The Bookseller reports on execs from Penguin and Random House speaking at a book award breakfast on the subject of e-book piracy. They warned that illegal copying has been “engrained culturally” and, while the industry can cope with current piracy levels, once e-books are more commonly used the cost could be significant.

The most interesting thing to me is this quote from Tom Weldon, Penguin’s deputy chief executive:

“The only way to fight piracy is to publish digital content across as many formats as possible, through as many channels, at a fair price. If we go for exclusive or proprietary formats, we’re completely screwed.”

How is it that none of the other publishers seem to have come to this conclusion, with their $12.99-and-up price points and their dependence on platform-specific DRM? Is Penguin’s rationality on this subject in danger of spreading to other publishers?

It’s worth noting that Baen has been selling e-books at very low prices with no encryption for over ten years, and as a result is one of the least-pirated publishers out there.


  1. Absolutely. By only publishing in on proprietary format, you give the consumer three choices.
    1 – buy your hardware – not everyone can afford it, not everyone wants multiple devices.

    2- don’t buy the book (that’s seems counterproductive all around)

    3 – pirate (this is actually 2a and depends on the buyer’s moral stance)

  2. Weldon is spot on correct. However his comments are very ironic considering Penguin is one of the Agency publishing houses and I still can’t get new Penguin titles for the Kindle or via Fictionwise (specifically Jim Butcher’s new book).

    So, if Penguin knows that they need to make their products widely available, without proprietary format, why haven’t they?

    Which publisher is going to be the first to remove DRM, stop windowing, and move to a true universal format?

  3. Or you could buy the book & then know somebody who can break the encryption on it so you can put it on whichever device you want. Hypothetically speaking, of course.

  4. I found his comments ironic also. I wonder if he wasn’t talking as much to his brass at Penquin as to the others there. ‘Deputy CEO’ sounds pretty high; won’t he eat his own dog food?

    Maybe he really means it. Maybe he thinks the fractured DRM his company uses is not proprietary; maybe he thinks current Penguin ebook prices are ‘fair.’

    If so, we ought to send him JA Konrath’s email address…

    — asotir

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