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Three Out of Four eBook Pirates Prefer Calibre

3752143560_7fb8c27ce5[1]If you’ve been following the ebook news this past week then you’ve probably read about Joyland, Stephen King’s latest novel, and how it has already been pirated and released digitally.

Now, Mr King had decided not to release Joyland as an ebook (he wants you to buy the paper book in a bookstore, or Amazon), so I was all set to write a post showing the pointlessness of his decision. I was going to explain how he has no effective control over the digital release of his novel; he can only control whether readers pay for the copy.

But I have already written that post, so today I wanted to take a different angle on the story. I was comparing all the different pirated copies of Joyland when I noticed something. Of the 4 distinct copies I found on The Pirate Bay, one was a PDF made with an Adobe Acrobat plugin, while the others were made with Calibre, the best free ebook library management and conversion tool.

Yes, 3 out of 4 ebook pirates prefer Calibre. I trust you see what this means.

Calibre enables ebook piracy, and users of calibre are enabling it. I hope you feel ashamed of yourselves.

I can only hope that Kovid Goyal, the developer of Calibre, soon feels the full wrath of the US government. His role in encouraging ebook piracy is incalculable, and so is the damage caused. No punishment is too severe for this malefactor, and one can only hope that justice is swift, thorough, and absolute.

I think we should take a lesson from the demise of Osama bin Laden and the dragged out extradition and prosecution of Kim Dotcom, and act accordingly. Working within the justice system, even when  many laws are twisted into a pretzel,  is probably going to prevent one of these evil, evil men from being brought to justice. Clearly we must act outside all laws and legal framework, otherwise this evildoer will go unpunished.

Who’s with me?

image by fuzzcat

P.S. If you cannot tell that this post is satire, I don’t know what to say.

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George June 18, 2013 um 6:02 pm

But if Johnny Depp has taught us anything, it’s that pirates are cool. He should probably be included in the class action lawsuit against Calibre.


The Rodent June 18, 2013 um 7:28 pm

We all better grab the latest Calibre snapshot before it goes away… 😉

fjtorres June 18, 2013 um 8:03 pm

Joking aside, is there any other epub creation tool worth using out there?
Sigil is for developers, odt2epub is usable but limited… No batch conversions, for starters.
Calibre is pretty much all there is, flexible, customizable, and free.
If something happens to Mr Goyal we’re all up the proverbial creek.

Nate Hoffelder June 18, 2013 um 8:17 pm

Nope. Calibre is open source, so pretty much anyone who might want to release a competing app instead has contributed to calibre.

Moriah Jovan June 18, 2013 um 8:33 pm

epub creation tool … Sigil is for developers

Errrrr, no. I use it to create ebooks all the time. I do no development on it.

Nate Hoffelder June 18, 2013 um 8:35 pm

Yep. Sigil for creation, Calibre for _conversion_.

David Haywood Young September 13, 2013 um 1:50 pm

I like Jutoh a lot better than Calibre for epub creation. But not conversion. 🙂

Jason June 18, 2013 um 8:33 pm

Stephen King’s last book is available for the lowly sum of zero dollars and zero cents? Hey, thanks for the heads-up.

Satire. Maybe.

Moriah Jovan June 18, 2013 um 8:34 pm

I’m honestly kind of curious as to what King thought would happen, exactly.

"Piracy is a result of failure of the market."

Nate Hoffelder June 18, 2013 um 8:36 pm

He wanted readers to go into bookstores and have that book buying experience.

Yeah, I don’t understand it either.

KarlB June 19, 2013 um 7:22 am

It seems like King just likes trying out different things. An ebook-only release, a paper-only release… Maybe next he’ll do an audiobook-only release, or a papyrus-scroll-only release.

Carolyn Jewel June 19, 2013 um 1:17 am

King thought that people who aren’t conveniently located near libraries or bookstores would make a long, inconvenient drive/public transportation just for him. He publicly stated he wanted readers to "shake their sticks" and go to a bookstore. As for the vision-impaired? I guess they’re on their own, along with people unable to hold large books or who have simply found eBooks a better experience than print.

I guess the only defense that can be made for him is that he is in that very small class of authors who do appear to be harmed by piracy. That was the result from the only statistically rigorous study I know of, and that’s now several years old. Things have changed so fast since then that those findings may not be true today.

