Archive for the 'Copyright' Category

Ebooks are only leased, not sold? That depends

Posted in Books and publishing, Copyright on June 29th, 2013

On one hand, I appreciate the number of writers who are recognizing that many (most?) library and personal “purchases” of ebooks aren’t really purchases at all, since the “buyer” doesn’t actually have much in the way of rights to the ebook. That’s probably true for most Big Publisher ebooks; it’s apparently true for most Kindle ebooks and many others.

On the other hand…

Sometimes you can buy ebooks.

Lots of ebooks are sold without DRM.

Lulu never required DRM for its ebooks–and a few months ago, it stopped allowing DRM on its ebooks–if you wanted to keep selling ebooks through Lulu, you had to strip the DRM (which it had always charged extra for, as one way to discourage it).

Since mid-2012, Tor and Forge–both imprints of Macmillan–have produced DRM-free ebooks available through all the usual channels. Tor’s a very big name in science fiction, and says the change in policy hasn’t hurt sales.

If I had to guess, I’d guess a growing number of independent publishers are leaving DRM off their ebooks.

As far as I’m concerned, if an ebook lacks DRM, you can buy it. Do you have full first-sale rights? You should. Whether you do…that may be for further clarification.

My own clarification

Let me be clear about any of my Lulu-distributed ebooks (all PDF):

When you buy one, you own it.

If you want to make backup copies of the PDF, please do.

If you want to lend it to somebody else (presumably not reading it yourself at the time), feel free.

If you want to give it to somebody else (presumably deleting your copy), that’s fine.

If you want to sell it to somebody else (presumably deleting your copy), that’s fine too.

If you want to have it available on sixteen different devices that you use at different times or places, OK with me.

You own it.

As to the “presumably” clauses–I rely on good faith and ethical behavior.

Oh, if you’re a library: That one copy can legally, legitimately, ethically be mounted on a library ebook server that restricts use to one person at a time. You own the copy.

For cases where single-user restrictions aren’t reasonable? On newer books, I’m providing a “site license version” that explicitly allows multi-reader access assuming reasonable identification of a library’s or campus’ patrons/students/whatever. Those books will cost four times as much as the single-user version. The license is a matter of honor and good faith. (I suppose there are less litigious people than I am, but not by much…)

So when someone says you can’t buy ebooks….the proper answer is “That depends.” Sometimes you can. I have a feeling “sometimes” will grow.

Walking the talk: CC BY

Posted in Copyright, open access on March 25th, 2013

It may be a while before I actually have the license linked and the icon showing in the sidebar, but I’m finally doing something I probably should have done a while ago.

I’ve replaced the bottom paragraph of my “About” page (which referred to the CC BY-NC license for original material in this blog) with this:

As of March 25, 2013, I’m walking the walk: Original content is now covered at least implicitly by a Creative Commons “BY” license: It may be freely used as long as credit is given. Period. I’ll have the actual license and icon as soon as I figure out how to add it.

As for Cites & Insights? I’m thinking about it, and will probably make the same decision. So, y’know, if you’re eager to get filthy rich by selling something based on my posts here, and you provide attribution, go to it. Good luck with that…

Fair use: a pseudo-post

Posted in Copyright on October 11th, 2012

I feel as though I should say something about the promising trends in fair use, especially after the decision in Deluded Author Organization Versus Hathi Trust–oh, wait, that’s not the actual name of the trial. Make that Authors Guild vs. HathiTrust. Which follows the decision in the Georgia State case (not quite as clear-cut) and the non-decision in the AAP vs. Google Books suit. All in all, “promising trends” seems like the right summary.

But I’m not a great current-affairs writer. When I attempted to do a current summary of an interesting situation as it was happening, a while back, the response made it clear that people don’t look to me or to Cites & Insights for of-the-moment coverage. Or at least didn’t. And, as neither a lawyer nor a copyright expert nor a librarian, I don’t really have standing to provide lots of personal pronunciamentos on what’s happening here.

So I’ll just say: It’s looking good. I’m tagging items. I already did fair use pieces in the June and July issues of C&I, and I’ll probably do one in a couple of (or a few) months. Maybe after Authors Guild gives up on the Google Books suit (assuming the organization of a few authors has the good sense to stop shoveling good money after bad, an assumption I’m not quite willing to make)?

