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Monday, 11 May 2009

Book Piracy...

Found a really interesting article over at Micro Mart (http://www.micromart.co.uk/) discussing book piracy and the rise of E-Readers..... I didn't realise EBook piracy was such a problem (but then, every other type of piracy is, yeah?!!).

Pirates of the bookstore

While the music and film industries loudly proclaim their battle with the pirates, publishers and authors have been rather more quiet. But the problem affects them just as much, as David Crookes discovers.

Everybody knows that CDs and DVDs can be copied. Even when the manufacturers utilise stringent copy protection, it’s never too long before the pirates crack it and illicit music and films find their way on to the internet or into a car boot sale.

But books? Most people would think producing something on paper would make it difficult to copy. Photocopiers have been around for a few decades but no-one in their right mind would stand and scan a book in page by page, stick them together and sell them. For a start, the resulting ‘book’ would be instantly noticeable as a second-rate copy - and it would work out just as expensive as buying the book in the first place.

Then optical character recognition (OCR) was invented. This enabled people to scan in reams of text into a format that could then be easily edited. In short, it meant people who persevered long and hard enough could scan an entire book, edit the text to ensure it flowed correctly and end up with a Word document that could be shared.

With that power at their disposal, it was only a matter of time until people took these ebooks and sold them. The cost to the seller? Only time. The cost to the buyer? Less than it costs to get hold of a beautifully-bound book, as long as the buyer is content to read a book on a screen.
Such publishing pirates, however, are costing the book industry hundreds of millions of pounds and the booming trade in illegally copied books shows no signs of slowing down. he impact of ebooks could be seen in 2003 when a new cookbook by Jamie Oliver was circulated on the Iternet as a large electronic file. It had well-designed pages and colour photographs. The publisher denied it was an official Oliver release and they were not lying - someone had copied recipes from his previous cookbooks and presented them as a new release.

What surprised the publishing industry was the speed at which the file whizzed around the globe and suddenly authors, publishers and agents were alert to a threat which had worried their counterparts in the music and film industries for years.

One of the most popular outlets for such ebooks is eBay. It only takes a search of popular titles such as Harry Potter to find someone who has posted up a counterfeit copy. Micro Mart found a copy of Jamie Oliver’s Naked Chef 2 cookbook on sale as an ebook for 99p with the selling writing: “The cookbook is on CD and opens in Word. You can print off any section that you want. It comes exactly as it is printed in the actual book (with pictures).” The hunger for his recipes refuses to go away, it seems.

Such cheap costs has meant the market in pirated books has exploded over the past eighteen months. It is estimated that publishers lose £260 million a year in sales of hardback and paperback books.

Organisation
Much of this is due to greater organisation by the pirates. It may well have started as a handful of people scanning in books in their bedrooms, but it has escalated into piracy rings. Pirates trade counterfeit ebooks with each other over the Internet which saves them the hassle of originating dozens of books themselves.

Author Stephen Clarke, who wrote the popular novels A Year In The Merde and Merde Actually, says the problem hits authors hard. He said: “We already get very small royalties per book. I think, after agent's commission, I get about 40p a paperback. That's before tax and only if they're sold at full price. When the book is sold in a 3-for-2 or half price offer, you get proportionately smaller royalties. So it is certainly frustrating if someone is selling the books to people who would otherwise buy from a bookshop. The authors lose a lot of money.”
Some people argue that book piracy is not different to borrowing a library book or lending a novel to a friend. But it is - whenever you borrow a library book, a small royalty is paid to the author, and handing a novel to a friend is different to sending hundreds of ebooks to strangers.
The book pirates tend to target the current best sellers with Harry Potter author J K Rowling being a particular favourite. Other high profile victims include thriller writer Patricia Cornwell and Terry Pratchett, author of the Discworld series of books and a man who has allowed only one of his best selling novels, Thud!, to be produced as an ebook. But pirates are not afraid to raid the huge library of great novels written in the past - books by James Bond writer Ian Fleming and children’s author Roald Dahl are frequently copied, for example.

The problem is so bad, that publishers and agents - sometimes even authors themselves - scour eBay and do numerous Google searches in a bid to clamp down on the illegal trade. Often, they strike gold. It was reported in The Times that a pirate sold more than £22,000 of pirated audio books for £300 on eBay in 42 hours.

And eBay is keen to stamp it out. “A comprehensive scheme is run by eBay.co.uk to help protect brand owners from piracy and fakes on the website,” says an eBay spokeswoman when asked what the auction site was doing to tackle the problem. “It's called VeRO, the Verified Rights Owner Programme. We’d recommend all brand owners [publishers and authors] to sign up as soon as possible to help get the fakes off the site.”

The VeRo programme has seen 10,000 companies and individuals sign up, representing every type of intellectual property - from major software companies to videogame developers to rock bands to luxury good manufacturers. It enables victims of book piracy, for example, to quickly notify eBay staff of any illegality with the promise of the listing being rapidly withdrawn.It also gives participants the ability to obtain identifying information about eBay users to allow swift action to be taken.

It still doesn’t stop people trying, though, and the feeling among many authors is that they are facing a losing battle, constantly battling against the tide, hoping a tidal wave will not engulf them. Indeed, the Publishers Association, which represents around 200 publishers, says it has spotted tens of thousands of illegal Internet sales.

In an annual report, the association said it was continuing to refine its anti-piracy strategy, conceding “there are very few, if any, easy wins in the fight against piracy; we have to recognise that this campaign will be expensive and will run for years with, to misquote Lenin, the price of success being eternal vigilance.”

That was in 2004. In 2005, the problem increased, according to association spokesman Rob Hamandi, because it offers a path to cash without the hassle presented by other criminal activities such as selling drugs. It’s as simple as keeping an electronic file on a hard drive.But does that take away the romanticism of buying a book? Do people really want to read books on computers rather than have the thrill of a wad of paper in their hands? For many bibliophiles, the suggestion that people would abandon real books for electronic versions is absurd and they point to the success of Amazon as proof that new technology such as the internet has led to increased sales of old ‘tech’ such as books.

But then music buffs said CDs would never replace the thrill of vinyl. Instead we’ve seen not only CDs do just that but digital MP3 files take the concept even further. Now we don’t even have to use portable media.

Are Ebooks The Way?

The rest of this article can be read at... http://www.micromart.co.uk/features/article/default.aspx?id=23258
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3 comments:

Aaron Spuler said...

Very interesting. Some people will go to such lengths to 'beat' the system when it is in fact more work that way (the nerds that digitize the books). But most of the time, how would an average Joe know that he was buying a counterfeit product?? That (and the last post about e-readers) are the reasons I buy actual books and none of this e-book nonsense. Gotta support all the kick-ass scifi writers I can...

Andy Rem2 said...

I think there are a couple of different ways to pirate books, and it's not always obvious; you have MP3 (or whatever) recordings of audio books - easily downloadable by Mr Pirate, then you have the text itself, whether it be in PDF format or whatever, to be read on an E-Reader. I don't really believe people don't know they use dodgy stuff; does anybody accidentally click DOWNLOAD ANIMAL PORN? I think not (although I knew this one guy...)

Aaron Spuler said...

Was that guy's name Andy by any chance? :)