Macmillan prez says piracy is biggest issue for digital publishers

image image--Janet Evanovich can get a CD of all of her books on eBay for $11.

--Sherrilyn Kenyon shows 29 hits on VUZE.

--All five of top fiction and non-fiction books available as pirated editions. Some of the hits have all of her books.

--28% of e-reader owners have used file sharing sites to download free e-books, according to a Verso study.

imagePiracy is the most important issue facing digital publishers, says Brian Napack, Macmillan president, and he cited the above examples at Digital Book World. Agree or disagree? Speak up in our comments area.

Napack said---remember these are his opinions---that piracy took a big chunk out of music business, where he spent a lot of time.

A college textbook called "Leinger, Principles of Biochemistry" was adopted all over, Napack said, but sales never took off because of piracy.

What can we do? Here’s Napack speaking: Piracy happens when motivation meets opportunity. Motivation: love of authors, genres; perceived high prices; lack of availability; restrictive formats; distain for media companies. Opportunity: more digital content; more file sharing sites, broad availability of titles, more pirate ready devices.

His plan: target facilitators – takedowns and lawsuits; target pirates – target individuals and companies; pursue legislation and enforcement; create viable consumer marketplace – implement consumer-friendly DRM; protect content in-house – most common stuff found is pre-publication manuscripts, found very few legitimate e-books have been hacked; protect content in the marketplace – DRM limit free and open e-book programs; engage in public education.

Napack’s key points: most common stuff found on line is pre-publication manuscripts; have found very few legitimately protected e-books have been hacked. Amazon Kindle has shown that people will pay for content.

12 Comments on Macmillan prez says piracy is biggest issue for digital publishers

  1. Oh, good grief. All ebook DRM (except the now obsolete LRX) have now been hacked, even the awful Topaz. So DRM won’t stop ebooks being ‘pirated’.

    The best way to combat illegal ebook downloads is to make a large range of good quality ebooks widely available without DRM at reasonable prices.

    Targeting individuals with lawsuits isn’t going to help. Just look at how much good it did the music industry. iTunes Music Store and Amazon MP3s, however…

  2. “at reasonable prices”

    The reasonable prices thing is one thing Macmillan (through Tor, St. Martin’s, etc.) really needs to get. Charging $15 for an ebook when you charge $7.99 for the paper version isn’t going to help.

  3. Reader at work // January 26, 2010 at 12:15 pm //

    “consumer friendly DRM” is an oxymoron. Even the music business has learned that DRM has NO effect on piracy. The books will be pirated the same amount whether DRM is involved or not. Best thing you can do is get rid of the DRM and ignore the pirates. They are really small fish and the more the readers are alienated by DRM, the more piracy you are going to see.

  4. Point One: There is no such thing as consumer friendly DRM. DRM on its very face says tells the consumer that the publisher does not trust them. If someone tells you they don’t trust you, you are not going to see them as friendly.

    Point Two: The biggest motivation for posting ebooks illegally is restricting availability. Books that are not available as ebooks, or available only for Kindle are more likely to be posted than ones more generally available.

    Point Three: In a capitalist economy, a product is worth only as much as consumers are willing to pay for it. Publishers can cry however much they want about how expensive a book or ebook is to produce — customers don’t care. The fact that most books end up as paperbacks shows that most book buyers don’t think the latest by Dan Brown is worth $25. E-book pricing based on the hard back price only increases motivation. Amazon has it right with respect to the $10 e-book… though ultimately, even that is probably too much as ebooks become more mainstream. You might have a month or two where you can charge that much, but then its going to have to drop to $7 or $8 (or even less) or the pirates will get to work.

  5. This doesn’t address the “hordes” of people who generate ebooks by taking a p-book and scanning it in. DRM isn’t going to stop them unless someone starts printing “unscannable” p-books.

    Or maybe that isn’t considered “e-book piracy” since it starts out as a p-book?

  6. Just because a book is buyable on eBay doesn’t mean that zillions of sales are resulting.

    At a more cosmic level, the big issue isn’t piracy; rather, it’s growing revenue.

    I’m glad Napack at least isn’t on the warpath against $10 books and envisions even lower prices after a book has been out a bit. Good on him for that! Avoidance of gouges is one of the best anti-piracy strategies.

    -David

  7. It would be nice if this talk of lowering prices translated to actual action. We’ve heard it before, like when a chair of Bertelsman referred to non-“pernicious” pricing as a way to fight piracy—but when I searched for the pricing of Bertelsman’s Random House’s books on Fictionwise, well over half of them were $12.95 or more, and over 1/9 were $19.95 or more.

  8. I’m a fan of Baen. I haven’t purchased any paperbacks in years, but i’ve purchased a number of ebooks from them, including ones that I could find pirated if I waited a few days, but I wanted to read the day it became available.

    Whether it’s available for sale as an ebook or not, a pirated electronic copy will be available within days of the print copy, or in the case of popular/desired, even the same day (cough Harry Potter).

    If Brian Napack spent a lot of time working in the music industry, it appears he didn’t learn the lesson. Either make something available for purchase *how* people want it at a reasonable price, or we will find an alternative. All not making it available for purchase does is eliminate a potential revenue stream.

  9. Actually, his own employees seem to be the biggest problem “Napack’s key points: most common stuff found on line is pre-publication manuscripts”

    If they can’t police their own estate – then what good is targeting “facilitators – takedowns and lawsuits; target pirates – target individuals and companies; pursue legislation and enforcement”

    Macmillan dropped Mobipocket for unknown reasons – to me anyway. It does have DRM but they probably weren’t getting any sales at hardcover prices for an ebook. Even with DRM the book should be less than the paperback in my opinion.

    Seen books for sale – I guess backlists that have been in print for 30+ years and charging hardcover prices – no wonder they are pirated supposedly.

    Bill above mentioned “Point Two: The biggest motivation for posting ebooks illegally is restricting availability. Books that are not available as ebooks, or available only for Kindle are more likely to be posted than ones more generally available.”

    Not only that, there are the country restrictions which a retailer has no choice but to follow, and have to deal with the emails that wonder why they can’t buy it. At least so far none have asked where they could get a “clean copy” – but that doesn’t mean they didn’t go find one.

  10. Ah yes, lawsuits. That worked so well last time anybody tried it :) Clearly this guy learned nothing from his time in the music biz.

  11. MacMillan’s biggest problem is clearly their senior management.

    Here’s yet another example.

    Not much in that list of points about ‘trying to sell more books in more places’.

    In fact, they are a great case study of how not to do organisational eTransformation, for anyone needing a research paper subject.

  12. Piracy is here to stay.

    People steal because they can.

    The digital revolution has allowed people to anonymously do what they would not do publicly. Look at the online porn boom!

    I agree with those who say that the secret is ease of purchase and fair prices. People buy from iTunes because its a quick and painless process. Therein lies the key…

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