Is iPad supercharging e-book piracy?
Recently, Scott Turow, the best-selling author of legal thrillers, including “Innocent”–his just released sequel to “Presumed Innocent”–was named president of The Authors Guild. That Turow, a practicing lawyer, was named president is probably no coincidence, considering the myriad issues that authors and publishers now face as digital books and e-book readers not only disrupt the marketplace but leave it vulnerable to that nasty little vermin commonly known as piracy.
In an interview with Media Bistro’s Galley Cat (see video below), Turow talked about how author royalty rates for e-books were too low, but the larger problems for authors and publishers involved piracy. “It has killed large parts of the music industry,” he said. “Musicians make up for the copies of their songs that get pirated by performing live. I don’t think there will be as many people showing up to hear me read as to hear Beyonce sing. We need to make sure piracy is dealt with effectively.”
Why this suddenly more-alarming tone? Well, though Turow recognizes that the iPad has clearly taken the e-reader to a whole new level, he doesn’t specifically single out the iPad as the No. 1 catalyst for pirating. But I am.
To put it in the context of the music world, it goes something like this: You remember the first MP3 players to catch on? They were from a company called Rio and the early ones used SmartMedia memory cards as their storage medium. Then there were more Rios, and most of them were really pretty good (I still run with a Rio Chiba). I look at these players as the Kindles, Nooks, and Sony Readers of the e-reader world.
But then the iPod showed up. Sure, there had been piracy ever since people started burning CDs, but the iPod was the big accelerant. You can say what you want about iTunes ruining the music industry with its 99-cent single-track downloads (why buy the whole album for $10, when you can buy just the two good songs on it for $2?), but the fact that so many millions of people were carrying around iPods that could store thousands of songs only fueled the transition to fully digital music, no discs attached.
As e-readers go, Amazon won’t let us know exactly how many Kindles it has sold, but most estimates put it in the 2 million to 3 million range, give or take a few hundred thousand. Apple sold a million iPads in a month. And though sheer numbers and critical mass are important, what’s more alarming is what the iPad can do. No, it can’t support Flash, but it sure does a nice job with PDF files and a host of other document formats that can be easily imported to the device via the appropriate app, most of which cost less than $3. (GoodReader, which I use for PDF files, costs 99 cents; you transfer files to the app via iTunes.)