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Friday, 17 September 2010

eBook piracy: Does it matter?

In genre publishing  the big, bad story of the last few years is the same story as it has been for 15 or 20 years, which is the gradual hollowing out of mass market as a viable publishing channel for good sf/fantasy/horror/westerns/whatever and the whole eThing actually offers many new optimistic channels for book selling.

Some would argue that the biggest threat to a writer is not piracy but obscurity - Personally I'm not overly concerned about eBook piracy - Don't get me wrong I do think writers should be paid for their work (I certainly want to get paid)  but I really can't believe piracy will effect anyone that much. And besides some of the prices charged for eBooks is a blatant rip off and whilst this continues it will make piracy attractive to some or many. This was the chief reason the music industry took a well deserved beating by MP3 piracy. If CD's were then more fairly priced, as they are now, then piracy would not have grown to the state it did. I do honestly believe that most people who actually bought music have continued to do so. I know I do.

There is no justification for the bigger publishers charging the same for a eBook as a brand new hardcover copy. If eBooks were fairly priced (maybe slightly lower than a paperback) then there would be no point of piracy. A perfect example of eBook pricing is when I bought Stephen King's, Under the Dome on eBook only last week. It cost me £2 more than the mass market paperback but I stuck with the eOption because - well, frankly I'm used to reading on my eReader now and enjoy it.  I actually prefer the eReader to physical books when I'm out and about. Another point is that the physical book was massive and carrying it around would have caused a hernia. But the point is I do believe I was overcharged for the eBook - but, whatever, I bought it anyway.

We tend to forget that paper books already have more than one reader. The best estimates  are that for every book sold there are four or five other readers at some point in its life span. And of course all those second-hand books sold everyday are, technically, pirated copies since books are not meant to be resold.

Publishers really do need to look at their pricing structure and change the DRM coding often used if they are not to drive readers to the pirates. For instance eBooks I've bought and paid for from Amazon will not work on my Sony eReader because of the DRM.  I can convert them to the ePub format but the DRM stays. So the only way I can read these books is on my computer screen or buy a Kindle. And I ain't buying a Kindle until the machine supports ePub. Now if someone were to offer me pirated copies of these eBooks that I have already paid for, in order than I can read them on my reader I wouldn't see anything wrong in that. Morally, I'd be squeaky clean.  Amazon on the other hand are hoping to monopolise ePublishing and tie everyone into their own device. Sure it's a great device but it is most certainly not healthy for one seller to dominate a market. I still use Amazon for physical books - I think they provide the best book buying experience it's possible to get, but the Kindle really should offer formats other the Kindle's own. The Kindle will handle PDF's but then PDF's whilst readable are often oddly formatted on many readers.

""We can change the price from one week to the next, from one day to the next in some cases, so we can see very quickly what impact a price change has on that title," he said. "In the print world when you decide to change the price, that price may come through into the marketplace a few months later, it may be another six to 12 months later before you actually see any impact on sales." Tim Holman, Orbit publishers.

Price is the key, more so than DRM which whilst a nuisance is bearable(just). For many years books sales have been dropping while fewer and fewer people read for pleasure. But these new eReaders are all the rage and by combining fair prices with the latest fad then maybe publishers can snare a few more readers and turn them into lifelong readers.


Anonymous said...

Once you get used to obscurity, the hurt goes away.

Richard Prosch said...

I agree re: the pricing. It is frustrating to pay only a small bit less for the eBook. On the other end, I've tried some of Amazon's free stuff and had mixed results --some are formatted well, some are all over the place. Typos are rampant across the board.

Ron Scheer said...

I have not heard that selling 2nd-hand books is illegal. Is that something in the UK?

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

The copyright says - this book shall not be resold without prior permission from the publisher