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Will Books Be Napsterized? 350

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-in-america,-we-don't-read-books dept.
langelgjm writes "An article from yesterday's New York Times asks the question: will books be Napsterized? So far, piracy of books has not reached the degree of music or movie piracy, in part due to the lack of good equipment on which to read and enjoy pirated books. The article points to the growing adoption of e-book readers as the publishing industry's newest nemesis. With ever-cheaper ways to conveniently use pirated books, authors and publishers may be facing serious changes ahead. This is something I wrote about three months ago in my journal, where I called the Kindle DX an 'iPod for books.'"
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Will Books Be Napsterized?

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  • Already happened (Score:5, Informative)

    by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Sunday October 04, 2009 @01:25PM (#29636223) Homepage
    I travel most of the year and don't like to lug too many books around. But I always have my laptop (yes, the screen is not ideal, but still...). A surprisingly large amount of what I want to read -- even obscure academic monographs -- are already available as scanned or OCRed PDFs on websites based in the former Soviet Union. It is in fact quite rare for me not to find what I'm looking for, and just as with music from file-sharing services, I've already downloaded more books than I'll ever be able to get through.
    • Even if only in analogue form (photocopies, usually of academic materials; at least in one of the former soviet-block countries...I think I can see a pattern here)

    • I hear there's a channel on undernet that has VERY in depth reviews of every book you could think of, #bookz if I recall correctly.

      Not that I've ever used IRC to download books for my PDA, that would be silly.

  • by langelgjm (860756) on Sunday October 04, 2009 @01:25PM (#29636229) Journal
    The relevant part of my journal entry follows:

    Now to other thoughts. I can sum these up simply: the DX is an iPod for books.

    Think carefully about what that means. What are most people's iPods filled with? We'll not kid ourselves: pirated music. Of course pirated books and texts have been on the Internet for years, long before the MP3 reached its zenith. But just as the iPod made listening to those MP3s simple and enjoyable, to really enjoy a pirated book, you'll need an e-book reader, unless you want to read on the computer or print it out. Now, even e-book readers have been around a while; however, there are a variety of formats, and conversion between them is not always simple. PDF, on the other hand, is an extremely common and widely used format. This means that one could load up their DX with hundreds of pirated PDF books, all in one portable, simple to use package.

    I won't be bold enough to call this a prediction, but rather a possibility: with the increasing adoption of e-book readers, particularly those capable of reading PDFs, we might witness digital book piracy on a much wider scale than before. I doubt it will ever reach the levels of music piracy, since books require a much larger investment of time to digest, but I do think it will increase markedly. The interesting thing about this is that while music piracy seems to cluster around recent and highly popular works, I don't think this will be as much the case with book piracy. Don't get me wrong; you can find all of J. K. Rowling's or Stephanie Meyer's works on The Pirate Bay, but you can also find the works of Isaac Asimov and Ayn Rand. Slightly older books such as the latter, despite not being classics of all time, still elicit continued interest. So, when book piracy increases, sure, we'll see this year's bestsellers being shared, but we'll also see a lot more books published between 1923 and 1980 being shared than we see music from that time. This also means that we'll see a lot of books that, while still under copyright, were written by authors who are now dead. And if the copyright debate turns toward digital book piracy with even partially the same furor it has over music piracy, it's going to be a lot harder to convince people to feel bad about violating the copyrights of dead authors.

    If there are any Star Trek fans reading this, you'll recall the PADD - an e-book like device ubiquitous enough to be carried in stacks, lent to friends, and forgotten carelessly. The DX is the first step in that direction. Like all consumer electronics, the price will drop eventually (remember how expensive the first VCRs and DVD players were?). And the idea of having free, wireless access anywhere in the U.S. to a sizable library of public domain works at Project Gutenberg is pretty inspiring. Imagine expanding that idea so that anyone with an e-book reader had access to a universal library of books. It'll be possible... let's hope that copyright doesn't stand in the way.

    • by PaintyThePirate (682047) on Sunday October 04, 2009 @01:45PM (#29636429) Homepage
      On the other hand, a well stocked digital library that functions like Netflix or like a physical library with a reasonable monthly fee could nip mainstream e-book piracy in the bud.

      This isn't quite like Rhapsody or Zune Pass or similar music subscription schemes where you would end up with an annoying pile of encrypted data when your subscription runs out or the company folds. Well, it is, but most people are content with checking out a book once, reading it, and checking it back in.

      Of course, something like this could only be possible with DRM and e-book reader support for that DRM, which despite what you hear on Slashdot, can be useful when implemented properly.
      • Explain to me again why a "digital library" that functions like Netflix needs any DRM? Functioning like Netflix would mean they mail you a physical copy of the book, you read it and mail it back, and they send you the next one that's in stock on your wish list.

        I actually can see that potentially working, but I'm not sure what exact type of DRM you'd be using.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by russ1337 (938915)

        On the other hand, a well stocked digital library that functions like Netflix or like a physical library with a reasonable monthly fee could nip mainstream e-book piracy in the bud.

        The publishers have a massive opportunity here, like you say, to nip piracy in the bud before it takes off. They'd need to partner with the leading e-book distributors (such as amazon) quickly, and grow that market share soon otherwise, napsterizing will occur simply due to the convenience.

        Unfortunately the publishers want us to continue to follow their business model of purchasing hard books, and are reluctant to change their business model to suit the customers needs.