Meanwhile, here’s a totally inadequate partial set of links on the HathiTrust situation, including only items since the decision was handed down (although I have a bunch more tagged, going back to April 2011 and maybe earlier)–which comes down to yesterday and today:

Those are in the order I encountered them (hat-tips to various folk). I suppose the recommended reading order is probably James Grimmelmann first for an authoritative summary, then Smith, Sims, Loon, Crews, and the rest–and the order itself if you’re so inclined. Read all that, and you’ll be more up to date than I am (I’ve tagged them, but not necessarily read them all).

PS (added later on Thursday): I don’t currently plan to keep updating this list as the comments and articles flow in…

 

Cites & Insights 12:6 (July 2012) available

Posted in Cites & Insights, Copyright, Libraries on June 25th, 2012

The July 2012 issue of Cites & Insights (12:6) is now available at http://citesandinsights.info/civ12i6.pdf.

The issue is 32 pages long. A single-column 6×9 version, designed for use on ereaders, is also available at http://citesandinsights.info/civ12i6on.pdf. The single-column version is 62 pages long and intended only for ereading, not for printing.

The issue includes:

Libraries: Give Us a Dollar: A Case Study  pp. 1-6

Would a refined version of Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four be directly useful to a few hundred (or a few thousand) public libraries? This two-part example shows how a mythical New York library (directly based on two real libraries) might use a heavily revised version–and how it might use the current version. I’m still looking for reviewers and feedback before deciding how to proceed; these case studies might help.

Policy: Copyright: Fair Use, Part 2   pp. 6-29

The second part of the fair use roundup that began in the May issue. This part includes cites & comments for eleven items relating to fair use and academic libraries (other than the GSU case), ten items on various aspects of fair use in the real world–and a “once over lightly” on GSU events since the judge issued her decision, noting 18 discussions on what’s happened since.

The Back    pp. 29-32

Ten brief essays on various possibly amusing topics.

The three essays are also available as HTML separates (the headings above are links if you’re reading this on a blog) at http://citesandinsights.info

 

Data and CC licenses: I’m confused

Posted in Copyright on January 30th, 2012

I’ve been seeing a number of discussions of the most appropriate Creative Commons license to use when putting data online…with CC0 (that is, explicit assignment to the public domain) seeming to be the favorite.

And I’m confused.

At least in the United States, I’ve always been led to believe, data is not copyrightable.

I know that facts are not copyrightable, just as ideas are not copyrightable. Only creative expressions are copyrightable.

Data is facts.

So why would you need to assign a Creative Commons license–the only function of which is to loosen restrictions on copyright you’re presumed to hold–for something that’s not copyrightable?

One could even argue that assigning a CC license to data is copyfraud, as it carries the implicit notice that what it’s assigned to is indeed subject to copyright.

Yes, I know, the laws are different in different countries. But, to the best of my knowledge, CC licenses are country-specific, partly for that reason. Is CC0 universal? Can it be?

What am I missing?

Is CC0 an attempt to waive (conceivable) copyright in the arrangement of data within a database? (Supposedly, if that arrangement is in itself creative, it could be subject to copyright.)

Am I missing something else?

Just a thought…

Talking About the Public Domain

Posted in Copyright on July 24th, 2011

Ah, the public domain: Where creative work is supposed to wind up after a limited period during which the creator has exclusive control over distribution and copying. An ever-growing pool of literature, music, photography, video and art that we can use not only as inspiration but also as the direct basis for new works, annotating, deriving or just plain redistributing.

What a wonderful thing.

Too bad it’s basically been frozen for quite a few years now, with almost nothing new entering the pool (except government publications—which start in the public domain) and things tagged with the Creative Commons CC0 license. Oh, and probably a few cases where a creator’s been dead more than 70 years and has works produced since 1923.

Not only has it been frozen in the U.S., there are laws and treaties that would appear to shrink the public domain pool—which should, by any rational reading of the Constitution, be flatly unconstitutional.

For the rest of the story… or read it as part of Cites & Insights 11:7.

New life for fair use?

Posted in Copyright on July 26th, 2010

Just a quickie, but this one’s too good to pass up.

Every three years, the Copyright Office considers exemptions to DMCA (it’s part of the law).

