Should Publishers Intervene When Pirated Copies “Outsell” Official Versions?

In Discussion by Edward Nawotka

By Edward Nawotka


In today’s lead story, Lewis Manalo discusses the career of Chinese writer Louis Cha, whose wuxia novels are immensely popular across Asia — one estimate says that more than billion copies of his books have been read. That said, official sales number a mere 300 million or so, with the remainder being made up by pirated copies or bootlegs.

What’s more, Manalo writes that piracy of his books isn’t limited to Asia. Since few of Cha’s books have made it into English translation, those who want to read the books in English have been forced to seek out pirated editions as well. These editions, of “varying quality, often communal efforts by wuxia enthusiasts,” are still downloaded at a frantic pace — with just one site clocking 500 downloads per day.

This brings up an interesting question: Acknowledging the fact that piracy exists and to some extent needs to be tolerated, should publishers intervene when the pirated copies are proving far more popular than official versions? Or is it to be considered an inevitable consequence of true success? At the same time, when there is a proven market for books — as is the case of wuxia translated into English — shouldn’t a publisher step in to take advantage of the opportunity?

Let us know what  you think in the comments below or via Twitter using hashtag #ppdiscuss.

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

A widely published critic and essayist, Edward Nawotka serves as a speaker, educator and consultant for institutions and businesses involved in the global publishing and content industries. He was also editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives since the launch of the publication in 2009 until January 2016.