END THE BOOK PIRACY — A desperate plea from 1981

An open letter from Ulof D. Schrieber, found in my archives.

Berlin, 12 November 1981

It is 1981 and I am a desperate man.

My publisher just told me my last book “On the verge of madness” sold 2000 copies. While he claims that is quite good, it drove me up the wall. I used to sell 10 000 and more in a year.

My royalties are 8% per sold book, which is “quite generous” as other collegues assure me. But with 16 Deutscher Mark per book, I receive roughly 1.50 DM per book.

With 2500 DM as an advance, this makes a total of 5 500 DM. AND IT TOOK ME A YEAR TO WRITE AND EDIT IT!

That is 550 DM per month. When you are UNEMPLOYED you get more from the state!

Then I looked at what is really happening.

600 copies of those 2 000 are sold to libraries. Since I am quite a well-known writer, appearing on television talk shows and on radio, and my books are always 100% lend-out, on average 50 copies are lend out PER YEAR PER LIBRARY. That is 50 x 600 copies is 30 000 copies.

I recieve 0.25 DM per borrowed copy when the book is younger than 1 year. That is 50% of 0.50 DM, the borrower pays.

Then, statistics say that for each copy that is BOUGHT, AT LEAST 3 people (friends, family, collegues) will read that same copy. With 2000 books sold, 6 000 people will have read my book WITHOUT BUYING IT! STEALING AT LEAST 9 000 DM FROM MY POCKETS!

And luckily I am not a children’s book writer. You know how that works? The school buys your book. ONE COPY. Then lends it to ALL CHILDREN in the school. Potential buyers who GET TO READ IT FOR FREE AT SCHOOL. It makes you wonder.

But this is not where the injustice stops!

Once the book is out of the book-shops, it will end in second hand bookshops and the so-called Ramsch-shops, selling surplus books from publishers.

And this is what that means:

  1. People who did not buy my book AT FIRST will now have it DISCOUNTED.

Let me clarify point 3: to wait for my books to end up second hand IS A REWARD for those who DO NOT WANT TO PAY THE FULL PRICE FOR MY BOOKS!!!

Those leeches WHO WAIT until my book is CHEAP so that they can enjoy my work WITHOUT PAYING ME FOR IT!

THIS IS PIRACY! I can not call it otherways. Piracy!

Let me give you the full numbers:

  1. 2000 copies sold in the book-shop = 3000 DM
  2. Advance = 2500 DM
  3. 30 000 readers who did not buy the book but went to the LIBRARY = 37 500 DM NOT EARNED
  4. At least 6 000 people LEECHING on others = 9 000 DM NOT EARNED

While I earn 5 500, there is 46 500 DM I DO NOT EARN due to “BOOK PIRACY” through “legit” points of access!

It is 1981. And I think this situation will not change. While I am powerless and BECAUSE I am powerless, what can I do?

There is only one way this can go: the end of books. The end of writers. A huge STRIKE.


Be warned. I told you. In the year 2000 the only books you will read are the ones written until 1985. So go to your STUPID LIBRARIES. Go to your SECOND HAND BOOKSHOPS. Go and BORROW your books to your FRIENDS. But know you are killing my business. You are killing me. You are killing my COLLEGUES. And I will no longer write books.

Basta! Enough!

Ulof D. Schrieber, ex-writer as of today.


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