Pirate Coelho

By Paulo Coelho

Regular readers of my blog probably remember my endless discussions about copyright. Every time that I see a song in my profile “deleted by the author” I ask to myself: don’t they understand that if I hear a song and I like, chances are that I will buy the CD?

It seems that they don’t. Even Frank Sinatra, dead for more than a decade, deleted his song from my profile (of course it was not him, but the record company).

During this trip to Madrid/Zurich/Davos/Munich, I had a chance to talk about copyright and internet. In my speech for DLD 08, I mention myspace and these deleted songs. I went further, and said, for the first time, that I have a Pirate site, where readers can read my books before buying them. There was un uproar from the industry (that reacted bad), and the communities in internet (that reacted in a positive way). If you type “Pirate Coelho” in google, at the moment that I am writing this, there is more than 600 entries.

To illustrate my position, I am doing a copy/paste of an article published yesterday in Fortune 500. I did not ask permission to David Kirkpatrick, the journalist, but I am sure he will not mind.



P.S. – If you want to see my speech in DLD 08, go to


The video is long, but my speech takes only the first 20 minutes of it.

NEW YORK (Fortune) — In 1999, best-selling author Paulo Coelho, who wrote “The Alchemist,” was failing in Russia. That year he sold only about 1,000 books, and his Russian publisher dropped him. But after he found another, Coelho took a radical step. On his own Web site, launched in 1996, he posted a digital Russian copy of “The Alchemist.

With no additional promotion, print sales picked up immediately. Within a year he sold 10,000 copies; the next year around 100,000. By 2002 he was selling a total of a million copies of multiple titles. Today, Coelho’s sales in Russian are over 10 million and growing.

“I’m convinced it was putting it up for free on the Internet that made the difference,” he said in an interview at this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos.

Coelho, whose fiction explores universal themes of spiritual aspiration and brotherhood in unpretentious language, has been a star of the Forum for 11 years.

Before this year’s Davos, both Coelho and I attended a wonderful conference in Munich called Digital, Life, Design. Onstage there he told the surprising story of his embrace of free Internet distribution. In Davos I sat down with him to learn more.

Coelho explained why he thinks giving books away online leads to selling more copies in print: “It’s very difficult to read a book on your computer. People start printing out their own copies. But if they like the book, after reading 30-40 pages they just go out and buy it.”

Intrigued by his growing sales in Russia, Coelho used the Bittorrent site – a favorite for illicit distribution of media – to seek out and download online translations of his books as well as audio versions. By 2006 he was hosting an entire sub-site he called The Pirate Coelho, with links to books in many languages. While he did not play up his own role, he did quietly include a link on his official site.

“So you gather together all the stolen digital versions?” I asked him. “You say steal?” he replied. “No. I think it’s a way of sharing.” His agent, Monica Antunes, who joined in the interview, chimed in unashamedly, “We don’t own the translation rights to all those editions.”

By last year Coelho’s total print sales worldwide surpassed 100 million books. “Once we did the Pirate Coelho there was a significant boost,” he says.

For all this, he kept quiet with his many publishers in countries around the world. “Sharing” is typically not the word they use to describe such activities. Coelho says the publishers have periodically taken action to remove books from the Pirate Coelho. “They think it is against me. They don’t know it is in my favor. They will know it after your article,” he says.

“Publishing is in a kind of Jurassic age,” Coelho continues. “Publishers see free downloads as threatening the sales of the book. But this should make them rethink their entire business model.”

Now Coelho is a convert to the Internet way of doing things. His online e-mail newsletter, published since 2000, has 200,000 subscribers. In 2006 he started blogging. Last year he joined MySpace and Facebook to interact more actively with readers. “MySpace is an addiction,” he says ruefully. He also makes available an extensive archive of rights-free photos on the Flickr photo-sharing site.

None of Coelho’s books has ever been made into a movie. But now he is using the Internet to let his readers make one for him, based on his latest book, The “Witch of Portobello.” It tells the story of its protagonist from the point of view of multiple people who knew her at various times in her peripatetic life. Now Coelho and Hewlett-Packard (HPQ, Fortune 500) have created a competition, inviting anyone worldwide to submit a segment as they envision it. Coelho plans to knit together 15 winners and release the film.

He spends about three hours online every day, interacting with readers who send him over 1,000 e-mails and messages daily. A fulltime staff of six helps manage his manifold Net activities, and the entire operation costs him $15,000 each month, which he pays out of his own pocket.

“I don’t understand why publishers don’t understand that this new medium is not killing books,” Coelho says. “I’m doing it mostly because the joy of a writer is to be read. But at the end of the day, you will sell more books.

Welcome to Share with Friends – Free Texts for a Free Internet


  1. Dear Paulo Coelho,

    I hope you are exactly right.
    I published my first book “Wintertest” only a few days ago.
    And I made the book available in a free PDF version on my website – http://www.wintertest.eu.
    Only after putting my text online for free I came across this blog post. So now I am waiting to sell thousands of copies. Just kidding …
    As you pointed out: I want people to read my book. And may be, if they like it, they buy a copy.


