Throughout 2015, the major book publishers have been reporting declining eBook sales. Different sources give varying reasons for this but, overall, the general consensus seems to be that an increase in eBook prices is to blame.
That could have serious implications where piracy is concerned.
Some of the largest publishers in the world, including Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins and Hachette recently entered into new contracts with Amazon. Those contracts allow the publishers more of a say in the price of eBooks bearing their imprints that are sold on the Amazon marketplace.
For consumers, that’s generally meant higher prices for eBooks. EBooks are typically priced lower than print books but, under the new contracts, readers can reasonably expect to pay nearly as much for a new title by one of the major publishers in eBook form as they would in print form.
Print books still outsell eBooks by a wide margin. Some of the decline in the sales of eBooks by the major publishers could be due to a variety of different factors, according to TechCrunch.
Independent authors, using a word processor, Calibre and the Amazon marketplace, can publish their own books for nothing more than the cost of their time and effort. There is a huge number of independently-published books available on Amazon, typically priced far below what the major publishers charge for their titles.
Interestingly, GoodReader reported in July that the Association of American Publishers saw an increase in paperback sales, which could indicate that people are going back to reading off of paper in larger numbers than might have been predicted. Perhaps eBooks were just a passing fad after all and aren’t interesting enough as a product to sell for the higher prices publishers want.
There is a big difference between eBooks and print books that isn’t being considered in all of this, at least to any significant degree: eBooks are easy to pirate.
It’s not particularly difficult to find pirated media of any type. Between USENET indexers that carry listings of material that’s clearly pirated and torrent sites that do the same, it’s certainly not hard to step on a copyright or two.
Books, however, and particularly eBooks, have generally been inexpensive enough that there’s no real point in pirating them. Whether it means picking from the thousands of $0.99 eBooks on Amazon or waiting until a printed version of a novel is available at a discounted price from a second-hand store, books are usually cheap.
With eBook prices being jacked up, there’s certainly more motivation to pirate them and less motivation to buy them. There are already sites like abook.ws that specialize in audiobooks, which are usually pricier than books and certainly eBooks.
That might not be the case for much longer, however, as eBook prices go up.
EBook files are small, easy to distribute and, even when they come with DRM, it’s not difficult to remove it. By jacking up the prices for eBooks, publishers may well be making an already difficult market more challenging for them.
Between the very popular, and far more affordable, self-published books on Amazon, the overall decline of print publishing and raising eBook prices significantly, publishers might be begging people to start pirating their titles, and they might stand to lose more sales because of that.