Book Piracy Survey


I was selling books at my booth at a comicon and had been discussing my stories which were of interest to someone I was pitching to. He actually had the gall to simply tell me he would read it after he pirated it from the internet. It kind of took me aback for a second, but we had a chat about ethics and piracy and how some of my stories have made more money for internet pirates than they’ve ever generated for me. In fact, one of my books was reposted under a new author with the same summary description and a poorly edited cover with an altered title and my name covered with a black box and new name over it.

In retrospect, I don’t think he “had the gall” to tell me his intentions. I think I had a good enough rapport with him that he was just being honest and it kind of slipped out. When I think of books and publishing, epiracy isn’t usually something I think about right away… I always think of movies and music as being the target of pirates because our culture has told us so much about it via the media… pretty much every video since the 1980s has had some kind of FBI warning giving us consequences for intellectual content violations and the Napster scandal of the early 2000s told us that Lars, Metallica’s drummer, would personally show up at your house and beat you with a wooden shoe if you downloaded music illegally. Nobody has really talked about books… I mean, pirates can’t even read, right?

Interestingly, Nielson’s did a study on book piracy, as reported in the NYT in March 17. “E-book piracy currently costs U.S. publishers $315 million each year in lost sales.” I know this sounds pretty benign as an Indie/self-published author… but when you look at it realistically, it means that YOU are a U.S. publisher—so this has a direct effect on you.

Here are some of their findings.

  • The majority of illegal downloaders are 18 to 34 years old, educated and wealthy (the digitally savvy generation).
  • Roughly 30% of illegal downloaders either obtain their content from friends via IM, email, or flash drive or from downloading from public/open torrent sites.
  • Illegal downloaders acquire, on average, 13 to 16 ebooks per year—only 3 to 7 of these ebooks are acquired illegally.
  • Men are more likely to pirate a book then women (66% of illegal downloaders are male).
  • 44% of illegal downloaders surveyed reported that they would be much less likely to illegally download ebooks if they believed it harmed the author.

What I found in my conversation was that this data is absolutely true: almost half of these illegal downloaders simply don’t understand how obtaining an ebook illegally affects an author. That 44% doesn’t realize that they directly impact the writer’s bottom line. The craziest thing is the mental disconnect between the wallet and the internet: “The most common age-range of an e-book pirate is between 30- and 44-years-old with a yearly household income between $60,000 and $99,000.” Heck, if I could make 60k annually from my books I’d do this full time!

If you want to read someone’s book and make over 30k per year, you should probably pay the man. If you really can’t afford it, probably just ask him or her on the condition that you will refer all your friends and leave a stellar review online! I can’t think of a time I ever turned away someone who wanted to read my stories… if you REALLY can’t afford to get it, here’s the best way (and it even helps the author)… ask your local library to get a copy. If it’s not in their network they will purchase it!



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