Who’s Stealing eBooks?

Production and sales of eBooks increased rapidly in the last decade. Indie authors may have led the way, but  bestsellers (and their publishers) soon joined the eBook revolution. Publishers begot lawyers;  copyrights, DRM, and royalties soon followed.

Who’s stealing eBooks, and who is paying?

What’s the future for digital rights management, and how does this affect publishers and authors? Our research into eBook piracy found some interesting statistics illustrated in the following graphic:

whos-stealing-ebooks

Who’s Stealing Ebooks?

Book piracy has been around for longer than you might expect. Centuries ago, rogue publishers distributed censored texts and cheap reprints using good old-fashioned paper and ink.

But today’s digital world has spawned a whole new breed of piracy – electronic book piracy – and there’s a raft of new counter-measures in place to keep them at bay.

Piracy in Numbers

$8.19B US eBook sales

  • Projected annual revenue from eBooks in US by 2017 (this is up from $2.31B in 2011).

$10M library.nu and file it sales

  • Annual revenue for eBook pirate sites library.nu and ifile.it, until they were closed down in 2012.
  • 22.5% of today’s consumer book sales are eBooks.
  • 76% of digital content meant for academic use is available for free from pirate sites.
  • 78% rise in unauthorized book downloads on BitTorret following the launch of the iPad in 2010.

but…

  • 75% of eBooks in the US are bought, not copied or downloaded for free.
  • 69% of eBook owners purchased all the books in their collection.

Disproportionate Measures?

DMCA Notice

  • 1.45M education blogs were shut down in response to a DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act) claim when a copy of the 270-word Becks Hopelessness Scale was shared on the Edublogs website.

LendInk Shutdown

  • LendInk facilitates legitimate eBook lending between readers without hosting files itself. It was shutdown in 2012 when angry authors wrongly claimed it was a piracy site.

Boundless Lawsuit

  • Boundless has been sued by publishers such as Pearson, Cengage and Macmillion Higher Education for creating free versions of their textbooks.

Torrenting Herbs

  • A single individual had to pay $7,000 in damages for sharing “Herb Gardening For Dummies” on BitTorrent.

The Digital Rights Management Argument

How it works…

  • Protected eBooks are “scrambled” by the seller, and the customer “unscrambles” them using a key or special software.
  • Cracking DRM-protected books is easily done using free software and plug-ins.
  • In the long term, it becomes more convenient for potential customers to read, share and re-sell cracked (pirated) eBooks.

However, circumventing DRM is still illegal in the US under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act.

Case Studies…

  • Tor Books UK Tor Books UK reported there was no discernible increase in piracy of its books after removing DRM from all titles for a year.
  • Harry Potter JK Rowling famously withheld publishing Harry Potter eBooks for several years, citing fears of eBook piracy. The eBooks were eventually released DRM-free, even on Amazon.
  • The Result Sales of Harry Potter eBooks hit $4.8 million in the first month, despite rampant piracy. Physical book sales also rose due to the publicity.

Authors and Publishers on eBook Piracy

“Rewarding customers, not threatening them, is the most effective tool for getting money in the bank, despite nonsensical revenge fantasies about busting pirates.”

  • Cory Doctorow
    Blogger, journalist, and science fiction author

“While we have not yet seen harmful effects of eBook piracy and file sharing on our eBook portfolio, these are nevertheless considered serious topics.”

  • Springer Publishing
    Quoted in 2013

“Just because someone buys a book or movie or song, or gets a download off the Internet, doesn’t mean that they own the right to reproduce and distribute it.”

  • Stephanie Meyer
    Young-adult fiction writer

“The ultimate goal of a writer is to be read. Money comes later.”

  • Paulo Coelho
    Author of “The Alchemist”

10 Million
Russian sales of Paulo Coelho’s “The Alchemist” after he personally released a “pirated” Russian translation. Previously is was selling just 1,000 copies a year.

Even in the days or yore, book piracy thrived in response to the inefficiencies of legitimate book cartels. Today’s publishers are divided over the harm, or even benefits, that eBook piracy has on the industry.

What remains true is that many sellers are discovering that readers are willing to pay for the real deal – as long as the deal is good.

Would You Steal an EBook?

Sources

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