Compra Original
January 18, 2010 5:50 AM   Subscribe

The Book Pirates of Peru. A slideshow in which Peruvian author Daniel Alarcón describes the vibrant literary scene in his home country, where the informal publishing industry is the same size as its legitimate counterpart. There's no library system to speak of, the National Library's acquisitions budget is nil, but a culture of reading and writing is booming, with book sales and attendance at literary festivals up, up, up.
posted by WPW (16 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Thanks for this. Great images. Wish the text were a bit more extensive.
posted by fake at 6:34 AM on January 18, 2010


There's a longer essay by Alarcón on this subject in the winter 2009 issue of Granta, a British literary magazine - not online, but here's a video of Alarcón talking with Granta's editor.
posted by WPW at 7:03 AM on January 18, 2010


I find this all highly unlikely without Kindle. Where are their outrageously overpriced DRMed books... literature wants to be copyrighted! Silly Peruvians.
posted by ExitPursuedByBear at 8:01 AM on January 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Reminds me of "Dublin editions" which were pirate copies of books in Europe... much of Jefferson's library was comprised of these Dublin editions... it was said he preferred their small size.
posted by fake at 8:07 AM on January 18, 2010


I'd really like to know more about the financials of both the legit and the pirated book industry. A quick google shows that printing costs are only 10% of the book price, but retailer costs are also non-trivial - unless these guys don't have any costs for renting their stalls, storage, salary etc. So how much cheaper are the pirated books? And is it really the same people buying them who buy the official ones?
posted by jetsetlag at 8:11 AM on January 18, 2010


I wish this was happening with textbooks in the US. Until I write one.
posted by mecran01 at 8:27 AM on January 18, 2010


I'd love to see digital textbooks. Publishers claim that new editions exist to keep up with pedagogy and to correct mistakes, but considering that all textbooks are now digitally authored, it's a hell of a lot easier to produce and "patch" a digital text than to fire up the printing press and get a book shipped out to every campus bookstore.

I'll be shocked it if ever happens, though.
posted by fake at 8:32 AM on January 18, 2010


So how much cheaper are the pirated books?

Good question. Authors get, what? Fifteen percent these days? Twenty, if they're hot stuff? Cut them out and you can pass the savings on the consumer. Plus also you don't need to hire editors, who may be cheap but aren't free. (Do they use the same cover designs, I wonder?)

"Informal" is an interesting euphemism. Unless it's meant satirically, in which case, it's nice.

Surprised also that the author was surprised to see a translation of Tim Weiner’s history of the CIA, Legacy of Ashes on offer.
posted by IndigoJones at 9:16 AM on January 18, 2010


The slideshow is too light on information to really inform the WHY of this pirate industry... I ordered a copy of the magazine hoping to get more info.

I do have experience in other countries, though. While I was in Russia, one of the most startling things was the huge number of advantages pirated media offered. For example, if I bought a DVD, it would be subtitled or dubbed in Russian -- not true of the "proper" version. Another advantage was in software. It was possible to buy a CD with Windows XP on it, which would not only install itself unattended, it would also install a working antivirus, Firefox, an alternate file manager, the Office suite, and a host of other programs... all properly Russified. That's a big deal if you only speak Russian.

Another thing I was introduced to were these CDs full of MP3s. You could, for example, buy the complete discography of any artist on a single disc. The MP3s were all excellent quality and had proper metadata, album art, etc. Considering the cost of internet access there, these media represented incredible added value.
posted by fake at 9:30 AM on January 18, 2010


When I lived in Bolivia I would buy pirated novels from time to time. The quality varied, sometimes there were even several editions of particular books. El Principito (The Little Prince), for example, would probably cost 70 Bolivianos if purchased legitimately [although, I never saw a legitimate place to buy books while I was there], a knock-off that looked like basically the same as the original would cost about 25 Bolivianos, and a bad looking, but readable, knock-off would cost 6 Bolivianos, or about 85 cents.

Piracy is a way of life there, and why not, money that goes to Hollywood and New York does not benefit these people who struggle on a day to day basis. Piracy is tiny justice.
posted by cloeburner at 10:09 AM on January 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


So how much cheaper are the pirated books?

I can't remember exactly, although it was only a couple of months ago that I was wandering around some of these kinds of book markets. But, as cloeburner says, it's not a matter of the pirated copies being a few ten percent cheaper; they're a fraction of the cost.

