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View Poll Results: Will Piracy help ebooks?
Yes it will! 10 23.81%
Yes it will if the hardware is right (eink?) 17 40.48%
It'll harm the progress of ebooks on the market 3 7.14%
It won't make much of a difference 12 28.57%
Voters: 42. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 04-06-2006, 01:04 PM   #1
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Will piracy force the success of ebooks?

I thought I'd ask this question here...I'd like to see whether more people share this opinion.

As you can probably all remember, the birth of iTunes and it's competitors was mainly due to piracy.
mp3s on p2p networks and illegal sites forced companies to offer their own online-solutions. After Napster went commercial (with little success as far as I know) those mp3 sites just started popping up everywhere. Small, lightweight and cheap players swamped the market and you can hardly go anywhere without seeing people grooving to the tunes that come from those ultra-small mp3 players hanging around their necks. The biggest player on this market is Apple with it's iTunes/iPod hardware/Content solution. While I don't plan on using an iPod, I use iTunes a lot and love the fact that I can get the Track I need and want instead of having to find a shop, having to find a CD and then buying a 15 or more Euro CD just to get the track I need. I like to listen to classical music, and the supply there is pretty meagre in German retail stores, so that's another plus. Although I don't like the DRM stuff and the "for iPod only" policy, I actually find myself using iTunes a lot.

For books things are even easier. They don't even need to be ripped or anything. Every modern book starts as PDF or similar datafile anyway, so it would be cheap and easy to set this up. With a proper device the interest in reading files loaded from the internet will probably rise...and look at the filesharing sites...they have a pretty large database of books online already. I did some research and actually found quality to be OK as well. So do you think the piracy scene will help us one again and force the reluctant publishers and authors to offer their content in digital form?
Go ahead, take the poll and post your opinion.
But PLEASE don't turn this into a "where to get warez" discussion.
Thanks
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Old 04-06-2006, 02:38 PM   #2
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I think it will help as it has done for music, but only if the hardware's right... music is different in that respect, if you want to walk around the house hearing your music, you can turn the volume up on your pc as the simplest solution, apart from burning a cd and using a discman, etc. I love reading, have downloaded a lot of books from Project Gutenberg, for example, and have been totally put off reading on my pc due to lack of portability and eyestrain. All those files are now waiting for the Iliad.

Regards, Ela.
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Old 04-06-2006, 03:16 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CommanderROR
So do you think the piracy scene will help us one again and force the reluctant publishers and authors to offer their content in digital form?
Yes of course! And it helps right now.

The publishers are not so stupid to loose their profit in reading business - they understand, people can get what they need with no payment, but with some troubles with geting content, sorting, formatting, and so on.

For publishers it costs almost nothing to make digital version of any book.

Why should they loose this chance to help people to get rid of this small troubles and their money? ))
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Old 04-06-2006, 03:43 PM   #4
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Hi,

I think that piracy is too small a problem for ebooks right now too force the necessary kicking and screaming move that the publishers need to make. Look at the currently aborted Tor non drmed books at Baen/Webscriptions. Tor was willing, the prices while still somewhat high, better than usual, demand high at least in terms of sf books, the immediate response of people aware of the project when Tor books were up was quite good considering the selection/prices, and the project gets canned by Tor's parent publisher after a week or two.
Luckily I bought the books that interested me in time to have them, but it is a pity since that could have been a very good experiment for the larger market.
Baen's experience with non drmed cheap ebooks is very positive, but they are a small, relatively niche sf publisher, while Tor is as big as it gets into the sf field. Now people computed the amount Tor is potentially losing considering only the books available in pirated form and it came to quite a decent chunk, and the answer seems to be " so what".
What will bring the ebooks explosion that we all anticipate is Google/Amazon or some other online company, or a university consortium scanning enough backlist titles, making them available to people in a way or another, combined to a good, cheap ebook reader (say an Irex priced at 150-200$). I think that when it will happen, it will happen fast, "overnight like", but that we are 2-3 years away (my estimate is based on the tablet experience, which 2-3 years back were selling in the 2-3 k range, while now they dropped to even under 1k, so Irex sells now at 600, in 2-3 years it should sell at 1/3 if the ebooks are there)

