The link posted above goes to a new study conducted about book sales and pirated book sales. The study's authors found that while both books that are not pirated and books that have pirate copies available on the internet both experience peak sales and then dramatically drop off several weeks after their peaks (which usually occurs about 14-22 weeks after their initial peak), books with pirated copies available saw their sales rise less high than books without pirated copies, and also saw their drop in sales (denouement!) occur much quicker.
Seems like a no-brainer.
And the study is relatively concise, leading one to wonder what is so impressive about the study?
Well it shows that the OVERALL number of books being read overwhelming goes to the books that have pirated copies available--showing that despite sales numbers which are often smaller at their peaks and drop off quickly, interest continues on them at the same pace and rate after the initial spikes (in profits for book publishing companies) because of the word-of-mouth from reader to reader.
What does this mean for the future of book publishing? Is it going entirely viral? Will it become like movies--where the new (insert your favorite author here)'s new book can be read in January on some pirate website when the actual hardcover won't appear until March 1?
Whatever happens, one thing is promising. The study revealed a turning trend in which certain types of books are being read MORE than they were before 'the internet revolution,' and that certain demographics are reading more (both online and by buying books) than in the previous ten years. Certain areas of the country are experiencing dramatic upswings in demand for books by schools, libraries, etc. (showing more people want to read, but might not be willing to shovel out $34.99 for a hardcover during the first two weeks a book is printed). And more schoolchildren are reading that in the past 20 years (however, their books are relegated to Eragon, Harry Potter, Twilight, and other, simpler texts, whereas many classics and new fiction authors are experiencing a dry spell akin to the Dust Bowl.
Reading is the most important thing that this study can highlight--and so the job now becomes the book publishers'. They must devise a way to lower their overhead on marketing a book, thus reducing the price of the book in order to sell books at a price like $6.99 brand new. Something that people can easily afford. Perhaps marketing will have to come through online ad sales or 'collage advertising' (when 50-100 new books and titles are mashed together onto a single advertisement that is placed in a magazine)--a neat way to advertise, certainly, but not very glorifying for both the book and the author (and the cover illustrator/photographer/designer).