Turning the Page – The Rise of the E-Book in Russia in the Face of Online Piracy

Russia has a rich history of literature, producing great writers such as Pushkin, Tolstoy and Chekhov to name but a few. Still, the country’s publishing industry has felt the effects of a worldwide decline in book sales. But it’s not all bad news, as e-books have emerged as a burgeoning market. In 2012, Russia’s e-book market reached 250 million rubles ($8 million), up from 135 million rubles ($4.1 million) in 2011. However, online piracy is still a huge problem in Russia, with an estimated 95% of all downloaded e-books being pirated copies. We take a look at two companies at the forefront of this battle.

LitRes

LitRes is one of the largest sellers of e-books in Russia with more than 400,000 e-books and audio books, in Russian and other languages. These are distributed through its website, mobiles and tablets and Smart TVs. LitRes recently received $5 million from the Russian Internet Technology Fund (RITF) and will use this money to enhance its customer service, increase its marketing and promotion strategies as well as expand the number of titles available.

Offering a larger number of titles is one of the main weapons in tackling e-book piracy, in particular as it is often claimed that “piracy is the result of unmet demand”. If companies can provide some solid competition by presenting more books at more accessible prices, users will be encouraged to use their services.

Bookmate

Bookmate.ru is an e-book platform for mobiles and tablets with 1.5 million users in Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. It recently received a $3 million investment from Umart, one of Russia’s largest online retailers, to develop its e-book subscription service. Readers will be able to use Bookmate as a social tool and interact with each other, as well as with authors and publishers. For a monthly subscription fee of 150 rubles ($5), users will be able to access a wider range of titles through any kind of device. It will also have extra social and interactive features that pirated versions just can’t offer.

The battle against the piracy pandemic continues and it has already resulted in 25,000 links to pirated books being removed in the last two years. The biggest weapon in this battle is offering users an attractive alternative. This includes presenting a wider variety of titles, better prices and a more engaging reading experience that customers are willing to pay for. With more money being invested in digital companies, the growing accessibility of e-books, as well as the increasing popularity in Russia of smartphones and tablets, it is predicted that the Russian e-book market could reach 500 million rubles in 2014. It’s certainly a market worth keeping an eye on.