Welcome, once again, to the Medialoper Bebop podcast. This, right here, is Episode 2: Buried in a Sea of Coverage.
As always, your hosts are Jim Connelly, Tim Gaskill & Kirk Biglione, holding forth on a wide variety of topics.
There are 8 million podcasts on the naked internet, and we can guarantee you that no other podcast this week will focus on both Osama Bin Laden and Coco Crisp. Which is weird, because when we originally conceived the podcast over the weekend, we weren’t going to focus on either one.
But then, head-related things happened to each man, and we were compelled to discuss them.
All year we’ve been hearing predictions that the book business is on its death bed — about to be completely transformed by ebooks, then eaten alive by pirates. Yet, despite recent reports to the contrary it turns out that book piracy is on the decline.
For years I’ve been using the same username for many websites but with different passwords. I did it for convenience but I also had this vague idea that I was crafting some kind of an overall online identity which would be uniquely identifiable as me, would be consistent over time and would serve as an informal history to build my technical reputation and credibility. But now that I see the results I don’t like it even though there are not any individual postings or fragments of data that I’m ashamed of or embarrassed about. It’s just that when I see them all together the effect is unsettling and feels like I’ve been under surveillance all these years.
In some cases I made either bad choices or misinformed decisions. For example, by way of Googling my name recently, I found my work phone number in the web archives of a members only listserv for people in my industry. I recall making the decision to put my phone number in my email signature because I was posting specific information that I thought would help guys doing my same job in other organizations. There are few enough of us that I figured I’d be happy to help if one of them were to call me to ask for more details or advice. The problem is that, while I knew that registered members (i.e., people in my industry) would be able to search the archives, I had no idea that the thread was going to end up on Google. That was just simple misinformed decision. But my initial settings on my Twitter.com account turned out to be a case of making a genuinely bad decision, then forgetting all about it.
The surprise here is not that the paper has rediscovered piracy for the umpteenth time, but rather that, despite the paper’s many discoveries, it has failed to gain a deeper understanding of the issues surrounding piracy. Instead, the paper chooses to play to the worst fears of the publishing industry, while demonstrating a complete lack of understanding of what motivates consumers of digital media.
NYT columnist Randall Stross theorizes that the widespread availability of pirated ebooks combined with growing consumer adoption of digital reading devices like the Kindle, may ultimately lead to massive piracy of the sort that the music business experienced during the Napster era. Apparently it’s just a matter of time before Kindle owning consumers pirates wake up the fact that they can save 10 bucks by downloading bootlegged ebooks from RapidShare instead of buying direct from Amazon.
The scenario might actually seem plausible if you had no knowledge of either RapidShare or the Kindle. Let’s pause for a moment to compare the ebook acquisition process from both sources:
Find the book you want by searching the store that’s conveniently integrated into your Kindle device.
Press the buy button. Yes, you just spent $9.99. Painless, wasn’t it?
Find the book you want by searching the… Wait a minute. It turns out that RapidShare has no on-site search engine.
Turn to Google or some other search engine to find the exact URL for the book you want to download. This might take a while, but fortunately pirates have loads of free time.
Once you’ve found the exact URL you’ll discover that you can’t download the file immediately. Instead, you’ll be told that all of the free download slots are in use. You’ll have to try again in two minutes. Repeat this step until a slot opens up (it might be hours, it could be days).
Alternately, consider paying for immediate access. For a mere 6.99€ you can download from RapidShare without waiting. That’s only 20 cents more than the price of the book you’re about to steal. A small price to pay for sticking it to The Man.
Once you’ve downloaded your book you’ll need to find a way to move the file to your Kindle (Whispersync might be convenient, but it’s not the pirate way).
Prepare for the likelihood of some slight formatting problems with your new book. In most cases you’ll be able to figure out the intended meaning of the poorly OCR’d text. And you’ll just have to get used to the page numbers that are embedded in the middle of each page.
If publishers can learn one thing from other forms of digital media, it is the importance of a quality consumer experience. Consumers place a premium on convenience and ease of use. As a result, free is not always the clear choice.
The best way to prevent piracy is by making it easier to buy a product than it is to steal the same product. Despite my many reservations about Kindle’sproprietary DRM, Amazon has made the Kindle book buying experience frictionless. Publishers who fear piracy should work to emulate the Kindle discovery and purchasing process.
Right now the number one tool against ebook piracy isn’t DRM, it’s Whispersync.