        Also, the publishers are

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Lumpy (12016)

          I agree.

          step 1- Ebooks need to be 1/2 price of the printed book OR LESS. sorry but they simply have rampant greed going on in the ebook arena. I am not going to buy your latest ebook if it costs as much as the fricking hardcover.

          So if they want to nip this in the bud, tell the freaking publishers to stop being greedy assholes and reduce the MSRP on all books and pull in their profit margins to that of a printed book. it is NOT cheap to print a book, pass that fricking savings on to the reader.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            I agree.

            step 1- Ebooks need to be 1/2 price of the printed book OR LESS. sorry but they simply have rampant greed going on in the ebook arena. I am not going to buy your latest ebook if it costs as much as the fricking hardcover.

            So if they want to nip this in the bud, tell the freaking publishers to stop being greedy assholes and reduce the MSRP on all books and pull in their profit margins to that of a printed book. it is NOT cheap to print a book, pass that fricking savings on to the reader.

            There was a story here a couple of weeks back that detailed why various book formats cost what they did, and how that related to physical print costs - producing a hardback copy is not significantly more than a paperback, but the extra cost you pay is for the early access, not the format.

            That doesn't change with an ebook - if you want it now, then you pay for that desire. If you want it later on, then you can wait and save.

      • If you think about it, MANY people are already essentially subscribing to a monthly service so they can download whatever they like from a large, constantly changing selection of commercial software packages. It's called "Easynews" or "Giganews" or whichever "premium" Usenet service a person prefers.

        The only problem with this business model is that the original software developers don't get a cut of the profits.... but that says more about their unwillingness to "evolve" and consider new business models

    • unless you want to read on the computer or print it out

      I'd like to add that printing out most books cost more in paper/ink(toner) than actually purchasing the book. I have bought books if for only this reason (I hate reading on any screen). Perhaps, at least for now, this is the advantage to not pirating a book.
      • by vlm (69642)

        I'd like to add that printing out most books cost more in paper/ink(toner) than actually purchasing the book.

        Not the case for textbooks! I have seen 200 page textbooks running over 50 cents per page.

    • Copyright wont stand in the way, but the attorneys will.

      But in the end, they will lose, unless we lose ALL control of our digital device and basic freedoms first. ( which is always possible ).

    • >>>>If there are any Star Trek fans reading this, you'll recall the PADD - an e-book like device ubiquitous enough to be carried in stacks, lent to friends, and forgotten carelessly. The DX is the first step in that direction.
      >>>

      The Star Trek economy where everything mysteriously "appears" at absolutely no cost could not exist in the real world. If we had PADDs people wouldn't just casually throw-around their $100 gadget for fear of losing their investment.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Fozzyuw (950608)

      What are most people's iPods filled with? We'll not kid ourselves: pirated music.

      The only person you're kidding is yourself. My iPod is 100% legit music. And yes, I'm more than tech. savoy enough to find everything I want for free. I'm willing to bet out side of one small demographic, most people's MP3 players are filled with legit music as well. You're making the same assumptions that record companies make. Congratulations.

      • I haven't met one person offline who actually purchases music online. This might mostly be due to my demographic (25, male, Canadian) but anyone I know who isn't tech literate just gets their digital music from some less trustworthy source like limewire while the more technically literate folks use torrents.

      • by Hatta (162192) *

        My iPod is 100% legit music. And yes, I'm more than tech. savoy enough to find everything I want for free. I'm willing to bet out side of one small demographic, most people's MP3 players are filled with legit music as well

        You're not "most people", and I'd be willing to take that bet. The iPod classic is advertised as able to hold up to 40,000 [apple.com] songs. How many people do you think bought 40,000 songs at $0.99 a pop?

        You're making the same assumptions that record companies make.

        The record companies are largely

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by cjsm (804001)
        My mp3 player is almost totally ripped from my CD collection. A handful of tracks which were given to me by my brother might be downloaded. In the past couple of years I've probably bought over 50 pop/rock CDs and over 100 classical CDS. I'm not interested in downloading illegally.
    • by vanyel (28049) *

      I keep my Kindle with me all the time, though I wish for web use it was as convenient as a PADD ;-) I was, however, recently at an outdoor production of Twelfth Night, and it being a while since I'd taken in Shakespeare, was having trouble making out the words. I fired up the kindle, went to google books and downloaded it so I could follow along, at least until it got too dark. It was mostly an experiment, but it actually worked better than I expected.

      And while I have the set of HP in paper, there's only

    • by zmollusc (763634)

      First, I would need some clever software that could 'rip' the pdf into a usable format that didn't make wild assumptions about the display technology I was trying to view it on.
      God damn pdf.

    • by Hatta (162192) * on Sunday October 04, 2009 @03:54PM (#29637543) Journal

      If there are any Star Trek fans reading this, you'll recall the PADD - an e-book like device ubiquitous enough to be carried in stacks

      Unfortunately, they only carry one document at a time. Otherwise there would be no reason to stack them.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cerberusss (660701)

      The relevant part of my journal entry follows:

      Now to other thoughts. I can sum these up simply: the DX is an iPod for books.

      Think carefully about what that means. [...] PDF, on the other hand, is an extremely common and widely used format. This means that one could load up their DX with hundreds of pirated PDF books, all in one portable, simple to use package.

      My first question is: have you ever tried to read a file in PDF format as an e-book?