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Old 04-06-2006, 03:49 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CommanderROR
ISo do you think the piracy scene will help us one again and force the reluctant publishers and authors to offer their content in digital form?
Not necessarily. One reason for the success in the case of music was that most of the content was already available digitally in the form of the CDs. So everybody with a PC was able to convert his music collection into compressed audio files faster then it would take to listen through it. This had to two effects, the first being of course that every CD was available on p2p-networks hours after release. Secondly it familiarized people with the concept of music as data and showed them the advantages of playing music from HDs rather then CDs. The danger of lost sales through filesharing an the demand for “file-packaged” music from the consumers in essence created the “mp3-shops”.

With books on the other hand most content is of the dead tree variety. Converting them into a pdf is not simply a matter of pressing “start” on a ripping-tool. It involves scanning, OCR, proofreading and re-layouting. Not something many people will do with their complete library. So the percentage of books that is available on p2p is not only much smaller than in the case of music, but also of a very variable quality, thus not nearly as great a threat to publishers. And as almost nobody owns an portable ebook-reader there is not even an advantage in convenience over a real book.
I think that only when most books are also released in digital form will we see a greater number of pirated content.
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Old 04-06-2006, 06:14 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rosentredere
With books on the other hand most content is of the dead tree variety. Converting them into a pdf is not simply a matter of pressing “start” on a ripping-tool. It involves scanning, OCR, proofreading and re-layouting. Not something many people will do with their complete library. So the percentage of books that is available on p2p is not only much smaller than in the case of music, but also of a very variable quality, thus not nearly as great a threat to publishers.
Don't underestimate the enthusiasm of the underground e-book scene. Remember Harry Potter 6, which was scanned, proofread and pirated in less than a day after the official paperbook release? These guys are equipped with professional scanners and OCR software. As a matter of fact, I would guess that each month an addition of 500-1000 new books get out as illegal e-books. Sure it's not yet the size of the library of Alexandria, but it's getting there. And I bet the pirated books include most of what the average reader would ever want to read.

To answer your question, though, will it help? I don't know. Piracy of that sort is a two-edged sword. On the one hand, it makes access to a new technology easier and raises general awareness; on the other hand, publishers are not exactly known to be eager to get their products out in digitalized form - and piracy ain't going to convince them any better.
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Old 04-06-2006, 10:52 PM   #7
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I really wish that publishers would allow me to obtain a digital copy of text that I purchase in paper form. Say I drop by my local bookstore and pick up the latest bestseller. I feel that I also deserve to have a digital copy of the text that I just bought.

Now say I am not entitled to that digital text. What happens if I scan the book I just bought for personal use? I would now own both a paper book and a digital book. Now (hang with me here) say I download the same book from somewhere. Owning the digital text shouldn't be the issue. It's the downloading that's the illegal part. What if my friend illegally downloads a book and gives it to me? Would this be illegal for me to be in possesion of said text?

Lots of issues to consider. All is not clear in the mp3 world right now either. Illegal music downloading still happens all the time but Apple and others are still able to turn a profit. I think publishers should take the same approach. Provide cheap digital downloads (non-DRM) that will allow people to enjoy their books wherever they are. Many people don't even read ebooks anyways so the publishing industry will never suffer (if that's the right word) like the music industry did. Frankly speaking the vast majority of people simply enjoy reading actual books. The touch, the smell, and the yellow pages have an appeal to folks that digital text cannot reproduce. Music is music on the other hand whether you downloaded it illegally or are listening to it from a legal CD.

In short I hope the publishing industry realizes that they cannot stop piracy. Heavens, the movie industry and the music industry can't even stop it. It poses much less of a threat to their profits than pirated music and movies do to their respective industries. Publishers: Allow your books to be purchased as straight-up HTML, non-DRM protected, and cheaper than the paperback/hardback counterparts. You will show both book lovers and technology lovers that you understand the current state of reading in our society.
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Old 04-07-2006, 05:21 AM   #8
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I think a large part of ebook piracy will vanish when a combination of things is done.

