Why I Secretly Hope For An Epidemic Of Book Piracy
In his column in The Telegraph, writer Adrian Hon makes a few assertions about book piracy that relate to the record industry. First, he talks about the rather honest journey that a number of readers take into the practice of downloading books, much like fans do with music. It starts with the notion of getting a hold of a few digital copies of books they own; it's convenient. Plus, they already bought it. The next logical progression is to pick up a few classics. None of those authors are going to gripe about their books being torrented—they're dead after all. They can't sue.
After that, they start looking for books that are out-of-print or not available in their country. Everyone has an obscure passion for a book they can't find anymore. Finally, they'll consider downloading entire collections—like the Twilight series or The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo—at once; it's quicker. Pretty soon, they'll start questioning why they pay for ebooks at all. Thinking to themselves, why do they cost so much anyways? Before the reader knows it, they turned into a full-fledged book pirate. Now they're downloading everything. They started off with a fuzzy notion about typing 'ePub' along with 'Malcolm Gladwell' or Outliers in a Google search and all of the sudden they couldn't stop themselves. All the books they ever wanted are now up for grabs. All of this illegal behavior, but at what cost?
"eBook prices will be forced down, margins will be cut, consolidation will occur. New publishers will spring up, with lower overheads and offering authors a bigger cut. A few publishers will thrive; most publishers will suffer. Some new entrants will make a ton of cash; maybe there’ll be a Spotify or Netflix for books. Life will go on. Authors will continue writing... and books will continue being published." (Read on.)
This sounds strangely familiar to the record industry. The publishing industry is fighting the digital transition tooth and nail, confused about DRM, and pricing things with reckless abandon. Convinced that they're consumers won't turn their back on them for charging exuberant prices and making the experience of getting a digital book terrible. If publishing had their say, ebooks would stay expensive.
The Great Book Piracy Epidemic
One thing that I've always found most interesting is the notion of book piracy in general. People wanting books so bad that they're willing to steal them. Do you think it's possible to buy your kid a Kindle for Christmas and convince him that book piracy is the most horrible and vile thing to do on earth? Only to sneer with delight as your son or daughter stays up all night torrenting and reading books.
This sounds like a dream come true. Given that reading rates are on steady decline and book piracy in tandem with the right digital device has the potential to reinterest people in books, shouldn't we be thankful that they're reading more?
Suddenly, all of your friends are bothering you about your book collection and they want to download a copy. Now, I'm all for authors and everyone getting paid.
But I'm also for people getting fooled into reading under the guise of consumer empowerment and the digital revolution. Imagine how beautiful the world would be if the traditional publishing model collapsed due to unimaginable rates of piracy.
In matter of months, even your grandmother is stealing books. Your kids are drunk on the 100mb download of children's books. This may never happen. But I could tolerate a world where millions of people stole books and read again. It's one thing to take music and not pay for it. Please kids, steal all the books.