      You have an awful lot of opinion on something which I guess you have not tried.

      PDF as a format for an e-book reader is a very bad format. The e-book reader cannot nicely fill out the screen with text; the point of a PDF is that the markup is page-perfect. Thus you are constantly either centering the page if the zoom is correct. If the zoom is not sufficient for your e-book reader, then you are even moving the page for every

  • Not for a while (Score:4, Interesting)

    by schnikies79 (788746) on Sunday October 04, 2009 @01:29PM (#29636251)

    When MP3's got big, they could be burned and listened to on any cd player or computer. Later MP3 playes got cheap. E-books can be viewed on any computer and most phones, but it sucks. There are no dirt-cheap readers out yet.

    I've tried them onmy iphone, my netbook, my desktop and a palm. Each and every one suck equally when reading. Changing the contrast, brightness, it doesn't matter.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by tabrnaker (741668)
      Try them on an N800 with fbreader. the pixel density on the 800x480 screen makes it quite enjoyable. Not for pdf's though
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ceoyoyo (59147)

      I think that's the wrong way around - the reason we haven't seen more widespread piracy of books is because they're difficult to pirate. You have to scan them in. That's a huge pain.

      With more books being sold in a digital format, we'll see more piracy. Then it will increase again when there are good e-book readers.

      There wasn't a lot of music piracy before CDs delivered nice, easily copied digital music and the Internet provided a way to share it. Napster started up in 1999. There were very few mp3 play

      • Before cds were invented there was a consumer magnetic recording technology called compact cassette, the piracy carried out using this technology was so widespread and pervasive that it almost killed music altogether! Those were crazy times, big labels were brought to their knees, the executives had to cut their own pay to $1000 a month and sell their mansions, limos and helicopters. I forget how it turned out.

        • by ceoyoyo (59147)

          Perhaps unlike most here, I was listening to music in the cassette days. I remember the music industry pitching a fit about it, and I remember copying tapes from and for friends. But if you didn't know someone who had a tape you had to buy it. There was no mechanism to make it easy to copy a song off a stranger.

          I'm not saying the RIAA or the music industry in general are really hard done by now, but when people today say "widespread" I don't think what happened in the days of tapes would even be a blip o

      • I think that's the wrong way around - the reason we haven't seen more widespread piracy of books is because they're difficult to pirate. You have to scan them in. That's a huge pain.
        It's a bit of a pain and the quickest method is destructive. But it's not unreasonablly hard and it only has to be done once to get the book onto the pirate network. Afaict (i've never looked myself) there are pirate networks out there with very good selections of books.

        The annoyance of scanning will probablly reduce casual copy

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gmuslera (3436)
      Technology is converging to giving us better reading devices, not specially for ebooks, but for amount of information need to be read anyway. Before LCDs popularized reading in CRT really sucked. Palms, big screen cellphones, notebooks, LCDs improved on that. Ebook readers, good screen resolution cellphones, netbooks and tablets, even the XO are the newest improvement in that direction. Where you draw the line? Probably depend on how much you want to read that, but for a lot the tech is already here.
    • Try a device that uses an eInk display.

      The price is dropping. I expect in 3-5 years you'll be able to get them for ~$100.

  • short answer: no (Score:5, Insightful)

    by plasmacutter (901737) on Sunday October 04, 2009 @01:30PM (#29636261)

    Recent reports of pilot programs with the kindle show the fundamental difference between the way people experience movies and music and how they experience books.

    There is no tangible difference between a downloaded song/vid and one which is on dvd, tv, or radio.

    This is VERY different from how books are experienced.

    Reading text on a video screen is very taxing on the eyes. Additionally, and especially in the case of textbooks, interaction with the paper media is something which is important to readers. While its very logical in the case of texts with the capacity to scrawl notes in margins, highlight passages, and tape stickies to pages, there is also an emotional/comfort aspect to the interaction with the paper itself which is simply not there on digital versions.

    Despite being a heavy tech head I will still print out any extended text to dead tree media because it's simply more comfortable and convenient to access in that manner.

    While I'm about a generation removed at this point, the pilot programs with current university students show the same attachment.

    I personally would love to see neurological and psychology experts convene a joint study on this to determine exactly why this is the case.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by mysidia (191772)

      When dealing with physical books it's almost inconceivable that you mishandle the book and accidentally "turn the page". When using an e-book reader it's very easy to accidentally push a button and lose your place. Or maybe there's a fear the device dies on you while reading.

      E-book readers are $300 or $400 device you have to get to to read electronic books, why do that, when they can buy real physical ones at the bookstore for relatively little expense? If the book is for educational purposes, you w

      • Inconceivable (Score:4, Insightful)

        by pitterpatter (1397479) on Sunday October 04, 2009 @03:20PM (#29637287) Journal

        I don't think that word means what you think it means.

        When dealing with physical books it's almost inconceivable that you mishandle the book and accidentally "turn the page".

        My experience with physical books has been that if you take your hands off the book or drop it, it turns its own pages.

        the ability to scribble free-form notes (typing is too cumbersome/inconvenient for such notes)

        I would much rather type than scribble, if for no other reason than that I would like to be able later to read what I wrote.

        ...so what's the benefit in having a device that lets you store multiple books?

        How about to take on an extended trip on which you would have time to read four or five or more books. Also, I'm inevitably reading more than one book at a time for entertainment purposes, so to me it's almost inconceivable to have only one book going at a time.

