Saturday, February 20, 2010

The iPad, ebooks and piracy

A lot has been said of the ipad's potential to 'save' the publishing industry by creating an outlet to monetize books. But I don't think people have given much thought into the possibility that piracy could dent this dream quite a bit.

Granted, the iPad represents a fundamental departure in the way computers are managed, and Apple's tight control over the platform makes it a difficult environment for would-be book pirates to operate on. But if iphone apps are any indication, it is certain that enterprising users will definitely find a way around it. If people are motivated enough to pirate 99c apps, it is certainly not unreasonable to assume that overpriced content like ebooks will be pirated with far greater gusto.

After all, not many people will accept that digital books, that cost nothing to duplicate, still cannot make money unless its sold at a price many think is unreasonable. Since costs of writing, marketing and editing do not disappear with electronic versions of books, (usually staying at around 12% of hardcover price) many publishers are likely to face revolts from an uninformed public once ebooks start taking off.

I believe this battle will be fought hardest in the land of ridiculously overpriced textbooks . Most publishers release new editions every year with little different than shuffled question numbers, deliberately designed to force students to purchase their expensive products every semester -- weakly justified practices with questionable moral grounding. If piracy encourages them to redefine their strategies to prevent them from going the way of the music industry, it can only be better for everyone.

No comments: