CNN's Take On 'Book Piracy'

from the where's-the-analysis dept

paperbag was the first of a whole bunch of you to send in CNN’s article on ‘book piracy.’ To be honest, there was so little substance in the article that I didn’t see much of a reason to post it — but since people keep submitting it, it seems that quite a few of you are hoping to discuss it. A lot of folks pointed out Sherman Alexie’s comments complaining about “piracy,” but those quotes were taken verbatim from his appearance on The Colbert Report, which we already discussed.

To be honest, what disappointed me with CNN’s article is that it didn’t challenge any of the obviously bogus statements made in the article. We already covered the problems with Alexie’s, but CNN also notes: “J.K Rowling has thus far refused to make any of her Harry Potter books available digitally because of piracy fears.” Of course, that assumes that it’s the official digital version that gets copied. While I haven’t checked, I would be stunned to find out that all of Ms. Rowling’s work is not already widely available via file sharing sites. Her deciding not to offer up an ebook copy didn’t stop piracy. In fact, it probably encouraged it, because those who want a digital copy now only have the option of using an unauthorized copy. The article also implies (though doesn’t state directly) that Apple iTunes has “solved” the piracy issue in music. Oddly, however, it doesn’t note that, unlike the music industry, at least the ebook industry is starting out with at least some legal marketplace for books. The music industry had to be dragged kicking and screaming to get there.

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Comments on “CNN's Take On 'Book Piracy'”

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47 Comments
TFP says:

wtf

A hack has written the same story 5 or so times, takes fans to court and is a British millionaire 5 times over (uncertified internet source), is worried about her books being pirated (they have by the way) – I’d posit she’s more worried by the adage that ‘you can never have enough’, which is fair enough, but at least be honest about it.

Call me Al says:

Re: wtf

I understand she is actually a dollar billionaire, the first female author to become so. She is clearly not short on money and I like to think (from interviews etc) that she is not the kind of person to be that obsessed with it.

However she is certainly someone who is very possessive about her creation, which as the author is understandable. This possessiveness has been shown by her treatment of the guy who did the unofficial Potter encyclopedia.

Perhaps the more important factor to consider with the attitude to no e-books are the publishers themselves. They are going concerns who need to keep earning money to exist, unlike JK who could live off the interest for a thousand years. They will be the ones most concerned about internet piracy and chances are they have made the typical kneejerk reaction of so many other companies and immediately assumed all piracy is damaging and evil.

It is a lot easier for the media to report “JK Rowling refuses to allow publishing of books at e-books” then it is to report “Bloomsbury publishers have refused to allow the publishing of the Harry Potter books authored by JK Rowling in an e-book format”. Especially as I think there are different publishers for the book in each major country.

Almost Anonymous (profile) says:

Re: Re: wtf

“””
However she is certainly someone who is very possessive about her creation, which as the author is understandable.
“””

No, it is not very understandable considering that she built “her” creation around the creations of many many others. Please to look up “The Books of Magic”, wherein a young british boy is indoctrinated into a world of magic and spells, oh and he has a white owl as a familiar. These books (and other similar works) were published well before the first Harry Potter book ever saw the light of day.

As much as I enjoyed her books, J.K. is nothing but a derivative hack, and for her to try to keep HP from the digital realm to prevent copying is blatant hypocrisy.

The Anti-Mike (profile) says:

To be honest, what disappointed me with CNN’s article is that it didn’t challenge any of the obviously bogus statements made in the article. We already covered the problems with Alexie’s, but CNN also notes: “J.K Rowling has thus far refused to make any of her Harry Potter books available digitally because of piracy fears.”

Mike, is it not true that Ms Rowling has refused to allow digital versions of her books? Is it not true that she is concerned about piracy?

There is no false statement, just perhaps her ignorance of what dedicated “fans” will do.

SomeGuy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Mike’s disappointment was that CNN didn’t challenge anything. The present the fact that Rowling hasn’t offered her book digitally, but they failed to point out (as Mike notes) that this is an empty and futile gesture. Not-offering her books online hasn’t stopped piracy, as Rowling would wish and CNN implies, but instead people who want a digital copy of Rowling’s work are forced to not-pay her. Rowling has ensured that there is no way to obtain a digital HP book EXCEPT through piracy — thus encouraging that which she fears.

The “problem” with the statement on Rowling isn’t that it’s simply false, but rather that it implies a falsehood (namely, that not-offering a digital copy has stopped piracy).

PapaFox says:

J. K. Rowling and piracy

The decision by J. K. Rowling not to release digital editions of her books certainly did not prevent them from being pirated – in fact it encouraged it. All her later books were pirated withing hours of their release. Teams of fans organised to scan a chapter each, with a first draft scan being available within an hour or so the book becoming available. Final proof-read versions were available several days later.

