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Old 07-31-2010, 07:37 PM   #1
sassanik
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ebook piracy numbers

Does anyone know of any articles that have ebook piracy numbers in them? As it refers to lost sales?

I question how many sales are lost through piracy. I am not saying that there are not lost sales. I simply question how many people who download pirated ebooks actually read them and how many would have bought them in different circumstances.

I know there are disks out there with 1,000 ebooks on them. Seriously how many people are going to read everyone of those books?

I know that ebook piracy on ebooks like Harry Potter result in lost sales, but that is more of a publisher issue since the book is not available in ebook format.

I suspect that DRM'd ebooks are more likely to be pirated, and ebooks that are expensive. With the smaller publishing houses that focus on ebook sales and are not DRM'd having fewer pirated copies.



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Old 07-31-2010, 08:00 PM   #2
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According to the publishers, everyone who downloads a 3,000-book torrent would have bought every single one of those 3,000 books at full retail price if they hadn't gotten them off the darknet. Because, y'know, people routinely spend $45,000 a year for books -- even people who only make $20,000 a year.

This is the same logic the BSA uses to claim losses due to software piracy -- the idea that a teenage warez d00d would have bought Photoshop at its full $1k+ price to put stupid captions on his Facebook pictures if he couldn't get a cracked copy.

It's not a lost sale if it was never going to be a sale to begin with. That hypothetical teenage warez d00d would have used some online graphics editor (they're getting remarkably good) or even Paint if it came down to it. The idea of the copying of software or content being "theft" comes, as near as I can tell, from the idea that someone is in effect stealing back the money that they should have paid for the stuff. But if they were never going to pay it to begin with, is there anything to be stolen?

A while ago, I looked at the listing for the contents of a small bundle of books. I don't remember the exact numbers -- I think I posted them in another thread a month or two back -- but it came out to a total of about 3% of the books were ones I would actually want to read. And out of those, nearly half were books I already had on dead trees. Let's be generous and call it 2%. The collection in question was focused on one of my favorite genres, and my reading tastes are quite wide-ranging, so it's reasonable to assume that a similar number of books -- about 2% -- out of any given bundle of books on the darknet would appeal to any given reader, and would be books they didn't already own. Less if they're one of those people who never reads a book twice, since about half the books that appealed to me were books I'd already read at some point in my life. So out of 1,000 books in a torrent, Joe Schmoe is going to be interested in 20 ... and probably have read 10 of those already. So instead of $45,000 worth of lost sales, we're looking at $149.50 in lost sales, maximum. The other $43,850.50 does not represent lost sales because they're sales that would never have been made; the files probably didn't even survive Joe's first scan through the newly-unzipped collection.

And the odds are, if Joe could have bought those books hassle-free, DRM-free, at reasonable prices from his favorite ebook store, he wouldn't have taken the time and effort to find them on the darknet. He would have been happy to have a nicely-formatted, illustrated, legitimate book instead of an illicit book of dubious OCR quality. If they'd been on Smashwords for $2.99, he'd probably have bought them, and the author would have gotten more profit than if he'd bought a mass market paperback.

So, in short, there are no legitimate, reliable numbers on lost sales. Anyone who claims to have them is pulling them out of a very dark and smelly place. Any shift in sales figures that might be due to illicit downloads is so entangled in so many other factors that it cannot be distinguished. For instance, I've spent less on books since I got my ebook reader. Probably a lot less. The economy has a lot to do with this. Yet I'm reading a lot more, partly because the aforementioned economic downturn has made alternate forms of entertainment relatively more expensive. In the past year, I've probably read a hundred items (novels or short fiction) from public domain sources and free sources such as the Baen Free Library, and except for one or two MM paperbacks a month, all of my spending for recreational reading has gone to Baen, Smashwords, BVC, directly to authors, occasionally to other publishers and outlets, and so on. The publishers are making less off of me, definitely -- but authors, collectively, are making more. No illicit downloads involved.

Roll the dice. Whatever you come up with will be as reliable as any other numbers you find.

Last edited by Worldwalker; 07-31-2010 at 08:03 PM.
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Old 07-31-2010, 08:02 PM   #3
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One should be careful when one pulls the pin on the piracy grenade. Comments can get quite vituperative.

So "For the love of God, Montresor!" put the pin back in.
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Old 07-31-2010, 08:09 PM   #4
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I think this is quite impossible to answer. There are probably many (more) public domain eBooks that are downloaded than the bought ones and I hope that number of pirated eBooks is less than 1-2%.

What is interesting is the following: the same PD eBooks that are free on Gutenberg and elsewhere, are sold at Amazon and other sites (B&N, Kobo, etc.).
This is quite indecent. They are not better (it seems that many are full of errors, sometimes more than the free ones), copyright is the same (free) and publishers just want to take a lot of money for no work at all.

This may push people to visit the free PD books sites, but certainly not the darknet.

