Readersforum's Blog

May 16, 2013

The E-Book Piracy Debate, Revisited

By David Pogue

The other day, I saw an interesting announcement from Tor Books UK, a publisher of science fiction and fantasy.

One year ago, the company tried a remarkable experiment: it dropped copy protection from its e-books.

Now, there are two batches of common wisdom. Most publishers, of course, think that strategy is insane. If you’re a publisher, copy protection is all that stops the pirates from freely circulating your goods. Your revenue will crash. Maybe you’ll go out of business.

But there’s another school of thought, which says that nobody pirates software except cash-poor kids who wouldn’t have bought it anyway. This school maintains that if your books are fairly priced and conveniently sold, people will happily pay for them.

Some in this school even maintain that removing copy protection leads to more sales, because your customers get a taste of your wares. They learn just how good your stuff is — and next time, they pay.

But in general, all of this is just opinion badminton. There have been very few experiments to test which camp is correct.

Which brings us to Tor’s announcement. The crucial line: “We’ve seen no discernible increase in piracy on any of our titles.”

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