Saturday, April 09, 2011

eBook Piracy

We haven’t talked lately about stealing ebooks. There are sites where you can go download just about any e-book for free. The e-book may be a scanned copy of the print book or it may be a stolen copy of the e-book where the anti-theft encryption has been hacked. Remember how piracy of digital music almost brought down the music industry? Now it’s something authors and publishers have to deal with.

Alex Beam writes about his visit into the piracy world in an article for The ease with which Beam and his friend Ben Walker found free ebooks was a bit scary. Also scary was Random House associate general counsel Matthew Martin’s comment about people who’ve spent “$100-plus for e-readers such as the Kindle or Nook”:
“Those are the last people who are going to get involved in piracy,’’ he says.
Uh huh. Then who would do it? People without e-Readers?

Beam and Walker had no trouble finding sites offering stolen copies of books. Matthew Martin said, about piracy:
I suppose it’s a growing problem, but it hasn’t yet made a serious impact on our business the way it did on the music business
What do you think? Will it become a big problem like it did for music?


  1. Of course it's wrong, but part of me would feel like I've made it up the ladder if my books were pirated.
    As a reader, I never used to think anything was wrong with lending books to others. As a writer, I see lost revenue. Call me confused.

  2. I do think it will become a problem. I've heard authors say their books have been pirated before they're even officially released.

  3. Gosh, this is something I hadn't heard of - wasn't on my radar because I don't have an e-reader. But yes, it seems like it could become a problem like what happened with music.

  4. As eBooks grow in popularity, I can see it somehow becoming a problem. I'm not sure if it'll be as large a problem as the music business, but to some extent, I'd think it might.

  5. You know, I never thought about that, but it might. I just hope not.

  6. I think the pricing will influence how often piracy occurs. No matter what there will always be a percentage of the population that will pirate ebooks or music. I'm not concerned.

  7. Paulo Coehlo's book The Witch of Portobella was pirated and released on the internet before it was published.

    I think it's going to happen, but I also think it's a way to keep greed under control. If authors and publishers keep their prices fair, I think most readers will be happy to pay for their e-reads. There will always be those people out to get what they can for free, but basically most people just want to be treated fairly.

    So keeping prices fair for books will keep pirating down to lower levels (or that's what I hope, anyway!)
    Judy (South Africa)

  8. I think it will remain a problem until the it cuts into the big-boys' profits enough for them to do something about it.

  9. There's no doubt it will become a growing problem. I've had books pirated for years and sold overseas, expecially in Japan, where a bootlegged copy of Casper Country is still for sale at

  10. Laura, I'll just call you a reader/writer.

    Bermudaonion -- yikes!

    We are global now, without a doubt. And what is a cheap book here will not be considered cheap everywhere. Piracy is big here, but I believe it's gigantic in other countries.

  11. The music industry likes to cite piracy for their decline, but I've never bought their argument. Their decline was brought about by an industry stuck in an entrenched business model that forced people to buy albums when the audience had clearly moved past that to downloading only the songs they wanted. Apple jumped on that like a blue jay on a June bug and you don't see them complaining about the advent of digital music, do you?

    Yes, some people will pirate digital files. But a pirated copy does not necessarily represent a lost sale. If the person could not get the file illicitly, would they have bought it in the first place? Often times, no. That does not make it right, but it is not a one for one equation.

    I have an ereader (NookColor) and I have bought many more books per month since getting it than I did before. More sales = good in my book.

  12. Laughed out loud at your comment as to who would steal books, folks without an e-reader.

    I'm sure that piracy is always going to be a problem, but I am not going to obsess over it. There are so many issues that we face as authors, writing, editing, marketing, promoting, finding time to clean the toilet, that I just can't put time into worrying about this.

  13. I don't see it becoming as big of a problem. I think book readers are a more honest crowd and the problem with music thieves came from young men high school and college age. Different demographics are involved and I think that is where the difference lies.

  14. I think it was Neil Gaiman who said his sales went up when his books were pirated.

  15. I know my books have been pirated. But I guess we're too small to tackle this trend. Perhaps some big publishing houses will come out to do something.

    Bargain with the Devil

  16. I think it will happen, but not as much as in the music industry. There are so many kids who are consumers in music (and sometimes they just don't think)--in publishing, there are frequently older and more mature people who might think twice about piracy.

  17. Piracy of digital properties, regardless of the type, is a problem. I think we see that with movies, books, music, software...

    As more and more things are done in digital files the more piracy is going to become a real problem unless it's stopped, or at least unless viable encryptions are designed to impede piracy. I say impede, not stop. For many, protection programs are a puzzle to unravel and so there will always be those who can hack and get around any protections developed. But we can make it as difficult as possible for them to do so.

  18. I think it's a mistake to underestimate the negative impact of book pirating, especially to authors. It's just wrong.

  19. This was going on long before e-readers.
    It will be like the music business if publishing sits back and does nothing until it's out of hand the way the music publishers did.
    That's a question agents should be asking at contract talks.

  20. Hi Helen .. from the brief bits I've caught - it seems the spammers just randomly select a book or author (not sure which) and then just reproduce that item with as many variations of the name as possible - of course theirs will get the most hits and thus the most sales .. they also undercut the price.

    It is obviously rife - the way it was talked about it ..

    Thieving is rampant in all walks of life - people have no self-respect, or accountability, or are desperately poor and get coerced into doing things.

    That's me for today! I hope we can sort this world out - but the publishing industry importantly before it goes the way of the music industry .. cheers Hilary


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