        You can rip a page if you don't like it

        Seriously? I - I - I - don't quite know what to say. How would you remember the precise details of what you didn't like? How would you stir up the embers of your indignation? How would you lend it to a friend after it's been modified that way?

        I agree with the rest of your post, especially the part about the dead tree book being unable to fail you. Of particular importance to me is the concept that no one can modify it without your knowing about the modification.

      • by Logic and Reason (952833) on Sunday October 04, 2009 @03:26PM (#29637319) Homepage

        When dealing with physical books it's almost inconceivable that you mishandle the book and accidentally "turn the page".

        Really? You've never dropped a book and lost your place? Or been reading a new textbook with a stiff spine and had the pages turn on their own? Or been reading a book outside on a windy day?

        When using an e-book reader it's very easy to accidentally push a button and lose your place.

        I don't know if existing e-book readers do this, but it should be very easy to implement a place-saving feature. On the iPhone, for example, most apps will save their state when you press the Home button, so you can re-launch the app and pick up exactly where you left off.

        E-book readers are $300 or $400 device you have to get to to read electronic books, why do that, when they can buy real physical ones at the bookstore for relatively little expense?

        But they won't always be so expensive. What happens when the reader is cheaper than a single new book? (See the Nintendo DS.)

        For entertainment purposes, it's almost inconceivable that you read more than one book at once... so what's the benefit in having a device that lets you store multiple books?

        Maybe not simultaneously, but I am currently in the middle of three or four books that I'm reading for entertainment or learning. It would be nice to be able to take those with me on trips without having to devote the space for multiple books.

        To boot, the DRM-laden electronic books are almost just as expensive as the physical ones, and you can't lend them to friends. To boot, you can't place them on a photocopier and make copies of particularly interesting sections to use in a paper, personal momento, etc. You can do less with the e-books than you can physical ones.

        Hence the book piracy.

        I think there's a stronger feeling of ownership and control over a printed book. as if the text belongs to you, and reading is a very tactile experience, where you are involved.

        It's certainly true that you have a greater sense of ownership with a physical book. But then, you never really owned the text in the first place due to copyright.

        You can rip a page if you don't like it, you can doggy ear, or bookmark pages with significance to you.

        I've never felt the desire to rip a page out of a book. And don't most e-book readers provide bookmarking functionality superior to doggy-eared pages?

        The book is on your shelf, it's more secure that way, you can always get to it whenever you want. Your dead tree book can't fail you, the batteries cannot die. No one really wants to steal it, and it's easily replaced, you can take it in public without fear.

        But it can get flooded or burned or torn or peed on or lost... An e-book reader is also susceptible to many of these things, but you can just keep a copy of your books on your PC (which you also back up, right?). And the theft and replacement issues will all but disappear as readers get cheaper.

        It's easy to lend to friends.. just hand them the book.

        It's even easier to email or IM them a small .rar file or a link (depending on how often you see them in person, I guess).

        You get two pages of text side-by-side. Typical e-book readers just provide you one continuous page, so the experience is completely different.

        It's different, but is it significantly better? How advantageous is it that you can see two pages at once in a paper book?

    • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Sunday October 04, 2009 @02:22PM (#29636779) Journal

      >>>Reading text on a video screen is very taxing on the eyes.

      I thought the Kindle was supposed to mimic the look of paper? Doesn't it use electronic ink? (shrug). Maybe I'm thinking of some other e-book reader.

      Personally I don't care where I read stuff. I read most of Asimov and Heinlein's work when I was a teenager on my Commodore 64 and a TV screen (i.e. blue colored and slightly blurry). I read Harry Potter on a laser printout that was shrunk to 9 pages per page. My coworkers said, "How can you read that?" but it didn't bother me. And of course I've read downloaded stuff on a modern PC during my lunchbreak. None of these mediums have stood in the way of me enjoying the book.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by vlm (69642)

      Reading text on a video screen is very taxing on the eyes. Additionally, and especially in the case of textbooks, interaction with the paper media is something which is important to readers. While its very logical in the case of texts with the capacity to scrawl notes in margins, highlight passages, and tape stickies to pages, there is also an emotional/comfort aspect to the interaction with the paper itself which is simply not there on digital versions.

      Such an old, tired slashdot meme.

      Netcraft confirms, in soviet russia, with natalie portman, MP3s will never become popular because they don't have paper media artistic covers and special liner notes to interact with, and needless to say they are very taxing to listen to because they don't have that "vacuum tube" sound. Also all music listeners interact with their paper media, just like ALL readers scrawl in their books.

    • Reading text on a video screen is very taxing on the eyes.

      This is why the original poster mentioned the Kindle. It doesn't use a video screen.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by cerberusss (660701)

      Despite being a heavy tech head I will still print out any extended text to dead tree media because it's simply more comfortable and convenient to access in that manner.

      I print out long texts just to have an excuse to get the hands and eyes off the keyboard/screen. When you're working 12 hours a day behind a screen, this is an absolute necessity for me to avoid getting caught up in RSI.

  • by damn_registrars (1103043) <damn.registrars@gmail.com> on Sunday October 04, 2009 @01:33PM (#29636301) Homepage Journal
    Music is expected to be portable. You can listen to music while you drive, walk, work, etc. You generally can't read a book while doing any of those things; and for at least the first you are an idiot for even attempting such a feat.

