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Is eBook piracy the next big thing?

Treasure Island
Don't get me wrong, I know that people have been posting digital copies of copyrighted books online for decades. While recent technological advancements have made digital distribution of music and movie files easier than ever before, eBooks are tiny, tiny files. It didn't take very long to download a book over a 56k connection.

But it's not internet bandwidth or digital distribution channels that's led people to cast a relatively blind eye toward pirated eBooks. It's the fact that overall the audience for eBooks is still relatively low. But with the growing popularity of dedicated eBook readers such as the Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, Sony eBook Readers, and possibly the upcoming Apple Tablet, it's getting easier and easier to read digital books. And that could lead to a surge in eBook piracy.

There's another major difference between pirated eBooks and pirated music or movie files. While anyone with a reasonably modern computer can rip a CD or DVD in a relatively short period of time, it takes a long time to scan a physical book and convert the images to text. In a recent interview, an anonymous pirate that has admitted to uploading dozens of books says he's spent "from 5 to 40 hours" proofreading scans. The scanning process alone takes about an hour for each hundred scans, which means a couple of hours per book.

Of course, there's a faster way to pirate an eBook: crack the copy protection applied to eBooks sold by retailers such as Amazon. Up until recently, eBook sellers were few and far between, and digital book titles were even more rare. But as that changes, we'll likely see more of a battle between the folks trying to make eBooks copy-proof and hackers determined to demonstrate that there's no such thing. And that could mean a proliferation of new release titles making the rounds on Usenet and BitTorrent trackers.

What do you think? Are pirated eBooks about to go high-profile the way that pirated music and movies have over the past few years? Do you care? And if publishers pump out legal eBooks at a decent price, would you be willing to pay for eBooks rather than downloading them illegally?

Incidentally, if you're at all interested in this topic, you should really check out that entire interview with the eBook pirate. It's a fascinating read.

[via Waxy]

Tags: bootleg, digital media, DigitalMedia, drm, ebooks, piracy, pirates