Putting readers first

After declaring myself "cautiously optimistic" about the prospects for a data-driven publishing business, I managed to find a post (on TechCrunch, written by John Biggs) that took the wind out of my sails. Start with the headline: "E-Publishing May Be Doing Everything Right, But We Can’t Ignore The Spectre Of Piracy".

Generally, I find TechCrunch pretty useful, but … "the spectre of piracy"?

Jumping off a longer examination of eBook publishing, written by Rob Reid for the Wall Street Journal, Biggs seems to miss one of Reid's core points:

"But sales figures suggest that relatively few of these [eBook] downloads represent foregone purchases. Most Kindle, iPad and Nook owners seem to view piracy as a low-rent and time-consuming experience compared with the sanctioned alternatives. They probably wouldn't if the publishers had kicked things off with a five-year content boycott."

Instead, Biggs cites data about the instance of piracy (bestsellers on Pirate Bay, a study that showed older women were more likely to pirate a book, typically romance) without asking "Why?" In our limited study, which I always say should be expanded and undertaken by a cross-section of publishers, we found that the majority of downloads occured in markets where a physical or digital book was otherwise not available.

If that finding holds up, the real problem isn't that "these [pirated] books are easy to grab". Instead, you start to look at things like territorial rights, which often make it impossible to obtain a legitimate copy.

If there's a "spectre of piracy" in publishing, it starts with any business model that fails to put readers first. That's the real lesson of what happened in the music business.

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.