E-book piracy is becoming a serious issue for publishers worldwide, particularly now that e-book purchasing is beginning to rival hardcopy sales. When Dan Brown’s blockbuster novel – The Lost Symbol was first released in September 2009, Amazon sold more digital copies for its Kindle e-reader than hardback editions, in the first few days of sale.
Is this astonishing result indicative of a major shift in book purchasing consumption?
Whilst the ease and get-it-now attraction of e-books is certainly making its mark on the publishing scene, like DVDs and CDs, the likelihood of copyright theft is escalating rapidly. Less than 24 hours after the release of The Lost Symbol, more than 100,000 pirated digital copies of the novel were downloaded on file-sharing sites. This is an astonishing incident, which has cost author, publisher and industry professionals hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Talented and well-known author Meg Cabot understands just how costly e-book piracy can be for professionals.
“E-book piracy is starting to become a major problem in the publishing industy, and we’re just now starting to see the effects, at least in the US, with lay-offs and some new (and some old) authors not receiving contracts or having contracts renewed,” the author told Australian Women Online.
“Adults, but especially kids, need to understand how badly e-piracy hurts.”
The best-selling author of The Princess Dairies, Cabot has written prolifically for children, teens and adults, and understands first hand, how costly this can be for someone who has worked extremely hard to make a living from her writing. Having that livelihood stolen and abused is incredibly disheartening and indeed, oftentimes career-faltering for authors and illustrators – and the resultant effects of e-book piracy could well mean serious changes in the future of book publication… not for the better.
“With so many people stealing e-books without paying for them (illegally downloading e-books costs publishers millions every year), publishers are being forced to lay off employees and buy fewer new books from established authors,” said Cabot.
This means publishers are especially unwilling to take risks on publishing books by unknown authors – something that could cost not only the future of those wanting to make a career from writing, but could seriously disable the future of our book industry.
So who does it hurt when you download an e-book for free online? According to Cabot – you!
“When a few people download an e-book without paying for it, it costs all of us: your favorite authors, their publishers, your cousin who just graduated and applied for a job working at that publishing house, and maybe even you someday if you ever want to publish a book of your own.”
Currently, publishers are exploring ways to minimise book theft. One strategy is by delaying the release of e-books after hardcopies go on sale. Harry Potter author JK Rowling has refused digital rights to her books through piracy fears, making it clear that e-book criminals really are spoiling it for the rest of us. It’s also frightening to think that talented, unknown authors are going to have an even harder time publishing their work thanks to e-book piracy.
As author Cabot says, “One of those unknown authors could be you someday. So think about that next time you’re tempted to download an e-book without paying for it.”
See more on Meg Cabot’s impressive catalogue of work at www.megcabot.com. And yes, some of her titles are offered for digital sale.