Piracy Taking Big Bite out of Books in Spain?

Ebook piracy resulted in €350 million ($467.1 million) in lost revenue for the €3 billion Spanish publishing industry in 2012 (13%-15%), according to a new report from Spain’s Federation of Publishers’ Associations and Spain’s ISBN Agency.

The report also said the number of titles published in the country decreased by 8% even while ebook publishing increased — with ebooks now accounting for 22% of all registered titles in the country.

Like many studies that seek to measure the economic impact of ebook piracy, this study may fail to account for content piracy that occurs as an alternative to not consuming the content at all — i.e., when the content thief wouldn’t have bought the ebook unless they could get it for free. That may not represent lost revenue for the industry.

A popular notion in the ebooks industry in the U.S. is that piracy isn’t much of a problem. Organizations like BitTorrent, which provides a content-sharing technology, frequently cite studies that show piracy has little impact on content industries. At Digital Book World last week, Michael D. Smith, professor of information technology and marketing at Carnegie Mellon University, argued that piracy does in fact effect the ebook industry and that studies that say the opposite are invalid or improperly conducted. (See his full presentation here.)

Most authors don’t seem to care why piracy occurs — they want to guard against it. When asked in a recent survey about digital rights management software (DRM), which theoretically guards against piracy, a majority of authors want it either strengthened or left alone. (More from this groundbreaking survey of authors here.)

More on ebooks in Spain here. (H/t infoDOCKET.)

3 thoughts on “Piracy Taking Big Bite out of Books in Spain?

  1. alan perez

    Piracy is more rampant than publishers would like to admit. I recently bought a dvd of e-books from ebay for £2.99 ($4.50). The dvd was advertised as being 10,000 public domain e-books. I thought this would be more convenient than downloading them and worth the small amount. When it arrived i found out that the dvd contained mostly very new books from every author imaginable from Obama, Grisham, King, J.K.Rowling, you name em. It was effectively a collection worth £100,000 if purchased individually.All this for less than a meal at McDonalds delivered the next day.

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  2. Rod Younger

    I agree that some “piracy” occurs as an alternative to not consuming at all but the issue of piracy of digital content in Spain is deep rooted for a number of, mainly economic, reasons.
    eBook pricing per se is not the major issue I’m afraid (at least as far as anglo saxon markets are concerned) since publishers (and retailers) are beginning to experiment with different strategies and are beginning to understand consumer behaviour better. Also, VAT (sales tax) on eBooks is an EU wide issue not a Spanish one.

    The main problems with Spanish (and I suspect with French and Italian) publishers and the continental European book market in general are more deep rooted and start with the fact that price fixing of PHYSICAL books, as used to be the case in the UK with the Net Book Agreement, makes books expensive and inaccessible to the majority of the public, creates a nice cosy monopoly between publishers and retailers and limits sales, regardless of the format.

    Thus retailers have no experience of using discounting. Much the same applies to digital based products, e.g. DVDs and CDs – both still very expensive in Spain versus UK for example. An example, the film Juana la Loca is 10 years old and costs about €13-15 in Spain to buy. It would cost about £2.99 in UK. So high pricing of ANY products is an incentive to find cheaper alternatives and this is the major reason why Spain has so much piracy of digital products.

    Of course, this “protective position” is natural for products for which there is limited demand/restricted market size – English language books command by far the biggest market share around the world, but, given the size of the Spanish language market, Spanish publishers do (or perhaps did?) have an opportunity to develop a dynamic publishing and retailing model. Unfortunately, so far they haven’t taken it and I fear, that it is too late for them as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, et al hover in the background with their skills and experience in book retailing and the impact they can have on publishing. The ultimate winner will be the consumer and also society as a whole as more people read books which are easily accessible and sensibly priced – which is still not the case in Spain, France or Italy even today.

    Unfortunately, most Spaniards I know, from educated professionals to younger people, are so used to expecting to get digital content for free that to change that mindset now is going to be very difficult – a bit like trying to wean people in UK and US off Amazon as first choice bookshop.

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