This time, there were some fairly dramatic exe,ptions–ones that allow circumvention of DRM (in some cases) to protect fair use rights–oh, and for ebooks, read-aloud features.

There’s also a provision that allows circumvention in order to unlock a cell phone. Ars Technica views that as a big loss for Apple. I’m not going to go there at all (the AT story is a good overview; I think it has an unfortunate headline, since that’s really not what most of the exemptions are about).

Interesting stuff. It’s been a while since fair use had any wins…

MP3 Doesn’t Have DRM–Or Does It?

Posted in Copyright, Media on April 19th, 2010

One of the great steps forward for fair use and first-sale rights came last year, when iTunes finally stopped selling DRM-encased tracks and started selling DRM-free MP3 (or its direct, DRM-free, AAC equivalent).

“DRM-free MP3″ is redundant, right? The MP3 format doesn’t allow for DRM, right?

Right…at least not now, at least not directly.

A Digression

DRM gets a bad rap. Actual Digital Rights Management can–or could–be valuable, in situations (which pretty much every library is familiar with) where access to digital resources is based on the user’s rights. Most of the time, in practice, those rights are understood indirectly: If you have access to a campus network for an appropriate definition of “access,” for example, you’re assumed to have rights to the databases the library licenses–and similarly for public libraries, if you’re either standing at a library computer or you can demonstrate (over the internet) that you’re a library patron. But the rights management could be more complex; you could have a digital signature that identified all the ways you might have rights to use various digital resources.

But most of the time, when we talk about DRM–especially as it relates to copyright–we’re talking about what I call Digital Restrictions Management: Basically, reducing or eliminating your fair use and first sale rights in digital resources that you think you’ve purchased.

The funny thing about that kind of DRM is that it has never done much to stop The Bad Guys, those who are out to pirate copyright material. They either have other methods to get access to non-DRM resources or they break the DRM. DRM mostly damages the innocent, people who want to device-shift or maybe use legitimate excerpts from something. So it’s hard not to cheer the move away from DRM in music…noting that audio CDs never had DRM. (Yes, there were silver discs with DRM; no, they weren’t legitimate Audio CDs. The Red Book, the key license for all audio CDs, does not allow for DRM.)

End of digression.

“At least not directly?”

Yep. Read this story in TechCrunch.

Seems that the tracks you buy from iTunes–or from LaLa or Walmart–have personal information embedded in the MP3. The post shows an example.

Who cares? Well, read the quoted section.

If you’re really paranoid, consider the possibilities: Could iTunes scan your library and delete any files that don’t have the right username?

Seems unlikely, but…

Maybe no more unlikely than, say, Amazon deleting an ebook from your Kindle…

Updated 4/23/10, to remove idiot error in post title. Odd that nobody called me on that!

Restored copyright? Querulous comments on early Hitchcock

Posted in Copyright, Movies and TV on July 6th, 2009

A couple of days ago, on Walt, Even Randomer, I posted a set of desultory reviews of the fourth and final DVD of Alfred Hitchcock: The Legend Begins.

Sidebar: One eccentric feature of this blog used to be the “treadmill movie reviews,” brief reviews of movies from Mill Creek Entertainment’s multidisc packs viewed while I was exercising. I’ve reviewed a little more than 300 movies over several years. In moving to this more august site, I left the reviews behind and am not posting new ones here; that’s one of few things still being posted on Walt, Even Randomer. The treadmill’s gone as well–RFI problems and other reasons–but the movies remain.

You can go to that blog for the reviews, such as they are–and you’ll find a compilation of all four discs in a future Cites & Insights. The reviews aren’t the theme of this post.

Legitimate?

That’s the hook here: Was I watching a legitimate packaged set of old movies or is this set “dodgy”?
A couple of key points up front:

  • I am not a lawyer. I’m interested in copyright and have written about it, but always from a semi-informed layperson’s point of view. Let me say that again: I am not a lawyer. This is not legal advice.
  • Mill Creek Entertainment, successor to TreeLine Films, has been around for a while. The company–a division of Digital1Stop–has a street address. It is possible to contact them. The Hitchcock set’s been for sale for at least two years, through such obscure distributors as Amazon.

