Original vs Counterfeit Books – How To Tell the Difference?

Riya Pant,   Blog   06 May 2022
Original vs Counterfeit Books – How To Tell the Difference?

Piracy of books is the biggest menace in the publishing industry. By definition, piracy is the unauthorized use or reproduction of someone’s work. Think of the authors who devote all their time and attention to writing a book. Whether a book is good or bad is mostly a personal opinion, but stealing someone’s intellectual property means denying the efforts and dedication of all those involved. The publishing companies that took a leap of faith in accepting someone’s work of art and making it available to the world are cheated. This is especially the biggest setback for unestablished or emerging writers and publishers. When you don’t get your work’s worth, it is difficult to get by.

For readers, it means cheaper quality books unworthy of their money, not suitable for collection and possibly inconvenient to read. Some might argue that counterfeit books are cheaper (or free) and hence more economical. But this means great losses to the industry, substandard quality books and wilful negligence.

How does piracy arise?

When a book is released, there are various versions of it set to come out in the market. The most common are the hardcover and standard paperback versions. The hardcovers books are usually released for established authors who have a wide following and audience. They are bankable bestsellers and people anticipate their releases. As for paperbacks, the standard has changed over time. Usually, publishers will release ‘trade paperbacks’ for the initial run, as an alternative to the more expensive hardcovers. These can be sold at a third or even half the price of the hardcover books. And when the book gets a good response from the market and the demand increases, publishers will release a much cheaper version called the ‘mass-market paperback’ book. These are still authentic, inclusive of copyright and royalties, just a lot cheaper.

As this trend was established, readers expected and waited for these books to arrive in the market. They would be smaller in size, with extra pages to compensate for the reduced length and width. The only disadvantage is that unauthentic imitations of these books started to circulate in the market; and enter piracy.

And as long as there are readers deliberately buying these imitations, the piracy plague will keep growing. 

This problem is also not limited to physical book stores. But piracy has spread its wings on social media as well. You can find tons of social media handles that sell books at dirt-cheap prices. The advent of digital books has also opened up a new avenue of book piracy. Digital books are much easier to pirate because they are easy to share as files on the Internet and require no physical storage space. 

However, most people buying or res-selling counterfeit books don’t even know that their books are counterfeit and not authentic. So, here are some common quirks to look for so you can make sure you’re buying genuine books.

Note: It will be easy to identify a counterfeit book if you can compare it to the tangible or picture version of the authentic book.

How to identify counterfeit books?

  • Cheap beyond expectations

Counterfeit books are produced to take advantage of a book’s or author’s popularity. They are made so cheap that people will not want to go for the standard paperback versions. These cost less than half the price of standard paperbacks or even less. Here’s a catch: if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.

  • Poor Text Quality

These pirated books are not only dirt-cheap but also dirt-poor in quality. They are printed on cheap, dirty, weak paper. Even the content inside is questionable. The images and text bleed through the pages; the text or image on one page is visible on the backside. The ink may be smudged. Overall, the reading experience is irritating.

  • No identifying mark of the publisher

Counterfeit books will carry all the content of the original book to seem authentic, down to the edition number. But the actual identifying marks of the book’s authenticity – like hologram stickers and barcodes are probably missing. Also, look for the copyright mark © on the title or cover page. In counterfeits, you will usually find a black dot without the “c” in the middle.

  • Content inconsistency

This is identifiable when you are actually reading the book. Maybe lines are overlapped or misaligned when printing. There may be pages out of order as a result of hasty binding. Or the content is entirely out of place. Some text might even be blurry or unrecognizable.

  • Low-quality images

The difference is quite obvious with this one. While most counterfeit books are text-only (to cut down on publishing costs), some may include images. The images on the cover page or inside may be blurry or black and white. Reducing the size of the book alters the dimensions of the images too, so they just look out of place and stolen. The resolution is poor.

  • Uneven Spine

Since these counterfeit books are bound haphazardly, the spine lacks structure and form. The text on the spine may not be centred. The spine images are taken off the standard versions and cropped to fit new dimensions. This means that the spine either shadows the front or the back cover. Genuine books have pages glued together uniformly to the spine to create an even curve and great finish. Counterfeit books don’t.


Counterfeit books harm the reputation of publishers and distributors. They infringe on the intellectual property rights of authors. They harm the publishing industry as a whole, as well as readers. At times you may feel the need to resort to pirated books to cut down on some expenses, but why should you degrade the value of your hard-earned money as well as the writers’ hard work? 

When you do receive a counterfeit book, report the distributor or seller to the original publishers and distributors. Encourage buying from legitimate booksellers and stores. Be especially careful when buying online. Check for the authenticity and reviews of the store. As readers, we must safeguard the reading communities from pirated books and authors from unfairness. At Books Mandala, we buy books directly from publishers so that all wages and fees are paid duly and fairly. To our customers, we ensure the best quality material. Together, we can reduce the threats and circulation of counterfeit books on the market.

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