Wednesday, January 26, 2011

E-book Piracy

Jenn Webb has written an article called Book Piracy: Less DRM, More Data for the O'Reilly Radar. She interviewed Brian O'Leary on the subject.

Some highlights:

First, the method for counting downloads of pirated books is clunky at best. Second, you can't say that every download is equivalent to a lost sale. Some are, but there's at least some likelihood that the pirated titles either spurred sales or represented a download that never would have resulted in a sale anyway.

The other thing, too, is you've got to look at where the downloads occur. If it's a North American title and the downloads occurred in Romania, I'm not that worried about it if I'm a publisher. It actually, if anything, says to me I should be moving my English language rights and my translation rights faster.

It's not that piracy is not a problem, it's just that it's not demonstratively a problem until you know what's actually happening.

Some companies are focused on applying fairly strict DRM software to their digital books. I'm pretty adamant on DRM: It has no impact whatsoever on piracy. Any good pirate can strip DRM in a matter of seconds to minutes. A pirate can scan a print copy easily as well. DRM is really only useful for keeping people who otherwise might have shared a copy of a book from doing so.

Absolutely agreed. Any code can be broken.

I think piracy has become more acute with ebooks, not because ebooks are easily pirated but because ebooks are easily visible. So, for example, if I'm living in South Africa and I speak English, but I want to read Nora Roberts, and Nora Roberts is only published in North America, I might have to wait through a four-year cycle to get her latest book. That lead time made sense when it was about ink on paper. But if it's an ebook, as a reader, I want to read it today — I love Nora Roberts, and I'd pay for her latest book, but I can't get it here because there's no service that will sell me an ebook in South Africa. That's when piracy starts to occur. Readers say: "I would have paid for it, but they wouldn't give it to me. They frustrated my demand."

I think this frustrated demand is a big reason for piracy, either of music or movies or books. While new music is pretty available if you want to consent to using iTunes (and some don't), some older things are quite difficult to find. Movies, too; if I go to my local movie rental place, I can find new things alright, but anything older than maybe ten years is quite iffy.


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