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People who Pirate eBooks Do Not Buy Them

12 September 2017

From Good Ereader:

There are millions of pirated ebooks online and many publishers have begun to go after the pirates and either shut them down or block access to websites via an ISP. New research suggests that this might be futile, removing ebooks online does not influence sales. That is it say, pirates are not suddenly buying the book from an online retailer such as Amazon or Kobo.

Three researchers from Poland’s University of Warsaw conducted an analysis that covered some 240 books  in the Polish market in 2016, with a range of genres represented by titles published by 10 companies that agreed to take part in the program.

“We signed an agreement with a professional agency that deals with such research activities,” Krawczyk told Ludwika Tomala from Poland’s news agency PAP. The agency removed pirated copies of some 120 books” from the Internet, Krawczyk said to Tomala. “Whether pirated copies were easy or difficult to obtain turned out not to have an actual impact on the sales of a given book.”

“While most of the publishers suspected a negative impact of piracy on legal sales,” the researchers wrote, “we find no evidence of a significant shift in sales because of pirated copies being available online.”

. . . .

It is estimated that pirated content costs the publishing industry over $315 million dollars in 2016.

Link to the rest at Good Ereader

Ebooks, Piracy

22 Comments to “People who Pirate eBooks Do Not Buy Them”

  1. Al the Great and Powerful

    “we find no evidence of a significant shift in sales because of pirated copies being available online.”

    “It is estimated that pirated content costs the publishing industry over $315 million dollars in 2016.”

    These two statements do not agree. Either piracy steals sales, or it doesn’t.

    • Agreed, Al. The OP describes a study that essentially, the people who steal ebooks wouldn’t buy them.

    • They don’t have to agree.
      The OP is pointing out that the research gives the lie to the estimates.

      • That would have been more clear if that last line had instead appeared in the first paragraph, as in “that is the belief, but this is the reality.” Making it the last statement makes it easy to misconstrue as “this is the estimated cost with the foregoing research taken into account.”

    • Thank you for pointing out this incongruity (I’d prefer to say something less honorable is at work, but…). But I didn’t go back to the OP, either. As Felix suggests, some of the omitted material may explain the choice better.

  2. Both the ~20-year experience at Baen Books and the evidence from the iTunes rollout show that most folks would rather pay a MODEST price for safe convenient access than to pirate for “free.” Also that treating your customers like customers rather than like would-be-pirates works well.

    Various researchers used to report seeing comments in “pirate” channels along the lines of “but don’t pirate Baen — they sell at low fair prices and don’t use DRM”

    Given that past experience, the OP seems like rather old news.

    • Speaking of old news, there is a vintage article from 2010, an interview with an ebook uploader, that says pretty much the same thing, that a great many book pirates are hoarders who don’t actually read the ebooks they download:

      http://themillions.com/2010/01/confessions-of-a-book-pirate.html

      More recently, there are reports of readily available ebook collections features thousands of ebooks: more than any person could read in a lifetime.

      Of course, lobbyists would hardly get much attention if they (accurately) reported that ebook piracy displaced maybe a million or two worth of sales globally.

      • They don’t care about pirate sites. It’s a smokescreen. The real concern is preventing general social acceptance of sending the latest best seller to the sorority email list. Or a whole library of best sellers.

        Talking about pirate sites keeps the practice on the unsavory list of stuff, and works against social acceptance of emailing.

        Fight the battle far away from what is most important.

        • True enough.
          The big publishers talk a lot about ebook piracy but unlike Hollywood and the RIAA they don’t actually do anything about pirate sites.
          The piracy talk is all about justifying DRM and app-locked content and lobbying politicians against fair use and first sale.

  3. No doubt this study also claims that no one would ever pay for an ebook that they can read for free, in which case I have to wonder why Amazon keeps adding a little cash to my bank account each month as those same stories are out in the wild for free.

  4. Al the Great and Powerful

    And the story doesn’t tell us enough to be sure they were right.

    How thoroughly did they interdict pirate copies online? Perhaps there were still sites with the books available to pirates – the Internet links around blocks; for example torrents are all about getting content from many sites, unless they cut them ALL off, the books are still available.

    Were many people buying the books beforehand? How many? Why were they buying those books? Are the pirates in that same group, or are they a different set (are the pirates wanting the books for the same reason the buyers do, such as a textbook or reference or are they opportunistic scavengers who see free pie on the windowsill)?

