With the Kindle having landed in the UK, concerns have turned to the wave of rampant piracy that is – we are assured – bound to follow. However, rather than a traditional band of marauding villains storming the bookstores en masse, the reality is somewhat bleak and uninteresting. For those who are unaware of the methods involved in book piracy, a brief overview:Unlike copying a CD to your computer the book copying process is tedious and awkward. The fastest method is to scan each individual page into the computer, and then distribute the resulting mass to those immoral individuals who download such things. The problem with this method is, as these criminal masterminds tend to foolishly overlook, that scanning the copyright allows the infringing content to be identified.
In the event of copious amounts of free time, the ‘pirate’ could of course type the book out. With books varying from hundreds to thousands of pages, averaging at four hundred to eight hundred words per page, who wouldn’t take such an attractive option?
Of course, even bad-guys get lucky, and on occasion an electronic proof file can be pirated.
With this notion in mind, the prospect of using DRM with e-books has been dredged to the surface. With the addition of this protection, consumers would be limited as to how many times (if at all) their purchase could be moved from machine to machine.
Needless to say, this suggestion has been met with opposition. Cory Doctorow, Science-Fiction Author and Co-Editor of Boing Boing blog, stated;
“DRM is not an effective way of preventing copying nor is it a good way of making sales. There isn’t a customer out there saying ‘what I need is an electronic book that does less.
It’s as if Borders do a deal with Ikea and say you can only read this book under an Ikea bulb and have it on Ikea shelves.”
(Cory Doctorow, BBC.co.uk, ‘Are We Due a Wave of Piracy?’, 19.10.09)
So, aside from the anti-piracy squad kicking down doors in a bid to prevent e-books from being passed around as freely as their physical counterparts, what could be driving people to turn to pirated e-books?
Looking briefly at the highly anticipated release of Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol, not to mention Random House’s E-Book Catalogue, we can pick out a trend: E-Books are being released at prices that are pretty similar to their standard versions. Even Penguin, who recently cut their e-book prices, are only willing to match their lower paperback costs.
Thinking back a few years, one could almost draw a parallel between this and the release of music online. In both instances the online products were being released at the same price as their physical counterparts. And what did the music industry do: Why, they lowered the price of their products. Whilst granted this has not entirely eliminated the piracy problem, it has allowed music providers to do the one thing that matters.
Far be it for us – the consumer – to suggest how big businesses do their jobs, but perhaps in this instance a little hindsight could go a long way.