However, the georestriction and the fact that many of the contemporary authors are not available in form of eBooks MIGHT push some towards the pirates. However, I suppose the pirates don't do a professional proofreading (if at all) and they cannot be interesting to readers.
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Old 07-31-2010, 08:34 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sassanik View Post
Does anyone know of any articles that have ebook piracy numbers in them? As it refers to lost sales?

I question how many sales are lost through piracy. I am not saying that there are not lost sales. I simply question how many people who download pirated ebooks actually read them and how many would have bought them in different circumstances.

I know there are disks out there with 1,000 ebooks on them. Seriously how many people are going to read everyone of those books?

I know that ebook piracy on ebooks like Harry Potter result in lost sales, but that is more of a publisher issue since the book is not available in ebook format.

I suspect that DRM'd ebooks are more likely to be pirated, and ebooks that are expensive. With the smaller publishing houses that focus on ebook sales and are not DRM'd having fewer pirated copies.



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It... depends...

I *know* I routinely scan the various darknet sites for new titles - especially from authors I've never read before. Those titles that strike an interest I download. Now what happens to me is if an author's book really grabs my attention, I end up searching out B&N or Amazon ebook titles by the same author. Using this method, I've 'discovered' Sharon Sala, Laura Griffin, Allison Brennan, Maggie Shayne and others too numerous to name. In other words, each of those authors' titles that I 'darknetted' ended up creating SALES for the publishers and authors.

Of course, the publishers refuse to mention *that* effect.

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Old 07-31-2010, 08:38 PM   #6
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However, the georestriction and the fact that many of the contemporary authors are not available in form of eBooks MIGHT push some towards the pirates. However, I suppose the pirates don't do a professional proofreading (if at all) and they cannot be interesting to readers.
I think you will find that it DOES push locked out buyers to the darknet once they have exhausted all the means at their disposal to buy an ebook they truly want to read and are most willing to pay for.

Forget DRM, geographic restrictions is the worst. It is simply not necessary.

In the end the only legal alternative is to buy a dead tree copy, which does defeat the object of owning an ereader in the first place, but does push you in the direction that publishers want you to head towards.

Publishers, like the music and entertainment industry inflate these piracy figures in order to make their anachronistic distribution model look good and those downloaders to be the anarchists.

Sways the lawmakers and courts to side with them.

So in the end there is little or no change.
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Old 07-31-2010, 09:08 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by sassanik View Post
Does anyone know of any articles that have ebook piracy numbers in them? As it refers to lost sales?
All claims with numbers made by publishing companies, records companies, and movie companies are total BS. Think about it. We're not talking about hardware. We're talking about information that can be replicated over and over. With hardware, they can estimate the total amount of $$ lost because of inventory. But with software, there ain't no way to keep track, period.

What they do to give you these BS numbers is they have a BS estimate of sales this year and then compare that to the actual sales... as if we're all idiotic enough to believe they don't inflate their hypothetical sales.
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Old 07-31-2010, 09:29 PM   #8
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I have to agree with World Walker's post.

He nailed it right down the line.

The only thing I have to add is that I look for torrents that organize by author, so I can choose to download only those parts of the torrent that I want. (I use Utorrent btw)

So out of those 3k ebooks in the torrent, I might actually download 300, and likely end up reading 10-20 % of those (to date at least) But my library of backed up ebooks is growing nicely.

Ohhh and as far as lost sales, there were none. Since I never would have bought it in the first place. If I can't find what I'm looking for I settle for something else (that's free)
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Old 07-31-2010, 09:32 PM   #9
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But if they were never going to pay it to begin with, is there anything to be stolen?
Yes, you're illegally acquiring something that you have no right to. That's theft.
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Old 07-31-2010, 09:34 PM   #10
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It can only be theft if the object was removed from your control.

If it is copied, it is most certainly not theft.

Copyright infringment most likely, but not theft.
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Old 07-31-2010, 09:39 PM   #11
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What they do to give you these BS numbers is they have a BS estimate of sales this year and then compare that to the actual sales... as if we're all idiotic enough to believe they don't inflate their hypothetical sales.
Piracy figures are silly. Piracy is really overstated as a factor, and I am not even sure it results in lost sales. For example, poor old M$ lost so many sales to piracy with windows 3.1 that it gave them the largest market share in operating systems sales. This, in turn, let them reap massive profits with subsequent releases, lock people in to windows and associated products, and made Gates the richest man in the world. Yep, piracy is a bady in a thing.

A company is not losing a sale if the person doing the pirating could not or would not buy it anyways. I think where piracy does cause lost sales, and is morally reprehensible, is in the cases where businesses pirate digital products, especially software.

I was recently put in a position where I felt justified in obtaining pirated copies of several books. I had purchased these books from ereader.com, and I could not access them online. I certainly was not going to pay for them again, and I needed to use a couple of them. Actually, the pirates seem to be very good at what they do, I imagine because of high speed scanners. But IMHO, piracy is not a publisher-killer at all.

