The Fan Mail An Author Wants To Get

Earlier this week I received this email from a reader in the Netherlands:

This is just to say that – while trying to solve some PERL problems by
using the 2nd ed. of your book – I in all honesty think that the Perl
Cookbook 2nd. ed. is most probably THE best book about Perl I have ever
had in my life.

I downloaded a copy from the Net, but realising how good it is, today I
will by a copy to support your work. I do not need a hardcopy, I will
continue the digital version, but I will by a hardcopy anyway.

Now that’s what an author wants to hear! As Tim says, the main danger for most authors is obscurity not piracy. Cory gives away his novels and yet, as he says in this great Locus column, his first novel is in its sixth printing from Tor. I had the same experience with David A. Black’s Ruby For Rails: a friend sent me the PDF saying “you’ve got to see this great book” and within 30 minutes of opening the PDF I’d ordered it online from Manning and had a legit copy. Within 72 hours I had the paper book and a t-shirt.

Between instant PDF purchases and overnight shipping from online stores, most people don’t realize that the opportunities to acquire legally have increased just as the opportunities to acquire illegally have. As usual, the illegal methods (BitTorrent, for example) popped up first. But publishers like Manning, O’Reilly, Pearson, and others are all learning quickly from the piracy and working to offer readers more of the selection, the convenient formats, and the instant gratification that they get through the illegal options.