Anyway…
When I posted my off-the-cuff reviews for Disc 1, one of my online correspondents from the UK objected strongly–that these movies were not in the public domain and that Mill Creek wasn’t a known licensee. The post came from someone I respect, but I had to edit the comment, as it made legal claims I wasn’t going to get in the middle of.
On the other hand, the post did alert me to something I’d never heard of before: Copyright restoration. Apparently, thanks to the wonders of international treaties, some UK material that was definitely in the public domain within the U.S. (and maybe even in the UK) had copyright restored retroactively–with a clause allowing distributors, who had released the PD material in good faith, to sell out existing stocks for a year after being notified by copyright-holders that the works were now once again protected.
So, well, other than saying “that’s appalling if true”–as it seems to violate not only the spirit of U.S. law but also the Constitutional basis for copyright–I could only fall back on the second point above: The material’s being sold openly by a legitimate company with a known U.S. address; if there’s a problem, it’s up to the copyright-holders to address it.

But wait! There’s more!

More recently, I heard about Golan v. Holder, a case in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado, decided on April 3, 2009.
Briefly, the 10th District Court found that the copyright restoration (Section 514 of the Uruguay Round Agreements) was unconstitutional.
Which would appear to put these movies (back?) in the public domain. At least for now. At least in the 10th district.
Subject to appeal, of course. And to possible new Congressional acts–but it’s getting a little tougher for Congress to keep imposing longer and tougher copyright in the assumption that nobody’s looking.

Why the licensees might step back

I don’t believe it should be legitimate to restore copyright in materials that legally, properly fell into the public domain. I believe copyright is too long in the U.S. anyway–and this particular restoration means that materials created by non-U.S. citizens actually have an advantage over U.S. creations, within the U.S. (The act didn’t restore any native-U.S. materials to copyright.) That also seems odd.
But there’s another issue to consider–namely, that for movies, at least, proper license holders with actual access to original materials shouldn’t worry too much about public domain versions. Why?
Because the license holders can offer something the PD vendors can’t: Fully-restored DVDs created from the masters, rather than from whatever prints happen to be available. The movie may be in the public domain, but the masters continue to be the physical property of whoever owns them.
Having watched the Mill Creek set of 18 movies, 2 TV episodes, and 19 trailers (the 19 trailers being one of the most charming aspects), I would think that any true Hitchcock enthusiast would spend the $156 extra to get the “proper” versions of ten of the 18 movies from Criterion, Lions Gate or MGM after spending the $8 for this set. You’d presumably get better print quality, extras and expert commentary. (Not that these prints are all terrible–most of them are actually pretty good.)
Would I pay the extra money? No, because I’ve realized I’m never going to be a great fan of early Hitchcock. But I wouldn’t have paid that money anyway–and at least I’ve been exposed to some interesting flicks I’d have never heard of otherwise.

When did creative work become worthless?

Posted in Books and publishing, Cites & Insights, Copyright, Writing and blogging on June 15th, 2008

Yes, the post title is an overstatement–but the situation described below struck me as peculiar enough to deserve a little hyperbole. It relates to Balanced Libraries: Thoughts on Continuity and Change and three posts (and related comments) on two liblogs. The posts and comments all happened in late May, while I was incommunicado (on vacation and only checking work-related email once every couple of days at fairly high shipboard internet prices).

Before getting to the posts and comments, I want to be very clear about one thing: This is not about rejecting negative criticism.

To drive that point home, I was doing some ego-Googling (which I rarely do, although not for lack of ego) and encountered a terse review of Balanced Libraries that I hadn’t seen earlier. The review appeared on Goodreads and was written by Jack (I think you have to join Goodreads to find out who Jack is). Here’s the review, in full:

“Generally just classic Crawford: long-winded, rambling, reactionary rhetoric. “

My comment? That’s an honest opinion stated clearly and presumably after reading the book. I have no problem with it.

But this other combination is something else–not a negative review of the book (which I’d link to or quote) but, well, something else.


It begins with “Where Are Blogs Bred? In the Heart Or In the Head?,” posted by Keith Kisser on May 27, 2008 at The Invisible Library (http://sanchezkisser.com/blog/). Kisser recently published a science fiction novel, The Machine of the World, on Lulu, and was searching Amazon to see whether it showed up yet. It hadn’t (and still hasn’t, which is odd); instead, he found Balanced Libraries,where I’d quoted from one of his blog posts. (The post favored Netflix-style library service and included a charming statement ending in “time to wait for the dinosaurs to die off.” You’ll find it in Kisser’s archive on December 8, 2006.)