I remember that legitimate books in 'proper', upmarket bookstores were about the same as what I'd pay back home - perhaps around 70-90 Soles (where a dollar is approx 3 Soles).

Pirated copies would be in the order of 10-15 Soles, roughly that kind of price.
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:51 AM on January 18, 2010


Don't worry everyone, the upcoming ACTA treaty might (we don't know, because it's too embarassing/damaging to be made public) shut these guys down.

Sure it might also mean you'll be getting your iPod/laptop/cell phone searched for unauthorized copies (hey, if its on your device you should be able to prove it's legit, right?) when you cross a border, but strong intellectual property rights come at a price.
posted by mullingitover at 12:23 PM on January 18, 2010


I was in Peru and wanted to borrow a book that a person I meet owned. They told me where I could get it photocopied. When I got to the street he told me of I found a dozen tiny shops each with a photocopier. For around $4US one could have a 300 page book copied in a couple of hours.
posted by bdc34 at 3:13 PM on January 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Piracy is a way of life there, and why not, money that goes to Hollywood and New York does not benefit these people who struggle on a day to day basis. Piracy is tiny justice.

Here's another way to support tiny justice and stop your money from going to Hollywood: stop consuming the crap they make! Flooding the market with cheap unauthorized editions of foreign books, written by people who already have good contracts in countries with actual enforcement of copyright, must be working wonders for the financial situation of native authors.

To save you the trouble, I will also claim people are reading more because of easy access to cheap books, and hence Bolivian authors are rolling in cash.
posted by Dr Dracator at 5:08 AM on January 19, 2010


As a peruvian, I have to say than when you're struggling on a day-to-day basis to eat and you also want an education but the public library does not loan books and is very limited on what they offer to even read on-site, that yes, it is a tiny justice. I lay out books for a living here in the US, I would love that everything copyrighted was never pirated...and yet I look back home and I can't help but justify it. Otherwise I, and many - if not all of my friends there - would have not had access to wonderful literature works and the empowerment that comes from reading.

On a side note, one of the best things - if not The Best Thing - that the US has is the Public Library. You cannot imagine how much happiness it brought me to discover at 19 years old, that I could read as much as I wanted for free and even borrow the books! And they had music! And movies! Magazines! It was beyond I could believe at the time, believe me. I went back home a couple of years ago and visited the National Public Library. Amazing, brand new, beautiful building but it hurt me that you had to leave 2 picture IDs to enter, had your bag checked in and register if you were to enter any of the many rooms were the books, reference materials and video, which are kept in safes. To read anything, you had to go to a counter, register and were not to leave the room while using the materials. No children allowed in most areas.

Books are extremely expensive there, although printing is very cheap and of high quality, I really don't understand why. Even by US price standards, books are damn expensive.

If you live in an industrialized country that has the advantage of a great public library system, please take advantage of it and fully support it! It is terrible to yearn and long for reading and an education and not have access to it. That is MHO.
posted by ratita at 12:04 AM on January 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


As a peruvian, I have to say than when you're struggling on a day-to-day basis to eat and you also want an education but the public library does not loan books and is very limited on what they offer to even read on-site, that yes, it is a tiny justice.

I understand your point, and I realize this kind of unauthorized printing has developed to meet a real need. The downside is that meeting this need in this way kills the incentive to provide a real solution, which would be reasonable book prices and a decent public library system, since a legit publisher will always find it hard to compete. I know that I'm offering moral advice from a much more comfortable position, but it's a factor that's often skipped in this kind of discussion.

Books are extremely expensive there, although printing is very cheap and of high quality, I really don't understand why. Even by US price standards, books are damn expensive.

Possibly a response to book-buying habbits: If the only people paying for normal books are the ones with a lot of income, it makes financial sense to try and gouge them for everything they will pay.

Around here, books are also somewhat more expensive than in the US, and publishing standards are visibly higher: I rarely see a Greek book with the kind of cheap paper and tiny font you get in US (or European, for that matter) paperbacks. I'm thinking this is because Greece is a small market, due to the language, and the economies of scale that you get with English language books just aren't possible, so publishers think it makes better sense to push prices towards higher market segments.
posted by Dr Dracator at 1:18 AM on January 20, 2010


« Older Valentino Braitenberg's 1984 book, Vehicles: Exper...  |  The Guantánamo “Suicides”: A C... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments