It is easy to draw parallels between the experiences of the music publishing industry and the book publishing industry and assume that everyone will be reading in e format sometime in the not too distant future and the printed book will die a natural death.
But books are both a visual and tactile experience that many of us start to engage in before we are one year old and I just can’t see a Kindle rag book or board book anytime soon.
And I would much, much rather see primary aged children engaging in sustained reading from a ‘real’ book that from a screen.
The real concern I have with the eBook is the amount of theft of intellectual property that occurs on the internet, whether it be through free ‘file sharing’ or the sale of books copied onto CD’s on listings services like eBay.
My experience is that reports of this type of copyright infringement are largely ignored by the listing service and sellers take the view that they ‘own’ their book and are free to make as many copies as they wish to resell.
There is also a gentleman somewhere on the internet who undertakes to purchase new release books, makes electronic copies which are then freely available to all comers, of course ‘donations’ via PayPal to fund such purchases are gratefully accepted.
And I am absolutely certain that this type of theft will become more and more prevalent as more and more people acquire ereaders and more and more books become available in eformat.
I remember when the new Happy Potters were coming out people had them scanned within 24 hours and listed on EBay as PDFs.
Now I know that (Mainly) Second hand book sellers like myself don’t contribute directly to author’s royalties but we do make some small contribution; we introduce new authors to our customers who in turn then purchase the author’s new releases or new copies of back list titles we don’t have in stock. I certainly get feedback from my customers that this occurs as I often get asked to order in the new books for them.
I also stock new books where there is sufficient demand.
But at least the author got paid the first time the book was sold and the second hand book has a one to one effect. Not the one to thousands an ePirate can have.
And it’s not like the author can say
Oh, I can’t make much from my book sales these days so I will just go on a concert tour and make money that way.
If publishers aren’t paying decent advances and ePirates are producing copies as soon as a title is released then the incentives to write and publish new books will be greatly diminished. And sure, writers write for love but they also have those food, clothing and shelter needs like the rest of us.
Books need to be edited and marketed and all the rest of it whether they are in print format or not. If a publisher can’t make a profit then they will not publish new titles.
People can rationalise the theft of music, movies and books til the cows come home i.e. If it is not tangible I am not really stealing, books are over priced etc etc etc but the bottom line is they don’t care much for The Ten Commandments (“A Man’s Gotta Have a Code” right?) and the things that deter most people from stealing from stores such as the risk of detection and the consequences that flow from that are so low in relation to digital theft they think they can do it with impunity.
Will the book publishing industry survive eTheft?
I don’t know