    Sure, electronic books could be pirated, but it seems unlikely that it would be as widespread, as there isn't really the same market for electronic books as there is for electronic music formats.
    • by vxvxvxvx (745287)
      Movies are also a commonly pirated item, and not all that portable. I don't think books will be, but not due to portability issues.
      • Movies are also a commonly pirated item,

        That is a valid point. However are they pirated on the same order as music? Your own experience may differ but I know a lot more people who have pirated music at some point in time than I do who have pirated movies. I rather suspect that in terms of degree of piracy, it goes something like music >> movies > software

        That said I currently do not have any pirated music (I don't listen to mp3s, I buy CDs when I want something new (which is almost never)), pirated movies (buy 'em from the used bin

        • That said I currently do not have any [...] pirated software (the last software I pirated - many years ago - for some time has had an open source alternative that meets my needs).

          Until the publisher of the last software you pirated sues the developers of the open source alternatives, claiming patent infringement or look-and-feel copyright infringement. For example, imagine The Tetris Company suing the GNOME Foundation over Gnometris.

  • Textbooks (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mcelrath (8027) on Sunday October 04, 2009 @01:35PM (#29636325) Homepage

    Apparently you aren't in an academic environment. You should see the USB sticks full of pdf and djvu textbooks that are being passed around. Convenient reading, maybe not. But search functionality? Hell yeah. Have you seen the indices of most technical (Ph.D. level) textbooks? They're usually shorter than the table of contents. I don't know about you, but I need to be able to search my textbooks. Most of these seem to be coming from library scanning operations in countries more relaxed about copyright, and can be found on some torrent sites if you know what to look for. If publishers were smart, they'd start distributing a CD/USB key with the pdf/djvu of the text as well. There's also a growing movement of free and open textbooks, and "print on demand" services. Authors don't usually make much money from the publishers anyway, and do the writing to further their own career, rather than for cash. So it makes a lot of sense to do free publishing.

    I think in 10 years time, the printed textbook will be an anachronism, and getting paid by a publisher to write your textbook will be too.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Have you seen the indices of most technical (Ph.D. level) textbooks? They're usually shorter than the table of contents. I don't know about you, but I need to be able to search my textbooks.

      I can't tell you how much I had wished my undergraduate science texts had digital copies included for search functions. However I can also tell you that in some classes (organic chemistry in particular) it seemed that the purpose of the class was to memorize the book, so a search function would have been detrimental to that cause. And for that matter how do you enter a benzene ring into a search query?

      Conversely, in my PhD course work we have had almost no textbooks. Generally we use primary literatur

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by tabrnaker (741668)

        And for that matter how do you enter a benzene ring into a search query?

        benzene ring

      • And for that matter how do you enter a benzene ring into a search query?

        You can't, but remember, that's nothing a good night's sleep couldn't fix.

      • by mcelrath (8027)

        Yeah you should see the gymnastics I go through trying to find concepts which may exist in other disciplines but are given different names. Can't search for equations at all. But even if I could, different disciplines generally don't give the same symbol to the same concept, or may express it in totally different ways, so it requires a lot of mental gymnastics to see they might be talking about the same thing. Someday search engines will be this smart. But by that time they'd be able to automatically ge

      • And for that matter how do you enter a benzene ring into a search query?

        You can do exactly that in Scifinder - draw the molecule and search papers and patents for it. It's the one thing I've done in Scifinder that really benefited me over using Web of Science.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Yeah, I agree. And let me throw in my experience (I am a grad student right now).

      First off, I have noticed that Chinese and Indian students have outright pirated paper copies of books. Yup, that's right, full paper softback copies of all the hardback books that are being sold in the university bookstore. They get them from back home in India or China for about $9. That's compared to the hardbacks that push $160 for engineering texts on Amazon, let alone the bookstore.

      Secondly, it is more and more common

    • by jedidiah (1196)

      That reminds me of something that I just did with a database. I wanted to find
      any table that had any column that had data with a given search key. Since it
      was a small database (that I frequently dump to text anyways), I exported the
      whole kit and kaboodle and grep'ed it for what I was looking for.

      The "printed word" still remains a very powerful and flexible bit of data.

      This is why Google wants to scan more books.

    • You don't want the book to ship with any more carp there is too much as there is now you want the $200 text book to cost $250 with that USB key / cd.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by spasm (79260)

      "Authors don't usually make much money from the publishers anyway, and do the writing to further their own career, rather than for cash.

      I can definitely add an 'amen' to this. As a newly-minted phd in a field in which book publication is a normal part of achieving tenure, here's how it works (in the US anyway; other countries vary slightly): you get your first academic job. In 4-6 years you go up for tenure review, at which time you've either met publication requirements for tenure at your institution (v

  • by charlie (1328) <{charlie} {at} {antipope.org}> on Sunday October 04, 2009 @01:35PM (#29636327) Homepage Journal
    One fundamental point that tends to get overlooked is that unlike CDs or cassette tapes before them, books traditionally came with built-in DRM, insofar as copying them (via scan/OCR/proofread) was a really tedious process. Whereas it's relatively easy to crack the DRM on, for example, MobiPocket or Microsoft Reader books (and probably ePub by now). So the DRM'd formats are easier to pirate than the previous "analog"-analog format. What this portends for the future remains to be seen, but wearing my full-time novelist hat, I'm a bit worried. The music industry has efficiently trained people to grab files without throwing money at the artists, by bringing the role of publishers into disrepute. Now we're all set to repeat the experience, and unlike a rock band, most authors don't perform well on stage.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Reziac (43301) *

