When we think of piracy the most affected industries which first spring to mind are likely to be the music or film industries, however, the publishing industry is under mounting pressure as demand for free editorial content continues to rise.
Generally speaking, publishers generate lower profit margins, and accepting the additional cost associated with protecting publications against piracy isn’t easy. New trends and improvements in technology have helped to attract a wider global audience but also new challenges. A variety of sources, including our own exclusive consumer research study reveal the latest data, trends and behaviors surrounding the illegal distribution of editorial content online…
UK research highlights the scale of e-book piracy
A 2018 UK research study commissioned by the Intellectual Property Office and carried out by Kantar Media questioned consumers in the UK regarding the extent of online copyright infringements, as well as their wider digital behaviors and attitudes. Their findings highlighted the importance of protecting eBooks online.
It revealed that 58% of respondents had either downloaded or streamed content online. The study went on to confirm that 19% of respondents had downloaded at least one e-book from the internet, with 11% having downloaded at least one within the past three months of the study being conducted. Just 31% of those that had downloaded e-book(s) in the past three months had paid for them all. 52% of respondents admitted that they had downloaded them all for free, whilst the remaining 17% confirmed that they had paid for some whilst others were obtained free of charge. Overall it estimated that 17% of all e-book downloads in the UK are consumed illegally.
We can see the scale of the problem when we compare the consumption of films against e-books. The same study found that whilst 39% of respondents (double the number of e-book consumers) had either downloaded or streamed at least one film online, a higher percentage (41%) had paid for them all, 10% higher than we saw for e-books. 40% had obtained them all free of charge which was 12% lower than e-book consumers. The remaining 19% had paid for some whilst consuming the others for free. This is likely due to the improved accessibility and availability of films thanks to subscription platforms such as Netflix, HBO and Apple TV.
Is it just e-book piracy that the publishing industry is suffering from?
In short, no! There’s a huge amount of editorial content being distributed and shared online for free which not only includes e-books (textbooks and novels) but also audiobooks, magazines, newspapers, comics and much more. The way in which we consume this content has changed over the years and the popularity of newspapers, books and magazines has faded as the digital evolution continues to strengthen its grip on an ever-increasing audience.
How is the publishing industry responding?
Piracy exists for a variety of reasons, some consumers are driven to this free content due to the high costs, others find it easier to obtain the content illegally, and some do so out of habit. But as a result, we are hearing that the piracy of editorial content is discouraging publishers from writing or creating content which is detrimental to the industry.
Even though profit margins are often lower in this industry when compared against the film or music industries more and more publishers are contracting anti-piracy companies who provide services to eliminate infringements which appear across search engines, social networks and websites. Our exclusive research on the subject found that 20.32% of respondents believed that the main reason for them being unable to find the free pirated editorial content which they’re searching for is due to anti-piracy companies who are restricting its availability online.
Our exclusive consumer research study: piracy and online trends in the publishing industry
We at Smart Publishing Protection conducted our own exclusive consumer research study, which investigates the behaviors and trends relating to piracy and the consumption of editorial content within the publishing industry. Our research goes far deeper than e-books, and we’re delighted to share some of our findings with you, which are nothing short of extraordinary…
Over 80% of respondents acknowledged that they consume some form of editorial content online. Reasons for doing so included because it’s easier, whilst others admitted to doing so out of habit. 52.99% of those that consume this digital content have done so through a non-authorized source, either through a website or social channel.
Many respondents confessed that they are either unable or find it difficult to distinguish between legal and pirate content online, however despite this confusion the majority would knowingly visit websites to download pirate content if they knew where to find them.
We discovered that 19.92% of those that consume pirate editorial content do so as they are unable to find it on the official site. Many acknowledged that wider availability and better advertising would help to encourage them to pay for this content from the official source. Perhaps this is the reason why the research study commissioned by the Intellectual Property and carried out by Kantar Media (mentioned earlier in this article) found that more people were paying for the download and streaming of films than they were for e-books.
The damage to consumers
Consumers confirmed that they understand the risks associated when accessing pirate content online. 30.28% believe that the main risk is the possibility of getting a virus, 19.92% were concerned about the number of adverts which would appear. 12.57% we’re worried that the content may differ from the original whilst 8.37% were uncomfortable with having to share personal details such as email addresses, phone numbers and on occasions even their bank details. Despite this, most respondents continue to consume content in this way.