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Over half of e-book downloads deemed 'illegal'

The Local · 30 Aug 2011, 15:27

Published: 30 Aug 2011 15:27 GMT+02:00

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The study, presented Tuesday, surveyed 10,000 people and found that of the 23 million e-books downloaded in Germany last year, around 14 million came from illegal sources – usually file-sharing networks, private websites or forums. Industry insiders estimate that most of these are specialist literature used by students, such as medical textbooks from large publishers like Springer or Thieme.

Some might quibble with the GVU’s definition of “illegal.” The Society for Consumer Research (GfK), which carried out the survey for the GVU, does not use the word in its own final assessment. “We never make a judgement on that,” a spokesman told the website of news magazine Der Spiegel.

But the GVU is not so coy. It counted all downloads as illegal if the user said they came from “file-sharing networks, hosting services, private websites, blogs, forums, ftp-servers, or newsgroups."

Many books are legally available as PDF or ePub downloads. The German-language “Project Guttenberg,” for example, contains over 5,500 books by 1,200 authors that can be downloaded and shared for free.

But Birgit Reuß, director of the Berlin branch of the German publishers and booksellers association, defends the GVU’s interpretation of the survey. “One click in the appropriate file-sharing networks shows that normally these are commercial publisher’s products,” she told Der Spiegel.

That’s why one can assume that “e-books are generally being distributed illegally through these channels,” she argued.

Reports suggest illegal downloads can do relatively limited damage in the publishing industry. The GfK found that e-books made up 0.5 percent of the entire book market – though that figure does not include academic textbooks.

Story continues below…

The survey also found that 64 percent of e-book buyers are men, and that an average of €10.40 is spent on each book. The publishers and booksellers association says the “love for printed books” and the “pleasure of bookshelves” is still very strong in Germany.

The Local/bk

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

20:19 August 30, 2011 by Simon_Kellett
I am not an lawyer but I am pretty sure that "stole" in the summary is incorrect: "stealing" usually means that someone else has lost the physical object that was stolen: what the study is about is "copyright infringement".
23:19 August 30, 2011 by gtappend
"It counted all downloads as illegal if the user said they came from [...] blogs [...]"

So if someone visited my blog and downloaded my free e-book, or *purchased* an e-book that I have written and self-published, is considered "illegal" for the purpose of their statistics?
11:13 August 31, 2011 by pepsionice
The GVU folks might be shocked to know that a number of people have written short stories or novels....tried to sell it and got nowhere (the book companies guard the front-door).....so putting a novel of theirs up on a personal website and allowing people to download it....forces the book companies realize the impact of their writing.

The same is true with analysis of some local historian who has spent twenty years studying some local event and written a 120-page document but can't seem to sell it to book companies.

The blunt truth is that major book companies will eventually dissolve away and the e-book will allow companies like Amazon to sell directly from from the writer to reader. No middle man.
12:31 August 31, 2011 by Gretl
As a Kindle owner for the past year, I have purchased many "self-published" works for a fraction of the cost that e-book versions of paper books cost. A few could have used more editing, but overall, the quality was good, the books were enjoyable and the author became "published" despite the publisher establishment. I can see a future where editing becomes freelance or a company in its own right without being tied to publishing, and authors have more control of their product.
21:04 August 31, 2011 by Freeman
Sounds like, Smart - Crooks !
06:29 October 27, 2012 by Tami Jane Spencer
If you look at the problem. you can determine that the violation rooted from sharing files as they were not downloaded from the website. But if you look at the reason why the students do that, most likely, they'd say that it's due to the cost of the books. If medical books would be offered free like the textbooks offered by http://bookboon.com/ then I guess the problem can be solved, as each would be responsible for his/her own book.
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