Classic British comedy has often portrayed the working class in a favourably light with shows such as ‘The Good Life’, ‘Porridge’ and ‘Only Fools and Horses’. Physical work, rather than intellectual delights, has always been attributed to such characters. Which may explain why during the London riots last year Clapham Junction’s Waterstones remained untouched by looters. The store kept its doors open famously remarking, “they might learn something”.
The digitalisation of books was inevitably going to cause online piracy. In the past, and to a lesser extent, audio books could be found on torrent sites. In a report by the Daily Mail it has been revealed that up to 20% of eBooks are sourced illegally as the Publishers Association issues thousands of legal threats to websites.
For the last year I have been keeping a watchful eye over the Publishing Industry due to its rapid evolution. The adoption of Amazon’s Kindle eBook reader had once only been the focus for innovators but now has found common adoption. Swaying readers away from classic hardbacks and paperbacks to instead digital formats. Inevitably this was going to cause a stir.
Debates still surround the pricing of eBooks as many still hold a price not too dis-similar from their dead tree cousins. The cost of producing a digital book formats only lies with the costs accumulated by the publishing house for its marketing, proofreading and commissions. The pricey cost of material and ink has been averted. The excessive commission which Amazon applies to eBooks can in many cases make the price irrelevant as a reason for choosing a paper or digital format.
Without wanting to share too much agreement with America’s controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) I do believe that Google has a lot to answer for online piracy. Whilst the attainment for free speech is integral online, often referred to as transparency in public relations, Google need to ask themselves serious ethical questions. Is it right for the world’s largest search engine to allow users to easily access sites promoting illegal file sharing?
I know there are countless other methods to find torrent files.
I know that the internet is causing industries to reconsider their business models.
I know that whilst eBook piracy is rising, so are the sales which are providing huge financial boosts for publishers and authors.
Sharing used to be word to imply generosity but the influence of the internet could begin to taint it. Could downloading an eBook be likened to lending a book to a friend or walking into Waterstones to steal a book? In a talk by Stephen Fry in 2009 at the Roundhouse in Camden (which I was fortunate enough to attend), he directly attacked the music industries’ approach towards online piracy. Stating that the pirates they were criminalising were also their customers. Ethics is not always so clear cut.
In my eyes books are different. Sharing books is a method to share knowledge but the book publishing industry can’t afford for books to be widely downloaded for free. One thing is for certain; we will witness the decline of traditional publishing houses and the rise of self-published authors. Piracy will be one of the factors causing this change.