e-book Industry Suffers From e-Piracy

Digital piracy, long confined to music and movies, is spreading to books and may pose a headache this year for the slumping publishing industry. Experts said the problem may only get worse as demand for e-books is boosted with the increasing popularity of electronic reading devices such as Amazon’s Kindle, Barnes & Noble’s Nook, and Apple’s much-anticipated “tablet”.

“It’s fair to say that piracy of e-books is exploding,” said Albert Greco, an industry expert and professor of marketing at Fordham University.

And it is not just the bestsellers that are targeted by thieves; they are pirating even textbooks, CNN reported.

“We see piracy of professional content, such as medical books and technical guides; we see a lot of general fiction and non-fiction. So it really runs the gamut,” said Ed McCoyd, director of digital policy at the Association of American Publishers (AAP).

The AAP recorded that the sales for digital books in the second quarter of last year totalled almost US$37 million (RM126 million), more than three times the total for the same three months in 2008.

“Piracy is a serious issue for publishers,” said the Hachette Book Group in a statement, adding that it “considers copyright protection to be of paramount importance”.

Authors are concerned as well. “With the open-source culture on the Internet, the idea of ownership — of artistic ownership — goes away,” novelist and poet Sherman Alexie said recently. “It terrifies me.”

Opinions vary when publishers and authors are asked about what can be done to combat e-book piracy. Some publishers may try to minimise theft by delaying releases of e-books for several weeks after physical copies go on sale.

Some authors have even shrugged off e-book technology altogether. JK Rowling has thus far refused to make any of her Harry Potter books available digitally because of piracy fears and a desire to see readers experience her books in print.

However, recent statistics have shown that consumers who purchase an e-reader buy more books than those who stick with traditional bound volumes.

Amazon reported that Kindle owners buy, on average, 3.1 times as many books on the site as other customers.

Ana Maria Allessi, publisher for Harper Media at HarperCollins, told CNN: “E-book technology offers so many positives for both the author and the consumer that any revenue lost to piracy may just be a necessary evil.

“Consumers who invest in one of these dedicated e-book readers tend to load it up and read more. And what’s wrong with that?”

Source: The Straits Times