      It's still an economy driven by free samples. If I can download the free sample, that's easier than if I have to go to the library to get it; both also lend themselves to random discoveries. But both books and music are too pricey for most folks to buy a pig in a poke. You must understand this yourself, since you've got plenty of "free samples" up on your own website... without which I'd probably never have read your stuff. Now I might, and if I like it, you might make money from me in the future.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by tabrnaker (741668)
      Or this could work out in your favor (and the environments no more dead books!). What if we completely cut out the publishers? Set up your own author's webpage with your works on them. All author's pages catalogued on servers, could even be a decentralized server to cut out more middle men. Have your works freely downloadable or for a nominal fee (say the amount you get paid per book by your current publisher). Have a micro-payment system so that individuals can easily pay you small amounts, whether fo
    • Should be free, and will be free.

      If you don't offer 'added value' to the information you produce, then you are doomed.

    • Get it (Score:3, Interesting)

      by poptones (653660)

      I write too. Are you paid by a publisher? If so, you're polishing the handrails on the titanic - just like those old school rock stars and wannabe rock stars.

      What most creative types don't seem to get is there's no reason for them to exist. There's so muc recorded music already if there were no more new artists we'd still have mroe music available than any of us can listen to in a lifetime. Same thing with books.

      Artists communicate. Your job is to communicate. The enemy of an artist is not piracy, it's obsc

      • by Kijori (897770)

        What most creative types don't seem to get is there's no reason for them to exist. There's so muc recorded music already if there were no more new artists we'd still have mroe music available than any of us can listen to in a lifetime.

        Yes - but this is only relevant insofar as quantity is the important factor in the enjoyment of art. We could have stopped writing books in the 1970s, for example, but we'd have missed out on styles of literature that never existed before; the same is true of music, painting, films - you name it. There's already more of everything than one person could ever get through - but letting that stop us would be incredibly stupid.

    • wearing my full-time novelist hat, I'm a bit worried

      If it's not violating any confidentiality clauses, does that imply that your experience with distribution via Baen's DRM-free webscription.net [webscription.net] was less than peachy? I'd noticed that you were "not currently available" there, but had assumed that it was a Baen/Tor publisher disconnect rather than a personal choice.

  • I see audio books pirated at a high rate (just check mininova). However, we as a nation, are not much into reading. So no, I do not expect printed works to be in high enough demand to trigger the same kind of massive piracy that audio does.
    • by j-beda (85386)

      A lot of "graphic literature" (read: Comic Books) are available in scanned format - there is even a (slightly) specialized file format and software designed to view this particular sort of item - see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comic_Book_Archive_file [wikipedia.org]

      The various torrent trackers list pretty complete archives of titles and character appearances for at least some of the more popular "mainstream" super-hero comics.

      As with music and movies, it is not clear how much traffic in these types of files impacts the s

  • The pocket I'm reading to and from work? No way, ever. It gets beaten up, thrashed around, ends up squished way in the bottom of my backpack etc. and no e-book reader would take that kind of abuse. The big old textbooks I used to read in school, you know sitting down at a desk and reading yes possibly. Reference type books are already much better online, you can search for specific things, jump with hyperlinking and whatever.

    • by langelgjm (860756)

      You bring up a good point... just because we've spend hundreds of years relying on the codex [wikipedia.org] as the standard format for written material, doesn't mean that the codex is the ideal format for everything we're used to reading. No one reads dictionaries or encyclopedias for extended periods of time, or in a linear manner, and you typically don't need to write in them, so backlit, digital versions of these are acceptable. Hardbound sets of volumes are a total anachronism for this type of material.

      Textbooks and d

  • Probably (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mobby_6kl (668092) on Sunday October 04, 2009 @01:44PM (#29636425)

    I was into reading ebooks on my PDA before it got popular.

    Reading from smaller backlit screens is certainly not be for everyone, although I liked the form factor and the fact that I didn't need to rely on external light. For almost everyone else though, the new e-ink readers should fix most of the problems such as small screen size limited resolution by making the screen look just like paper.* If the devices aren't quite there yet, I think they will be soon enough, it's just a matter of making small improvements to the existing technology. Then there would be little preventing people from just grabbing some books off emule, unless the devices are completely locked down with unbreakable DRM to disallow anything not digitally signed.

    I actually also wrote a short-ish essay on this topic for one of my classes years ago. It wasn't too detailed as it wasn't a business or economics analysis, but it clearly showed that getting a cheapo Palm device and then just warezing the books made sense financially if the reader could either tolerate the reading method or actually preferred it. As I recall, I also made some comparisons between book vs album prices and mp3 player vs PDAs, assuming a desktop PC with internet connection was a fixed cost. The conclusion, I think, was that pirating books is going to be viable on a larger scale in the near future assuming even more suitable devices appear at a reasonable price.

    The only problem for now is that these e-ink devices are pretty expensive. While various PDAs were also not too cheap, they were very versatile, so for instance I used mine mainly to keep track of all tasks, assignments, meetings, and other organizational stuff, then play some Worms or Quake on it, then check my mail or browse the web. As far as I know, the Kindle just has a broken web browser and an mp3 player. I don't think this is going to be a long term problem though, the technology is still pretty young and therefore expensive.

