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Wednesday, 13 October 2010

eBooks - the pirates

The boom of Kindles, iPads, Sonys and other “book-readers” has started a boom in popularity of eBooks. This is the break many eBook authors and publishers have anticipated, but are now met with the issue many in the recording industry have faced over the last decade.
In the last year, Google searches for “illegal” downloading sites for eBooks are up about 50 percent. Attributor, a company that tracks infringement of copyrights hopes an appeal of decency to readers will cause them to make the right choices when choosing an eBook provider. Jim Pitkow of Attributor said, “I think there’s a hope that we can do things different than the other industries have done before."

In order to find out the scope of eBook piracy I  did  a Google search and found torrents for many illegal eBooks - the entire Louis L'amour catalogue for one thing as well as many contemporary bestsellers like Steig Larrson and Stephen King. I also found on Ebay of all places someone offering eBooks of the complete James Bond series. And this is Ebay who really should better control what its users are selling - out of interest I bought the Bond books and I simply got an email telling me where to download the books from. I immediately reported this seller to eBay, but the point is that the books should never have been available on the site in the first place.

Piracy will never be stopped - not totally and while publishers continue to charge too highly for eBooks and use the unpopular DRM which doesn't stop the professional pirates and merely pisses of the legitimate customer, they are giving the pirates a valid argument for what they do. But it's not all doom and gloom and likening eBooks to the MP3 situation gives a false impression - when MP3's came about we were able to easily convert our CD collection to the portable MP3 format, but transferring a print book into eBook is a much more difficult process as the book needs to be scanned, formatted and then converted and finally loaded onto our eReaders.

“There appears to be less angst towards book publishers than to music labels. People tend to be connected to the books they read in a different way, the relationship is different than with music.” Jim Pitkow

I agree fully with Mr Pitkow and publishers need to realise that the best way to combat piracy is to make the pricing of eBooks attractive and find a better system than the DRM currently used. For instance I recently bought Will Henry's Billy the Kid in eBook from Amazon but because the file is in the Kindle format and contains DRM I am unable to convert the  book for use on my Sony eReader - now I've paid for this book but can only use it on my computer or on one of Amazon's Kindles which I don't own and have no intention of buying until the device supports the ePub format which is fast becoming the industry standard.

 Publishers and eRetailers need to get their acts together.

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