OceanofPDF takedown and entitlement

Earlier this month, OceanofPDF, a website that offered free e-book downloads without permission from publishers or authors, ceased operations.

This business model — if you can call it that — is out-and-out thievery. This site was giving away your books without your permission.

The OceanofPDF takedown is a win for authors who weren’t being paid for their intellectual property.

But it’s a loss for readers who didn’t want to pay for books.

“Damn It all to hell!! When I finally find a reliable eBook site it get’s (sic) taken down. Why me?” complained noobplayer2031 on Reddit.

“I’m devasted,” reported keljar1.

Poor noobplayer2031

I’m not losing sleep over the fact that noobplayer2031, keljar1, and other thieves are enduring emotional distress because they can’t download your e-books for free anymore.

But I also realize that this is yet another example of an attitude of entitlement. We increasingly expect to receive something for nothing. You’ll find this sense of entitlement nearly everywhere, and authors aren’t immune.

I’m reminded of this when I read the messages authors provide when unsubscribing from my free weekly e-mail newsletter. Once in awhile, someone says it’s because she doesn’t like receiving occasional emails that announce a program I’m introducing or that pass along a sale price on a trusted colleague’s training.

When there’s an opportunity to do so, I explain that creating all of the free how-to information you’ll find on this site takes a significant amount of time and money. Those occasional promotional emails help make it possible for me to provide in-depth, useful content on this blog. That seems fair, doesn’t it?

“Free” often has strings attached

You’ve probably heard the expression, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.”

We’re all experienced and mature enough to understand that concept. And yet, I see people complain about limits on “free” opportunities.

Here are just a few examples of what’s out there in the Complaints Department.

Goodreads now charges for book giveaways

The outrage was significant when Goodreads started charging for its previously free book giveaway program in January. “How dare they?!” was a common response.

Yes, how dare a business that offers a free platform for millions of book lovers charge a fee for a service that authors find valuable!

There’s another way of looking at this.

Goodreads gives readers a free place to discover and discuss our books. The site offers many ways for authors to get visibility for their books without paying a cent. It might be more productive to learn how to make the most of those options rather than getting upset about paying for optional services.

To get access to certain functions, you have to ugrade from free to paid 

MailChimp, the email service provider, is a good example of this. You can use it to build and mail to your email list up to 2,000 email addresses.

That’s pretty remarkable, right? You have all of the email functionality you need and don’t have to pay a thing until your list grows or you want technical support or to use more sophisticated features.

And yet, people grumble about having to start paying once they’ve done well enough to have outgrown the free level.

This “upgrade to the premium level” compares to offering a readers a free chapter of your book before they purchase. If they like what they read, they have to pay to read the rest. If you like the “basic” level of a tool or service but need more power, you have to pay for it.

Free webinar training comes with a sales pitch

A few months ago, I hosted a free training session offered by a colleague who taught participants how to do something important and specific. The trainer’s instruction was excellent, clear, and helpful. It took about 45 minutes.

The training offered for free was a piece of a larger online program he teaches. That program costs money.

When the speaker finished his presentation, he said he’d answer questions after he told participants about the full training program that’s available for a fee. It was the free webinar version of “We’ll be right back after a word from our sponsor.”

One of the participants didn’t like this. She wanted to ask her questions and leave before hearing the sales pitch.

Who can blame her, right? She just wanted to learn and run.

She used the presentation software’s “chat” function to write several versions of, “When are you going to answer questions?” while the speaker was talking about the paid training.

She did this three times, and each time, her message was increasingly insistent and annoyed.

She didn’t understand how most of these free training webinars work. Listening to a sales pitch for a program you might not invest in is the (low) price you pay for the training and personal access to the instructor during the Q&A period.

My confession

Honestly, I take advantage of “free” as much as anyone else does.

OceanofPDF takedown 2
My Clinique sample bags

I’ve got a half-dozen little zipper bags that I never use courtesy of Clinique’s free-gift-with-purchase promotions. And the free samples included in the bags have led me to buy a few full-size products after using the samples. That’s exactly what the makeup company wanted me to do.

