There’s a new post over on Publishing Perspectives today that has me deeply annoyed. The post quotes a Spanish journalist as making some wild allegations about the Spanish ebook market.
Convinced as he is that peer-to-peer sharing is a major concern, he asserts that “according to the industry, in 2011, 49% of e-book content available online in Spain was distributed without the proper copyright holders’ permission. This pirated content is valued at 793 million euros by the industry. In 2010 the pirated book content was 40% of the total. That 9% increase in one year is supposed to be the highest for any cultural content, for example, music or film.”
I’m calling bullshit.
This story has been bugging me all afternoon as I tried to unravel the nonsense in pursuit of the truth. As I sit here now, I’m still not sure whether the stats above are misinterpreted, misstated, or simply made up. I have spent 3 hours on this and I cannot say for sure where the data came from, much less whether it is accurate.
Nevertheless, I am calling bullshit. The stats above don’t pass the sniff test. I cannot conceive of the series of survey questions that could have resulted in the stats above. Oh, I can think up questions that would result in 49%, but not anything that would result the statement above.
Was it invented from whole cloth by an industry trade group to support more restrictive DRM legislation? I don’t know, but that’s what I would put money on.
P.S. I’m going to continue to look into it, and let me explain why. It’s not that I want to disprove the numbers (though I expect that to happen); I see this as a puzzle. How exactly were real figures developed, and how did they get distorted into the statements above? This is an intriguing puzzle and I look forward to finding the missing pieces.
Update: I was right; this is bullshit. It turns out that this is based on an IDC report from late last year. (Here’s a summary PDF.) IDC polled 3,000 Spanish consumers on their buying habits. After applying a lot of handwavium they arrive at the 49% figure. This extrapolation from a survey group to a huge statistic is based on too many assumptions to be trusted.