A New Twist On Digital Book Pricing

September 28, 2009

AP Stylebook Launches iPhone App

The app costs $28.99 — $10 more than the print version of the Stylebook (just $4 more if you factor in the $6 shipping fee), and $4 more than the online subscription. The app designers are quick to point out, though, that the price is comparable to other reference iPhone apps, including the Oxford English Dictionary ($19.99) and the American Heritage Dictionary ($29.99). Newvine also notes that users who purchase the 2009 app would be offered a two-for-one deal that would guarantee them the 2010 app for free.

That’s clever: Give us your money now and you’ll also get something later.

The reverse Wimpy.

wimpy

Am I the only person to notice that AP didn’t do this for the Sony Reader or abominable Kindle? So much for the utility of eInk devices.


Google Thinks It Owns Our Books!

September 27, 2009

For the past several days, I’ve been in Google Books, liberating books from Google’s grasp.

And make no mistake: they are in Google’s grasp.

Here is proof:

GoogleBlock
Click = big

My M.O. has been Search, open book in new tab, Add to Library, then download PDF, then download ePub. With CAPCHAs between each download step.

And still Google thinks my PC is a bot?

Baloney.

Keep this incident in mind when Google brays about universal and unlimited access to the world’s books.

This is not unlimited.

Every book must be removed from Google’s grasp.

Update: This lock-out extends to accessing Google Books entirely. I get that screen when I simply go to http://books.google.com. In other words, I can’t even see the front page of it! The Google ID I was using was the one for my old Blogger version of this blog. How’s that for additional irony? I’ve filled out Google’s “I’m not a damned bot” form. Let’s see how long this lock-out lasts.

Second update: Three hours later, I can get back into Google Books. No email reply from Google, however, and no explanation. I was able to get back in with Firefox earlier. Total access, including downloading. So how are they tracking so-called alleged bots — via browser being used? It’s certainly not IP address.


He Did Not Back Down

September 26, 2009

Dickens
NY Public Library Digital Gallery

Dickens’s 1842 Reading Tour: Launching the Copyright Question in Tempestuous Seas

The rowdy American press, particularly in New York, soon disabused Dickens of his utopian notions vis a vis copyright. Americans, expecting him to be grateful for their warm reception, were staggered when this young British goodwill ambassador at the beginning of 1842, at a dinner held in his honour in Boston, dared to criticize them as pirates while urging the merits of international copyright, which at that point in American history would have seen vast amounts of Yankee capital heading overseas with little reciprocation. He did not back down.


The First Step Towards A Google Book Search Solution

September 25, 2009

Note: This is not intended to be a comprehensive solution. It’s a beginning. What I believe is the necessary first step.

Let’s review:

1) Google scans public domain treasures from taxpayer-financed public libraries

2) Google sweeps up out-of-print non-public domain books in its digital looting of these public institutions

3) Google wants to strip out-of-print writers of their property rights for its own multi-billion dollar future private profit stream

Really. That’s it in a nutshell, stripped of pretty or truth-suppressing language.

Every single part of this scheme has been objectionable from Step 1.

1) Did Google compensate public libraries for the scanning? If they did, it’s still not enough money. Taxpayers supported these libraries for decades. Libraries stored these books and preserved these books for decades. Google comes along with its scanner and suddenly its private profit desire supersedes the decades of funding and care that went into creating and maintaining those collections? The answer to that question is No.

2) Google knew damn well that anything post-1923 is subject to Copyright. A company of that size simply grabbed books off library shelves like rioters in a looting spree without bothering to vet their Copyright dates? I don’t think so. Google is not stupid. Google planned to vacuum up everything from the very beginning.

3) Let’s get this point very clear: publishers do not own these out-of-print books. The writers who wrote them do. There is no discussion or compromise on this point, period. And any writers who are not members of that Jurassic-era tar pit known as the Authors Guild never granted permission to be represented as a class in its legal action. The Authors Guild does not speak for me, will never speak for me, and I’d sue the hell out of them if they ever claimed to speak for me. The Authors Guild is as a guilty as Google was in vacuuming up all the books. The Authors Guild thought it had the right to vacuum up all writers.

Now let’s look forward:

1) Is it societally valuable for all books to be online and searchable? Yes, it is.

2) It is valuable for writers for their books to be online and searchable? Maybe.

3) Should that function be under the control of only one private corporation? No, it should not be.

I don’t think anyone debates point one. It’s point three that’s the objection and the Gordian Knot.

To slice that knot, I propose the following:

1) Google spins off Book Search into a non-profit corporation. Call that the fine you pay for trying to suck up all the books, Google. You get to paint yourself all magnanimous and virtuous here, Google — the twenty-first century’s version of Andrew Carnegie.

2) This non-profit corporation builds a Book Storage platform that is open to all comers. Consider how Twitter’s APIs have allowed a ton of weird and wonderful and niche services to blossom around it. The same can happen with this.

3) Congress in consultation with the Copyright Office offers this non-profit corporation a period of time for a penalty-free safe harbor to offer up to twenty-percent of out-of-print books full-text content. This period, anywhere from three to five years, is the time in which this non-profit corporation must make every possible effort to track down and secure the legally-binding rights to these out-of-print books. Writers (and or heirs/rightsholders) can still choose to opt-out of it. Any book that cannot be secured in that period of time — which includes any rightsholder who chooses to opt-out — must have its content locked and all access prohibited. The reason why I offer twenty percent safe-harbor reproduction is based on my experience with book previews at Smashwords. A ten percent sample is often too little to judge the text, twenty percent is enough. A search result would point to a four-line snippet containing the search result, but the visible twenty percent would proceed from the start of the book, not twenty percent of the text surrounding the search result (this would too obviously lead to offering one-hundred percent of the text via shrewd searching).

