Why an ebook piracy awareness drive is a waste of time and money

The UK’s Guardian site is running a story with the title “Authors demand drive to raise readers’ awareness of book piracy’s cost“. It’s basically a lot of authors and publishers whining about ebook piracy. They are demanding “someone” do “something” about it and let readers know that it’s bad – maybe via a publicity drive. From the story:

Crime writer David Hewson, author of the Italy-set Nic Costa novels, said a campaign along the lines of “People Who Love Books Don’t Steal Books” was urgently required – because readers who consider themselves his fans are downloading pirated copies of his ebooks and audiobooks.

Novelist Chris Cleave, author of The Other Hand and Little Bee, agreed. “I don’t blame anyone. They don’t do it [download books illegally] because they are evil but because they don’t understand,” he said. “In the music industry, when the price of music went down to zero – as it arguably now is because of filesharing – artists didn’t mind that much.

Whatthefu…? Let’s leave the minor details of the current health of the music industry, who would pay for the ebook campaign, and with what money, not to mention who would pay the slightest heed to it.

Some people clearly are not getting it, so I’m going to spell it out in terms that even those from the “old school” of publishing can understand.

1. Generally speaking, people will do what is easiest.

Sure there are exceptions to this rule, there are people who will pirate nomatter what, and people who will go to the ends of the earth to pay – but generally the more roadblocks to legitimate purchase, the more piracy. Ask Apple. People are busy, and lazy, and they want stuff to be easy. We are talking about the vast, “general public” here, not the fringes.

2. Price is the biggest ebook roadblock

Again, with the same caveats as above, the higher the price of ebooks and more DRM, the more piracy. If it’s hard, they’re not interested. If they have to convert a format, they will rarely bother. Many people just aren’t going to bother to pirate a $0.99 ebook. If you want an ebook, a “One-Click” purchase of $0.99 is just less painful than the hassle of going to find a reliable torrent of it and downloading.

3. People buy more ebooks if the price is lower

This has been proved time and again. Yes, yes, there may be exceptions – and you may or may not want to go all the way down to a Konrath-esq $0.99, but there’s a big difference between $1-3 and the good old “agency” $7.99, $9.99 or worse. And that big difference is sales.

4. The “Agency Model” is promoting piracy, hurting sales

See all of the above. Oh settle down, all those who are squealing about how I can’t prove that statement. You’re right, no-one can. But I can use my consumer eyes (“agency” is almost always more expensive), logic, experience in the ebook market and personal observation.

Publishers, you can talk around it, “make your case” for agency, hand-wring about “giving back to authors” (honestly – don’t make me laugh) or just get over yourselves and grow your businesses.

reposted with permission from Bookbee.net

5 thoughts on “Why an ebook piracy awareness drive is a waste of time and money

  1. I think you’re right.

    For example. I can buy a new paperback copy of Stephen King’s Pet Sematary for $10.20 according to Amazon or I could buy it for Kindle for 8.99. Both ways the publisher and Amazon get paid.

    I could drive around town one afternoon and find it at a used bookstore for less than $5 or I could go to the library and hope they have it or I could pirate it and convert it to .mobi for my kindle for free.

    This is a book that’s been out since 1983. It’s not exactly high on the must read list so why does it cost so much? Why aren’t they trying to compete with used bookseller prices or the ultimate price of free yet whining about piracy. Cut costs, make it easier to use, then piracy will be inefficient.

  2. In each competitive market, there’s a number of ways to get something, each way has some hassle one has to go through. That includes time spent on getting it, technical knowledge one has to possess, and possibly money. With the non-scarce resource like digitalized song, movie or ebook, for which the cost of copying is negligible, one can assume it’s always there on the Net somewhere. That changes the market only in that respect that there’s one more way of getting the product – piracy – usually with no money cost involved, but considerable hassle and relatively high technical knowledge needed. One should compete with it as with all other ways, taking those characteristics into account, and making sure one’s way is more convenient for the end user. I don’t understand why publishers are not making sure the piracy is inconvenient right now. If it’s inconvenient, less people will use it, less technically minded people will want to help it become more convenient, and in the end it will take more time before someone makes a P2P network with full indexing, just for ebooks, completely distributed and able to compete with Amazon, for free. Because such innovation will eventually happen in the pirate community, sooner or later. At a random time, made by random people, and as a result of random circumstances, but it will become more convenient to get books for free. Stay ahead of the curve.

  3. It’s human nature that if you can get something for free albeit illegally without any recourse, people will go the illegal route. If physical items such as films, music, e-books etc such as books, music and films can be digitized, there’s a certainty that these items will be available illegally. At the moment e-readers are too expensive for the average joe but once the price of e-book readers come down, piracy of e-books will be a common place like music.

  4. I would so much rather pay for ebooks than steal them. But there are so many titles (including new releases) that simply aren’t available on any platform in the UK.

    Oh, and while I’m on the subject – Kindle, why are you only selling the second and third books of a trilogy in your UK store? And why can I only buy the books I want IN GERMAN?

    I don’t know who’s holding up the e-book supply; whether it’s the platform, the writers or the publishing industry, but they need to sort it out or they’ll be dead in the water.

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