Is eBook Piracy a Matter of Concern?

The last decade saw a humongous increase in the piracy of music and videos. With many users buying, and then sharing their music and movies, piracy affected this industry in a huge way, causing losses of billions of dollars. And it was not just limited to music and video. With computers becoming so important in everyday life, software too become a major field for piracy. Right from entire operating systems to seemingly useless programs, piracy captured it all.

In the latest trend, piracy has made its way into the world of eBooks as well. As technology has improved, and more and more affordable eBook readers are available, digital content for these readers is also on an increase. These digital books cost less than conventional paper books, and many manufacturers also claim that they are easier to read than regular paper books and are better for the eyes. Taking this into account, eBook readers have become the latest rage for reading aficionados. Almost all such devices have an inbuilt ‘store’ from where users can buy books directly, making the process of getting a new book a whole lot easier. All in all, the pros of having an e-book reader outweigh the cons, and hence, many people are making the shift to digital reading.

With the increase in the popularity of eBooks, pirated copies of these books were bound to be seen sooner or later. With popular books, such as Dan Brown’s ‘The Lost Symbol’ being downloaded free more than 100,000 times, it can safely be said that piracy has made an entry in the eBook sector as well. Efforts to curb piracy have been undertaken from time to time, and the last decade saw some major steps being taken to curb music, video, and software piracy, with sites being shut down and even individual users being sued. While these steps have shown some respite in the amount of pirated content, there remains a huge amount of pirated content available on the web.

News of how easy it is for eBooks to be pirated has made authors reconsider if they should make their books available in the digital format. Illegal sales of almost 100,000 copies in a few days is a nightmare for any bestselling author. With free digital copies available, sales of regular printed copies also tend to suffer. However, with the rapid popularity of the eBook format, these authors are caught between a rock and a hard place. Statistics show that individuals with eBook readers buy books 3 times more than regular readers. And with quarterly sales of more than $35 million dollars, the eBook industry is too big for authors to miss out on. But the worry still remains, and this can be seen with what author Sherman Alexie said “I’d be really worried if I were Stephen King or James Patterson or a really big bestseller that when their books become completely digitized, how easy it’s going to be to pirate them”.

Though Sherman Alexie has a valid point, there is always going to be piracy, no matter how tight security is, and no matter what punishments are meted out. Ana Maria Allessi, at HarperCollins put this decision for authors in a new perspective, “eBook technology offers so many positives for both the author and the consumer that any revenue lost to piracy may just be a necessary evil”. Though not many authors may follow that kind of logic, she may be right. After all, even with all the billions of illegal song downloads, Apple’s iTunes Store has still managed to be the largest seller of music in the world.

Or, you could just be like J.K. Rowling. With more than 400 million copies of her books sold, she has just refused to make digital formats of the Harry Potter books available.

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