I have to say I haven't given a whole lot of thought to the illegal downloading of books. It's certainly a problem with music, and has been for some time. But somehow, I just didn't think about book downloading. And it seems I'm behind the times because it's certainly an issue, and it looks like writers and publishers and going to be locked in the same battle that recording artists and their distributors have been for years.
This came to my attention when I read a post on Bookshelves of Doom. It was a link to a post from Saundra Mitchell's blog entitled "'Free' Books Aren't Free." I suggest you read it. Mitchell makes the case that because there are upward of 800 illegal downloads of her book, Shadow Summer, a week and only about 10 hard copies purchased a month, her book will be going out of print and she has made very little money off it and won't get any royalties out of it. That certainly sucks.
However, a post from Gravity's Rainbow argues that while that does suck, the issue is publishing companies not understanding how people want to read books, and how people want to read books isn't available, and therefore people will keep right on illegally downloading. This is of course the same with the music downloading debate. It's a losing battle. Why not meet the people where they are?
An article from Wired from May 2010 asks whether the introduction of the iPad caused illegal book downloads to jump. This article claimed that book downloading was a small issue, down only by a few "geeky" individuals. It seems that in a little more than half a year it's become more widespread.