25 am

Answer:  It certainly doesn’t pay authors.

My sister recently told me that the Sacramento public library lists one copy of The Little SAS Book in their catalog.  However, it turns out that someone has stolen that one copy.

I figure that’s a compliment of sorts: Someone wanted The Little SAS Book enough to steal it.  To tell the truth I was flattered that the Sacramento public library had a copy of The Little SAS Book at all.  Next time I’m in downtown Sacramento, I must remember to donate a new copy of The Little SAS Book to the library, and while I’m at it, I might as well throw in a copy of The Little SAS Book for Enterprise Guide.

The case of someone stealing a single copy of a book from a public library isn’t a major crime.  A greater concern—at least to authors—is the evidence that electronic copies are being freely pirated.  Recently, I ran into a friend who is a student.  Looking at her laptop computer, I saw that she was displaying The Little SAS Book.  It was a sharp-looking PDF version.  Even I don’t have a PDF copy of The Little SAS Book!  “Wow,” I said, “Where did you get that?”  She sheepishly admitted that it had been given to her by another student.  She had neglected to mention this to me because she knew it was an illegal copy, and that I hadn’t been paid a cent for it.  Of course, this particular friend has a legal copy (that I gave her), so I’m not bothered by the fact that she now has a second copy even if it is illegal.

What does concern me is the fact that royalties for The Little SAS Book series have been declining, and are down 40% compared to three years ago.  During those years we worked hard and published two new editions.  So, logically our royalties should be going up, not down.  I can’t help wondering if the sales have dropped at least partly because people are using pirated copies instead of legal ones.  I’m grateful for the good sales we have had in the past, and I wouldn’t mind people passing around pirated copies if our royalties held steady.  But the truth is: I have to pay my bills just like everyone else.  The problem of piracy is not unique to me, nor to SAS Press, nor even to books.  This is a bigger problem that applies to music and movies too, and you can bet I’ll be watching to see how it turns out.

  1. Unfortunately, it is so easy to capture and exchange intellectual property nowadays. Hopefully, enough people see the value in purchasing a good old fashioned hard copy just like many people still want good old fashioned CDs.

    • Thank you for the sympathetic support!

      I keep telling myself that it’s important to remember that just because somebody has an uncompensated copy of a book doesn’t necessarily mean that the author or publisher lost any income. I tried to imply this by mentioning the fact that my friend already had a legal copy of The Little SAS Book. Since I gave her the copy, it cost her nothing and I lost no income–but I also earned no income!

      It is probable that many of the people who have pirated copies would not have bought a copy anyway. And it is possible that some of them have already purchased copies. And it is possible that after using a pirated copy some of them will decide that they like our book enough to purchase copy. But it is certain that authors and publishers need to think creatively and not get stuck doing the same old things.

  2. […] of content) I am concerned about the problem of copyright infringement. (Here is my previous post about this.)  So I was interested to find out that while I was at the Western Users of SAS Software […]

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