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New study suggests e-book piracy is on the rise

Attributor, a technology company that's working with publishers to fight e-book piracy, released its second study on the subject and the results appear to indicate demand for piracy is accelerating.

As part of its latest study, Attributor's findings indicate the iPad's release has had an impact on e-book piracy. Attributor

Last January a company called Attributor conducted its first e-book piracy study. And back in May, I mentioned that study in piece called "Is Pad supercharging e-book piracy?" Well, Attributor has conducted a second study more recently and come up with some interesting data.

The company says its key findings are:

  • 50 percent increase in online searches for pirated downloads throughout the past year
  • 1.5-3 million daily Google queries for pirated e-books
  • 20 percent increase in demand for pirated downloads since the iPad became widely available in mid-May 2010
  • 54 percent increase in pirated e-book demand since August 2009
  • Proliferation of smaller sites that host and supply pirated e-books--a shift from larger sites like Rapidshare dominating the syndication market
  • "Breaking Dawn" by Stephanie Meyer registered the most pirated copy searches throughout the study
  • Widespread international demand, with the largest number of searches during the study originating in the United States (11 percent), India (11 percent) and Mexico (5 percent)

Now, of course, a certain amount of the rise is the result of more e-book readers hitting the market. But just as notably, the rise may also correlate to increased sales of "open" e-book readers such as the iPad, Nook, and Sony Readers, which support ePub and PDF formats from virtually any source (while PDF files are viewable on the Kindle, ePub files are not--the Kindle remains a more closed system). At the same time, it should be noted, more libraries are starting to offer e-books that you can "check-out" legally for a set time period. These are generally offered as secure ePub files, which are viewable on those very same "open" e-readers.

We should also point out that based on its new research, Attributor has announced partnerships with Macmillan and Kensington Publishing Corp. to support its Attributor Protected Badge program, "a global campaign to drive consumer awareness about fair trade and distribution of e-books and protection of author royalties."

But don't those deals make the study a little self-serving?

"This study was done solely through Google," explains Jim Pitkow, CEO of Attributor. "We did this because we realized the reason for third -party objectivity for the study. These are people searching on Google. We're just counting on Google; none of the data use our system. This was all produced using Google's system. The findings should never rely on our technologies alone, but we're strictly talking about behavior on Google."

He also adds that throughout the study one out of five people who were given the option to go to Amazon to buy the book clicked the link. "This is why we believe consumer awareness campaigns will have the impact," he says. "This shows you that consumer awareness is effective."

Hopefully, that's the case, but the more cynical among us might disagree. As always, feel free to comment, and for more info on the study--and to see how it was conducted--check out the expanded description on Attributor's site.