Here is some interesting data gleaned using Google Trends that indicates that consumer ebook pirating is not what we think.
This is data from a blog on ebook pirating from Eric Hellman, and internet technologist and entrepreneur. [full blog here]
Some features of the data are immediately apparent. First of all, overall searches for pirated ebooks have increased a great deal over the past 5 years. It’s worth noting however, that the most intense interest measured by Google occurs in India, the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, and eastern Europe. These markets have access to the technology but not as much access to legally downloadable content. Less than half the search volume comes from the US. It’s also easy to see seasonal peaks that obscure the shorter term trends. The peak periods for pirate ebook seeking are the December holidays and the beginning of September, presumably because of the start of school.
What is really interesting to me though is the grinding to a halt of ebook pirating growth as indicated here.
To eliminate seasonal variations, Hellman computed the year over prior year growth of pirate ebook search activity. The resulting plot is quite smooth. After a few years of 100% per year growth, 2008 showed a clear slowing of growth. This slowing of growth continued up to the beginning of 2010, and then flat-lined. Since February of 2010, the growth of interest in pirated ebooks has stopped completely as based on basic search terms used.
What is interesting to note is that world wide availability of ebooks exploded in 2010. Though far from empirically scientific this does seem to correlate that pirating is directly related to ease of access. The easy availability of an ebook at a reasonable purchase price makes stealing just not worth the trouble.