Ebooks May Cost the Authors – Ebook Piracy

I caught a post on Twitter not too long ago that I felt I needed to discuss here. David Carnoy is the writer for the ‘Fully Equipped‘ column on CNet Reviews. In his article Kindle Ebook Piracy Accelerates he tells of how his book ‘Knife Music‘  has been scraped by someone and placed on a torrent download site making up to 2,500 quality ebooks available.

David found out about this by signing up for Google alerts and he was flattered at first. With ebooks poised to make up 50% of the entire book market by 2015, he started to do some math.

Ebook current price $3.99
Author royalty $0.50           (He doesn’t self publish,  the publisher, ebook seller and agents takes the rest).
Loss of $100 at 200 books sold.

Not a problem for small time, small fry writers. But it does pose a huge problem for big authors. The ebook torrent file mentioned (containing around 2,500 titles) download in a matter of minutes because it’s a mere 3.4 GB. Let’s do the match again:

2,500 at $2 = $5,000
2,500 at $4 = $10,000

I have around 120 books in my paper collection on my shelves. David notes that my books will download in a matter of eight or so minutes and could be stored on a 500MB flash drive.  Moving away from paper publishing and going electronic may be a good thing, in the sense that publishing is easy and book could go viral quicker. But as the popularity of electronic books and reading devices skyrocket, so does the people pirating them. Let’s look at the impact the release of the i-Pad has had on ebook piracy:

Ebook Piracy Chart Attributor

This is according to a study  done by a company called Attributor. David says this may very well be the dark side to the success of ebook publishing. Like the music industry with the rise of Napster and the i-Pod the book industry may very well also take large losses as publishing moves into the coming digital era. A  new trend set to be rising is libraries making ebooks available to legally ‘check out’ for a set period of time. I the meantime Attributor has partnered up with  MacMillian and Kensington Publishing Corp. launching and supporting the ‘Attributor Protected Badge Program’, designed as a global campaign to drive consumer awareness about fair trade and distribution of ebooks and protection of author royalties. The effectiveness of this kind of campaign is evident by one out of five people who were given the option to buy the book on amazon clicked the link. The study was done only by checking behavior on Google.

A more recent study by Attrtibutor brought forth the following interesting facts:

50 percent increase in online searches for pirated downloads throughout the past year
1.5-3 million daily Google queries for pirated e-books
20 percent increase in demand for pirated downloads since the iPad became widely available in mid-May 2010
54 percent increase in pirated e-book demand since August 2009
Proliferation of smaller sites that host and supply pirated e-books–a shift from larger sites like Rapidshare dominating the syndication market
“Breaking Dawn” by Stephanie Meyer registered the most pirated copy searches throughout the study
Widespread international demand, with the largest number of searches during the study originating in the United States (11 percent), India (11 percent) and Mexico (5 percent)

Looking back at the first Rio MP3 players and how the iPad accelerated piracy since people were burning CD’s, we may see the same happen with the Kindles, Nooks and Sony Readers being the pioneers. It is estimated that around 2-3 Million Kindle devices have already been sold.

When looking at pricing, David says the following:

How much will price play into all this? Well, you already have plenty of folks out there who think it’s outrageous for publishers to price an e-book at $12.99 or $14.99 when the hardcover is first released. And some of those folks may feel justified in downloading pirated versions of books in protest–or just because they say they don’t like getting ripped off. And while some pricing decisions by publishers are clearly bad, pricing may be a smaller part of the piracy equation than you might think. What a surprising number of people have told me is that they pirate stuff for the same reason that a lot of people like the Kindle: it’s all about instant gratification.

Why is self publishing so important? BitReader uploader CaterPillar notes that people would feel more guilty is the bulk of the royalty went to the author. It  seems the lack of standardization may have fragmented the ebook market and may have slowed down piracy. The Kindle still has its

own platform and file format for ebooks and most ebook readers have adopted the ePub formats.

