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eBook Piracy Not Such a Big Deal in the Netherlands

130681834_b1e5661fdc[1]A new report out of the Netherlands this week has revealed that the Dutch are buying ebooks at a rate far higher than the global average.

The market research firm GfK reported earlier this week that the average Dutch ereader contained 117 ebooks, of which a grand total of 11 were bought with money. This data is drawn from a GfK survey, and it’s not clear when the survey was polled or how many people responded, but GfK did also add that ebooks made up about 4.5% of the Dutch book market.

This is great news. I know that many are going to describe this as a serious piracy issue (including the original Dutch source), but there’s a couple problems with that conclusion. For one thing, piracy isn’t entirely illegal in the Netherlands; uploading is illegal but downloading is not.

But more importantly, I don’t regard this as a piracy issue because free ebooks are too prevalent; they’re available just about everywhere and they are downloaded in numbers far higher than some might expect.

Remember, it was around this time last year that Amazon took steps to curb free ebook affiliate sites. With some sites reporting that they generated hundreds of free ebook downloads for each ebook sale they generated, they were encouraging the download of so many free ebooks that it started hitting Amazon in the ledger book.

Even Smashwords has noted that free ebooks are downloaded at a far higher rate than paid ebooks; their latest data dates to May 2013, and it shows that free ebooks in the iBookstore were downloaded at a rate 90 times higher than paid ebooks.

In other words Apple users, i.e. people with money, are only paying for about 1% of the ebooks they get via Smashwords.

With that in mind, I rejoice that so many of the ebooks reported in this GfK survey were paid and not free.  With most of the population able to read English, this makes the Netherlands an ideal new ebook market. And thanks to the high taxes on locally published titles, English language ebooks from the US and the UK have a natural market advantage.

Thanks, Katsumi!

Algemeen Dagblad

image by Alter Wolf

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Andrew February 5, 2014 um 9:05 am

I wonder how many of the free books are read? I have downloaded numerous free ebooks and then deleted them, often to test a new ereader client (tablet apps etc).

Also, why would anyone be surprised that free/legal books are downloaded more often than bought ones?

Nate Hoffelder February 5, 2014 um 9:26 am

No one is surprised that free ebooks outsell paid ebooks; my point was that my source didn’t even consider the possibility. They assumed that the many unpaid ebooks were pirated.

Andrew February 5, 2014 um 9:34 am

Piracy has become a nonsensical term, to the point that subconsciously I skim past it. People who do it split hairs about copyright infringement vs stealing, while industry salespeople ascribe every business problem to piracy. It can’t possibly be DRM, high prices, financial problems, regional limitations or preferences for real books, it’s piracy damn it! Bonus points for those who claim it benefits terrorists (I have read this claim, and sadly it wasn’t a joke).

I wasn’t trying to criticize your article, just the industry types who consider piracy and free books as severe problems. Thanks for taking the time to write!

Nate Hoffelder February 5, 2014 um 9:36 am

That’s okay. I wrote this post with those industry people in mind, the ones who "ascribe every business problem to piracy".

Gary February 5, 2014 um 6:54 pm

I wonder which category library eBooks would go into. "Bought with money" or "pirated"? I am assuming that libraries in the Netherlands lend eBooks to patrons.

I consider the library eBooks on my eReader to be "bought with money" because I pay taxes that fund the public library.


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