Book Publishers Misguided Complaints About Scribd

from the sensationalism-at-work dept

If you're a bored journalist, it's easy to create a sensationalistic story about "piracy." Just find some pre-internet industry that's dealing with the shift to online content, get a few quotes about how awful "pirates" are, and then find a company to blame for all of it. That seems to be what the Times of London did with its story about publishers freaking out over people uploading books to Scribd. Scribd responded by pointing out numerous factual errors in the original article (specifically the parts that seem to try to place the blame on Scribd, despite it being a third party platform that actually has a pretty advanced anti-infringement system in place). However, this is the quote that struck me:
Peter Cox, a literary agent and editor of the Litopia blog, said: "These people are pirates. We don't have to give in to this. We can't afford to make the same mistakes the music industry did."
Apparently Mr. Cox hasn't been paying attention. The "music industry" (he means the recording industry) didn't give in on this. It fought it consistently. And lost pretty much every battle -- often making things worse for itself by simply never adjusting to the changing marketplace. So, Cox's response is to follow their exact mistakes by "fighting" this? That's exactly the mistake that the music industry made.

Instead, he might want to take a look at what folks like Paulo Coehlo discovered when he "pirated" his own books and saw sales jump. Or what Baen books has done. Or what tons of authors have found after they put their books online for free and combined it with a smart business model. Otherwise, Mr. Cox is making the exact mistake the recording industry made while thinking (incorrectly) that trying to "stop piracy" is somehow a workable solution.

Filed Under: books, piracy, publishers, publishing
Companies: scribd


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  1. identicon
    Peter Cox, 1 Apr 2009 @ 1:47pm

    “Many of them cheated both their suppliers and their customers, but got away with it because there were no viable options”

    Questionable, huge generalization, but as an agent I would tend to side with you on this.

    ”Today, the game is very different. Artists/writers/performers can produce their own work and market it alone”

    Not really true in the publishing area yet.

    “The only real way to get people to buy from you is to offer them something they want”

    You’re right.

    But none of the above excuses wholesale copyright piracy.

    When you steal a book by – for example - using Scribd, you’re taking money directly away from writers. And most writers are close to minimum wage already.

    Justify that, if you can.

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