Kisser doesn’t comment on the book itself or the context for the quotation, since he hadn’t read it. But he does have opinions about having a blog post show up in a book. Some of what he says:

But one thing I am, is uncertain about how I feel about being cited in this or any other book. At first go, it’s a little flattering to have my opinions taken into consideration, even if, as I gather from the few pages I’ve read online, …Walt Crawford is criticizing me. That’s fine. Healthy debate is great and I’m a big boy and can handle it. But what remains uncertain at this point (because again, I haven’t read the whole book yet) is the context…

The thing is, my blog is a rough draft of ideas that are constantly changing and evolving. Some library blogs are more academic (i.e. judiciously worded) and take topics at a more in-depth, analytical perspective. I do that sometimes but I’m not above tossing off a half baked idea, contradicting myself later, or criticizing reactionary librarians or critics of libraries with impertinent language. It’s my blog and I’ll rant if I want to. And anyone is free to read, link or cite my words as they see fit. It’s a wide and woolly Internet and I neither hide my identity nor suffer the delusion that a blog is somehow a private forum. If you can read it on the Internet, it isn’t private or secret.

But just how public and in what capacity a blog, any blog is, has yet to be defined…. [Notes that his blog ranges widely...] You see the problem here? In which context was my post cited? Is it Academic Librarian Keith being cited or Geek Keith? Maybe it’s Slightly Sleepy and a Little Cranky with a Side of Silly Keith?…

Blogs are still too new to have a defined space in the academic world…. How do you treat blogs? As Journals or diaries? Thy can be both and at the same time. It’s nutty. And confusing, And wonderful. But mostly confusing.

I’d challenge some of the last two paragraphs

  • I think we’re long past the point where “how public…a blog is” has yet to be defined. An open blog–one anybody can reach (as opposed to some LiveJournal blogs and other protected blog) is a series of publications. It’s public. Each post is a publication. People have been quoting from blog posts in articles and books almost since there have been blogs. For that matter, it’s fair to assume that a lot more people will read Kisser’s post as quoted here or in Cites & Insights than will read it as quoted in Balanced Libraries, since it’s wildly unlikely that I’ll ever sell 1,500 to 2,500 copies of the book (roughly the average daily readership here and typical first-two-months readership for C&I).
  • I provided date and address for the post, as I did for all quoted posts. That allows any reader to find the context–typically a lot more easily than they could find the context for a quotation from print, where the reader might or might not have access to the original. I quoted Keith Kisser talking about library services; it’s not up to me to guess “which Keith Kisser” was writing the post. I’m prone to changing opinions and issuing rough drafts here as well–but I know that, once posted, they’re published statements suitable for citation.
  • “Academic world” is a red herring, since Balanced Libraries isn’t an academic work and I’m not an academic.

Actually, I was a little astonished that, in 2008, someone would be questioning the appropriateness of quoting from a blog post in more formal literature. That train left the station a long time ago, and I really don’t think there ever was a question. (People have been quoting elist posts in formal literature for many, many years, and that’s never been much of an issue either, as long as the elists are public.)

The first commenter, Jenny, thought it was great that Kisser was cited in a book. In part:

Does it really matter in what context you were cited? Someone took an idea you blogged about because it sparked an idea they had and ran with it. Isn’t that part of the point of a blog? To create wider discourse? And, even if Crawford did use your blog entry out of context at least you’ll always have something to rant about at dinner parties.

To which Kisser responded:

True. Though I’m less concerned about how he quoted me in particular and more interested in the idea of blogs being quoted in a scholarly paper as a general concept. I’ve also found out more about the circumstances of this citation in particular. I’ll have an update soon.

Somehow Balanced Libraries now shifted from being a book to being academic to being “a scholarly paper.” In any case, blog posts have showed up in formal refereed articles for years as well, so that general concept is also settled. Blog posts in non-pseudonymous blogs are signed publications.

I would have posted some of this as a comment–but, although comments do appear, Kisser later closed the post to comments, so that wasn’t possible. I might have left it at that, particularly since I really don’t think there’s any serious controversy about the public, citable, quotable status of public blog posts. (What part of “public” don’t you understand?)

But wait…there’s more!


