eBook Sales – The future problems are past problems

With a small niche popularity of the new eBook readers and smart phones (like the iPhone) digital books are set to really take off in the next year or so. This raises the new question about piracy for books, something that the music industry has struggled with for years and until iTunes came along never had a chance to avoid, although they haven’t exactly stopped it, just a way to delay it for a while.

iTunes proved that you could still make money from selling legit music when everyone else almost gave up, but it has been really difficult for anyone else to replicate the model on such a wide global scale.

With eBooks on the rise it seems obvious that iTunes started to get into that market, but it hasn’t really taken the world by storm just yet, well not until more devices become a realistic option for reading books when you’re out and about.

Slight detour – I question the usefulness of having 100 or 50, even 10 books available at your finger tips given that when you read a book you used to read it cover to cover because you paid a lot of money for it. Easy choice might mean that you never finish a book anymore, I suppose it could be handy for researchers etc…, but that’s another conversation to have at a later date.

Is history repeating itself? Yes, just think back to records, nobody copied records because you couldn’t, so everyone bought them – sales were good, well until you could buy blank cassette tapes and record those records.

All of a sudden people were making mixed tapes or copies for people they knew, there was less purchasing of the albums or singles from those people. CD’s helped the music industry, by creating a medium that produced enough higher quality that tapes eventually got phased out, that was until people realised that you could copy CD’s easily to other recordable CD’s with no loss in quality, then sales slowly started to decline again.

It got even worse when MP3′s came on to the scene, all of a sudden not only could you get around 14 tracks to a CD as you could get hundreds on one and with the same quality to the originals.

iTunes of course saved the music industry a little again, but now people can just copy paste songs or use programs to get around the protection (the internet has all the answers). Once the mass population gets used to downloading songs from things like torrent sites, sales are going to drop even further again, then what?

So back to the original point of eBooks, well they will suffer the same fate really, people will download and pass on the files to others instead of lending them the book. Authors won’t be able to do much about this, just like musicians are ultimately helpless.

In fact it’s even worse for authors, at least a band can still make money from a live gig, somehow I don’t see book signings ever being as big, well except for maybe the J.K Rowling’s of the world.

So can anything be done about it, well I don’t think so, technology moves too fast nowadays, it becomes easier and easier to do complex tasks, sometimes it’s even automatic now. The collective masses can outsmart any corporation or government and much quicker too. Social media provides the medium since we’re all connecting with people around the world on a daily basis like it’s a normal every day event, remember when you only knew a tiny percentage of people in your own home town??

I’ve had some people say to me well the ISP’s (Internet Service Providers like BT, Virgin etc…) will eventually give into the government and track ALL the individual traffic and stop people downloading illegal content, so what will happen then?

One option could be WiFi networks as they allow people to setup their own network, think of it as “The People’s Internet – TPI” separate from the government and ISP’s and taking on its own life. It may take a while to become big enough to work well, but as the saying goes “geeks shall inherit the earth” we’re half way there already and what the everyday person now knows or can do with modern technology or software would have branded them “A Geek” just 5-10 years ago, my how far we have come!

It will be very interesting to see where things go from here and I’d like to hear your thoughts on where you think things may go or what they might be able to do to combat all this.

Alan Fair

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