The past few days I can’t go on Twitter (oddly enough it’s only Twitter), without seeing someone going on and on about book piracy. Yes, it’s a problem. No, it’s not going to cease. Here’s why.
We live in a world where downloading books for “free” on the internet is easier than going to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, or any other legitimate website to get books. Easier than getting on the OverDrive or Libby apps and checking for an eBook version from our local library. Easier than using the library’s website or app to search for physical copies of books. So for some people, it’s because it’s “easier” to obtain the books that way. Go to the website, click the link, open the book in chosen eReader app, done. These are the people who do it because they’re just plain lazy.
Then there are the people who have the “books are a cultural thing and culture should be free.” These same people probably balk at having to pay for cable or satellite TV, Netflix, or Hulu. They wouldn’t pay for a Kindle Unlimited subscription if it only cost a penny per month. They pirate any sort of media they can just to prove their point that it should be free.
Then you have the people who are more than willing to pay for books or use the library. Their excuse for pirating books is that while they’re willing to pay for books, they can’t afford to. That when they try to use the library, the library doesn’t have the books they want and won’t buy them. Now some libraries are under a major budget crunch. Most of the time unless multiple people ask for the same book, the library won’t buy it. Other times, the person asking lives in a portion of town that isn’t incorporated. They don’t technically belong to the library system they’re using. Maybe they paid a fee that got them a card, but can’t use interlibrary loan services. Maybe they don’t pay for a card, but don’t get full access to services. Local city and county governments might be able to help, but it depends on the area you live in, what your residency looks like, and yes, voter registration status of those residents. Trust me, if you can’t or don’t vote, you won’t get anywhere. And sometimes you get told that the library won’t be changing and that’s that. Been there, done that before.
But even if you could fix it so that libraries always had access to new books and people always had the option of getting them from the library, you’re still not going to get rid of the lazy people who don’t want to do more than make a couple of clicks. So how do we fix it? Simple. DRM.
Digital Rights Management. One things I’ve noticed is that all the pirated book files are DRM free files. Meaning someone purchased them, then made them available to download via a file sharing website because the file was DRM free and could be opened on pretty much any eReader app that accepted the file type. So here’s my question – if publishers and authors are so worried about book piracy, why do they allow DRM-free files of their books to be purchased? Because customers complain? Sorry, I don’t buy it. I have books I’ve purchased for my Nook – can’t read them anywhere else because the file type is proprietary and has DRM attached to it. Same with Kindle books I’ve bought on Amazon. Although I have apps that will read Kindle files, I can’t read them on those apps because they’re DRM protected.
Until publishers and authors are willing to say “you either buy a DRM-protected eBook file or you don’t buy one at all” and make it so that there aren’t any DRM-free files available in the first place, book piracy will never end. You can debate it on Twitter all you want, but honestly, without DRM-protected files, you’ll never get rid of book piracy. You just won’t.