I’ll also confess that once PicMonkey eliminated its free user level, I didn’t start paying for it. I switched to alternatives that include the free site Canva (which I love, love, love), Microsoft Paint on my computer, and the paid WordSwag app on my smartphone.

I often use the free level of certain services until I know whether the paid level will suit my purposes.

In fact, I did this recently with Teachable, a platform for online courses. (That’s my affiliate link, which means any purchases made through it will give me a small commission at no extra cost to you.) I set up one course on the site to see if it was user-friendly for both my students and me. Once I was convinced it offered what I needed, I upgraded to a paid level and now have three courses there.

I’m a die-hard coupon-clipper, so I’ll continue to look for the most cost-effective way to get from point A to point B. But the OceanofPDF takedown situation was a reminder to me that if something is valuable enough to me, I shouldn’t be surprised if I have to pay for it. And I should be willing to do so.

Help others discover what’s worth paying for! With your work as an author in mind, what’s the most valuable service or product that you pay for?

Subscribe to the free Build Book Buzz newsletter and get the free special report, “Top 5 Free Book Promotion Resources,” immediately!

Similar Posts


  1. I’ve followed you for so many years that I understand you offer excellent free advice of your own. If you recommend a program, I understand there might be a time at the end when the speaker will describe a more in-depth program he/she offers to learn more about the subject at a cost. I trust you enough to be willing to listen to you and your recommendations without fear of being harassed.

    1. Thanks so much, Kayleen! I do try to provide value so I’m glad you noticed. By the way, I love your Facebook posts. You work hard on your books, and then you work even harder to make sure the right readers know about them. Your passion and commitment shine through in a way that’s truly endearing. Thank you for sharing!


  2. I shed no tears for readers who have lost their source of stolen reading material. Unfortunately, dozens of these sites still exist.

    The most valuable service or product I pay for? My Scribophile membership, which allows me to receive and give feedback on writing projects.

  3. In a society that admires marketing above all else, resentment over having to pay equals chickens coming home to roost. Today, the essence of marketing is the freebie, the giveaway, the teaser. That’s why people are jaded. What can we expect when a fair number of book marketers recommend self-marketing and platform-building even before a writer has written much of anything. Many also urge writers to present themselves as experts, to generate how-to materials to use as marketing tools. If the end result in the consumer is a sense of resentment at actually having to buy books, the reasons aren’t hard to find.

    1. Thanks, Barry. Tell me more about this piece: [a fair number of book marketers recommend self-marketing and platform-building even before a writer has written much of anything.] and this piece: [urge writers to present themselves as experts, to generate how-to materials to use as marketing tools.] What’s wrong with this thinking or advice? I suspect you’ve given this a lot of thought and I’d love to hear your perspective.



  4. To answer your question: “What’s the most valuable service or product that you pay for?” What comes to mind is my premium Grammarly, which I use while writing in Microsoft Word. There’s an annual fee, and it’s worth every cent. Like you mention in your post, I tried the free version to make sure it worked for me, and then subscribed to the premium version so I could have access right next to my document as I type. Love your site, Sandra, and appreciate all your helpful advice. I’ve often taken advantage of your paid affiliate services as well over the years. Very helpful! Thank you.

    1. Thanks so much for the kind words, Joyce! They mean A LOT. I like Grammarly, too, so it’s no surprise that I have an affiliate link for that resource (http://www.anrdoezrs.net/click-5324904-10952827)!

      Someone in a Facebook group said that with the grammar checker in Word, Libre Office Writer, and Grammarly, he doesn’t need a professional editor. Do you think you have to be a really solid and experienced writer to rely on these tools — including Grammarly — enough to bypass a human editor? That might be an unfair question for you, but his observation stuck with me and your mention of Grammarly brought it back to mind.


      1. I would most likely tell that writer that, good as those tools are,they can’t replace a professional editor. I’ve read some those “I don’tneed an editor books” and have yet to find one where that was a true statement.

