Technical Books On Bittorrent...Yea For The Internet

I’ve had a technical book out for 2 days. I don’t know if it has sold any copies, but it’s been torrented/downloaded 25,000+ times. (at least that is what the download sites tell me).

So, here is my questions:

  1. Should I care?, or is this something the publisher should care about?
  2. Are most of these downloaders “warez” collectors who will never read a page of the book anyway? If you download technical books this way, what do you use them for?
  3. For anyone who has done this before, do the number of torrents/downloads mirror the number of sales in any way (i.e. sales are 1% of downloads)?

Thanks. I’m hoping for some good news so I can sleep tonight.

  1. No.
  2. Yes. Exception: if your book might be useful to offshore outsourcing firms.
  3. I wouldn’t worry about it affecting your sales. However, since you’re actually published, I presume you know the typical low numbers of technical book runs already.

Right on all three counts. If anything, in any niche, word of mouth and good advertising will get you more sales than scarcity.

As an aside, if I ever find myself in a situation where I’m forced to use Flash for something, I’ll definitely pick up your book.

Please tell me you wrote an actually decent Flash games book? Oh man. This might get epic, son, you might actually get me writing in AS again.

Back up your book with a private forum or facebook group? Stuff like that can add value and encourage purchases, I guess. But if most of the torrenters are in China dev houses you are probably screwed…

I think that a flash games book is more likely to be pirated than other technical books – much more popular with the kids. Still probably better to be popular than invisible though in a sea of tech books.

Cool. I assumed so, but I guess it’s just a taste of what game devs feel like on day-2.
I do know how low sales can be. I don’t expect any royalties (beyond the advance), so this is really just to help jump-start a consulting career (hopefully)…and something to show my kids on the shelf at a bookstore.

Got it.. It’s still pretty rough, but there is a forums and links to other helpful tutorials we have written.

I don’t know what you consider “decent”. It’s all AS3. It pays only nominal face-time to the Flash IDE, and instead focuses on core development with the Flex SDK (free!) (but with IDE code too). It’s all object based and written around a re-usable game development framework. We create 10 games with full code. It starts with “kaboom” and ends with a retro-evolved “Geometry Wars” style game using a fully blitted canvas for speed. We spent three years writing blogs and tutorials and gauging what was popular and what no one cared about. We centered the book around the things for which we got the most page views and requests.

Honestly, I did not mean for this to became a commercial for the book, but I do feel better about the downloads now.

Your book sounds great and right up my alley! I just bought it from The Book Depository. They show a different cover image and publisher name. I thought for a moment you have a different publisher in Europe but on closer inspection it seems to be the same edition and publisher.

I’ve been doing Flash games for 10 years now, and I’ll definitely pick it up (this thread was a secret ad wasn’t it?). I’m fascinated you went with Flex as I generally do pure AS3.

Have a read of thistoo, David Pogue from the NY Times released a free pdf of one of his print books - sales didn’t drop. FWIW.

My personal opinion is that less than one percent of the people who download technical books, or any nonfiction, on torrent sites get around to reading them. If you go to The Pirate Bay and look at their 100 most downloaded e-books, they almost all fall into three categories:

  1. Hurting Other People - Books on martial arts, military manuals, survivalist crap, and the seriously creepy (like how to build a jail cell).

  2. Manipulating Other People - Books on body language, seduction, negotiation tactics, and neurolinguistic programing.

  3. Science and Technical Books - Most of these come in incomprehensibly large packages, like “400+ Books on Gardening”. And based on the subjects I know a little about, their quality tends to be mediocre. For example, in the “270+ Popular Science Books” torrent there’s nothing by Simon Singh, Jerry Coyne, or Ken Miller, all of whom I consider to be in the top 5% of science writing. There’s also a ridiculous amount of pseudoscience in this category (1000 Magic and Mentalism e-books).

The picture this paints of the average e-book torrenter is not pretty. He is someone who is undisciplined enough to seek simplistic solutions to complex problems like human violence and social interaction, while simultaneously unable to determine when a solution is obviously wrong or questionable. So let’s say this person expends the three minutes of effort it takes to download your book. Do you really think he’s going to be dedicated enough to sit down and spend twenty to thirty hours reading it while working through all of the examples?

Not an ad, that’s why I didn’t name the book (someone else found it). I wanted to know about Torrents and downloads because the last time I was on that “scene”, “Karma Chameleon” was playing in the background as I downloaded Zork III for my Atari 800. This is all payback for being an idiot 13 year old. I know.

It’s “Flex SDK” which means command-line .SWF’s are created. There’s no MXML. Pure coding (for the most part). We show a few different ways to do things.

Some technical books/manuals make a proper ebook’ified version available with the physical copy. I wish all did, because while they’re no substitute, they’re sometimes a very useful supplement.

Beyond obsessive torrent collectors & even stranger types, I think it’s pretty safe to assume that people who share pirate copies of technical manuals, already own physical copies of them.

Nope. You made some good points, thanks.

I’d feel insulted if I released a book and no one pirated it. It would mean no one heard of it/no one wanted it/no one was willing to bother digitizing it.

I’d want to compare it to other books of a similar type and see how the level of piracy rates. Are there flash game books being pirated more? How long have they been out? What do they offer that your book doesn’t? These answers could help you write better books, leading to more actual sales.

Overall, having your book pirated 25,000 times in the first two days is kind of encouraging. It made a noticeable splash, didn’t it?

I second providing some kind of added value in order to reward customers who pay. Still, there will be some who pirate your book in order to see if it’s worth having. Of the ones who find it worthwhile, there will be more than a few who go on to buy a copy, since many book readers find having a physical copy convenient.

I imagine a Flash games book is stolen more thanks to all the aspiring game devs who want to put something on miniclip or kongregate or whatever. Lot of college kids used to not paying for anything they can torrent.

Ah, I’m right there with that, I was thinking you were using MXML, which made me curious.

I was just kidding about the ad, I do plan to check the book out though. I also wasn’t kidding that you should totally get in touch when you go freelance, I can definitely kick some work your way if you’re not already booked up.

No money for Adobe, more money for you :)

I buy PDFs from some cool publishers, like Apress and Pragmatic Programmers. PragProg usually also let you buy the print and PDF editions as a discounted bundle, which typically makes it cheaper when new. A physical book is still much nicer than just a PDF, so it’s more believable that people download a PDF as a trial for the real thing. There’s no such thing for most software :)