7 Reasons Why Ebooks Are Pirated (And How To Prevent It)

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Whenever I write a post about ebook piracy, I like to make one thing very clear: I never have and never will endorse ebook piracy. I believe authors should be paid for their work (at whatever ebook pricing model they use).

That said, it’s always interesting to hear the reasons why people do pirate ebooks. By far, the biggest and most obvious reason is to save money. Yes, the economy is still weak. People are keeping their wallets zipped up. Who doesn’t want to save a few bucks?

But there are other reasons. I didn’t really think about those less-obvious reasons until I read this post on GalleyCat. The post basically sums up a thread on Reddit about why people pirate ebooks. The forum thread starts with this:

I find myself pirating a lot more books than I actually purchase. I try to justify this by comparing it more like borrowing them from the library since I wont be in possession of the actual copy, rather than stealing them from a book store.

Yes, borrowing from the library is free (unless you’re like me and live in an unincorporated area and have to pay for a library membership) and many, many people take advantage of it. I know I do.

And the poster is also correct, you are not “in possession of an actual copy.” An ebook is just a file. Depending on who you ask, some say you don’t even own the ebooks, you just own the license to read it.

I don’t really buy into that because I copy the ebook file onto my computer, making it impossible for Amazon to take the ebook away from me. In other words, I own the file after I buy it. Amazon cannot take that file away, even if they wipe my entire Kindle.

There are other reasons, some like the one above, others much different. Here are the 7 reasons why people pirate ebooks that are listed in the GalleyCat post:

1. “I’ve pirated electronic versions of books I already own physically.

2. “I limit myself to pirating things that are out-of-print or otherwise unavailable through a legal digital outlet.”

3. “I’m poor and I like to read, but I can’t pirate food, so I pirate everything else.

4. “The library rarely has the books I want to read.”

5. “I only pirate textbooks from school … They are ridiculously priced an I have a hard enough time paying tuition.”

6. “If the ebook is more expensive than the paper-version I sometimes pirate it out of annoyance.”

7. “pirating also lets me sample things i would not be willing to pay money for up front

You can click on the links to read the entire comment threads. Number 3 is probably my favorite, while number 7 is pretty lame because both Amazon and Barnes & Noble allow you to read ebook samples for most titles.

Now that most major public libraries rent out ebooks, there’s no reason why someone should have to pirate an ebook. Further, the Kindle and Nook allow you to share most ebooks between devices.

How To Prevent Piracy

This is the big question. First, piracy will never be eliminated altogether. It’s gonna happen. No matter how much DRM you lock your ebooks with, people are still going to find a way to get it for free. Remember, many pirates aren’t above copying a print book to get it into digital format. JK Rowling found that out the hard way.

There are a few ways authors and publishers alike can fight piracy without pissing off the consumer:

1. Keep ebook prices low. Pricing an ebook like a paperback or hardcover will only anger the consumer. Either they won’t buy the book at all (you lose the sale) or they’ll find a free download somewhere.

2. Get rid of this ridiculous DRM. It only throws up barriers for consumers willing to legally buy an ebook. DRM is incredibly easy to crack. Even a caveman can do it. Just for that reason alone DRM is useless.

3. Pick a standard, industry-wide ebook format. If you buy an ebook for your Nook, it will be in a different format than an ebook for my Kindle. Moving to a standard format would free up a lot of publisher’s time formatting their ebooks. And time equals money. More importantly, however, this will streamline the industry, making ebooks more easily available to consumers.

None of the above are very complicated. The last one might take a while to implement, but it is possible.

Like I said before, piracy will always be a problem. Since we can’t eradicate it completely, the best we can do is limit it with a little common sense.



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