A new report (PDF) released this month by the UK's Intellectual Property Office (IPO) showed that ebooks were the one type media least likely to be pirated. Coincidentally, the report also showed that casual pirates tended to spend more than non-pirates (this confirms a similar report from Australia covered by Techdirt on Thursday). The UK conclusion can't specifically be applied to ebooks, though, just other digital media including music, videos, and apps.
But what I can tell you about ebooks is that the hardcore pirate accounted for about 6% of ebook users. The vast majority (89%) acquired their ebooks legally:
Piracy is in fact less of an issue than the other author who is competing for the attention of readers, including the ones who give away their books for free. In fact, ebook pirates are outnumbered by freegans (readers whose ebooks are legal, but none are paid for) by a factor of five to one.
31% of respondents in this survey don't buy any ebooks at all:
Free ebooks are so prevalent that a later section of the report estimated that 57% of ebooks were paid for - but only 6% were pirated.
The report also estimated that paper books still made up 65% of the total number of books consumed in the UK, which is itself an interesting statistic. Books are the one type of media that is still primarily consumed on physical media. Music, video, apps, and games have all gone primary digital.
Do you know how some pundits are now saying that ebooks have hit a plateau?
Assuming consumers develop the same preference for digital books that they currently show for other digital media, I would not assume that plateau is going to last.
P.S. The UK Publishers Association said that ebooks accounted for around 17% of the total sales volume (in pounds) in the UK in 2014. Does anyone have data from the PA on the number of ebooks sold in the UK last year? I'd like to cross-check with the consumer survey.
image by JD Hancock