The Russian ebook market has a piracy problem of epic proportions, and LitRes is going to do something about it. This Russian ebookstore raised its first round of funding last week. The Russian Internet Technology Fund led the round, which totaled $5,000,000.
LitRes was launched in 2006 in response to the then rampant ebook piracy with the goal of providing a legal alternative. It was reportedly acquired in 2009 by the Russian publisher Eksmo, but the exact relationship is not clear.
LitRes is the leading ebookstore in the Russian market, and it offers over 380,000 Russian language titles in print, digital, and audio from over 100 publishers. The ebooks and audiobooks can be read in LitRes' apps for Android, iPhone, and iPad as well as on the LitRes Touch. This is a 6" ereader with a touchscreen, Wifi, and 2GB of storage . It retails for 2999 rubles, or about $93.
LitRes currently counts Google Play Books among their competition, and there are signs that Kobo will be launching in Russia soon.
eBooks still make up a tiny share of the Russian book market. As has been reported previously ebook piracy is rampant in Russia with a reported 70% of readers downloading ebooks but only 15% indicating that they also buy ebooks. LitRes has led the fight against piracy both by trying to offer a legal alternative and by going after pirate websites. LitRes has developed something of a reputation for being a bully in their anti-piracy efforts; they have expanded their anti-piracy efforts to include attacking anyone who even links to pirate sites.
For example, earlier this year LitRes filed a DMCA complaint with Google and had the Moon+ Reader app removed from Google Play not because it contained a pirated ebook but because it linked to a pirate website. And a few weeks before that LitRes got the Chitatel reading app removed from iTunes for a related reason.
I use the word bully because it's not clear that LitRes had a valid right to file a DMCA notice. Yes, the apps did link to pirate sites, but that alone is not enough to give LitRes grounds to file legal notices.