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Old 08-30-2007, 09:19 AM   #1
TadW
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Is the e-book threatening the future of our literary culture?

The September edition of The Writer has an article on how copyright piracy grows with the emergence of e-books. Chuck Leddy writes:

Quote:
With file-sharing becoming so popular, some have sounded the death knell of copyright and the book itself. Fortunately for writers, reading a book through a digital format remains a pretty dismal experience. Still, companies like Sony are working on creating an accessible format for reading on-screen, though the reviews of early products (like the Sony Reader) have been mixed.
So, according to him, authors - for their own sakes - have to hope that e-books will never succeed for everyone who reads an e-book is a potential file-sharer (how else could it be "fortunate" for writers that the digital format has not yet picked up?).

He concludes:

Quote:
What's at stake in these copyright battles is the future of our literary culture. If authors can't pay their rent, what incentive will they have for creating literary works? While authors write to express their artistic vision and make their voices public, they also have a right to protect their work and profit from it. But in the ever-changing electronic landscape, file-sharing is often just a mouse-click away. The tension between an author's rights and the increasing ease of accessing anything anytime online will continue to mount. And the scene where the valiant naval officer sails in to restore order has yet to be written.
Compare this with Jon Evan's recent coming out who joined the crowd of authors who want to publish their best works online for free.

Related: "Friction" is why e-books adoption is slow
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Old 08-30-2007, 09:36 AM   #2
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I'll point this article out to Eric Flint. His response should be, um... interesting. Maybe he can sell them a rebuttal article.
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Old 08-30-2007, 09:56 AM   #3
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E-book is definitively threatening current copyright paradigm.
You used to pay the author's royalties when you actually purchased the physical book. The new ebook industry tries to adapt this paradigm by charging royalties when you buy the electronic version of the book.
When we have a media (the Internet) that allows millions of users to instantly share files, all traditional copyright system falls apart. It's illegal _yet_ but I believe publishers and legislators throughout the world will understand that the current system is dead and all efforts to keep it alive as it was before the 1990s are just a loss of effort and resources. The hundreds of millions of web users will just rip off all traditional copyright efforts.
But without copyright there's no cultural production. Professional writers will just stop writing since their work is not going to be profitable anymore. So in order to keep the industry alive, both publishers and authors have to learn how to use file-sharing in their favour. One tip: people like "free". So if they can find a way of giving people contents for free while still getting authors payed they will discover the wheel (copyfree).
The only reason we still have room for trying to keep the traditional "pay for it" paradigm is that ereading devices are not mass producted yet. When they will, you won't bother buying electronic versions of books, you'll just download them all from your favourite P2P.
Another thing that bothers me is DMR. You can nowadays read the first printing of the Gutenberg Bible. But will you be able to read a DMRed ebook in 100 years from now? I don't think so...
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Old 08-30-2007, 10:14 AM   #4
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I've said this before but once again; What percent of a pBook's price go to the author. We are all concerned about ensuring that "good" authors continue to write books, but who are the ones fighting eBooks. It seems to me to be the publishers and all of their "hangers-on". They just use the, "you should support the author", in order to continue milking that cash cow.

I imagine that Gutenberg was criticized for making books "so easy to copy". One person could set the type & print tens or hundreds of books that once had to have a hundreds of scribes laboriously copy by hand.

Apparently authors not only survived that change but thrived on it. I predict that authors who "go with the flow" of today's changes will also thrive.
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Old 08-30-2007, 10:18 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ricdiogo View Post
But without copyright there's no cultural production.
Hilarious. Copyright is a recent development. By your logic in all the centuries before copyright was invented there must have been no cultural production at all. I think we will see the content industry adapt and be content with the earnings from legal paid downloads. The authors will not stop producing works.
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Old 08-30-2007, 10:49 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by slayda View Post
I imagine that Gutenberg was criticized for making books "so easy to copy".
Indeed. Several restrictions have been made, like the Printer Guilds.

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Originally Posted by slayda View Post
I predict that authors who "go with the flow" of today's changes will also thrive.
Agree. That's precisely my point.

