‘We’re told to be grateful we even have readers’: pirated ebooks threaten the future of book series

From The Guardian:

According to the Intellectual Property Office’s latest study of online copyright infringement, 17% of ebooks read online are pirated – around 4m books.

Ebook piracy is “a very significant issue and of great concern” to publishers, said Stephen Lotinga of the Publishers Association, which works to take down and block pirated ebooks links and sites. “As an industry we’ve not had the situation that the music and film industries have gone through,” Lotinga said. “But that obviously is 4m ebooks that authors and publishers aren’t getting paid for, and should be getting paid for, and it’s a particular worry for publishers at a time when ebook sales are slightly in decline.”

. . . .

Shannon wrote on Twitter that “the thing that’s really exhausting about piracy is that authors are often not allowed to be upset by theft of their work. If we ask people not to do it, no matter how courteously, we’re told we should have more compassion or be grateful we even have readers. Outside the creative industry, people broadly dislike theft. Within the creative industry, it becomes a grey area where people aren’t sure.”

“Authors who ask you not to pirate are not attacking people who are too poor to afford books, or people who genuinely can’t access libraries,” wrote Shannon – but Lotinga at the Publishers Association said that those people were not often the perpetrators. Ebook pirates “tend to be from better-off socio-economic groups, and to be aged between 31 and 50-something. “It’s not the people who can’t afford books,” he said. “It’s not teenagers in their rooms.”

Link to the rest at The Guardian and thanks to Nate at The Digital Reader for the tip.

12 thoughts on “‘We’re told to be grateful we even have readers’: pirated ebooks threaten the future of book series”

  1. I have flipflopped about piracy so many times, based on various arguments about how it does/doesn’t affect an author’s sales.

    If it’s true that the people who pirate ebooks the most CAN afford to buy books, and just aren’t doing it, well, I’m back to “piracy is bad and hurts authors” again.

    • It can absolutely hurt a big seller. But that’s about it. So, what? About 1 out of every 200 fiction books published by the BPHs, and one out of every 5000 self-published titles? If piracy is affecting your sales in a way that actually matters, congratulations, you’re already an author making a full-time income on your writing.

  2. “… Stephen Lotinga of the Publishers Association …”

    So mainly representing those overpriced ebooks that Amazon isn’t allowed to mark down as I don’t think 17% of ebooks can be a mere 4 million unless you’re only counting the qig5.

    “If it’s true that the people who pirate ebooks the most CAN afford to buy books, and just aren’t doing it, well, I’m back to “piracy is bad and hurts authors” again.”

    Piracy is bad and hurts authors. Yes and No.

    If someone else is making money selling your (possibly overpriced) ebook, yes.

    If they weren’t going to buy it anyway, not really.

    If reading a pirated copy got a reader interested in your stories (and maybe buying the next one), no.

    This is one of the reasons Baen is still a thing, free ebooks, the others are priced pretty good.

    You want to see piracy be really bad for a writer? Try fighting it. 😉

  3. If it’s true that the people who pirate ebooks the most CAN afford to buy books, and just aren’t doing it, well, I’m back to “piracy is bad and hurts authors” again.

    We are all willing to pay some price for a good, but will gladly take it for less.

  4. The only reason why people can make the argument that piracy is good now is because the cops are on the job.

    Or I should say the cop. Of the store where most of our customers browse and buy.

    Amazon is its own cop. And does its job reasonably well.

    As do the cops of the other much smaller stores (B&N, Apple, etc.) do their jobs as well.

    If the cop were to go away and pirates were ever allowed to sell on Amazon without restraint, or Amazon was to lose its position as the place to find reading for most folks, then all the we luvs pirates arguments would evaporate.

    Because precious few will purchase your book at $2.99 when the exact knockoff is right there for 1 cent. Or free in some other scheme meant to bring income or satisfaction to the pirate.

  5. the lack of ethics re theft by ‘carriers’, by those who steal the works offered, continue to be the issue for many of us.

    On the other hand, a good friend who is a young man in an e eu country who is trying to finish law school in his nation, said he paid the 30 dollar [equiv usa $] to enjoin a pirate ‘membership’ site to buy a required textbook for his class for ‘free.’ The textbook was near $350 [US$]. He literally would have had to take a pause at school, for he had not the $350 for the book. His country is still recovering from 60 years of economic mayhem and destruction of many layers of their cultures.

    I can see that I have a set aside re textbooks that are beyond the reach of a student, any student who has not the money for the ambition-murder prices to students who are trying to better their lives. Many students have no parents/ grandparents to help. It’s just them. And often going to school and working more than one job. Often enough having a family to support.

    In those cases, I think of where the $30 dollar fee is going, who it gives riches to. But more I think of my own bias of detestation of many textbook publishers whose huge prices are often folded into student loans, in others words, their high prices are supported by government arranged loans that are not meant to subsidize high price fixing.

    For authors of fic and nonfiction that are not textbooks; it is theft by all parties concerned, and enrichment of the carrier through membership fees. I want the authors, all of them, to be paid for their work.

    We are setting up a pirate site for our own books. For a $100 membership fee, customers can have 32 books/audios series of ours for free. However, we’d also gather their emails if they wish to opt in, their preferences, their general data to plan our publishing niches further. Plus the cost of membership uncut before U. Sam.

    We’ll see how it goes

  6. USAF,

    You’ll be happy to know that students don’t need to resort to piracy with textbooks. They simply need to look for legal alternatives such as open source.

    A study was done on this very thing at BYU.

    Research from a trio of BYU professors, which is referred to as the most rigorous study of its kind, has examined the effectiveness of open textbooks, which are free, vs. traditional textbooks, which are not. Over the span of multiple studies, the researchers found that 85 percent of both students and instructors believed open textbooks were as good or better than traditional textbooks. The results also show that students learn the same amount, or more, from open textbooks when compared with traditional textbooks.

    More here: https://news.byu.edu/news/students-who-switch-open-source-textbooks-dont-see-grades-drop

    • Thank you John Brown. Will keep that in mind. I wonder what happens when prof has assigned a specific title, edition and will be assigning readings and lessons out of that text. In my friend’s case the law textbook was in his native language: Serbian. Does opensource, have those features?

      • It looks like Open Access projects in Serbia are focused more on journals, which makes sense (especially since textbooks and government interactions there are….complicated). There are six peer reviewed law journals in Serbian in the Directory of Open Access Journals. That’s a pretty fair amount!

    • thanks John. In Serbia, as here, students are required to buy the exact book, exact edition, assigned by the prof. Makes it rough on students who struggle financially and yet are so motivated ….

  7. I feel for the profs, they need to be able to plan for their classes, to know what the students are reading, to assign specific readings. On the other hand, as a student, I too hated the enormous prices for recycled ideas and the incredible loss of value once class was over and it was time to pass the books on. Academic publishers really are avaricious swine (my apologies to real swine).

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