Publishing industry faces billions in costs as students illegally download texts

Publishers are facing heavy losses from students illegally downloading texts (Alamy/PA)
Publishers are facing heavy losses from students illegally downloading texts (Alamy/PA)

Tens of thousands of university students are using illegal sites to download sections of text from books, costing the publishing industry billions of pounds, according to new research.

As students returned to university in the UK, there were 300,000 searches made to piracy sites that allow you to download text from books in September alone, academic publisher Perlego has said.

It comes as pressure from the rising cost-of-living weighs on students’ budgets.

More than 90% of higher education students said their cost of living had increased compared to last year, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Perlego – which runs an online library of academic, professional and non-fiction eBooks – said that for 2023, the largest figure for illegal downloads was in January with more than 530,000 piracy searches in the UK.

For the year so far, there have been three million illegal searches across several sites.

The company said it is working with more than 250 universities in Britain and the US and other educational facilities in more than 190 others countries and hopes to make necessary publications more accessible to universities and their students.

Perlego founder and chief executive officer, Gauthier Van Malderen, said: “Piracy is becoming a huge problem for the textbook publishing industry globally and I do not think students realise the danger they are exposing themselves to in terms of their data being hacked when they access these illegal sites.

“The cost of living is hitting universities and students while publishers are being hit by the rise in illegal downloads of text.

“We are working with all three groups to make life easier for them with our subscription service.”

A spokesman for the University of West London said: “The Perlego model is unique, with students and academic staff finding the system intuitive and the content relevant and up-to-date for subject areas.

“Perlego has worked with us closely to meet our local needs and to integrate the platform into our systems and ways of working.”