Four Reasons Why the iPad does not promote book piracy

Posted on May 30, 2010


CNET asked the question about the link between the iPad and book piracy. They asked if the iPad will be to books what the iPod is to music. They pointed out that the iPod exploded piracy of music and movies. They asked if the iPad would do the same for books. I have an answer for this article in three parts:

1. The iPod did not explode music piracy – The iPod had perfect timing.

They grant that piracy was around before the iPod. But argued that the iPod was the “accelerant”. They say:

But then the iPod showed up. Sure, there had been piracy ever since people started burning CDs, but the iPodwas the big accelerant. You can say what you want about iTunes ruining the music industry with its 99-cent single-track downloads (why buy the whole album for $10, when you can buy just the two good songs on it for $2?), but the fact that so many millions of people were carrying around iPods that could store thousands of songs only fueled the transition to fully digital music, no discs attached.

Sorry, but I had an MP3 player LONG before iPods hit the scene. In fact, I did not buy my first iPod until the iPod Video. Let’s just say that I knew of individuals who used their university’s computer networks to download music on Napster day and night (not me, I’m a good boy. I was never there and I can produce 3 people that say that I was never there.)

Peer-to-Peer connections  and the iPod/MP3 player hit at around the same time. So I don’t think the iPod caused a spike in piracy. It was going to spike with or without the iPod. Now, it is accurate to say that the iPod was the biggest beneficiary from piracy.

2. Book piracy has been around as long as music piracy. There is not that much interest in downloading books.

Once again, I knew individuals who read .TXT versions of best sellers that they downloaded through P2P networks. The people who read those books today are some of the biggest book buyers I know. So I doubt the heavy demand for pirated books. Now, there are people out there. But I don’t see the market exploding because of the iPad.

Also, I still don’t know why a book pirate would do it because it takes WAY too much time to scan a book. Your other choice is to break the DRM (digital rights management) for the book. Music is much easier.

The Millions have a great interview titled: Confessions of a Book Pirate.

The Millions quoted (and was skeptical) of a survey that said that publishers lost $3 billion a year through illegal book downloads. Somehow I doubt that number.

recent study by Attributor, a firm that specializes in monitoring content online, came to some spectacular conclusions, including the headline claim that book piracy costs the industry nearly $3 billion, or over 10% of total revenue.

Since most best sellers come out in cheap paperbacks, most people would wait for those instead the hardcover books.

3. Why steal? There are plenty of free books out there.

The entire top 10 Kindle Books on are free or  super cheap. The Kindle also gives consumers a free chapter on the Kindle to see if they want to buy the book later. Also, public domain books through Google and other sources allow people to read without the guilt.

4. Publishers ALWAYS fuels piracy through increasing prices.

When I found out the book publishers would force Amazon to increase prices, I knew people would either stop buying them, read free books, or pirate books.

Now, I don’t know why the iPad was singled out over the Kindle, the Sony Reader and the other e-readers coming down the pike. That could be reason number 5.

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Posted in: Books, iPad