    *- Preemptively acknowledging the few nuts who would just love to rant here about how anything that doesn't feel like dead trees or involve physically turning the pages is unusable

  • Can't say about others, but personally I'm incapable of reading anything else than a tech manuals on a screen. If it's big and lengthy, I go for the dead tree style. There's been a few books I've started reading on a PC but I ended buying it and reading it, dare I say, "for real".

    How much physical space they occupy is irrelevant, there's just no replacement to the flexibility real books offer.

  • Not As Widespread (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ffejie (779512) on Sunday October 04, 2009 @01:53PM (#29636515)
    I don't think this will be nearly as widespread as music pirating. The reason is because with music, the medium changed, but the experience didn't change for enjoying it. Years ago, before iPods were really popular, and MP3s were still being pirated widely, people would routinely burn CDs and listen to them on their CD players, portable or otherwise. Once the iPod revolution came about, people actually started taking their CDs and moving them to MP3s, to listen to them on their MP3 device. Put another way, there was an easy translation ability from the new way to the old way.

    Books, on the other hand, for the next 10 years (at least) will still predominantly be read on actual paper and not on e-books. Further, people can't take an e-book illegally downloaded and turn it into a real paper book, like you could with CDs. Until ebooks can recreate the experience of flipping pages, and bookmarking a physical part of the book, they probably will never get people to completely switch. The physical part of a book is an important experience. The physical part of music (swapping disks, repairing scratches, rewinding tapes) is nothing more than a hassle.
  • Much like small bands/indie movies can be hard to find, books rarely have the mass desire necessary. Books have been traded for decades on IRC/usenet(I downloaded books before my first mp3), but books generally aren't popular enough to be mass downloaded, except as "every *** book" collections on D*oid.

    When the last Harry Potter book got scanned early, my mother actually complained that she couldn't find it on P2P, even though she had pre-ordered and would be getting it at midnight release anyway.

    I've neve

  • What is 'book'?
  • I have purchased every textbook Ive used since I started school, but even so I usually try to find an ebook (pdf or chtml) because it is so much more convenient to use my netbook in class than 30lbs of texts. Ever since textbooktorrents.com went down a few months ago, its gotten almost impossible to find anything useful.
  • I hope he's kidding. Reading devices are not the issue. The trouble of converting is, and that is becoming less of a issue by the day.

    • by 0123456 (636235)

      I hope he's kidding. Reading devices are not the issue.

      Maybe the dedicated e-book readers are better -- I've never seen one in real life -- but reading books on a PC really, really, really sucks ass. I have a couple of dozen books that I've legally downloaded from sites like tor.com and a load more that are public domain, but I've never got far into them because reading books on a PC is just horrible compared to reading paper.

      • by nurb432 (527695)

        I have been reading books on the computer since home computers first got video output... and yes, E-paper is wonderful.

  • What's needed for Napsterization to happen, is a file format that's universal (or close enough). I don't think PDF is that format. With its fixed page and font sizes it's not suited for the varying screen sizes found in ebook readers. Piracy in the form of scanned or OCR'ed PDFs won't take off on a huge scale for the same reason.

    HTML would be a better choice, but converting a scanned book to HTML (especially if the book layout uses multiple columns) is nontrivial.

  • software and hardware for scanning books it a bit primitive still. especially hardware, though. even if OCR is faulty, accompanying the original scans isn't a big deal. but scanning an entire book without ripping out all the pages and without a page feeder is a problem. i wonder if there is something for fixing and normalizing photographs of books?
  • by genner (694963)
    What do you mean will?. It's happend, done, etc
    . Books just aren't as polualr as TV or Movies which is why they're pirated less.
  • Just like music? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by OpenSourced (323149) on Sunday October 04, 2009 @03:09PM (#29637215) Journal

    Bet for more. More pirated than music, I'd say.

    I bought a small cheap reader, a Cybook. The thing is far from perfect. The screen is worse than others that I've seen, there are no tree structure in the library, and it hangs about once in ten boots. But it's still a wonder. It's thin, light and you can have a thousand books there. I'm now addicted to the thing. Read mostly novels there, no PDF stuff.

    Then my brother lent me an SF book from Poul Anderson. Heavy stuff, and I don't mean the plot. The book was heavy, more than seven hundred pages of thick paper. The thing bent my hands down when reading in bed. So I reasoned that the text might be online. Went to the net, found it, downloaded it and presto! it was in the eBook reader. The pleasure of reading was back.

    Books are much more pirateable than music, because they are much lighter. You can put ten books in a song. A couple of Gigabytes of books is enough for a lifetime, and you can transfer them in few hours. I have read these ideas of books being an object of love and desire in themselves, and I even thought I was in that camp, till I found out how fast I ditched them paper books. No regrets, no looking back. If I ever miss the sweet smell of paper I can crush a torn page under my nose while reading the odorless ebooks. I just need a better reader and paper books are history for me. And I'd say that also goes for the most of the rest of the world, at least the part that reads anyway. I have to pry my reader from the hands of everybody whom I lent it, for reading something only available online, for example.