        1. Great feedback, Jeanne! Thanks. That’s what I thought, too. It’s discouraging to see that kind of feedback to the question, “Do I need an editor?” because many of the people reading it DESPERATELY need an editor. Their end product is going to suffer because of this kind of input…but bad advice is common when crowdsourcing, unfortunately.


  5. Sandra, thanks for the straight talk on this topic. I too am looking for free, but as a businesswoman, I know the “free” is marketing a taste of what is available for a fee. Nothing personal, it’s just business.

    The “free” gives me a chance to dip my toes in and see how far I want to go. If the experience is what I need and (this is important), the price is affordable, then I pay the fee and commit to the work.

    Always a pleasure to receive your email newsletter, and thanks for all the “free” you provide.


    1. Thank you, Delia! That’s exactly how I use free, too. It lets me figure out who knows what they’re talking about and who doesn’t, but it also lets me uncover areas where I need training — a deeper dive to use a business cliche.

      I’m so glad you find value in my newsletter, too — thank you for those kind words!


    2. Delia’s comments are pretty much my thinking on this topic also. Appreciated the article, Sandra, and it was a good reminder to me to watch my own attitude toward getting things for free as well as what I want to offer people on my mailing list.

      1. Thanks, Genene. I find that studying what other people offer their list helps give me ideas. Does it work that way for you, too?


    3. Delia, you echoed my sentiments well.

      Sandra is consistently dependable for helpful content, and if I have to occasionally pay for something I want, her advice & info are worth it!

  6. Hi Sandy,

    Sometimes the bargain business owners are asking of their visitors is too obnoxious, though, and they need to understand that they’ll lose some people because of it.

    Example #1: The other day I visited a language learning site offering 10 free tips that I was very interested in receiving. However, when I went to sign up with my email address and password, I discovered that unless I also checked a box that said I was willing to receive promotional emails, I was unable to click the “submit” button and sign up. This made me think long and hard about whether or not I could live without the information, and I went away without signing up. What’s ironic is that I wouldn’t have minded receiving promotional emails after signing up because I knew I could always unsubscribe. But this signup procedure was too “in your face” for me, so I declined.

    Example #2: I disagree with the dominant model of promotional webinars out there. Almost everyone gives far too little substantive content and far too much time, proportionately, to the promotion. When I do this, I always make sure to deliver real teaching and not just preliminaries, and I minimize the promotion, while making the most of follow-up after the presentation (from which anyone can unsubscribe). Perhaps I’d make more money with the dominant model, but that’s fine with me. I’d rather collect people who really, really, really value what I have to offer.

    Marcia Yudkin

    1. Thanks, Marcia. And BTW to those reading this, sign up for Marcia’s Wednesday morning “Marketing Minute” newsletter. It’s one of the few I read as soon as it shows up in my inbox and I particularly liked today’s: https://www.yudkin.com/markmin.htm

      For #1, I’ll bet that’s how those sites are handling the new GDPR requirements. They’re offering those free tips to build their email list, so if you don’t want to be on the list, you don’t get the free tips. I think it’s a fair trade, especially since we can always remove ourselves from lists we don’t want to be on — but I understand where you’re coming from. I just think GDPR has complicated things and quite honestly, ask 3 people how it’s supposed to be handled and you’ll get 3 different answers.

      As for #2, I think they used to be too much what and why and not enough how followed by too much selling, but the ones I’ve hosted in the past couple of years have been incredibly substantive — maybe too much so, in fact. I’m most comfortable with your approach — provide value and tone down the selling. Like you, I’d make more money doing things like the dominant model, but it’s not me, so I don’t do it. I can live with that!

      Thanks for stopping by!


      1. Hi Sandy,
        You may have a point about #1, but I don’t think a requirement to get permission to contact people repeatedly has to ask permission to sell to them. If they had asked me, do I want to receive email from them in addition to the free tips, I would readily have agreed to that.
        And thanks for your praise of the Marketing Minute, which is now in its 20th year!

