By Jim Milliot -- Publishers Weekly, 1/14/2010 9:00:00 AMPublishers could be losing out on as much as $3 billion to online book piracy, a new report released today by Attributor estimates. Attributor, whose FairShare Guardian service monitors the Web for illegally posted content, tracked 913 books in 14 subjects in the final quarter of 2009 and estimated that more than 9 million copies of books were illegally downloaded from the 25 sites it tracked. Although Attributor needs to make some projections to arrive at total numbers, the hard figures the survey uncovered are disturbing to any publisher worried about the possible impact of piracy of e-books.
From the four sites that make digital download data available--4shared.com, scribd.com, wattpad.com, and docstoc.com--Attributor found 3 million illegal downloads in the final quarter of 2009 of the 913 books followed. The company estimates those four sites represent about one-third of all book piracy. (Attributor calculated the share of piracy based on 53,000 book takedown notices sent out to various Web sites in the second half of 2009).
Attributor’s Rich Pearson said he was surprised about how bad the piracy problem has become since the company became more involved with book publishing over a year ago. Of the 14 book categories tracked, piracy was most prevalent in the business and investing segment which had an average of 13,000 free downloads per title, the report found. The professional and technical segment was a close second followed by science, and computer and Internet. The average number of free fiction downloads was just over 2,000, the study found. Pearson said he wasn’t surprised to find a “high correlation” between books that are illegally downloaded and subject areas that students are the most interested in. Still, the survey found lots of illegal fiction downloads with Attributor finding 7,951 illegal downloads of Angels and Demons and 1,604 downloads of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. In nonfiction, Architect’s Drawings was downloaded 9,715 times.
Pearson said sites are very good at responding to takedown requests, saying that about 98% of requests are acted on. With piracy growing and the digital book market becoming more important, publishers need to have a strategy in place on how to respond, Pearson said