3

Perspectives on e-book piracy from outside the industry can be interesting. On “Tobold’s MMORPG Blog,” blogger Tobold posits that Amazon doesn’t seem to be too worried about e-book piracy if it’s selling its Kindles at a loss. He writes:

Thus I wonder whether people reading eBooks are inherently more honest than people consuming other forms of electronic content. Maybe it is only people of a certain age and social class that are interested in books at all. This summer, during the London riots, the only shops that weren’t looted were book stores. The underprivileged young people who thought that society owed them something and took everything they wanted by looting obviously weren’t even interested in books when they came for free. It stands to reason that in calmer times, when looting is limited to electronic piracy, these priorities don’t change.

Of course, the perception of Amazon not being “worried” rests largely on the perception that it is selling its Kindles at a loss. Amazon’s profits have slumped lately due to investing heavily in its new Kindle Fire, but that’s not the same thing as selling at a loss. (Early reports suggested Amazon might be selling the Kindle Fire at a loss, but subsequent analyses suggested that no, it’s probably making a profit.)

It’s also worth pointing out that Amazon is not planning to profit from the Kindle solely by selling e-books. Its lowest-priced Kindles come with an advertising network built in, which could eventually earn Amazon more over the lifetime of the device than the difference in cost between it and the ad-free version. (At least this is true for the US, though from what Tobold says he is in the UK where that’s not the case.) And for that matter, if Amazon really wasn’t worried about e-book piracy, it wouldn’t bother as much about DRM.

If Tobold wants to find people worried over e-book piracy, he should probably talk to the publishers. Historically, they’ve been the ones pushing for stronger DRM, more protection, and one format per sale. (Back when they were allowed to talk to us, the Pendergrasts of Fictionwise explained this.) And if he thinks e-book piracy isn’t happening, a quick BitTorrent search on “e-books” should change his perspective.

Tobold notes that he doesn’t pirate, but he’s well-off enough he can afford to buy his media. But on the other hand, he doesn’t like the idea of having to pay again for e-versions of books he already bought in print. He doesn’t say what he’s going to do about that, but there are a lot of people in that situation who wouldn’t hesitate to turn to pirate editions.

 
3