The unfortunate trend of seeking a ‘free’ copy

Reem Al-Kamali
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There’s no doubt that books revive our exhausted minds which are often blurred by unchanged ideas. Books represent a free and significant project that, first and foremost, needs the readers’ support.

By support I mean buying the book and reading it. We must admit, however, that some find it sensitive to sell a book or buy a book for a certain price. This is an entirely new culture to some. There’s also been the trend of asking for free copies directly from the author.


We’re all familiar with the statement: “Where is my copy?” This culture has somehow spread and many ask authors for a free copy of their books. We must note though that people, particularly the authors’ acquaintances, friends and relatives – and they are many – make this request out of good intentions while wearing a beautiful smile.

Publishing houses only give the author few copies for free. These copies are not to be distributed to friends but are meant to be given to those who make critiques and write opinion columns. These are mostly critics and journalists.

Despite this, asking “where is my copy?” while smiling has become one of the strangest behaviors in our world. This phenomenon has spread and it seems to me that most readers forgot or pretended to forget that books are available for purchase at libraries and book fairs and that the publisher and not the author is the party, which distributes and sells the book.

It’s unfortunate too that some authors buy several copies of their books in order to give them for free to others. This act simply strengthens the trend of asking for free copies.

This is an inappropriate request because it’s tantamount to asking for a gift and gifts are not something we should ask for

Reem Al Kamali

A common culture

“Where is my book?” has become a common culture. Many spend a lot of money on jewelry, food, travel and amenities but still hesitate to buy a book although they have enough money.

It is widely known that books, which are an intellectual project, turn into a commercial project in the hands of the publisher. After writing and publishing the book, the author only attends events, discusses the book and signs it.

Western readers do not ask: “where is my copy?” as this is an inappropriate request because it’s tantamount to asking for a gift and gifts are not something we should ask for. Therefore, westerners think that those who ask for a free copy are naïve and foolish.

Those who ask this question harm the author as they make him pay money to buy his book and give it to them for free when he was hoping readers will buy the book themselves!

A publisher told authors after their books were published: “Abstain from gifting your books. By doing so, you will give value to your work. Tell those who ask for a copy for free that you do not have copies of the book and that it’s available in libraries and book fairs.”

This article is also available in Arabic.
Reem Al-Kamali is an Emirati author and journalist based in the UAE who specializes in history and literature. Her twitter handle is @reemalkamali.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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