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Many people have heard about Tuebl, especially after the recent dust up of drama between Tuebl's creator, Travis McCrea, and many authors across the web. If you would like a good run-down of what exactly happened, Cuddlebuggery gives you all the goods in this post.
I'm not going to link to Tuebl. If you want to see it, you can Google it. I don't want to give them any more traffic because Travis loves to see traffic on his site. I'm not going to go into the legal aspects of Tuebl. I'm not a lawyer and I'm not in the business of handing out legal advice. What I am going to discuss are the moral issues of pirating and Tuebl's claim to be an online library.
Let's begin with what Tuebl has to say about their site via their Facebook page:
"This is a place for anyone who loves the internet's local library: The Ultimate E-Book Library, or TUEBL! This is not a place for hate. Hate will be met with kittens - or alternatives meeting an acceptable level of cuteness."
Okay. Cool. I'm all for an online library if it can be done correctly. The problem? There is no way that Tuebl can be considered a library of any kind.
First, a definition:
Library: (from French "librairie"; Latin "liber" for book) is an organized collection of information resources made accessible to a defined community for reference or borrowing. It provides physical or digital access to material, and may be a physical building or room, or a virtual space, or both.
Why this is important: Tuebl doesn't allow for borrowing nor for reference. The books that are uploaded to their site are downloaded to your computer as an epub file with no way of "returning" the file once you have finished reading, or have an expiration date. Many traditional libraries now have online access to their ebooks. My local library, as an example, allows you to check out their ebooks which have to be returned within 9 days. These are copies that have been purchased for this use.
Voices for the Library has a good list of many things that librarians actually do for the good of their communities and people at large. When you compare the actual work that librarians put into their libraries and what Tuebl does, it's like comparing two totally different businesses.
While libraries stock their buildings with knowledgeable, educated, and passionate folks, Tuebl is basically a site where any user can upload files into their database. Libraries purchase many of their titles and are publicly supported and some receive aid from government entities in many countries. The ebooks that are found on Tuebl have not been purchased by Tuebl, and in too many cases, are not there with permission from the copyright holders. At any given time, any person can go to Tuebl, find a new traditionally published book from any major publisher, and within seconds, have it on their ereaders ready to read. For free.
Why this is morally wrong:
-The publisher loses money because the book will not be purchased in any way. Many of the books on Tuebl are not retail copies. Most are ARCs (Advance Reading Copies) from publishers. What this tells me is that there are people who are abusing resources such as Netgalley and Edelweiss.
- The editors, designers, etc. all lose money as well.
-There is no way to track trends or sales.
- It hurts authors. Whether the file belongs to a traditionally published author or indie/self publisher, it hurts their bottom dollar. They will receive no monetary reward from Tuebl. If a book doesn't sell well, most likely the author will have a difficult time publishing another story through a major publisher. Authors do not make much money. The ignorant belief is that they are rolling in $100 bills and shitting gold coins. Unless an author is super lucky and extremely talented, like J.K. Rowling, most likely they are not bringing home six-figure paychecks. I personally know a handful of traditionally published authors who still hold 9-5 jobs because the money earned from their book sales do not cover their bills. It may hurt many self-published authors even more, since they typically do not have all of the extra support behind their names (ie. marketing departments).
- Real libraries are already struggling to survive. Funding for many libraries have been cut drastically in recent years and many are adapting to the age of the internet. As mentioned earlier, most libraries offer online services and there are many legitimate websites where people can gain access to thousands of books, especially the classics or out of print stock.
- There is no quality control at Tuebl. As mentioned, Tuebl harbors many ARCs that are not up to par when compared to finished books. What you read in an ARC may not be what you will find in the completed version. These tend to have many errors and formatting issues.
-Tuebl has no distinction between genres as of right now. If you go to their homepage, you can click on "Recently Added," which will list all of the titles they have by order of upload date. They have the option to "tag" a book with a label, but not all of the books have these tags. Erotica is thrown in right above or below books that are meant for children and young adults. What is even more disturbing, is that Tuebl just announced the following:
When is the last time you have seen an advertisement for a strap-on or a vibrator at your local library? I don't think that would go over well with many parents of young children and it's not something I personally would want to be visually bombarded with while I am browsing.
- Most of the books you can find on Tuebl are there without permission from the copyright holders. Tuebl claims they are not responsible for what their users upload onto the site. They are not ignorant of the fact that many of the books they have posted are there when they should not be there. They don't care. They do nothing to filter out or monitor the incoming uploads. The only time they will remove files from their site is when they are hit with DMCA notices or if someone complains that a file is corrupt.
I could honesty do this all day, but I think I'll wrap it up here and leave with these final thoughts:
Tuebl could be a great site for authors who want their work to be noticed and who give the site permission to place their work onto the site. But as it stands now, Tuebl is not anywhere close to being a legitimate library. It's nothing more than a pirating site toting as a library to people all across the world. Some of the people who use Tuebl truly buy into Tuebl's claims and are blissfully ignorant of all the the moral issues surrounding the site. Other people know damn well that what they are doing is wrong, but chose to look the other direction for their own selfish reasons. And that is a fucking shame.