iPad launch boosted eBook piracy

The arrival of the Apple iPad has led to an increase in eBook piracy, according to an anti-piracy firm.

iPad launch boosted eBook piracy

Attributor has been keeping an eye on illegal distribution of eBooks, going as far as setting up a fake book download site to measure how serious the problem is across the web.

While it’s not quite on the scale of music or film downloads, there is notable demand. Attributor believes there’s between 1.5 million and three million people searching for pirated eBooks each day around the world, which it said was probably a “conservative estimate”.

The numbers suggest a 50% increase over the past year, and Attributor noticed a 20% jump directly after the launch of the iPad.

“This year has been a very seminal year in the book publishing industry, as it transitions to a digital publishing model,” said Jim Pitkow, Attributor’s CEO. “The iPad opened up a new user segment.”

Five per cent of visitors to the fake download site were using iOS devices, despite iOS accounting for only 1.18% of all web browsing share according to Net Applications.


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The study suggested demand for pirated eBooks was international, with attempts happening at every hour of the day, and that all types of books were targeted, from fiction to textbooks.

PDFs were the main file format to be traded, and some were scanned in from hard copies, but eBook formats are being cracked, Pitkow said. “Every DRM available on books we have seen cracked,” he said, admitting it was hard to stop books from being illegally copied.

However, the study also noted that one in five visitors to the fake piracy pages clicked a link directing them to Amazon’s website, suggesting consumers were happy to pay if the option was available.

With that in mind, Pitkow thinks it’s worth appealing to readers’ “social conscience” when it comes to downloads, in the same way coffee and clothing companies do, by encouraging them to avoid piracy by marking legal eBooks with a “fair trade” badge.

“There’s an opportunity to elevate the conversation here,” he said, and build on the lessons of music and film industry over the past decade.

While it may be encouraging to see that people are at least reading, the most searched for book to pirate was Stephanie Meyer’s Breaking Dawn, part of the Twilight series.

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