Last week, Randall Stross wrote an article in the New York Times called “Will Books Be Napsterized?”. Stross reports as more readers opt for e-books over print or audio versions, the usual slew of piracy web sites that traffics in free music downloads is making it possible to download e-books for free. In other words: more grim news for the already beaten-down publishing industry. Book sales have been plummeting for the past two years anyway; the article reports a 13% decrease in 2008 and a 15.5% decrease in July 2009. Of course sales were down in every industry in 2009, but everyone knows that the book industry has troubles of its own.
The business model has never been particularly cost effective, with publishers footing the bill for printing, shipping copies off to booksellers and hoping for the best. E-books are certainly a more viable model in terms of overhead costs, but if the piracy of e-books takes off, the publishing industry is in big trouble. And of course, that’s not really an “if”. The piracy of e-books will take off, and it’s inevitable that books are headed down the path of CDS: towards the graveyard.