1) Give ebooks on the internet a normal price instead of insane prices. You can bring me a whole load of arguements...but I cannot see why an ebook novel sometimes has to cost 22$ like a hardcover book on its first day release.
2) The ebook underground needs to be adressed. Somewhat. You will never get rid of it anyway. In fact, right now it is probably not much of a threat at all. I would not know though.

Make an iTunes for books with cheap books and you're about there.
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Old 04-07-2006, 06:18 AM   #9
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Very interesting statements so far...
Just one thing tough...somebody voted fo "Will do harm...", i wonder what his/her reasons were...so far all opinions have been "positive" so I'd be very interested in the other side.
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Old 04-07-2006, 07:33 AM   #10
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I think that the Harry Potter books are the exception that proves the rule. I'm sure many of us have downloaded at least one pirate ebook, probably because there was no official version available to buy, but I suspect that most of the HP downloaders have little or no awareness of ebooks - they just want to get their latest HP fix without paying for the hardback.

The number of people currently using ebooks is probably tiny compared to those who use digital music files or even digital video files, and as noted above only a small dedicated group of people have the means or the time or the will to create new pirate ebooks from paper originals.

So with the exception of some blockbusters like the HP series I doubt that the current scale of pircay will of much concern to publishers. But the relative difficulty in creating priate ebooks from paper (compared to music from CD or video files from DVD) might make the publishers even more focused on DRM because there's likely to be more effort made to crack and share the official releases.
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Old 04-07-2006, 12:00 PM   #11
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I have to agree with murray. The usage of ebooks compared to digital music or video files is meager.

I think someone mentioned about the advantages of ebooks vs pbooks somewhere. To me, ebooks are great because:

++ Don't take much physical space if at all
++ Portability. I can practically carry a whole library in a CF/SD card and be able to read.
++ Search. I can search an ebook with a full-text search engine. Today's desktop search apps only make it easier.
++ Search my annotation. I can annotate *AND* search my annotations. (Depending on the eReader software, mileage may vary)
++ Readability. I am one of those folks who can read text off a CRT or LCD for hours without feeling much strain. For backlit displays, I can read even in the dark or with low light conditions.
++ Instant access. I get instant access (online download) to ebooks whether its DRMed, pirated or otherwise. With pbooks, I need to look for it on a bookstore which cannot carry unlimited stock or variety. Online bookstores can carry *near* unlimited variety and there is no limit to stock, unfortunately variety is still limited for most online stores, but at least I get instant download. Amazon.com helps, but I still have to wait for delivery time. In the time it takes for the pbook to be delivered, I might have finished reading it if there were download options.

I consider mp3s to be the primary harbinger of mass adoption for digital music. Mp3s are to me better because:

++ Smaller Physically. On a CDROM, you can fit way more mp3s than raw audio. It's lossy, but its good enough.
++ Easily available. Whether its through crappy download sites or personal CD ripping, its fairly easy.
++ Quality. No apparent or significant drop in quality. Depending on encoding rate, quality varies.
++ Portability. Tons of MP3s can be stored in a notebook, DAP or a single CDROM. Compare to carrying multiple CDROMs ... or Tapes! :gasp:

Comparing my lists, I would say ebooks suffer from:

-- Quality: Most ppl find it a strain to read ebooks off CRT or LCD screens. pbooks win handsdown for readibility. After all, paper technology has grown over the last few hundred years! MP3 has little or no noticeable drop in quality.
-- Availability: Tons of available material in paper. Its *very* tedious and time consuming to "rip"/scan pbooks into ebooks. CD ripping allowed us to convert our existing CDs into mp3s easily. I don't forsee a pbook ripper any time soon.
-- Accessibility: You can take a book out of your collection and read, while others can still access the other books in the shelf. Newspapers can be split up so that I can read the main headline news while someone else read entertainment. This is not possible with DRMed ebooks, but non-DRMed ebooks would require an ebook device per person
-- Accessibility2: I don't see ASCII or HTML going away any time soon, so unless ebooks are in either of these formats, an ebook collection is at risk of becoming unreadable or inaccessible.

Piracy. Oh, this seem to keep popping up, and I believe will continue to do so. Piracy happens to provide for 1) Availability and 2) Accessibility in both instances.