On May 28, 2008 (the next day), Kisser posted “Not-So-Balanced Libraries.” He begins by noting that he’d wondered aloud “about the context of such citations and the weird gray area inhabited by blogs in the academic world.” (Again: My book isn’t academic and the area isn’t all that gray…but never mind.) He “did a little more research” leading to my website and a link to the book at Lulu.com. (The Amazon record he originally found isn’t for the Lulu edition, it’s for the CreateSpace edition–but, again, never mind.) And here’s where it gets interesting. Since this is all about me and I’m commenting on it, I do believe that fair use applies, so I’m quoting the rest of the post in full:

This in no way invalidates his book, or thesis, but neither does it really inspire much confidence. Let’s be honest–and this is coming from a fellow Lulu author–self published academic work tends to have a certain… charm, shall we say. It’s good to know others are getting their work out there independently and for all I know, Walt Crawford is the unsung, Tom Paine of the library world. But seriously, Walt, $29.50 for a paperback is bad enough but $20 for the download? Downloads are free. I could understand maybe asking for donations. Charging a buck or two is acceptable, if you want to be a dick. But $20 for a PDF is madness. Like, RIAA suing tween music downloaders for their parent’s retirement fund level of madness. Cory Doctorow explains why. Bad form, Walt.

The only thing worse than not making an ebook available (especially when self publishing the book on Lulu, where that option is free and as easy as clicking a single button) is charging such a ridiculous price for it. This is one of those really easy web 2.0 ideas that often get ignored by library administrators because they either can’t or won’t change their minds about access and distribution models. If charging people for ebooks is part of your idea of creating a balanced library, I’m not impressed. And neither am I willing to spend $30 bucks for some out-to-lunch academic’s pet project.

Well now. First he says that publishing through Lulu doesn’t inspire much confidence–and, frankly, I agree. If I didn’t already have a reputation (for good or for bad) through 12 traditionally-published books and a few hundred traditionally-published articles and columns, and through Cites & Insights, I would never have attempted the Lulu trick for a nonfiction book. “Walt Crawford” is the only real brand here, for better or worse.

I’m hardly the “unsung Tom Paine of the library world.” Kisser’s never heard of me. No reason he should have. But a few thousand others have–well, tens of thousands in the case of the Library 2.0 special.

“$29.50 for a paperback is bad enough but $20 for the download? Downloads are free.” Sez who? Cory Doctorow? I haven’t adopted Doctorow as a guru. The $29.50 price is, to put it bluntly, cheap for a 247-page trade paperback on current technological issues in the library field. Every similar work that I’m aware of costs at least $35, with one going for more than $100. But that’s not really the issue. The issue is whether an author is obliged to give away his or her work for free, as long as it’s in downloadable form.

Kisser seems to think that they are–”Downloads are free.” He even says that charging a buck or two is only acceptable “if you want to be a dick” and seems to equate my $20 price with RIAA’s infringement suits.

In the final paragraph, Kisser once again calls me an academic–this time an “out-to-lunch academic.” And somehow my belief that authors can request some compensation for their work (done on their own time) is “part of [my] idea of creating a balanced library.” I’ll cop to that: I don’t believe that balanced libraries set out to make authorship worthless, even though they can, do, and should provide free (prepaid via taxes or tuition) access to written materials. (I assume that the few dozen libraries that purchased Balanced Libraries circulate it, and would certainly hope so!)

This is, to put it mildly, bullshit. Writing a book is hard work. To assert that an author is at best clueless and at worst “a dick” or worse because the author doesn’t give that work away is insulting and offensive…and devalues creative effort. If an author wants to follow Doctorow’s approach, more power to them. That doesn’t make it the only correct or honorable approach. In fact, the whole “give it away so your true fans will buy other stuff” meme works badly for writers and even worse for niche writers.

Again, I would have protested directly on the blog–but again, although there are comments, comments are closed. So I would have commented in an essay on copyright balance about the dystopian notion that you’re obliged to give it away if it can be distributed digitally.

Except for the linked post and the comments on that post…


There’s really only one comment and a trackback, and the comment is from the person who wrote the blog post that’s tracked back: Aaron at SemiConscious Dot Org. (www.semiconscious.org). His May 29, 2008 post is entitled “Library 1.87” and is brief enough to quote in full:

What’s daffier than daffy?