  5. They also never seem to take into account that maybe some people are pirating ebook copies of books they already own in paper. When nearly no legitimate purchasing systems allow for so much as a small discount on the ebook after you buy the paper book, it’s no wonder someone would do that. Maybe you read the book, don’t like it enough to have it keep taking up physical space, but think there’s a small chance you’ll want to read it again later. This is why publishers need to at the very least provide discounted rates for ebooks when people buy paper books from the same company (like Amazon, where it’s easily tracked). I know there are some indie (or indie-ish) books that do this. I don’t know why it’s not more common. Who’s going to buy $9.99 for an ebook when they’ve already paid $9.99 for the paperback? They might be willing to pay $2.99 for it in ebook, but buying it again at full price? They may as well just pirate a copy for free.

    Speaking of which, I wish there was a way to include a one-time-use coupon code for an ebook in a paper book. Even doing everything through Amazon/Createspace, I don’t know of any way to make this happen. I’d love to see that as an option, though.

    • Shawna, I thought, though I haven’t looked recently, that either CS or Amazon offered authors the opportunity to set a price for an ebook when the pback had already been purchased.

      ETA: Of course, I’ve been wrong before!

      • Tony is correct for Amazon. Called matchbook. You can set the price of the ebook (I always set at Free) for people who have already purchased the paperback.

        Amazon really hasn’t done anything to market this, but right under the digital price on the product page it says Kindle MatchBook…and what you will pay for the ebook if you’ve bought the paper.

        Mary Louisa

      • I’ve noticed this on the handfull of CS books I’ve bought. It’s a nice start, but it needs to happen more often. Meaning that regular publishers need to take it up. And there needs to be some way to offer this discounted rate no matter where the ebook or paperback is purchased. I want to be able to publish a book through Ingram, have someone order it through their local bookstore, and then have them able to use a code in the back of the book for a dicounted ebook from Amazon, Nook, iBooks, or wherever else. Heck, even having an easy way for them to use that one-time code to purchase an ebook directly from my author website (which I don’t currently have set up to direct sell but would like to in the future) would be better than nothing, but I don’t know of a good website-store service that allows that, and it would require some way to insert unique codes into individual copies of paper books. Okay, so that part’s a tricky problem, but it’s still something I’d like to see happen somehow.

        Discounted ebooks when you buy the paper needs to be an industry standard, is what I’m saying, not a rare exception.

        • I don’t know about Ingram, but certainly at CS, the backmatter of the pback can include QR codes, directing the reader to your web site. Ingram might not want a link to Amazon there… not sure about that. But the QR code could open possibilities for you.

          • That QR is still fixed, Tony – the same on every book. The POD producer would have to implement some kind of unique code generator (a simple “0001”, “0002” wouldn’t cut it, either) – AND communicate it to wherever the customer was to redeem it, if it wasn’t their own site. As a former software developer, I would foresee several ulcers from the attempt…

            I do recall one scheme from several years ago – and I don’t even remember who the publisher was – but they allowed the purchaser of the book to unlock additional content on their website. (Machine readable source code and some images, if I recall correctly.) The scheme was that when you got into their access page, it generated a random question, like “On page 93, line 17, the fourth word is?” Answer the question correctly, and you got in. Cumbersome, but that might be a solution (for your own website, and it would take some code work to set up – no, I am no longer in the business…)

        • I use matchbook for all my print version. The ebook is either free or 99ct when you buy the print.

          Unfortunately, that’s only available in the US store (it would violate Germany’s and France’s price fixing laws, anyway), but I do like to offer that option because I think it’s fair.

  6. one of the comments in the OP says the research was 2012/2013 too.

  7. Let’s not forget, folks, that a large number of pirate sites where you find your titles don’t actually carry pirated books — they’re fronts for virus attacks.

    It’s your book’s title that is the content for those sites, not the book’s content itself, and no amount of behavior change on any buyer’s part is going to make any difference.

  8. Wherever people get their books from they will choose from a slection of titles available to them. What they don’t see, they won’t miss. Why would anyone think people who get their books from pirate sites would be any different?

  9. “It is estimated that pirated content costs the publishing industry over $315 million dollars in 2016.”

    Have they ever done an estimate on how much unreasonably priced books/ebooks cost the publishing industry?

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