    Put a good-enough reader out (and no, the Kindle is not yet it), and you can start re-defining best-sellers the platinum disc way. Books will be leaked before they are printed, and almost nobody will make a living writing. Well, that last part is mostly true nowadays too, so perhaps nothing will change that much. But the pirating of books, by being ten times easier to pirate than music, and a thousand times easier than films; and providing a best overall experience IMHO, will be incredible. And now, with the Kindle and others, you'll begin to get better quality from the pirated ebooks. Now is mostly OCR, but soon will be mostly well-corrected for-purchase ebooks, unprotected after buying, and released to the wild masses.

    Books napsterized? They'll make Napster look like a joke.

    I'd say sell publishing companies' stock and shelve those plans of richness and fame by becoming a best-seller author. Ah! and welcome to the Data Century.

  • Books are not going to be napsterised on the same level as music and movies because they are already abundantly available for cheap or for free. You can borrow from libraries, swap with friends, lend them to friends, or give them away. Books are also dirt cheap second hand, and most households have a reasonable collection of books.

    It's a good thing. It means that the publishing industry can enjoy very little threat from piracy compared to other media industries.

    Books are as heavily 'pirated' already (
  • by jim_v2000 (818799) on Sunday October 04, 2009 @03:26PM (#29637323)
    There are these places called "libraries". They have books there, and you can read them for free. You can even take them home with you!
  • Frankly, I rarely pay for a book anymore. Until I see pricing on DIGITAL books around 1.99 I'll never buy. I think it's idiocy to charge 9.99 for a product that costs almost 0 in reproduction. "with special editions??wtf is that" costing 14.99

    Who in their right mind buys into this shit?

    I've read some real shitty OCR copies though..

  • The writings at the Baen Free Library [baen.com] explains why piracy is not an issue for paper books.

    Long live the smell of *real* books!

    That is all.

  • I've been thinking about this problem for a dog's age, from the perspective of a fiction writer. "Seed" For Sale [fictioncircus.com] Get your wallets out! Christmas is coming!
  • "So far, piracy of books has not reached the degree of music or movie piracy, in part due to the lack of good equipment on which to read and enjoy pirated books. "

    You left out the other half of that equation. Which is easier? Ripping a CD/DVD and distributing it, or "ripping" a physical book and distributing it? Also I'd say that the publishing industry in aggregate has had a lead time to outproduce the capacity of pirates to keep up. How many pirates would it take to copy all the commercial music? Now how

  • The real question to me is if books should be napsterized; while most ebook prices themselves are reasonable, the restrictions placed on them are not. Some books are still far too expensive, especially when you already have a dead tree version. Will be interesting to see.

  • by Crypto Gnome (651401) on Sunday October 04, 2009 @07:12PM (#29638949) Homepage Journal
    NYTimes are running an article about the outcomes of the new wave of eBook readers.

    Of course, despite having pretensions of being "a quality newspaper" with "real journalistic integrity" they're too scared to ask the real questions:

    Like, for example, "Will the book and print media industry learn from the mistakes of the Music and Film Industries as new digital technologies (in this case, pervasive and cheap eBook readers) are embraced by the public".

    I've said it before, and I'll say it again:

    .... a *large* percentage of piracy is due to the *ludicrously insane* policies of the distribution businesses (not all of it , some people genuinely believe its 'free', and some will 'pirate' because they can and believe they won't get caught)
    • can't get that movie in (some foreign country) until at least 6 months after its been released in the US (for gods sake, WHY? - do they *REALLY* believe Americans will stop watching it once some other country can?)
    • can't get that CD, EVER (sorry, that's the "made in amsterdam" release, it has two additional tracks and will *never* be released in America) {again for the love of all things bright and shiny, WHY?} (and no I'm not talking about content bumping up against American Anti-obscenity laws or something like that, just plain old crap-for-brains distribution policies)
    • the "electronic" version of that book costs *more than* the first-run hardcover, leather-bound-and-gilded-writing version, signed by the author (WHY? you hand the hardcopy to an eTailer and LET THEM DO ALL THE WORK, WHY are YOUR charges per sale to the eTailer SO INSANELY HIGH?)
    • I refuse to release this into *that brand eTailer* (even though they are the BIGGEST and MOST POPULAR eTailer in existence), you have to buy MY Hardware, and shop in MY eStore, to get this content (apparently they think that after buying twelve different digital gizmos *and a large backback to carry them all in* we still have money left to buy content)
    • And did I forget to mention that MY hardware will NEVER support Your Preferred Operating System (NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER, SCREW YOU, CONSUMER)
    • it's NOT ENOUGH that I charge you, the end customer like a wounded bull (Elephant, that is) for content, but I SCREAM to the highest heavens that "the INTERNET is STEALING FROM ME" (and by that I mean the ISPs themselves) and claim that THEY TOO owe me BAZILLIONS OF DOLLAAAAAZ (mwuhahahahahaha)
    • Oh Yeah, and last but not least, I Want My Cake And I Want To Eat it Too (canada 'piracy tax', and other insanities)

    The modern "content distribution industries" (MPAA, RIAA, screw-everybody-AA) are destroying their industries, and claiming that rampant copyright violations are hurting 'the poor starving musicians".

    I *used to* spend a fair chunk of $ on "content", now I spend relatively little - but I'm not 'pirating' either. I Just Don't Buy Their Crap Anymore.

    If I *really* wanted to be repeatedly beaten with a baseball bat with large nails stuck in it, and pay for the privilege ... well there's "special clubs" for that ;-)

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