Writing a book about the future of libraries (you know, those places where they lend books to people)… and then charging twenty dollars to download it.

Who out there has the pun, the barb, the eloquent poison-pen quip, to sum up the silliness of this situation in devastating fashion? Let’s hear ‘em. Seriously, I’m tapped out. I got nothin’…

I’ll admit that, until then, I was unaware that all other books about libraries were free in ebook form–that, somehow, writing about a place that lends books requires you not to charge for your book. There’s a logical chain there, but I’m too dim to see it.

“Keith” (presumably Kisser, but I don’t know that) noted that you could get an estimate of what the book actually costs to manufacture. Actually, you can get a precise figure. Keith mistakenly assumes that I’m dealing with retail markup because there’s an ISBN (there’s no ISBN on the Lulu edition) and says I’m “charging twice as much as the printed edition for a download” which he calls “a clear cut case of shenanigans.” Actually (and I got this wrong in my comment–Aaron’s blog does have comments open), my net proceeds come to $15.94 for the paperback version via Lulu (less via Amazon) and $16 for the download–a six cent difference, hardly “twice as much.” Am I overcharging for the paperback? Well, I’m charging less than the going rate for such books… As for “shenanigans,” since the prices are clearly stated, the costs are readily available, and nobody’s forcing anyone to buy the book, I can’t imagine what Keith has in mind.

Ah, but then there’s the capper, from “StaciB”:

Clearly, he’s writing for an incredibly gullible audience. Which tells me how little he knows about libraries and librarians in the first place. And just as clearly, he’s more interested in making money than in making sense. How about “Techno-twerp exploits self-defeating prophesy.”

See how we’ve progressed? Now it’s appropriate to attack me as “writing for an incredibly gullible audience” and I can’t know much about libraries or librarians–all because I’m asking to be paid for my work by those who wish to read it.

This is character assassination and I think it’s wildly inappropriate. StaciB doesn’t know who I am. None of them seem to be aware that I give away the equivalent of four typical books a year (in Cites & Insights), not to mention this blog, or that I have–I believe–reasonably well established that I know a little bit about libraries and librarians. Anyone who understands library publishing at all knows that, if I was “more interested in making money than in making sense,” the last thing I’d be doing is writing self-published books on librarianship–or even traditionally-published books! Speaking, column writing, consulting, greeting folks at Wal-Mart: All better paid gigs than the Lulu books are likely to be.

I did write a response to this post and the comments–and, again, I’ll quote it in full (it’s my work!), even noting that my “$13″ estimate was wrong…

I have a simple response for this post and the two comments: Nobody is requiring you or anyone else to buy either the download or the print book.

If you’re offended by a writer who actually hopes to have some small compensation for the effort involved in writing a book, so be it. I disagree. Nobody paid me to do this, done entirely on my own time. There’s no way I’m going to earn Big Bucks on a PoD book in librarianship. With a LOT of luck I might earn minimum wage for the time spent on the book…

Keith: No shenanigans. The Lulu edition doesn’t have an ISBN, only the Amazon/CreateSpace version. In fact, you can determine EXACTLY how much I’m receiving for the downloaded or print versions from Lulu itself (it’s about $13 for the print version, $16 for the download—I’d prefer that people buy the print version, but offered the download because people asked for it).

StaciB: I could refer you to those “incredibly gullible” librarians (such as John Dupuis and Pete Smith). For that matter, I could refer you to my dozen traditionally-published books in the library field (beginning with MARC for Library Use) to demonstrate how little I know about libraries and librarians. But, since it’s clear that I’m more interested in making money than in making sense (presumably why I’ve been giving away Cites & Insights for seven years now), I’ll just bow to your superior wisdom. It must be nice to be able to make such crack judgments about my knowledge and abilities with such utter clarity.

And that’s where it stands. Apparently, some folks believe that it is wrong for an author to ask for compensation for his writing. I disagree. I think it’s perfectly appropriate to give it away if that suits your needs. I think that, for a few people, giving away the downloadable version will sell the print version–and that’s great. (I gave away three chapters of Balanced Libraries, to be sure, but via Cites & Insights.) I’m fairly sure that, if the attitudes expressed here become universal, a whole lot of specialized writing just won’t get done, unless it’s by people who are otherwise sponsored.


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