Whatever you believe about the effect of piracy, the fact is, King’s book was pirated immediately, and everyone who wouldn’t pay for the book anyway have the book. All the readers who would have bought the eBook are still SOL. I fail to see that he’s gained anything by this but a great deal of ill will.

Hayden Johnstone June 19, 2013 um 2:32 am

I guess that Mr. King also did not think that people might travel extensively and don’t like carrying heavy items such as books. I guess he has never seen anyone commute holding a kindle.

Perhaps he did not think that people like ebooks books because their ereaders have nice functions that allow them to take notes, check a dictionary or share their reading experience with their online friends.

The only people missing out from this are honest ebook readers who pay for their ebooks.


Calibre : un logiciel utilisé pour le piratage de livres ? June 19, 2013 um 3:29 am

[…] effet, Nate de The Digital Reader, a pris la peine (?) de télécharger les versions piratés du livre Joyland de Stephen King. Le […]

Popup June 19, 2013 um 3:32 am

So, if there’s no official ebook out there – does that mean that the pirated copies are OCR’ed scans?

My only experience with scanning/OCR tells me that the result typically is very poor and requires painstaking correction. Or has it improved so much that it’s actually possible to automate the whole process and get a readable ebook without manual editing?

That Goyal chap, I’m pretty sure that he’s a furriner! Better have him extradited to Guantanamo!

DavidW June 19, 2013 um 10:47 am

King wanted to recreate the experience of buying a pulp fiction book in the grocery store.

Considering the fact that he released an ebook exclusive before ebooks were even popular, I would not call him a dinosaur, he is usually ahead of the curve. This release is about nostalgia for the pulp novel long gone.

If you pirate the book just because it was not officially released in your favorite format, you’re not fighting the man… you’re just a dirty, rotten thief.

Nate Hoffelder June 19, 2013 um 10:52 am

Sorry, but you can’t blame pirates in all situations. In cases like this, where someone is being an idiot, it’s wrong to blame others for the idiocy.

If someone refused to let customers give him money then failure to give him money is not stealing.

DavidW June 20, 2013 um 9:32 am

While it is true that you can’t point fingers at pirates in all situations, you can in this one. When a book can be purchases through every major online store and brick and mortar book store, it’s hardly "refusing to let customers give him money." While your argument holds water in the case of something like region locking, it doesn’t here. To pretend that a book doesn’t exist unless it can be downloaded and read on a kindle is frankly silly.

Pretending that one has the moral high ground for downloading an illegal copy instead of ordering the paperback and waiting a few days for delivery is frankly absurd. Your whole reply stinks of entitlement. Stephen King doesn’t owe prospective customers anything, and stealing a book because it’s not in your favorite format is morally reprehensible.

Nate Hoffelder June 20, 2013 um 3:19 pm

"can be purchases through every major online store and brick and mortar book store"

Including the Kindle, Kobo, and Nook ebookstores?

The ebook doesn’t exist, and the paper copy is not a valid alternative.

But more importantly I didn’t claim the moral high ground. That is a dubious position at best given that we are talking about commerce here. It is also arguably inapplicable to digital content given that it assumes a finite binary low and high. Digital content is potentially an infinite net positive, so a finite good and bad doesn’t necessarily apply.

The common assumption that downloading free illicit digital content is the ethical equivalent of stealing is clearly false. If you steal a physical object then the victim no longer has it, causing harm. If you pirate digital content then the source still has their copy. Increasing the amount of use is a net benefit to the world at no cost and without causing any harm.

I would agree that the preferable situation would be for the author to also increase the size of his pocketbook at the same time that the number of copies in use increased. Unfortunately he has chosen to prevent that possibility, so I guess I will have to content myself with the increase in use of the content he created. The world came out ahead, and I am fine with that.

And BTW, the word "entitlement" is false given that it in no way describes the way anyone feels. It is a self-defeating argument that comes across basically as you wagging your finger in disapproval.

PVU September 12, 2013 um 9:53 pm

Those are just excuses to try to justify stealing, it’s not like you can’t give him money, you can still order the book online or buy it at a local store even if you will only use the digital version.

