Sunday, February 27, 2011

Piracy: The Dark Side of E-book Success

A few days ago, one of my forum discussions talked about an author whose free e-book, along with those of others, were downloaded on Kindle by someone who took the authors’ names off the books and then sold them as his own for money. Last I heard, Amazon and Smashwords were working to rectify the situation. I didn’t know what to make of the story at the time; but then January Magazine wrote a piece about piracy, and referred readers to an interesting article by David Carnoy on Cnet Reviews.

Carnoy had set up a Google alert for the title of his book and, to his surprise, found that his book was being pirated not only as a separate file, but also as part of a larger Kindle collection. This fact and some research led to the disturbing realization that 2,500 books can be downloaded in a matter of hours. Even if each book is valued at only $2.00, it still means that hundreds of dollars of merchandise is stolen, putting authors and publishers clearly out of pocket.

More troubling is that this is just the beginning of what could easily become a piracy epidemic. Some believe that book piracy could reach the levels of music piracy, simply because it’s easy to do, not because people are dying to read all those books. Carnoy goes on to say that a recent study by Attributor shows a 54% rise in the demand for pirated books since August 2009. Worse, there are 1.53 million daily Google queries for pirated e-books and a huge proliferation of small sites that host and supply pirated books.

New Authors Guild president, Scott Turow (who is a practicing lawyer) is well aware of the situation, and the question is what—if anything—can be done about it? Turow, like Carnoy, believes that the appearance of iPads is only part of the growing problem. Some consumers are rebelling at the high price of some e-books ($14.99 is charged for Turow’s latest), and there’s a definite backlash. Attributor’s study suggests that perhaps as much as $3 billion a year (or 10% of total revenue) is lost through pirating.

The bottom line is that things could get worse before they get better. There are a number of other useful links to the piracy issue in Turow’s piece. To learn more, go to Carnoy’s article at More of Attributor’s stats can be found in another article of Carnoy’s at;txt . Also here’s a link to Turow’s take on things:;txt

Good luck out there!



Julie H. Ferguson said...

Thanks for this piece, Debra. I need to look into it...

Amanda Borenstadt said...

Yikes! This is important to know.

Debra Purdy Kong said...

Yes, I think so too, Amanda. As I find more info., I'll share it in my blogs.

Demitria said...

Wow, that's something I never thought about.

Ellis Vidler said...

That's scary. I had no idea this was happening.