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Originally Posted by Robert Marquard View Post
Hilarious. Copyright is a recent development. By your logic in all the centuries before copyright was invented there must have been no cultural production at all. I think we will see the content industry adapt and be content with the earnings from legal paid downloads. The authors will not stop producing works.
Sure copyright is a recent development, created when the printing press allowed us to easily copy works. Author's rights, however, exist since humans produce creative works. More than 5.000 years ago, architects were already payed to design monuments.
Of course in all the centuries before copyright was invented there was cultural production. Question is: after it was invented, more people decided to produce cultural works looking towards the profit. If copyright system fails, sure some authors will still write. The same way if a global electric black-out started tomorrow some human beings would still survive. Of course, they'd be back to the Dark Ages...
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Old 08-30-2007, 11:31 AM   #7
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Amusing, particularly when you consider that Steve Jordan's experience is he makes more money selling books from his own web site at low prices than he ever did through the normal publisher/distribution/bookstore approach. I'm guessing that a large number of authors that take the plunge would find Steve's experience the norm, not the deviation.
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Old 08-30-2007, 03:19 PM   #8
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Authors in the current publisher system are paid beforehand and the publishers job is to earn the money to make it no loss for the publisher. The author gets a share of the earnings after that.
Currently ebooks are no problem at all for this system. It will be many years until ebooks can threaten paper books. When this time has come legal sale through downloads will take over. The current uproar about "piracy" is mainly from the content industry which thinks it does not earn as much as they should. That is far from not earning money at all.
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Old 08-30-2007, 04:39 PM   #9
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Sure. Ebooks are the death of the written word, and television was the death of drama performances.

I think some people just like to talk about how the sky is falling.
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Old 08-30-2007, 06:41 PM   #10
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I love how so many of the content providers in life violate the Bill of Rights by assuming a priori that their customers--i.e. the reason they have profits--are criminals.

This "oh! Won't someone think of the Authors?!" crud is the same as movie stars, pop music stars, &tc lamenting the loss of creativity and profit due to file sharing.

Indeed, there is a large temptation to "Share" things that should not be shared without it benefitting the creator, but honest people will not do this. Not to harp on a paradigm, but see how iTunes exploded, especially after the Napster imbroglio. People are willing to pay for content. They also like sharing new things, and that is what the content providers must understand.

Hey Penguin Books! I borrowed a copy of _On The Road_ in college, and many of the books you sold me I gave to friends!

Now why oh why is that considered fair use, but if I even so much as contemplate e.mailing a friend a neat mp3 or text file, I am a criminal?

As Lawrence Lessig wrote in _The Future of Ideas_ the contention rests in the notion of perfect control. There was never perfect control in copyright or intellectual property, and I hope that never is.
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Old 08-30-2007, 11:59 PM   #11
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I've come to find out that a lot of the books being shared on the net are books not available for sale as ebooks. Thus scanned and OCRed. So I think in this case we blame the publishers. If the books are available, there would be less need to scan and OCR.
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Old 08-31-2007, 02:18 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VillageReader View Post
Amusing, particularly when you consider that Steve Jordan's experience is he makes more money selling books from his own web site at low prices than he ever did through the normal publisher/distribution/bookstore approach.
Well, that's true... although, to be clear, that's because I've been summarily shut out of the traditional pub/distribution/bookstore system by the gatekeepers of the existing system, the publishers.

The traditional system is like a castle, very insulated and isolated, self-supporting its own paradigm, and allowing in only those who they deem worthy, while walling off access by all other paradigms. That's why debate about e-books has become so predictable: Those inside the castle walls are afraid of their impending sacking at the hands of the e-book "barbarians"; and the outsiders consider the insiders to be doomed elitists, deserving of being sacked, and themselves to be the future of the industry.

As usual, the truth will turn out to be somewhere in the middle, driven by those insiders who are willing to step outside of the castle walls, meet the outsiders half-way, and find a new direction together. But ultimately, most of those castles will end up as museums dedicated to The Way It Was...

Last edited by Steven Lyle Jordan; 08-31-2007 at 02:30 PM.
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Old 08-31-2007, 06:28 PM   #13
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In any event the death knell of the book is about as farcical as it gets. If anything is being threatened it's the economics of the publishing industry, or as Steve points out, the publisher acting as the choke point of the industry.

There will always be a place for books - and printed books also.

Pournelle wrote a bit in his blog today about the issue of the SFWA taking on scribd.com today, also.
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Old 08-31-2007, 06:56 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cthulhu View Post
I love how so many of the content providers in life violate the Bill of Rights by assuming a priori that their customers--i.e. the reason they have profits--are criminals.
I always want to respond to those folks "You assume the buying public is all a bunch of dirty so-and-sos who will rip you off if they get a chance. Why?" Because it's what you would do, and you assume everyone else is just like you?"

Quote:
Indeed, there is a large temptation to "Share" things that should not be shared without it benefitting the creator, but honest people will not do this. Not to harp on a paradigm, but see how iTunes exploded, especially after the Napster imbroglio. People are willing to pay for content. They also like sharing new things, and that is what the content providers must understand.
Ultimately, you trust that there are enough people who will pay for content that you make out. You'll lose some to sharing, but there's no way to judge how much.

Quote:
As Lawrence Lessig wrote in _The Future of Ideas_ the contention rests in the notion of perfect control. There was never perfect control in copyright or intellectual property, and I hope that never is.
I don't think there can be.
______
Dennis
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Old 08-31-2007, 07:25 PM   #15
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Hah. We might as well close all of the libraries too! I've heard that you can go there and read books for free. Oh noes!
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