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Dear Publishers, Don’t be Like Metallica

In his blog about fighting e-book piracy, Timo Boezeman makes some really interesting and important points. The first of which is that actively fighting piracy is stupid. I agree, as it’s expensive and hard to actually put a stop to. You also have to be careful from a PR standpoint. You don’t want to come across like Metallica did with Napster. I mean I am adamantly anti-piracy (my years in the retail end of the music industry made sure of that), but you don’t want to come across as a bunch of whiny rich kids. When people are having trouble seeing why piracy is wrong, a rich person trying to get sympathy about losing money is pretty hard for most people to empathize with.

He also touches on the industry misconception that every illegal download is a missed sale. Not true. Many illegal downloaders are people that would be hitting up libraries, used book stores or not even (god forbid) reading at all. I’ve been thinking a lot about this, and I’ve gotta say that the publishing industry doesn’t seem to function in the same way as the music industry…I mean before there was e-anything, there were libraries whose function it was to make books readily available to anyone for FREE, and used book stores, which are a bit of a point of contention in the publishing industry still exist completely legally. Although e-piracy is something that has to be taken into consideration, I really don’t think that it’s something that is going to be the downfall of the publishing industry.

Casual Piracy is Total Nonsense!

There are some interesting points brought up in Jane’s article on dearauthor.com regarding the five main reasons that DRM on e-books won’t be abandoned by publishers anytime soon. There are a couple of things that make perfect sense, like price. If you want DRM free e-books, the price is likely going to go up, because the publishers and distributors won’t be as able to control what is done with the e-books. This is where I have to say again, that publishers need to make people see the value of e-books. They have to do something, whether it’s bonus material or sneak peaks at upcoming books, when there’s no physical copy involved, you have to make the customer see that it’s still work paying for!

I also like that Jane bought up ease of transfer. From a record company’s perspective, DRM free music is a little easier to swallow when they realize that anyone who buys a CD can put it on their hard drive in about a minute and do whatever they want with it. It’s a fight you can’t win with the physical format, so why bother fighting it with the digital format. When you have a book, as Jane points out, it’s a much bigger time commitment. You have to sit down with a scanner and scan each page. In reality, this could take hours, your average customer is not going to bother.

This is where the distinction between actual pirates and what the publishing industry is referring to as ‘casual pirates’ people who want to loan an e-book to their Mom, or their friend…the same way that *gasp* they would with a real book! This is where I think that the publishing industry has to take a step back and have a bit of a reality check. Loaning a book to someone is NOT piracy. If it were, libraries would have been shut down ages ago. Instead, this act is more likely to create word of mouth, and possibly gain the author a wider fan base.

For a really interesting perspective on the idea of lending and piracy, have a listen to what the amazing Mr. Neil Gaiman has to say here.

35 Year Old Lady Pirates? Oh My!

I completely agree with Eoin Pursell’s short article in response to some figures that were released in May and are stated in this article from the Telegraph  which stated that one in eight women over 35 admit to having downloaded and unlicensed e-book. Purcell points out that you have to consider that, perhaps, this is partly due to accessibility. If it was easy for these women to access the legitimate e-books then perhaps they wouldn’t be forced to download pirated copies of the e-books that they want. You can look to the Harry Potter series as an example of this. Illegal download was the only way to get the series, and it was pirated often because readers weren’t given a legitimate means to buy it. In this scenario, I’m sure that both the author and the publisher lost a ton of money. Let’s face it, making e-books more readily available, might actually bring the number of people using pirated copies of e-books down.

It’s interesting to note, as mentioned in The Telegraph, that a higher percentage of women over 35 are using pirated e-books than pirated music. I think this comes right down to accessibility, price and value. It’s inherently difficult to make people see the value of something that’s intangible, and I think it’s probably easier to convince someone to spend $0.99 or even $1.29 on a song than it is to get them to spend over $10.00 on an e-book. This is where publishers are going to have to get creative with e-books and make potential customers see that there is ‘worth’ to purchasing their e-books rather than pirating them.

Loan an E-book? NEVER!

Is DRM more costly than Piracy? It’s an interesting question, and one that Brett Sandusky takes a look at in this article. He looks at some common misconceptions surrounding piracy and DRM and also suggests some ways that getting rid of DRM might be a potential benefit to the publishing industry.

One thing that Sandusky addresses, which a lot of people don’t, is that there are potential benefits to getting rid or DRM. Now some of the possibilities that he considers are a little 1984-ish for my taste, like his idea that in order to lend a DRM free e-book to a friend, you’d have to enter their e-mail address and basic information (age, gender etc)upon lending, and then the publisher could use that information for marketing purposes. To me, that’s a bit of a gray area in terms of privacy, that I’d rather stay away from. But there is great benefit to the basic word of mouth that be generated through the loaning of books (in e or physical form) between friends and family.

I’ve gotta say, that with a little market research, publishers and the purchasers of e-books would likely be able to agree on a decent number of loans within the DRM of an e-book. All that publishers would need is a simple survey on their home pages asking their customers how many times they lend their average book? By conducting a quick survey, publishers can open a dialogue between themselves and their customers and they wouldn’t run the risk of coming across as trying to punish people who purchase their e-books through legitimate means. I think that customers will be honest and realistic in their responses, and appreciate being a part of the decision making process. Honestly, I can’t think of a book that I’ve lent out more than five times, but that’s just me.