If mega-author Dan Brown can’t protect his hardcopy books from the digital pirates — what hope is there for the rest of us in this new dawning of stealing books for profit?

When Dan Brown’s blockbuster novel “The Lost Symbol” hit stores in September, it may have offered a peek at the future of bookselling. On Amazon.com, the book sold more digital copies for the Kindle e-reader in its first few days than hardback editions. This was seen as something of a paradigm shift in the publishing industry, but it also may have come at a cost.

Less than 24 hours after its release, pirated digital copies of the novel were found on file-sharing sites such as Rapidshare and BitTorrent. Within days, it had been downloaded for free more than 100,000 times. Digital piracy, long confined to music and movies, is spreading to books. And as electronic reading devices such as Amazon’s Kindle, the Sony Reader, Barnes & Noble’s Nook, smartphones and Apple’s much-anticipated “tablet” boost demand for e-books, experts say the problem may only get worse.

“It’s fair to say that piracy of e-books is exploding,” said Albert Greco, an industry expert and professor of marketing at Fordham University. Sales for digital books in the second quarter of 2009 totaled almost $37 million. That’s more than three times the total for the same three months in 2008, according to the Association of American Publishers (AAP).

We need an easy and cohesive way to protect our books!

It is currently is too convenient and tempting to copy and paste and then resell books in electronic form — but we can’t think of a single way to stop the flood of thieves except to stop writing and force a continued void into the empty space.


  1. Rough. I’m not sure what an author can do. I don’t think that ‘giving up the goat’ is the solution, though. A writer lives to write, no? Sales are still being made, even if the book is being stolen. Hmm. Such mixed feelings on this.

  2. There are people who think Dan Brown should give away his book for free and let people pay him what they think the book is worth. That’s crazy thinking and it has never worked on a massive bestseller scale.

  3. Some people would say, “If it worked so well for Radiohead, why not Dan Brown?”
    The band made more money by offering the album ‘pay what you will’ than they made from their other albums.

  4. Then there is always the technique used by McSweeney’s and other such organizations : provide extra value in the printed versions that can’t be found elsewhere. For people who really were interested in The Wild Things adaptation by Dave Eggers, there was a fur covered version that was available through their web site and independent retailers.

  5. I think that might work as a one-off, but as the everyday expected, I don’t think people will want to pay for later what they can get for free now.

  6. I am also a big fan of subscription services like the one that McSweeneys offers – $100 for getting the next ten books they publish, which is quite a good deal.
    Then you have book stores like Powells, which have subscription services – $40 every six weeks gets you a gift box every six weeks including things you literally cannot purchase anywhere else — specially made books, author “trading cards” etc. In February Louise Erdrich is the main author. They don’t always go for big names but just books they find to be excellent, even if by an unknown. ūüôā

  7. How will those deals translate in an electronic world, Gordon? Didn’t you say you weren’t going to buy any new books unless they were Kindle ebooks?

  8. I’m not sure that those deals can translate in an electronic world because anything electronic can be cloned without damage to the original.
    I realized that my idea — buying only Kindle books — wouldn’t work now that I live in NY because there are so many opportunities to see my favourite authors live and I can’t just ask them to sign my Kindle.
    I think moving into my own apartment has also helped change my mind for me. Much like the vinyl (I thought I’d never buy another physical music format again) having tangible space that is my own and not on temporary couch loan from a friend makes me want to fill it with beautiful things — and to me, a hardcover book is one of the most beautiful things!

  9. I am wondering about paying for a hardcopy on the very second day it came out…I am happy to buy one legally though!

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