Thursday, October 25, 2007

Book Piracy: Overrated Problem?

Just An Online Minute... Book Piracy: Overrated Problem?
by Wendy Davis

WHILE THE MUSIC and movie industries have long been concerned that Web piracy cuts into their profits, file-sharing hasn't appeared to present as significant a problem for book publishers. After all, the general public hasn't yet taken to e-book readers the way it has to iPods or digital music.
But that reality has done little to assuage the fears of the book publishing world. Witness the lawsuit against Google for its library project, in which publishers are complaining about Google's move to digitize books in public libraries.

In the latest example, reported this morning in The New York Times, Penguin Audio has pulled out of an eMusic initiative to sell audiobooks because eMusic, unlike Apple's iTunes, sells digital content without the restrictions that limit consumers' ability to make copies.

While anxiety about Web piracy isn't totally irrational, it seems misplaced here. Consider, people who purchase books, or audiobooks, have long had the option to take them out of libraries instead. In fact, many libraries now offer digital downloads of audiobooks.

Yet pirated audiobooks have never emerged as a big problem. In fact, a monitoring firm used by Random House Audio hasn't yet found any unauthorized copies of the company's audiobooks on file-sharing sites, according to the Times.

What's more, sales were robust at 500 audiobooks a day, even though eMusic doesn't plan to advertise the offering until December, the Times reports.

The music industry appears to be figuring out that consumers want to download tracks free of digital rights management restrictions, if for no other reason than to freely make copies for their own use. Book publishers, who don't appear to face the same threat from file-sharing, also need to realize that consumers will be more likely to purchase their product, not less, when it comes in a format they want.