Not, at least, if the publishers treat their customers fairly by pricing the books reasonably and by making purchasing and accessing the books convenient. Ebook prices need to come down, probably to the $7 range. Amazon has made a good start.

Treat the customers fairly, and price the books fairly and make accessing them convenient, and I think piracy in the ebook market is a small factor. But if the books are priced at hardcover book prices, and you treat your customer with little respect, I think many readers will resort to piracy. Take a look at iTunes store, and all the music sales they make. And just remember that all of that music can be had for free. But customers are still paying for the music.
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Old 07-31-2010, 09:52 PM   #12
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It can only be theft if the object was removed from your control.

If it is copied, it is most certainly not theft.

Copyright infringment most likely, but not theft.
I disagree. It's certainly copyright infringement. It may not, as a matter of technical law, be defined as theft, but that doesn't really change things, and I'm not going to argue definitions. Taking something that doesn't belong to you is stealing. Just because it's easy to do with ebooks doesn't make it any less wrong.
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Old 07-31-2010, 10:03 PM   #13
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No clear rules

Piracy is misunderstood, especially in terms of economic damages. I think a large part of the reason is that no one has developed a rational set of rules for defining and dealing with digital products like ebooks and software.

With actual, tangible, material products like cars, price is paramount. If you spend $150k for a top of the line car, like a new Benz, you get what you pay for. The product is better than what you would get by buying a cheap Kia. The price of the Benz is higher because of superior workmanship and inputs.

But that does not hold true for digital products. Take one of the best operating systems out there today- OSX. When I bought the Snow Leopard upgrade, I spent less than $100. To purchase it new would have cost (I think) $125. That purchase price gave me 5 user licenses. Now, look at the competition from Microsoft. Windows 7 can cost you almost $400 if you buy the decent version, which is less crappy than Vista, but still crappy and far inferior to OSX. And that gives you a single license.

And an even better server OS is BSD UNIX, and I can get that for free. And I am not constrained using or developing for it as I would be with the gnu license. I don't have to share source for any mods I make or products I develop for BSD. Back in the 80s, AT&T sold unix svr3 source code licenses for 64k. But bsd source could be had for free, and it turns out the people at Berkeley wrote 98% of AT&ts unix.

It all makes little sense to me.
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Old 07-31-2010, 11:15 PM   #14
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I know of no reliable, empirical way to measure. Speaking anecdotally---

1) Most 'pirated' ebooks I have seen were so poorly formatted that it was worth it to me to go and get the 'real' one if I could.

2) My sister and I traded Fictionwise book lists and had about 500 titles between us. Of that lot, there were maybe a dozen books of mutual interest. We just had very different tastes. So the fact that she was *willing* to give me the books did not really matter as I did not want to read most of them

3) Similarly, I wanted to share some public domain stuff with my dad for his new Kobo so I downloaded my entire Calibre library off Dropbox for him. Once he had deleted all the vampire, Star Trek and sci-fi novels, pretty much all that was left was the public domain stuff anyway

So, if people want to read something, my experience has been that they will buy it, read it and be done. Most casual readers do not want to spend massive amounts of time searching iffy websites for badly formatted books when for ten bucks they could get a proper one with much less trouble.

Of course, if you bring in artificial restrictions such as geo-blocking, that's a different story And of course, there will be the 'download an ISO image of 6 billion ebooks' people who do it just for the sake of it (although as others have pointed out, most of these books never even get read and probably were not 'lost sales' in the sense of 'would the person have bought it otherwise'). I am speaking of the average general reader like my parents who read maybe a dozen books a year and are new to the ebook game. If she wants the book, she's more than willing to buy it. She wants minimum fuss and hassle. She will not spend hours trolling the darknets. She will probably not venture beyond more than one website. Just make it available, let her buy it, and it's all good as far as she is concerned

She *has* asked me to get her some books, and I have obliged. But every title she has asked for has been massively popular (Tom Clancy, Nora Roberts) and our public library has those in ebook. So she can get them for free without resorting to things like torrent sites.
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Old 07-31-2010, 11:24 PM   #15
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I disagree. It's certainly copyright infringement. It may not, as a matter of technical law, be defined as theft, but that doesn't really change things, and I'm not going to argue definitions. Taking something that doesn't belong to you is stealing. Just because it's easy to do with ebooks doesn't make it any less wrong.
While I fully agree with you carld, it's a lost cause here. I've learned trying to convince many people here of what you are saying merely resulted in heated arguments that degenerated in the other parties resorting to hateful insults directed at me when I kept punching holes in their arguments. Unless people are ethical enough to understand the difference between right and wrong, honesty and stealing, they will just rationalize their actions with lame arguments, suchas there is no loss of a sale if you duplicate something you wouldn't have bought in the first place. It still is stealing but people will believe what is convenient for them to believe. At this point I'm bowing out.
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