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Better to Sell Fewer Books with No Piracy or Sell More with More Piracy?

Is it worth enduring piracy of digital content if it means higher sales overall?

By Edward Nawotka


This week’s digital book conference in Sao Paolo, Brazil featured an extensive panel discussion on piracy. Publishers in Brazil are themselves extremely concerned by the threat of digital pirates hijacking their costly content, especially in the education sector where pirated copies of non-DRM textbooks might easily proliferate. One panelist noted at piracy proves, at the very least, that there is demand in the marketplace for a book and that publishers can capitalize on the attention. Others balked at the suggestion.

And so the question was posed: is it better to sell 100 books with none pirated, or sell 1,000 books with 9,000 pirated?

Is the trade-off of piracy worth the potential sales or a false positive?

Let us know what you think in the comments.

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  1. Posted July 27, 2011 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

    I’m a published author with ten books to my name and three more on the way. I’ll take the 1,000 sold option. As Tim O’Reilly said, the problem isn’t piracy, it’s obscurity.

  2. Posted July 27, 2011 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

    I’ll take the 1000 sales, 9000 pirated copies thanks. Trade published author, 4 books to my name, couple more on the way.

  3. Tim
    Posted July 28, 2011 at 12:14 am | Permalink

    What Tim O’Reilly says has become the equivalent of the Medieval “Aristotle says”–permission to turn off your brain.

  4. Posted July 28, 2011 at 1:20 am | Permalink

    I think what really drove music sales down over the last few years was the fact that you could log onto a legal site like iTunes and get the 1

  5. Posted July 28, 2011 at 1:24 am | Permalink

    (Cont) song that you want without having to buy the other 14 boring titles.
    When sites start popping up like Bookster, we might have trouble. I still think that if books are sold at a decent price, many people will be willing to support the authors. The eBooks coming from the big name authors who have hardcovers for sale on all the major shelf spaces would be the ones getting pirated if they are selling at close to ten dollars for the e-version.

  6. Posted July 29, 2011 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    Piracy is a good reason for moving toward an “open access” model in scholarly publishing, though OA won’t stop it altogether so long as some people still want to buy print POD copies.

    P.S. Glad to see that the headline here used “fewer” correctly. The headline in the e-mail incorrectly used “less.”

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