So Wired, a publication I’d expect would get things right when it comes to reporting on piracy, recently asked “Is the iPad Driving E-Book Piracy?” Their near answer: ‘a resounding “kinda”‘.
In trying to establish the effect the impact of the iPad on piracy, Wired reporter Charles Sorrell cites flawed data points. For example, he notes that after the iPad went on sale, e-book downloads were said to spike 78% on BitTorrent.
Interesting, yes, but the spike may best be compared to the one-day lift in Christmas sales for Kindle titles (something Sorrell also wrote about), or the change in pirated content tied to the widespread availability of a new cohort of devices. We’ve also noted before that measuring the instance of piracy is not the same as measuring its impact.
Sorrell also writes that “where geeks go first, the general public will follow. This happened with music.” He goes on to say “Now almost nobody I know buys CDs. They pirate, and even my most hardcore book-loving friend is now a Kindle convert.”
There is considerable discussion, even debate, about what really happened to the music business. I appreciate the appeal of a grandmother test, but “almost nobody I know” doesn’t represent adequate reporting. Industry statistics show a decline in album sales, but there is also healthy growth in digital sales, most often as individual songs.
Sorrell comes to a conclusion that differs from these weak data points: “Blaming the iPad is stupid … If it causes a rise in book piracy, it is only because it is [facilitating] demand. The book industry should embrace this and give us what we want: cheap books, published day-and-date with their paper equivalents, along with all back-catalog titles made available. And preferably DRM-free.”
While I think that’s the right conclusion, I’m not sure the post does the subject any favors. As noted in a recent post about content dust bowls, we need to invest in the news and information we create.