L'Ombre de l'Olivier

The Shadow of the Olive Tree

being the maunderings of an Englishman on the Côte d'Azur

04 August 2008 Blog Home : August 2008 : Permalink

Even More Adventures With Search Engines

I posted a link to my expansion of Eric Flint's Search Engine experiment at Baen's Bar and have received some interesting feedback. The feedback doesn't really invalidate the original but the picture is somewhat more mixed. It was pointed out that
  1. If you use tools other than standard web pages/search tools (emule, IRC etc.) then again it is easier and that books that I mentioned as not being findable show up
  2. Searching for 'torrent' helps to find bootleg copies using Google etc.
  3. J K Rowling / Harry Potter is perhaps a but too much of a best seller compared to others in my sample
I'm prepared to ignore 1) and to some extent 2) for a couple of reasons. Firstly I believe that the average internet user will not know about BitTorrent, eMule, IRC etc. This may not be completely true but I think it is valid enough when combined with my second reason. That is that the quality of the product available on these parts of the internet is questionable so would-be readers will tend to go elsewhere if there is an alternative.

In other words I'm going to work on the fairly well proven observation that poor students and others with a lot of time and little money tend to head for these areas. Older, richer, busier folks - the ones that tend to buy books as opposed to borrowing them from friends/libraries etc. - will prefer to buy at a reasonable price from a recognized brand/site. I offer as further justification that Amazon has offered browsers the ability to buy new from Amazon or used from various 3rd parties for years without losing out on the deal. Many people really will buy new reputable electrons if they are available at a reasonable price because the hassle of figuring out what less-reputable free version is actually usable is not worth the time and effort it takes.

However I did the following test - a google search for "author name" torrent for a variety of author names to get a feel for how many bootleg versions were around. For the same author I also did a search for "author name" and "author name ebook" to see if the sites selling the works legitimately were present (and I had a quick look at prices). The results are tabulated below (and I took into account point 3 by increasing significantly the number of authors I considered:
Legal Ebooks
Ebook prices
Eric Flint
13,300 All
Free, $5
Much of his backlist available for free and widely torrented
John Ringo
16,400 All
Free, $5
Much of his backlist available for free and widely torrented
Dave Freer
84 All
Free, $5
Torrents mostly of the free Baen CD(s) with his books on
Elizabeth Moon
18,300 Most (all?)
Torrents mostly of books I know to be DRM crippled
David Weber
40,200 Almost all
Much of his backlist available for free and widely torrented
Charles Stross
14,700 Most
Some torrents just include the free Accelerando but many seem to have his other works.
John Scalzi
14,300 2
Cannot buy an ebook. 2 widely available for free. Torrents of others available
Jerry Pournelle
13,100 Most
One obvious ebook omission - Lucifer's Hammer - readily available as a torrent
Robert Heinlein
40,700 Some
Some of his best known works conspicuous by their unavailability as legal ebooks
Isaac Asimov
71,700 Some
Some of his best known works conspicuous by their unavailability as legal ebooks
Francis Hamit
23 Most (all?)
Not sure if more than 3 torrent links are relevant
Nora Roberts
83,500 Yes lots
Best seller. many legal ebooks. Odd google result: searching for "nora roberts" torrent gave 83,500 whereas nora roberts torrent returned just 99
Georgette Heyer
4,580 Very few
Very prolific author. 3 ebook titles for purchase
Kristan Higgins 6
New author very few titles, all (most?) as ebooks. No actual torrents found
Anne Stuart 692  Yes
A lot of legal ebooks available - but prolific author
J K Rowling
127,000 No
Best seller. no legal ebooks

*Torrents is the number N in 'Results 1 - 10 of about N for "author name" torent

So what do we find?
  1. All major authors are already available on Bit Torrent.
    1. In many cases works that are not legally available as ebooks are readily available as torrents (it should be noted that some torrents are of audiobooks not ebooks).
    2. DRMed ebooks were noticeable by their presence on the torrent losts
    3. This applies to new books and older books.
    4. For the most part if you search for author or author ebook then, if ebooks are available, the ebook sites show up first.
    5. Only when legal sites are not visible to the illegal ones show up
  2. If you are a new/little known author then you probably don't have (m)any torrents.


The battle to stop bootlegged ebooks has been lost even before many books have an official electronic edition. However if you are willing to pay for ebooks then in many cases they can be bought and most backlist works are available for under $10. Only new releases seem to be sold for $20 or so.

I did some special additional searches. Searches for free versions of reccently published books (e.g. John Ringo's Last Centurion, Stross' Saturn's Children) were successful (thogh I didn't do the download to verify the actual state of the text) but a good bit trickier. I note that Ringo's work has been available as an eARC for some months while Stross' is newly released as an ebook. Ringo's book is currently available for $5, Stross for $20. The DRMness in Saturn's Children does not seem to have been a deterrent. The known $5 pricing of Last Centurion may be a deterrent because it resulted in (almost) no torrents of the eARC despite it retailing for $15.

If you are a new author and/or not a best seller then probably your books won't be torrented. This is probably a bad thing as it means you don't get publicity and hence you also don't get sales.