Wednesday, December 21, 2011

From music and films to books

The market for illegal downloads of music and films has been saturated as the programs to make the downloads possible are openly available on the internet. Legislation to stop downloading has failed miserably as the pirates have found ways and means to continue. On the plus side, this activity has driven down the prices of legal downloads via e.g. iTunes but on the negative side has reduced the sales of CDs and DVDs to a trickle. To be fair, many would argue that the artists, like footballers, are vastly overpaid and that the prices of CDs and DVDs were exorbitant. There is a big difference though between paying an inflated price for your entertainment and paying nothing.  

Now it is the turn of ebooks which can be read on a computer or with an ebook reader to suffer. Once reading books in this way started to become popular, it was inevitable that people would find ways to avoid paying for them.  Although there are many free books available to download legally, recent works have to be paid for and in some cases these are as expensive as the printed copies.

Some would argue that the cost of production and distribution of ebooks is less than printed versions and point to the fact that there is no surplus to pay for i.e. there are no copies left on bookshop shelves to gather dust. However, writers have to make a living and naturally expect a reward for their years of effort. Writing might be a passion but it is also the sole source of income for most authors. Sales of books in any form hit a peak in the first few years and then tail off.

The situation of illegal downloading has become so bad that I read today, in the Guardian paper that the Spanish novelist, Lucia Etxebarria has now decided not to write any more novels until the situation is sorted out. She says that Spain ranks at the top in terms of per capita illegal downloads of ebooks. Her latest book is not available as a legal download but can be found in pdf form widely on the Internet. The print edition costs 20 Euros which some say is too expensive for them to afford. They cite that as their justification for getting an e copy for next to nothing.

The author claims that people are making millions out of online piracy by setting up in places like Belize. She says that the Spanish government have been too scared to pass laws banning illegal downloads and that in future she will only publish in French and German because in those countries the laws offer greater protection for writers.

Apparently, it is not just Spanish authors whose books are subject to illegal downloading in Spain; best selling British authors suffer as as well. The only countries with a larger problem world wide are China and Russia.

I can hold my hand on heart and say that I have never downloaded illegal music, films or books. Actually, I did once try to download a film using file sharing software but the process was taking so long on the slow connection I had in those days that I gave up and have never bothered since.

PS My wife, who is an avid reader, prefers an actual book in her hand. Although she has an iPad and can download books to it, she still prefers a printed copy.  However, she does read the online version of newspapers because a) it is convenient and b) the cost of English papers here is Spain is very high.

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