If someone else already scanned and provides the digital version of a book readily, it saves time and money (scanners, electricity and opportunity cost). Most of the pirated ebooks come in ASCII txt or HTML format, so if you need ONLY notebpad to get started! heck, you can even do a "type mybook.txt | more" hehe

But does it mean that the book you want *will* be available through piracy? Not necessarily so. Pirates, whether for public service or for profit, usually pirate the popular books. So if you are looking for a digital version of a particular book that is uncommon, piracy may not help.

So can piracy help ebooks? Yes and no. Yes, because if reading materials reach a critical mass, then ppl will see ebooks as a good alternative to pbooks. Piracy can help here only if the variety available reaches that breadth.

No, because by any measure, I doubt adhoc pirates will make a concerted effort to scan all the books we need, so it may not really help in the department of variety.

Besides piracy to help availability and accessibility, there is the Quality issue that will not be solved by piracy. Whether its a paid ebook or a pirated ebook, the reading device do not quite change. The strain on the eye caused by reading LCD screens will not go away just because the ebook is a pirated copy.

So, piracy alone can only affect the success of ebooks that much. It cannot force its success. It still need a good (and affordable) ebook device to complete the equation for sucess.
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Old 04-07-2006, 01:35 PM   #12
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Hi,

Nowadays it seems that you are pirating books if you buy them wholesale and resell them as used books . Another notable quote from a publishing association meeting:

"when an ebook is perfected, the good thing will be that you can have more control over re-sales.”

With atitudes like this it is hard to be optimistic about the at least immediate future of eboooks. Whatever you think of Google and their digitization project, they are at least willing to do something and have the clout to try.

For the complete article check this link:
www.publishingnews.co.uk/pn/pno_news8.asp?

Liviu
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Old 04-07-2006, 02:16 PM   #13
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Just wanted to pay my compliments, Snappy, for a VERY good résumé, IMO. I agree on all the points.

Regards, Ela.
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Old 04-07-2006, 05:14 PM   #14
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As others have said, there will need to be a viable ebook market and hence a good reader, before piracy has any significance.

Once we have those devices then piracy will help force reasonable business practices on publishers. If too much is being charged for ebooks, then people will pirate versions and will continue to do this until the price drops to a reasonable level for the market. It has been shown that pirating tends to make people buy more of a general product (numerous studies show this with music). So the issue isn't about piracy destroying profits, but it will dominate if ebooks are overpriced; bad pricing encourages a blackmarket to develop, which is essentially what piracy is. One thing I find quite interesting (and this is anecdotal, not scientific information) is that everyone I know who uses pirated software will go out and buy that software if they like it. It seems to me that most people understand the principle that a product should be paid for, but, more importantly, understand that not paying means not getting more similar products later. The self-interest in the latter helps ensure that people will still pay even if they can pirate books; though they might not pay for bad books--if anything this helps the market! Of course there will be some freeloaders, but numerous scientific studies show people generally dislike freeloaders I would think such an inherent dislike keeps down piracy levels.

As far as people making their own ebooks. I certainly plan on doing this for myself. I bought a high-speed scanner and if I remove the binding from a book I can rapidly scan an entire text. Current OCR software has greater than a 99% reliability--some higher than 99.9%. Furthermore, in an editable format the rare mistakes can be fixed. This sort of thing should help piracy stay healthy until businesses catch up to the market. Frankly, selling texts that restrict your ability to copy them, cut and paste info, and so forth is likely doing more harm than good since these functions are going to be desired.

Lastly, with PDFs and such I think there is a perfectly reasonable way to help diminishing pirating further. Information of the buyer can be encoded into the bought item. Something simple like having your name appear on every page would do a lot to discourage piracy from most people. It would be a lot better to work on things that make it hard to remove such information, rather than restricting the free use of purchased products.

-Drachasor
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Old 04-07-2006, 10:20 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ElaHuguet
Just wanted to pay my compliments, Snappy, for a VERY good résumé, IMO. I agree on all the points.

Regards, Ela.
Thank you Ela, for your kind words. We concur!
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