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Authors call piracy a 'colossal' threat, as ebooks outsell paperbacks in the US

Authors have complained that ebook piracy is threatening the publishing trade, but reports suggest ebook sales in the US have overtaken paperback sales.

Authors and publishers seem a little confused about the benefits of ebooks -- on the same day that authors warn of the danger of online piracy, figures emerge that suggest ebooks are outselling paperbacks, at least in the US.

Scurvy Web pirates are keelhauling digital copies of books, and offering them up as free downloads through filesharing websites, the Metro reports. The damage is "colossal" says author David Hewson.

"It's really got big over the last year, I guess because so many people are buying ereaders," he complains. "Everything I have ever had published is out there now. We all saw the damage this did to the music industry. It isn't a bunch of Robin Hood geeks -- it is very organised. You can call it file sharing or piracy or whatever, but they are thieves."

The Publisher's Association, a trade organisation for digital publishers, has set up the Copyright Infringement Portal to targets websites that host or distribute pirated ebooks, and serves the ISP that hosts the site with a takedown notice. The website has served over 33,000 removal orders this year, and lists which sites are best, and worst, at responding to takedown notices.

Fierce stuff, though it occurs to us that any scallywags looking to pirate ebooks would do well to peruse the latest domains to have been issued with takedown notices. Publicising offending sites isn't perhaps the smartest approach.

While cackling digital pirates are busy destroying the literature industry as thoroughly as they dismantled the (now dead) music industry, there is some rather conflicting good news -- a report from the Association of American Publishers states ebook sales in February outstripped paperback sales, totalling $90.3m, a 202 per cent increase on last February.

That data's gathered from publishers, not retailers, so it's not the full picture, but it's promising stuff. We suspect the sales boom could be a result of mammoth Kindle sales over Christmas, with owners of Amazon's marvellous ebook reader going on New Year spending sprees.

What are your thoughts? Is the ebook industry really under threat? Let us know in the comments, or on our Facebook page.

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