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It depends whom you ask.
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Over time these individual anecdotes of loss and outrage coalesce into generally received wisdom: that piracy is aggressive and pervasive and that it is bringing the book trade to its knees. Piracy is theft. Piracy is killing publishing. How can I stop it happening to me? The answer is simple: you cannot stop piracy.
Piracy is a side effect of the internet. The answer may surprise you. Anyone interested in piracy should read it in some detail.
The most recent survey covers March to May and it suggests that book piracy, as opposed to movie or music piracy, is a marginal activity that barely registers in the data. Only 1 per cent of British internet users downloaded a book illegally in the period surveyed, and only 10 per cent of all book downloads were illegal these figures include legitimate free downloads from services such as Project Gutenberg.
To put it another way, 90 per cent of the online book trade is made up of paid-for retail or legitimate free services. Pause for a moment on that figure. Can the physical book trade, with its libraries and charity shops, boast a figure that high?
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This is hardly a piratical takeover and anti aging secret 1 overdrive pedál British book trade is not crumbling in the face of it.
Physical book sales fell by 1 per cent while digital sales surged by 66 per cent. Mapping the Ofcom numbers onto the Publishers Association figures suggests that in book piracy may have been equivalent to around £40 million 10 per cent of digital publishing revenues out of total publishing revenues of £3.
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And that assumes that each of those illegal downloads replaced a legitimate, purchased one. Books, it is clear, are different to music and film, where illegal downloading is ten times more prevalent.
Is there something different about the audience for books which makes piracy less of a problem? Men download and share illegal material more than women; younger people download illegally more than older people.
What the British figures tell us is this: where legitimate e-books are widely available and easy to access, piracy barely registers. But this is not the case in other countries and raises a crunchier problem for any rational discussion of piracy. Russian book-sharing site Library Anti aging secret 1 overdrive pedál offers a massive archive of almost a million books.
The most commonly pirated Western fiction seems to be material beloved by computer engineers. Markets such as Russia remain a problem for publishing. By some estimates, 95 per cent of e-book downloads in Russia are illegitimate. But the big players in e-books — specifically Amazon — do not operate in Russia and there is a paucity of legitimate titles available perhaps only 60, In such an environment, piracy becomes the convenient option, not the outlaw one. Before the internet, such piracy in physical formats would have been invisible to you.
Now you know about it, what should you do? Should you even be secretly, of course pleased? Neil Gaiman, whose titles seem to make up a large proportion of all the books on Library Genesis, has said that piracy in Russia has, in fact, increased his sales there.
Piracy, then, is unavoidable. This is not to say there are no weapons with which to fight back.
But here is the dilemma: Muso costs £12 a month per author name, book title or publication. That puts a price on your appetite to confront the pirates and, for all but a small number of authors, £12 a month is likely to be a good deal more than is being lost from piracy anyway. And that itchier question remains: if you find a copy of your book on a service such as Library Genesis, what do you do?
It is, at the very least, a question worth asking.