Piracy and E-Books in a Tale of Two Cities

In my last article on Piracy, I spoke of Digital Music and Video Piracy and the actions being taken worldwide to combat its scourge.

Not long ago, book sales were down as the web made reading of books and Paperbacks a trifling waste of time, what with so many gadgets that afforded the reader the ability to read anywhere on any device.

So the recent declaration by Amazon at their latest Wall Street earnings call that since January 1st 2011 AD, they have been selling more e-books than Paperbacks and Hardcover books combined at a ratio of 100 Paperback for every 115 Kindle versions sold.

This after they had declared back in July 2010 that Kindle books were outpacing the sale of Hardcover books at a ratio of 143 Kindle books for every 100 Hardcover sold. Put another way, e-book sales have tripled when the sales of the First Quarter of 2009 are compared to the First Quarter of 2010.

Say what!

It seems that books, long being unpopular, are making a comeback en vogue ever since the Amazon Kindle made its debut on Monday November 19th 2007, ironically the same year as the Apple iPhone on AT&T. Two revolutions started in one year.


Or are the Fates playing a cruel game of Chess with our loves for the Muses of Reading and Speech?

The Apple iPad later rolled out the Apple cart, sellin’ their Apple iPad in 2010 to rave reviews, undoubtedly the Year of the Apple iPad – or at least when the Tablet came of Age.

Kindle love among its devotees was however strong, as it was indeed rekindling (pun intended!) the love for reading in much as the Apple iPad was rekindling a love for portable computers.

So the Kindle 2, which debut in February of 2009, albeit an expensive US$399 for an early adopters upgrade that ONLY reads books using its revolutionary eye-strain relieving Digital Ink Technology, was actually the precursor to e-book piracy.

So when the Apple iPad, widely mocked for its odd quirky and Je Ne Sais Quoi name, landed with an ear-splitting roar, it was largely applauded as a Tablet, not an e-reader.

Albeit largely a multimedia device that had potential for reviving everything from newspapers and Magazines, comic books and even the added bonus of shaking up the Platform Games Industry giants such as Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft, it DID have an impact on e-Readers, as the above evidence suggests.

Impact? A really big one in fact! Amazon sold out its GSM and Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n) capable Kindle 3 in August of 2010. This was after the Apple iPad had launched, making the connection anecdotal but obvious from a common-sense point of view.

But its potential for Piracy is easily understood if one considers the size of an e-book. So small, usually measuring in the Kilobytes, it easy to steal, break open the encryption and copy and redistribute.

So recent news suggesting that e-book piracy is accelerating a year after the Apple iPad S strikes an ominous contrast to the news of it now outselling BOTH Paperbacks and Hardcovers.

Looks like the Amazon Kindle is slowly becoming a victim of it own success: as the price for the device drops, people, seeking to avoid paying the Piper, opt to pirate the books.

Predictably, the rampant sales now will be followed by a leveling off period in 2011 and then a steady decline in 2012. This especially as there is growing discontent among customers as to the unfair pricing nature of e-books when compared to Hardcover and Paperback editions.

Throw in new Publishers looking to get published via giving away their content for “free” on other content distribution Platforms e.g. FaceBook or on other e-Reader devices and you have an accelerated decline in sales in 2012. A push to in-content advertising, while saving content producers of such things as Magazines, wills not work so well on, say, a copy of Tale of Two Cities (1859), Charles Dickens Style!

Thus the birth of its sibling, the Apple iPad S on Wednesday March 2nd 2011, for which invites have already been sent out, should be of concern to Amazon, as it may Super-charge and later Turbo-charge e-book piracy!

Especially with so many Tablets slated by Apple, projected by iSuppli to top fifty seven million, six hundred thousand (57,600,000) units worldwide, up 237% from the previous estimate of seventeen million, one hundred thousand (17,100,000) units.

Holy…….this 2011 AD and 2012AD is truly the Year of the Tablet! Maybe a knee jerk response to Google Android and its present second place position based on the recently released statistics by ComScore.

But in the world of Silicon Valley, even with 87% confirmed market dominance of the Apple iPad according to analyst IDC, Apple CEO Steve Jobs, a war-hero who rescued Apple from near bankruptcy in the early, knows how quickly the high of a quick success can turn to cataclysmic defeat.

Hence the hoarding of LCD Screens and components of various sizes to the tune of US$7.8 billion as reported by CNET.

With such an onslaught in the coming battle at Helms Deep that will effectively be a massacre of Amazon Kindle, making them into – well, kindle wood for a fireplace – the question now begs: Who will save the Publishers, caught in the middle?

Will they suffer the same fate as Musicians and other Artiste, their revenue forever to be lost thanks to new technology Platform’s popularity i.e. The Apple iPod that had promised the Music Industry their Revival – but in fact may be accelerating their Demise?

Truly, a Tale of Two Cities (1859) for Publishers of written content everywhere, looking on nervously for signs that the Apple iPad may come with some means of protecting their intellectual property as the launch date draws near for the Saviour or Villain of the Publishing World……..

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Lindsworth is a Radio Frequency and Generator Maintenance Technician who has a knack for writing about his work, which is in the Telecoms Engineering Field. An inspired writer on themes as diverse as Autonomous Ants simulations, Power from Lightning and the current Tablet Wars.

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