        1. I think that with GDPR, if you’re going to send promotional email rather than a newsletter, you have to say so. The point is to let people chose what kind of email they’ll receive if they “give up” their address.

          20 years? Wow! Congrats!


  7. Excellent article. I don’t trust “free”. I have used it to decide if I want to invest in a product and rarely make a “find”. The big investment in books is not the money but the time spent reading them. There are a lot of books out there that have taken my time. Time that I cannot get back is costly. I can make more money. I cannot make more time. Most days I spend more at Starbucks than I do on books. When I see someone say their goal is to give away their books for free I rarely get their book. I have tons of books to read. I don’t have unlimited time. I have to be selective and I don’t care for free. I prefer value, especially in books

    1. Thanks, Linda. I agree that the investment in books is the time spent reading them, but I’ll add that I’ve seen authors balk at paying less than $10 for a nonfiction how-to book. Go figure. So what makes you decide to buy and read a book?


  8. Great article. I’ve learned that many books I’ve gotten for free rarely get read. That’s with the exception of ARCs.

    I’ve been to many free workshops and don’t mind the presenter selling whatever it is they sell. That’s assuming that what they offer for free is actually useful and the whole thing isn’t a sales pitch. Those annoy me. I buy some, others I pass on. I’m in a no-buy state right now while I fully utilize what I’ve already purchased.

    1. Thanks, Jeanne. I’ve got stacks of e-books and printed books I haven’t read yet, so there’s no point in me grabbing free books just because they’re free. But people like you and me wouldn’t download pirated books anyway. Those who are disappointed that they can’t use OceanofPDF anymore to steal from authors can go get a library card.

      I think that getting the right balance between useful training and selling content is an art form. I try really hard to collaborate only with those who have figured it out. Otherwise, the rest of us are frustrated. And waiting until after the presentation is completed to ask questions is just part of the process.



  9. ProWritingAid began as a free service to me. Now I pay gladly–not for professional writing alone, but for cover letters and every other piece of writing I do. I’ve been a member for over a year and a half. The other side of the coin–Goodreads. I was happy to pay the $119 required. One hundred and twenty five people requested my book. Goodreads gave away the one hundred I requested. When I looked later, I got two reviews and thirty “to read”s. The people who requested the book had no interest in my genre. Many were not interested in a book by a Christian author. Wondering what I did wrong to get such a motley non-readership.

    1. Thanks for the ProWritingAid tip, Patricia! That’s helpful.

      I’m curious about your Goodreads giveaway. How do you know the people who requested your book weren’t interested in your genre? Also, was this for an e-book?


  10. Just a quick comment to those who object to losing the “free” portion of anything. If you read the entirety of Sandra’s post, you noticed links to other sites supporting her comments. They were free. You have a simple choice when you have to pay—pay or don’t use it.

  11. Yo Sandra ,
    Everyone who likes your article and commented on it and your yourself need to check yourself did you know that you could get textbooks on ocean of pdf and required books for college courses , did you know that some of us have to choose either groceries for the next two weeks or books for our classes , check your privlage you white acordian

  12. They are alive but under the radar on oceanofpdf.org
    What’s the best way to take that down too? .org doesn’t make them any more legit.

  13. I belong to a large public library,in Melbourne one of many, and have a vast range of books-free. The pirate sites also feature many unpublished authors who would not get readers in print. Frankly, the problem is that buying books is horrendously expensive. Many keen readers simply would not be able to read two or three books a week spending a 100 dollars or more. I note that pirate sites also offer rarer,limited availability books. One or two well known authors are now providing ebooks at no cost. Printing and publishing have always been a tightly held industry in the West.

    1. Considering how much time goes into writing a quality book, I wouldn’t say books are “horrendously” expensive. Everything that goes into publishing books costs money, too. And publishing is a business…businesses by definition need to make money. Public libraries make books accessible to anyone at no cost; those who don’t live near enough to a library to borrow print books conveniently can borrow e-books or audiobooks. I know many people (including me) who swap books with friends and family, too, so we have our own little lending libraries of sorts.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *