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Causes and consequences of unauthorized use of books: readers, authors, and publishers' perspective

Arūnas Gudinavičius (Faculty of Communication, Vilnius University, Vilnius, Lithuania)
Vincas Grigas (Faculty of Communication, Vilnius University, Vilnius, Lithuania)

Online Information Review

ISSN: 1468-4527

Article publication date: 19 October 2021

Issue publication date: 16 August 2022




The current study aims to identify and explore causes and consequences of unauthorized use of books from readers', publishers', and authors' points of view. The case of Lithuania also assessed, especially historical background (banned alphabet, book smuggling, theft as the social norm in Soviet times) of the country.


Aiming for more understanding why readers, authors and publishers are using or not using technology for unauthorized access of books, technology acceptance model approach was used, a total of 30 respondents (publishers, authors and readers) were interviewed in semi-structured face-to-face interviews and thematic analysis of collected qualitative data was conducted. Interviews were coded in English with coding software for further analysis.


Findings indicate that the main cause for the unauthorized use of books is a lack of legal e-book titles and acquisition options. This mainly points at publishers, however, instead of using unauthorized sources as opportunities for author promotion or marketing, they rather concentrate on the causes of unauthorized use of books which they are not in control of, including access to unauthorized sources, habits and economic causes. Some publishers believe that the lack of legal e-book titles is the consequence of unauthorized use of book rather than its cause.


This research contributed to the body of knowledge by investigating unauthorized use of books from readers', publishers' and authors' points of view which renders to have a better understanding of the causes and consequences of such behavior, as well as differences between these roles. The authors suggest that these causes lead to the intention to use and actual use of technology which is easier to use and which gives more perceived advantages – technology for unauthorized downloading and reading of books vs legal e-book acquisition options.

Peer review

The peer review history for this article is available at:



All interviews with respondents were anonymized in accordance with ethical standards. The authors would like to thank all the readers, authors and publishers for sharing their thoughts and participating in the interviews. This study was partly funded by the Lithuanian Council for Culture and Vilnius University.

The findings of the research partly were presented (but not published) at the following international scientific conferences:

• From Book Smuggling in the 19th c. to Modern Digital Piracy: The Driving Factors Behind the Illegal Downloading of Books. International scientific conference Indigeneity, Nationhood, and Migrations of the Book. The Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing (SHARP) Annual Conference 2019, University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA 15–19 July, 2019.

• Illegal book usage from the point of view of readers, publishers and authors. International scientific conference By the Book 6: Power Dynamics in Publishing. The European Publishing Studies Association (EuroPub), Villa Finaly, Florence, Italy, 206–27 June, 2019.


Gudinavičius, A. and Grigas, V. (2022), "Causes and consequences of unauthorized use of books: readers, authors, and publishers' perspective", Online Information Review, Vol. 46 No. 5, pp. 886-903.



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