6 June 2009

Illegal Downloads

A very interesting article by Ben Goldacre on the Guardian website about the statistics behind illegal downloads and their cost to the economy.

I won't bother going into the detail because you can read it here.

I took the opportunity to add a comment of my own (under a cunning pseudonym) which I shall reproduce below.

The entertainment industry has their business model all wrong, failing quite spectacularly to both embrace the technology and adjust their prices.

Here's an example.

Yesterday, I wanted to buy the e-book version of Chuck Palahniuk's "Pygmy". I checked three sites (Waterstones, WH Smith and Amazon/Mobipocket) to get the best price. Interestingly, the hardback edition was cheaper on all three sites than the paperback, but I digress. Here are the results.

Paperback version
Waterstones - £9.59
WH Smith - £11.99
Amazon - £10.79

Hardback version
Waterstones - £7.79
WH Smith - £8.57
Amazon - £7.49

eBook version

Waterstones - £15.52
WH Smith - £12.65
Mobipocket - £15.58

So, in at least one case, the ebook version (a mere digital copy, which costs pence to promulgate) is nearly double the cost of a printed, bound, despatched hardback book.

For having the temerity to embrace new technology and want to purchase something in a specific format, I'm being taken to the cleaners.

This is why the business model is currently wrong. Once the entertainment/publishing industry gets its act together and starts making digital content available at a reasonable price, then its fortunes will start to change. Until then, some consumers will continue infringing copyright.

If the ebook version had been available at a reasonable £5-£7 then I would have purchased it (just as I purchased Ben Goldacre's ebook earlier in the week). Instead, I left empty-handed and started taking a look around the warez sites.

I've talked previously about the issue of sensible pricing:

As for movies, if I were to buy, for instance, Saw V from Play, it would cost me £11.99. Wait a few months and it'll be £6.99. A few months more and I might pick it up on sale at £3.99. Why in the name of all things holy can't it be sold for, say, a fiver from day one?

If 100 people see it at £11.99, 95% will pass on by. If 100 people see it at £4.99, 50% will buy it*. You do the maths. The trouble is, the entertainment industry doesn't see it that way. I'm reminded of the character Ichikawa in Martin Scorcese's Casino :

"He bet one thousand a hand instead of his usual thirty thousand a hand. But I knew, the trick with whales like Ichikawa was that they can't bet small for long. He didn't think of it as winning ten thousand, he thought of it as losing ninety thousand."

If and when the industry sees sense, perhaps we'll start to see a fair product for a fair price. Until then, the warez sites will continue to flourish.


Andy said...

Interesting stuff Dan, but needs more disappointment.

Dan said...

The fact there isn't much disappointment in the post is, in itself, a disappointment. Thus, criteria met.

Now, by 'disappointment', do you mean 'ranting'? If so, I concur. I've become less ranty of late.