Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Stealing a Book Might Help the eBook Cause

The Guardian had in interesting article on why eBooks aren’t as big as they should be; they explained that their belief (and mine too), is there aren’t enough pirates taking interest.

I’ve heard people talking about torrent sites that are plentiful of eBooks, but they are wrong. Yes, you can get a copy of TwilightHarry Potter is there too. It’s not what’s there that surprises me—it’s what’s not. Try and find a copy of some other bestselling authors—try John Grisham…nothing. Try someone classic…chances are nothing (although admittedly the Catcher in the Rye (which is on Kindle, and won't be until Salinger is dead or suddenly has a change of heard about publishing) is pretty easy to get.

EBooks, I would think, would be the easiest thing to find because they don’t take up any space; someone could create an anonymous Google Account, post the whole darn thing to Google’s document viewer, and it would be completely untraceable if they did it right. It probably would take a publisher months before they realized someone had done it, and then sent a letter to Google for them to take it down.

What’s even more surprising to me is Kindle has been out for quite some time, but no one has created a program that converts a Kindle protected eBook into an unencrypted Word (or text) document. Without something like this, then pirating eBooks is obviously never going to be very big.

Publishers are in a truly blessed position right now, because they really don’t have to deal with piracy in the same way as the music and movie industry. I don’t think that will last, and the Guardian makes a good point—they are going to soon be awaken to a sleeping giant that they are completely unprepared to fight.

Yes there are books on torrents, but if you browse through them you’ll quickly see that they are usually non-fiction business books—some probably uploaded by the authors. Most the time if you find a way to get an eBook for free, it’s probably because it was part of a promotion. Go ahead, look; go to Mininova (one of the largest torrent sites) and browse through their recent eBook entries; wheras movie entries has stuff currently showing at your local cinema, eBooks has a bunch of porn, a few technical books (not surprising since technical books are quite popular with pirates), and that's about it.

I’m not advocating someone create software that makes pirating eBooks easier (nor am I advoccating you download books illegally--authors really do need money...they're the poorest of all artist!)—I’m just surprised it hasn’t been done yet. If you can unencrypt 60 some odd gigs of video from a blu-ray disc (which has so many layers of encryption it’s ridiculous), how hard can it be to unencrypt a book that’s not even a megabyte?

Several years ago, a friend told me that he would have no problem paying for music if there was an easy, legal, way to do it; at the time MP3 players were just catching on (it was pre-iPod), and the easiest way to get a MP3 file was to download it on Napster (or if you were a true pirate, Usenet). How long is it going to be until Kindles and eBook readers (or even cell phones as eBooks) do catch on, and people start saying, “I’d buy that eBook legally if I could.” The sad thing about my friend was he was so used to doing it illegally that now that there is an easy legal way of doing it, he still doesn't bother--he did it so long the guilt was removed, I guess!

Amazon proudly boasts that almost every single bestseller is available on Kindle; that’s nice. What would be nicer is if they could boast the same about their backlist. I would guess that 50% of the 240,000 some odd books that’s on Kindle is public domain fiction that can be gotten free anywhere else. Not in that group of 240,000 are way too many other books? Is it so hard to put Flannery O’Connor on Kindle? How about Thomas Pynchon? David Foster Wallace? Heck what about Harry Potter? If Kindles so big they can’t get Harry Potter? And how about Michael Crichton? Thanks for giving us a Kindle version of The Lost World (sequel to Jurassic Park), but where’s Jurassic Park? Why don’t only put on the last Harry Potter while you’re at it?

Right now people can’t go easily on the Net and illegally get books from most of their favorite authors, but every month that changes more and more. The digital revolution that publishers have so far avoided, has finally come—let’s hope they start to get prepared.


lakeviewer said...

I still need to curl up and read a real paper made book. Better yet, one I own, which can be battered also, underlined, read backwards, read a piece, a paragraph at a time. Give me the real thing.

Aren't we going the way cooking and sewing went? Yes, there are commercial, quick meals,and frozen entres. But, nothing beats cooking a pot-roast from scratch.

Scott Douglas said...

I will always have a library in my house with real books, and I still enjoy reading a physical book. Ereaders are perfect for magazines and newspapers, however. They're also great for textbooks (who wouldn't prefer having a ereader that weighs less than a pound to carrying six heavy textbooks in your backpack?). They're also great for travel; I can't tell you how many times I pack a book to read during a vacation only to find out the book was absolutely lousy...at least with ereaders you can store dozens of books to choose from.

lakeviewer said...

I guess we must adapt to the times. Who knew that we could reach people across the continents and languages with just one click of a button? ( I just love the way the translator works, keeping the structure and vocabulary just slightly off balance.)

Roland Saint-Laurent said...

See? I knew I wasn't the only one who liked to get intimate with their books. The same reason why I don't like hardcover books applies to the Kindle: No matter how cool it is, you just can't get intimate with it the way you can with a paperback.