So what was the result – Rowlings books stil sold very well. People who used the pirated book fell into three categories (a) Fans who bought physical books, and used the pirate digital edition for a book reader; (b) Dead beats who read the pirate digital edition, but had no intention of buying a physical book; (c) People who read the digital pirate edition and then went on to buy a Rowling physical book (either the same or a different title). None of these categories result in decreased sales, and with (c) there are some increased sales with the digital pirate edition acting as a free sample.

Rowling would be the first to point out that I have omitted a category (d) – People who intended to buy a physical book but having a pirate digital version caused them not to purchase. The classic ‘lost sale’ argument. The available evidence suggests either this group is very small, or that the increased sales due to “free samples” (category c) heavily outweighs the losses.

The books sales of J. K. Rowling

Richard (profile) says:

Re: J. K. Rowling and piracy

“- People who intended to buy a physical book but having a pirate digital version caused them not to purchase.”

Well in her case I think the category could be quite large – because of all the people who realised how badly written the later books are and gave up on them.

So I can understand why she might be more worried than other authors.

MCR says:

Re: J. K. Rowling and piracy

One other category, which generally applies to me, is to download the pirated copy and wait for the paperback. I have not intention of buying a hardback (way too expensive), but the publishers have their windows just like movie studios. However, I do like to have a physical copy of the book.

While it’s not technically a lost sale, publishers would definitely count it as one.

Mike Wallace (profile) says:

Book Piracy

I think J.K. Rowling and most authors are not aware of the fact books have been the original pirated media for the past 600 years. People buy physical books and pass them along to friends who pass them along to friends. Ebooks have only created a sub-market. Now we have readers who want the physical book and readers who prefer ebooks.

Marcel de Jong (profile) says:

Re: Re: Book Piracy

Who here has never made a photocopy of books for school book-reports while in the library? I know I have. For a few quarters I had a copy of the cliff notes for instance, and in some cases even entire sections of books.
In The Netherlands you have to pay a blanket fee for the use of the photocopier, so you could argue “That’s not piracy”, but I did sometimes make a duplication without prior approval of the author.

The Anti-Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Book Piracy

You are confusing issues, but you actual lead to the important point:

Plenty of “sharing” was tolerated in the past because of how slow that sharing was.

Example: You get a book, it takes you a couple of weeks to read it (spare time). A couple of weeks later you give it to a friend, who gets around to reading it a few months later, and then maybe passes it on to someone else. Even on a strict 2 week schedule, that book only gets 26 readers a year.

Now, take a digital copy of the book and put it online, and within a day, millions of people could have it, and maybe a month from now tens of millions of people could have read the book for free.

See the issue of scale?

It’s the same as the good old “mix tape” situation. When recording was done real time, a 90 minute mix tape might take all day to make, and copies of the copy were of lower quality. Thus, even a dedicated mix tape make might only squeeze out a few tapes a week, not really a big deal. But with digital music, a single downloader can pretty much get every piece of newly released music on a weekly basis, and share that music with millions of other people.

Scale.

Nobody gives a crap out the onesies and twosies lost sales, those aren’t even rounding errors. Widescale online piracy is millions of potential sales blown out the window. It’s why copyright holders are agressively attemmpting to shut down some of the “fair use” loopholes, as they are being abused as source material for piracy.

Almost Anonymous (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Book Piracy

Dammit, Anti-Mike, again you confuse me by presenting a logical argument when all I expect from you is FUD. I can’t see a single thing in that post that I disagree with, except for you insinuation that fair use (yes it’s a real thing, putting quotes around it doesn’t change that) is a loophole that exists only to be exploited.

So it’s clear that logical arguments are not completely lost on you; why then can you not see the point that above commenter made? If your business model can be destroyed by a few people with computers, you don’t deserve to be in business. Adapt or die.

chris (profile) says:

Re: Book Piracy

I think J.K. Rowling and most authors are not aware of the fact books have been the original pirated media for the past 600 years. People buy physical books and pass them along to friends who pass them along to friends. Ebooks have only created a sub-market.

pirated books have been around since the gutenberg press. history is full of examples of underground presses printing unauthorized copies of books for sale, especially controversial books, or books banned by the local monarchy or government.

PrometheeFeu (profile) says:

Specifically, I read an article a couple of years back which talked about a group of German English speakers who translated and made available online the then-latest Harry Potter book within 48 hours or so of it hitting the US market. The article I read actually talked about how incredibly organized the translators were with “managers” of sorts assigned to every chapter to collate and edit the translations by participants, multiple review, specific participants being assigned the translation of invented words etc… Supposedly, after the 48 hours translation was done, they initiated a second project to do a much better translation with every page being translated by 3 people at least. Now officially, the project only distributed the result to its members, but I seriously doubt that it ended up being the case.
Here is the article in french

Supposedly, the German publisher who was originally quite unhappy with the project but then changed his mind (after the group agreed not to distribute outside of itself) for unstated reasons. I think though that he should have gone further and just published the crowed-sourced translation. I mean, I don’t know about the editorial process for book translations, but I doubt that they have more review and a greater attention to detail than fanatical readers…

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