The isn’t really any regulation for ebook prices in the industry, so publishers may very well ask what they’d like for the ebooks. Many people have rated these books one star to show their displeasure, but customers have the opinion, they really wanted the book, buy the hardcover or wait for the ebook to drop its price. This very pricing structure has been earmarked for the reason piracy happens.

Scott Turrow, president of the Authors Guild and a practicign lawyer says:

“It [piracy] has killed large parts of the music industry,” he said in an interview. “Musicians make up for the copies of their songs that get pirated by performing live. I don’t think there will be as many people showing up to hear me read as to hear Beyonce sing. We need to make sure piracy is dealt with effectively.”

It is said that book piracy costs the industry nearly $3bn. So, the question is, is self publishing not the answer? And if you wanted you’re information to go viral, why not make the book available for free. Many internet marketers do this with the idea of selling something greater in the down line later or get back financial input and loss of profits through a product launch.

I have personally made revival ebooks and revival articles available on a site of mine, but they weren’t for sale and I wasn’t asking money for them. I had in most cases come in contact with the owners and asked permission to make them available on my site. Many people do publish their own books self publishing but convert them to PDF and sell them like that, opening their material up for piracy. So, here are a short few tips on how to publish your book electronically covering all your basis and doing your best not to succumb from piracy.

  • Get an ISBN. If you’re book does not have an ISBN that belongs to you, your book doesn’t belong to you and you are either no published, or not self published.
  • Publish on the Kindle. You already saw they have their own format so you’re book is fairly safe from piracy there.
  • Publish on Amazon CreateSpace. The CreateSpace program from Kindle makes it very easy to publish your book in a paperback format that doesn’t cost you an arm and a leg, because storage and printing costs shave been eliminated. And it’ s hard to upload a book that Amazon P.O.D’s onto a fileshare server.

That’s just some of the way to self publish and be protected by Pirates. It’s like having your very own Jack Sparrow outsmartign anybody trying to steal your treasure.

P.S. The top 3 commentators on my blog for Feb get’s a $95 prize

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Ivin Viljoen

Graph courtesy of Attributor.
Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net


Is i-Pad Supercharging Ebook Piracy? by David Carnoy

New Study Suggests Ebook Piracy is on the rise by David Carnoy

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About Ivin Viljoen

Ivin Viljoen is the Editor-in-Chief of Authopublisher, an award winning blogger and recent father of a beautiful baby boy.

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16 Responses to “Ebooks May Cost the Authors – Ebook Piracy”

  1. Hi
    I suppose there is always going to be a flip side of everything and there is always going to be someone ready to exploit it.
    Unfortunately this looks like one that is effecting the on line world lets hope the holes keep getting plugged quicker than people keep finding new ones.

    Great post thanks lee
    Lee recently posted..Best Buy Bargain mp3 playersMy Profile

  2. People may laugh at those of us who still value printed books, but at least there was a limit to how many people could borrow one before it fell apart. :-)
    Michele DeFilippo recently posted..Why Book Publishers Need a Corporate ImageMy Profile

  3. Real and horrifying facts, I think so not many people know about this act.

  4. Horrific stats. And thanks for doing the math, it puts it all into perspective.

  5. This is one of the reasons I am weary publishing electronically. One it has been scraped, you can never get it back, and you may have worked two years or longer on a manuscript. All that time lost, and stolen from you the author.

    Perhaps we should put up some videos of old or tattered people telling pirates that they have made them lose everything and they can barely put food in front of their children – that should wake them up.

    The only one of your propositions I may got for is the Amazon CreateSpace option. It sounds pretty safe :)

  6. Very informative article. It’s quite scary to see how much money is being lost. Companies tend to spend just as much on creating platforms that can’t be copied and thus it seems we are just laundering money around. Everyone eats, sure, but no one is really going forwards. I like Scott’s quote at the end.

  7. Nice ‘copy-and-paste post this. Didn’t have any inspiration today?


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