I Understand in this generation there are many people that are used to free entertainment or works of art, but just because the internet made it possible doesn’t mean is morally correct, people are always trying to justify it saying that the labels or publishers get all the money, or that the author has already enough money but that doesn’t give people the right to download it.

Nate Hoffelder September 12, 2013 um 10:37 pm

So you think that generating more waste is a better solution? Given the environmental damage I would not agree.

Also, my comment above argues the general case, not just this particular situation. What about books that are out of print or otherwise completely unavailable?

toby September 23, 2013 um 7:22 pm

fuck you and fuck king too, as someone thats severely visually impaired, youre goddamn right i felt "entitled" to pirate joyland, felt damn fine doing it too

KarlB June 19, 2013 um 11:06 am

"King wanted to recreate the experience of buying a pulp fiction book in the grocery store."

Eh? If that was his goal, he did precisely nothing to accomplish that goal with this book as compared with any of his others. Those grocery stores that carry paperbacks are just as likely to have carried his previous novels as this one.

Now excuse me while I go sob hysterically over the prospect of Steven King losing out on a few royalty payments.

DavidW June 20, 2013 um 9:43 am

I think that you don’t understand. He is not talking about bestsellers lining an aisle of your super sized grocery store. King is talking about the time when he was a young man, before bookstore chains, when small grocery stores carried a spinning rack filled with pulp fiction with risque covers promising exciting trashy adventure and romance.

His novel is written in the style of those novels, and includes cover art like those novels. It promises poor binding, cheap paper, bad ink, and lots of fun. It’s a vanity project to pay homage to his childhood (and others his age), that as part of the experience can’t be an ebook.

Those up in arms about the whole thing, are frankly clueless. This is not a case where the content is important. King probably wrote the whole thing in an afternoon. The point is recreating the feeling of buying and reading escapist trash from the local store. Complaining that it’s not available on ebook is like criticizing The Artist for being in black and white and mostly silent. If you don’t understand why it is the way it is, you won’t appreciate it anyway and should move along.

KarlB June 20, 2013 um 10:00 am

So you’re saying (or you’re saying that Steven King is saying) that Joyland isn’t really a book, it’s a piece of installation art. I think that’s a valid point, and a valid thing for King to want to do. But unfortunately he hasn’t been successful in doing it, (beyond the book’s cover, which is terrific, IMO), because there’s no way for him to reproduce the whole "small grocery stores carrying a spinning rack filled with pulp fiction with risque covers" environment.

So I sympathise with King in his desire to make his installation-art statement, but I also sympathize with people who just want to treat this thing that looks like a book as if it was a book, and want to read it in the format that’s convenient for them.

stewart June 19, 2013 um 1:29 pm

I know this article is satire, but you missed the software program "ABBYY Finereader" that was most likely used to OCR the book. And then Sigil to edit, Calibre was just used to convert and add metadata.

Nate Hoffelder June 19, 2013 um 1:34 pm

You’re probably correct about ABBYY, but I don’t see any details that confirm it. The same goes for Sigil.

Is there any way to tell they were used?

stewart June 19, 2013 um 1:56 pm

No, there won’t be any way to tell if Finereader or Sigil was used. Calibre is the software program that adds it’s name all over the CSS stylesheet. If Adobe Indesign was used for editing the OCR scan it would also leave it’s name in the CSS.

Ana June 19, 2013 um 6:25 pm

If you check the internal files inside an epub (unless it has been modified afterwards) Sigil leaves at least an entry in the .opf file.
Anyway, I doubt Sigil has been used here, the usual path is OCR (being Abby Reader the most popular program) to create an rtf/doc, and then Calibre for the rest of formats.

stewart June 19, 2013 um 8:33 pm

Ana, I just checked a pirated epub of Joyland and it has Sigil in the content .opf file. And it’s Sigil version 0.3.4. Now that’s a real old version of Sigil! The version of Joyland I found on a torrent site is beautifully made, just like retail. But in the end I’ve ordered a limited-edition hardcover of Joyland for myself.

auntlee June 19, 2013 um 4:16 pm

calibre is incredibly cool.

for me and my house, we’re so busy working on all the public domain e-books that we can get for free that we’re not even thinking about piracy.

summer reading list of free e-books:

Ed Bear June 20, 2017 um 12:25 am

The link is coming up as "account suspended"

Ross June 19, 2013 um 4:24 pm

If Joyland is any good, Hollywood will make a dreadful movie of it. So I will wait for the movie and can they say, "I saw the movie, I missed the book."

