Walter Jon Williams wants to e-publish more of his out-of-print books and stories. He isn’t enamored with the idea of keying in the text himself, and that is where his clever idea kicks in:
I discovered that my work had been pirated, and was available for free on BitTorrent sites located in the many outlaw server dens of former Marxist countries. So I downloaded my own work from thence with the intention of saving the work of scanning my books— I figured I’d let the pirates do the work, and steal from them. While this seemed karmically sound, there proved a couple problems.
First, the scans were truly dreadful and full of errors… But second, apparently a few of my books were so obscure that they flew under the radar of even the pirates! You can’t imagine how astounded I was when I discovered this.
Now Williams is enlisting volunteers to help finish the job (check the comments on his post.)
He reminds me of another pro with ambivalent feelings about book pirates.
In Germany soon after the reunification, Robert Silverberg visited an East German collector and asked to see all the pirated editions of his work. The collector said — there aren’t any. As Silverberg told this story he sounded uncertain whether he ought to be happy they hadn’t ripped him off or sad that nobody in that Iron Curtain country had read his work. He scoffed, “They were so East German they didn’t steal!”
[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]
Update 05/25/2011: Corrected spelling as suggested in comment.