E-Books: A Few Extra Thoughts …

I wanted to write a short followup on last week’s pro and con posts on the coming e-book apocalypse. Three things:

1) Betsy Bird just posted a link to a School Library Journal article giving a rundown on the various conversations at the Digital Book World summit. It’s worth checking out.

2) A reader, Lisa, asked  me how I thought Google Books fit into the piracy equation. I thought I’d take a crack at it here: Presently Google Books does not frighten me. Though their scan-first-get-sued-later approach is worrisome, they seem to be pretty careful about not sharing full documents from the private domain — only showing what is allowed under fair use laws. (Of course, for older open-domain books you can find the whole texts, which is a boon to scholars and society alike1.) Even if Google Books went evil, I still wouldn’t worry too much about them; the second they start giving away copyrighted material, every publisher in the world will start suing. Rather, my fears of piracy are all connected to the file “sharing” model in which individuals are the perpetrators. When file sharing becomes normal for books, there will simply be too many complicit in the crime for publishers or authors to protect themselves.

3) Speaking of file sharing, a good friend of mine, Kirby Fields, recently wrote an amazing article for Pop Matters magazine that chronicles his own life as a file sharer. It’s more of a memoir than an opinion piece … he takes us from his childhood recording jingles off the TV to his adult days swapping Mp3’s. It’s an engaging, slightly nostalgic look at piracy. Go read the piece — then give Kirby a book deal.

UPDATE: Author and friend Ernessa T. Carter left a really great rebuttal to my “books aren’t CDs” argument in the comments section … check it out here.

  1. 1. I firmly believe that after an appropriate amount of time, those texts are the property of society and should be freely available to anyone (I’m talking to you, Disney)

1 Comment Leave a Comment

  • John Edwards says:

    For the record, I love my Nook. But nothing is completely pure and nothing is completely good. While buying and downloading a book recently, I was reminded of one critical advantage of traditional books: paper never crashes or gets corrupted. (As an afterthought, books never have to be recharged either).

    This is a vivid example of what I told a group of about-to-be grads at Carnegie Mellon years ago. “If you can do what you need with a pencil and paper, then use a pencil and paper.” Technology is only as good as its user’s judgment about its appropriateness for the task at hand.

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