    PS: It´s about an engineer. I had the feeling there are too many physicians and lawyers already out there.

  2. […] Coehlo did this when he gave away The Alchemist and it eventually became an international […]

  3. Thankyou again Paulo for offering pirated copies of your books.
    There is a shelter here for women that are transforming their lives from the inside out, a fresh start.
    Often they call for donations and this year, I was enthused to include copies of ‘Stories For Parents, Children and Grandchildren’! So now the moms will have the best stories in the world to read to their babies.
    As well, tucked in a copy of the book; a present for the mommies, The Pilgrimage.
    With Love and Gratitude,

  4. shoxa says:

    I really like your book al ximik… and enjoyed each moment when i was reading it.. thanks to you for this good wise book… i got to myself more things from your bokk…

  5. Shane Klein says:

    Could some one send me a link to get the alchemist that won’t be blocked by school based enternet I need to get it on a iPad for class and ever site I’ve tried has been blocked or dose not work( school all out of paper copy’s)

  6. Maria Antonella says:

    Personalmente ho tutti i libri di Coelho in formato cartaceo: adoro la loro consistenza, toccare le pagine, sfogliarle…
    Viaggiando zaino in spalla e avendo molto tempo per leggere durante gli spostamenti il poter avere un formato da rileggere pií¹ leggero non lo disdegno e il fatto di non doverli ricomprare tutti in formato digitale è un sollievo.

  7. FRoman says:

    I personally want to thank Mr. Coelho for putting his own books out there and granting me permission to download them. You have no idea how much time I have saved. My mom lives in Panama and has all of Cuelho’s books and I have managed to dowload all that I could find but the rest I have to tear apart and run through my scanner. We are trying to move her back home to the USA and are trying to limit the weight of the move. She might never read the books but it gives her comfort in knowing she still has them. The hard bound we will give to one of the locals who can’t afford to buy their own books as the community is very poor and we will love enriching their minds.
    So I say thank you, from someone who already owns the books (the Spanish version). And also thanks to the virtual school libraries who have them available too.

  8. MCh says:

    Mission accomplished :)
    1,2,3 of WOLs given to one Homeless people for sharing, Alex was telling me his girlfriend reads all the time very thick books.
    …and he was pleased with his’ polar’ sandwich as well.
    Have a nice week end.

  9. rossella says:

    Sarei molto grata a chi mi spiega come trovare online i libri di Coelho.. ho difficoltí ..

  10. Katrina says:

    I think having books on the web is great as many take a while to come out in Australia. It wont stop me buying hard copies of my favourites because I like to read them again from time to time – and I prefer to read them in hard copy.
    If anything, having the chance to preview books means I look forward to buying books more and even buying copies to share with others.

  11. Sven says:

    Umm – now I have read lots ABOUT Pirate Coelho but where can I find the books?

  12. Amalia says:

    Leo cualquier tipo de libro de Coelo. Las ediciones impresas si voy de campamento a un lugar donde no hay corriente electrica y las ” pirateadas” si estoy en un lugar donde hay energí­a electrica.El tema es poder leer, además sus libros son marabillosos y serí­a una injusticia no poder compartirlos con personas queno puedan comprar todos los libros editados. Gracias Paulo Coelo por ser muy generoso

  13. Bradley says:

    His words have opened these eyes and helped with depression alot. Have read 15 of Paulos books and cant get any more am looking for The manifest of Kring-ha,Theater for education,Hell Archives,Practical manual of vampirism, Maktub, Love letters from a prophet,Essential words,Fathers sons and grand sons,The genie and the roses,Journeys,Revived paths. In English. If any one can tell me where it is possible to get them i would appreciate it. I need them

  14. […] selbst bezeichnet die Aktion als entscheidenden Schritt, ist er doch seit langem als Verfechter von freien digitalen Inhalten bekannt (wie im Februar 2010 im […]

  15. Adriana Roberta says:

    Leio seus livros online, amo-os, mas nada me tira o prazer de tíª-los em minha estante para poder líª-los novamente e outra vez e de novo, quantas vezes eu quiser sem precisar ligar computador e tudo mais… portanto, leio online e compro também! Adoro!!!!

  16. Scores of sober, hard to acquire data here. Checked this blog post by browsing on Clusty. You’re truly having me revise my belief about this stuff and rarely does that happen to me… LOL. Thanks!

  17. mili says:


    I’m a great fan of Paulo’s works. Where can i get to read the e-book- The Alchemist, if it is possible?

    Muchas Gracias,

    1. Paulo Coelho says:

      check Pirate Coelho here

  18. DAvid Ko says:

    Only way to solve the problem is to change the social system… Anyway I totally agree with you, Mr.Pahelo.

  19. Raffa says:

    I think the pirate copies argument works best for a writer who has met his basic financial returns from royalties. I don’t think a first time writer whose name is not ‘out there’ selling itself would make much head way by having his works free initially. They need good publishers!


  20. I could not agree with you more. I am deeply inspired by your words and the growing movement to take back the creative process from publishers.

    Well said – well done