Can a Public Awareness Campaign Curb Ebook Piracy?

In Discussion by Edward Nawotka

Read Legally

Read Legally: The public awareness campaign was launched to discourage Russians from downloading pirated ebooks.

By Edward Nawotka

Apologists for ebook piracy claim that the pirates are merely meeting unmet demand. And they may very well have a point. In Russia, where some 90-95% of ebook downloads are pirated editions, the pirates offer double the number of titles — some 110,000 to 120,000 vs. 60,000 — that do legal and commercial publishers in a digital format.

One might argue that piracy will always exist and if commercial publishers offered enough of a selection and were competitively priced, it would marginalize piracy altogether.

To combat the prevalence of piracy in Russia, Rospechat, the state agency that regulates mass media, launched a media campaign to encourage readers to buy legal ebooks, according to Russia Beyond the Headlines. Entitled “Read Legally,” the campaign argues that reading pirated ebooks is the equivalent of stealing from authors. The embedded video, features numerous notable Russian writers making their plea to the public in a rather lighthearted way:

The campaign also points out that legal ebooks are simply not that expensive, about the equivalent in price to a cup of coffee or two metro tickets (or about US$3).

Keep in mind that this is not just a problem affecting Russian publishers. There are numerous foreign editions that are being illegally translated and then posted to the internet, as author Peter Mountford discovered, much to his chagrin, last year and discussed in The Atlantic.

So tell us, will the campaign — which started late last year — have a long-term impact? Or is it merely like fighting back against a raging ocean with a wooden sword?

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.