Sunday, December 27, 2009

E-Book Piracy: The Publishing Industry's Next Epic Saga?; PC World, 12/

Tom Spring, PC World; E-Book Piracy: The Publishing Industry's Next Epic Saga?:

With the rise of e-book readers like the Kindle, Sony Reader, and Nook comes the scourge of the digital world: pirates.

"Compared with music piracy, illicit e-books are not nearly as widespread or as easy to acquire. Pirates must be determined to track down specific e-book titles. Pirated e-book files (usually available as PDFs) can sometimes be poorly reproduced, and are sometimes made up of scanned page images--not text.

Publishers Stuck Between a Digital Rock and a Hard Place

Worries of piracy have kept many publishers and authors, most notably J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter book series, from embracing the e-book format. They fear that e-book files protected by digital rights management (DRM) technology could be hacked anyway. However, refusing to take advantage of the e-book format can sometimes backfire and drive piracy, says consumer technology analyst Rob Enderle of the Enderle Group.

For a relatively small amount of money, pirates can convert any hard-copy book into an unprotected text file, even if a legitimate electronic book is never created, Enderle says. "This fear of electronic piracy is actually fueling the piracy movement," he says.

That's what happened with Rowling's works. Even though Rowling's publisher, Scholastic Books, doesn't currently offer any Harry Potter titles in e-book format, hackers have scanned all of the books and turned them into PDF files that are viewable on any e-reader.

"If electronic books can't be had legitimately, others will step in and fill the need; and once a pirate industry is established, it probably won't go away easily," says Enderle. The best way for the publishing industry to combat piracy is to follow the music industry's lead and make more e-book titles available.

Publishers have been producing more digital editions for their books, and revenues are up."

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