Stephan King will make more money from the movie rights and tie-in licensing than from the sale of the books. Pirated e-books will only help him get a higher price for the movie rights.

WT Sharpe June 23, 2013 um 12:33 am

You got me. My jaw nearly hit the floor at what you wrote about Kovid Goyal. Then I came to this: "P.S. If you cannot tell that this post is satire, I don’t know what to say."

Yes, as a matter of fact, I am an idiot! I should have known better. Great column as always, Nate.

Chris Meadows June 23, 2013 um 9:56 am

I went ahead and did write that article, or one like it.

Seems to me that this isn’t just another case of a luddite reactionary who hates and fears e-books. King’s already had a lot to do with e-books in the last 13 years.

King made his choice not out of luddism, but out of nostalgia: he wanted the book to be experienced like the crime story paperbacks he grew up with that it homages. I’m pretty sure he knew at the outset he’d be losing sales to piracy and lost interest, but decided his nostalgia was worth it to him.

Since he’s worth $400 million, he can afford to indulge his nostalgia at the cost of a few sales.

Hayden Johnstone June 23, 2013 um 10:31 am

Mr. King and any author has the right to choose which way their books are distributed to the customer. They could write their stories on stone tablets and place them up on hills, but in this day and age, someone would go up the hill and snap pics with their iphones and share it with friends.

I thought that the whole point of this article was about pirating this particular book even though no digital edition was made available to the public. If the author/publisher complained about piracy in this instance, then it would make them seem very silly.

Almost as silly as when printed books come out before their e-book versions, this type of windowing is only encouraging pirates. There are many honest people willing to pay for legitimate e-books and they like to be treated equally.

Andy Pastuszak June 28, 2013 um 9:07 pm

Stephen King has the right to do as he wants with his books.

The proper marketing decision would have been to immediately release the eBook on Amazon and at a reasonable price, giving people a legal avenue to buy the book. He chose chose not to go that route.

I know that with Robert Jordan, his widow has chosen to wait to release the eBooks for 6 months. The problem is, within 5 days, the OCRed copies were up. Within 30 days, the final proofread was up, and not too long after that, a version came out with all the fancy art at the beginning of the chapters. So, 5 weeks after release of Hardback and 4 3/4 months before eBook release, everyone is reading it for free on their Kindles.

Harry Potter was the same way….

I tend to wonder if the authors do this on purpose. so the pirates can create the ebook for them and thoroughly proofread it. Then Amazaon just torrents the file, runs it through Kindlegen and it’s up for sale a few hours later.

Bryce June 29, 2013 um 3:31 am

The only reason that three out of four pirates prefer calibre is because the other two haven’t heard of it…

Nate Hoffelder March 14, 2014 um 10:07 pm


Michael July 2, 2013 um 11:12 am

I think you aren’t going far enough. Four out of four pirates are using computers. Perhaps we need to put BIll Gates and the rest of his ilk in Jail as well.

Brian H.. July 3, 2013 um 12:10 am

I love Calibre. I discovered it before I purchased my Kindle Fire and had over 300 books ready to go! It took only a few minutes to upload them all and then I was able to go back and fix a few covers that didn’t show correctly. A great program!

BDR June 20, 2017 um 5:05 pm

This is just the dumbest piece of shit that I’ve read in a long time and, what with the nonsense coming from the Whitepower House on a daily basis, that’s a damned high bar.

Calibre, you moron, doesn’t have anything to do with piracy. Nothing they offer facilitates the "pirating" of a book.

Oh, and btw, Joyland is now available as an ebook from Amazon for $7.99. Guess the whole keep away thing didn’t work so good for the multi-gizillionaire who has had ALL of his books "pirated".

"Pirating" is a spit in the bucket for a successful writer. For a less than successful writer, if anything it’s a form of advertising.

Nate Hoffelder June 20, 2017 um 5:18 pm

Okay, this was an old dumb joke, but now it’s suddenly funny again. LOL

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