Book piracy is the biggest menace the publishing industry faces, and the entire reading community is torn between people who encourage piracy to ensure the availability of cheaper (or free) books, and those who are outraged at what this means to the industry; losses, substandard quality, and wilful chaos.
The advent of digital books has opened up an entirely new avenue of book piracy, and the literary world is still coming to terms with the idea that the books are pirated at a rate faster than they are released. Perhaps digital books are much easily pirated because they are easy to share as files on the internet and do not require physical space or storage places.
They are also Usually Free.
The fact that digital books are pirated easily does not mean that paperbacks are exempt from this. The concept of piracy originally started from the paperbacks, which were flooding the market. It was almost impossible to separate the wheat from the chaff where books were concerned, and the entire rackets rampantly worked because they had takers.
How does Piracy work with Physical Books?
When physical books are released, there are various versions of it that come out in the market. The more common are the hardcover and standard paperbacks. The hardcover books are usually released for authors who have already established themselves and are bankable bestsellers. But with time, the definition of ‘paperback books’ has altered a lot depending upon the reach and the response.
Trade paperbacks are the ones released by publishers mainly for the initial run, as an alternative option for the more expensive hardcovers. These books are sold at a third or maximum half the price of the hardcover books. Once the book gets a great response and the demand for it increases, publishers usually release a much cheaper version called the mass-market paperback books, which are mainly for reading and not for collections.
With the presence of mass-market paperbacks, which are smaller in size (usually pocket dimensions) with extra pages to compensate for the reduced length and width, it became common for readers to expect – or sometimes even wait for – the cheaper versions to arrive in the market. The only detriment to this being the availability of cheap imitations; the pirated books. When aided by the consumerist needs to get their hands on a physical copy of a book but is unable to shell out extra money, the menace called piracy keeps growing.
Identifying Pirated/Duplicate Books.
The main advantage of pirated books is that they are often disguised as simply cheaper alternatives, and since people are still paying to buy them, they think the author benefits from the sales of these books. But this is the work of middlemen who profit from the mass-production and sales of these imitations, and both the reader and author are cheated out of the original worth.
So what are the steps one could take to identify these paperbacks?
They are cheaper beyond expectations: Since they are produced to cash in on a book’s popularity and are usually of books by famous authors, they are cheaper. Their margins of profit are smaller because if they are expensive, people will go for the traditional trade paperback alternatives. The pirated books are usually one-tenth of the original book’s price in physical stores and online.
They are of poor quality: As with any mass-production, the pirated books are of low quality. They are printed on cheap, greyed, or dirty paper. Sometimes, the text in them can also be printed over lines as alignment issues. Some pages can also go missing, with these pirated books often skipping some in between in the hopes that the reader will not be checking every page diligently while buying. The low standards extend to the quality of the text, too, with the ink running over or smudging in the pages. The pages may even bleed, with the text on one page being visible on the backside, making reading an irritating experience. Overall, pirated copies are not exactly made with care and precision and are, as a result, of noticeably lower quality.
They do not have the identifying marks of the publisher: To seem authentic, the pirated books will carry all the information of the original book, including the edition number and the copyright details. But the actual identifying marks of the book’s authenticity – things like the hologram stickers and proper barcodes are usually missing from the pirated books."The actual identifying marks of the book’s authenticity – things like the hologram stickers and proper barcodes will be missing from the pirated books." SPREAD THE WORD!
Content inconsistency: This one is slightly harder to find, but still relevant enough to identify a pirated book once you have been sold one. This is more apparent when you are actually reading the book when there are inconsistencies in the way it is presented. In most cases, the inconsistencies come because of misaligned pages, sometimes even pasted out of order in the urgent binding. This is apparent only when the reader comes across a juncture in the book where there is a dissonance between the narrative and the expected way the story was supposed to turn.
Low-resolution images: Starting with the cover image, all the images in the pirated books (including graphs and illustrations on the inside pages) are of extremely low quality. Technically, this is because of the higher cost involved in printing the images, which are usually crisper only when printed in their right dimension. Even the book covers (which is one of the first things people notice about books) of these pirated books are printed with low-resolution images on cheap chart paper, making the difference obvious.
Unfitting spine: These pirate books are bound together haphazardly, and the spine is usually a noticeable indicator of their lack of structure and form. The spine images are simply taken off the regular sized paperbacks with some cropping done to fit the smaller size. This means that the spine either shadows on the front cover or sometimes even the back cover.
Pirated books are a menace, but with cheaper original alternatives available in the market in the age of competitive pricing, it is easy to not fall prey to poor quality books that do not result in any gain for both the reader and the author.