4) The Book Rights Registry would be a department within this non-profit corporation. Its function is subject to audit by the Copyright Office, any writers group (National Writers Union, Writers Guild, even the Authors Guild), and any publisher (including “self-publisher,” if there is a work online). The Book Rights Registry itself is to also have a platform component that is open to all comers, with privacy restrictions (the online component would not publish a writer’s address, for instance, but it could offer an opt-in Contact button which would be valuable to publishers, agents, and others interested in licensing rights).

5) Each out-of-print work that has not yet been legally licensed is to have a very prominent banner placed on it advertising the fact the rightsholder needs to come forward, with a specific deadline date. This will open up the ownership search to serendipity, with readers tripping across books they might be able to connect to owners. (“Bob, did you know your book is online?” “Jane, did you see your deceased husband’s book online?”)

6) This non-profit Book Storage corporation is to act as Switzerland. If Google wants to enhance results in its search engine results, it can. If Bing wants to do its thing with search results, it can. The book data resides on the servers of the non-profit corporation and anyone can tap into it by any method — via search engine, via API, RSS, CloudRSS, or any other computational hook that’s devised in the future.

7) Access to the Book Storage content by for-profit entities is via a tax-deductible fee. The reason for this fee is to fund the continued operation of the non-profit Book Storage corporation. The reason for that fee to be tax-deductible is the price the Department of Justice must agree to for sticking its nose in with an obviously-biased point of view towards the deadlocked Settlement. In addition, making this fee tax-deductible would remove that fee from needing to be recoverable and charged against the income of the non-profit Book Storage corporation. For example, Google pays its fee for access. That fee is a write-off. The fee does not have to be recovered before Google’s cut of advertising fees flow to the Book Storage non-profit corporation.

7) Compensation. This is a sticking point and I don’t have a suggestion for this other than writers getting a majority split of all advertising that is tied to book display. All I know is that the current US$60.00 being offered is negligible as compensation to writers who don’t have a large body of out-of-print work. Someone with financial savvy will have to tackle this aspect. All I know is that compensation must be built into this model from the start. Writers should not have their work reproduced for free.

7a) One possible manifestation of an ad-based compensation model. Someone creates a website that aggregates books of a certain niche. Let’s say British mysteries set during World War I and in a certain locale, such as Birmingham. That website runs ads. A cut of those ads go to the Book Search non-profit corporation, with the majority of that cut flowing to the writers whose books are being aggregated at that website. Notice this: Book Storage is a platform that allows others to create audiences for its content. Books that otherwise would never be seen now have a chance at new life by being promoted by those who know the audiences for them.

8) Board of Directors. Ten members, with this breakdown:

Seats 1, 2, 3 & 4: In its first year, representatives from the nation’s largest public library systems. The terms for these seats is three years, non-renewable. Afterwards, these seats are assigned to smaller public library systems on a size basis.

Seats 5 & 6: Representatives from university libraries, with a term of two years, non-renewable.

Seat 7: Writer representative. In its first year, The National Writers Union, with a term of one year, non-renewable.

Seat 8: For-profit publisher representative, with a term of one year, non-renewable.

Seats 9 & 10: For-profit tech representatives, term of one year, non-renewable. These seats are not to be occupied by these companies in its first year: Google, Amazon, Sony, Apple, Twitter, Yahoo, Microsoft, Nokia, or Palm.

9) Transparency. This non-profit corporation must publish weekly status reports of its progress on the Internet for all to access. This would include the names of companies that have paid fees for access, the number of rights that have been secured, the number of rightsholders who have chosen to opt-out, etc.

I know there are other issues: privacy of readers, metadata, the one million-plus ePubs of crap, public libraries having access (I believe that should be free!), and much more.

But I’ve given the first step here: Make Google give up Book Search, divest it into a separate non-profit corporation that will act in the best interest of the books, the writers, and readers — not the best interests of a single company.

If Google refuses to do that, then we know that Google’s goal all along was to benefit only Google — no one else, and certainly not writers.

Now the discussion towards a true Settlement can really begin.

Let me close with a quote from Jeff Jarvis, author of What Would Google Do?

Google thinks its Snuffleupagus – big but cuddly and good – and just doesn’t realize that some people see it as a potential bully and so it has to act accordingly. With size comes responsibility.


“Public Libraries … [Are] Houses Of Death”

September 24, 2009

I warn you up front. This post I cite below does not seem to be a joke.

It’s on a website devoted to the warped philosophy of that self-alienated sociopathic drug-addict, Ayn Rand. And it’s no spoof site, either. For it if was, I think Tibor R. Machan, who is listed as a writer, would easily have grounds for a whopping lawsuit.

The Scourge of Public Libraries

To really get down to principles, argue against the best aspects of statism. My favorite is public libraries.

And:

Public libraries, as institutions that destroy value, destroy in some small way our ability to live our lives to the fullest. They represent houses of death and should be spat upon and cursed in the most creative language possible.

And:

Public libraries are a scourge because they masquerade as a benevolent government program, a program that seemingly only the most extreme radical could oppose.

Or an Objectivist imbecile, maybe.

Did this ideologically-blind eejit ever wonder how public libraries came about? Does he understand why they are community (“taxpayer”) supported and not private “institutions” such as the Blockbuster he so lovingly cites as a counter-example in his insane post?

No, of course not. As the saying goes, “When you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

And to someone in the psychotic grip of the received “wisdom” of Ayn Rand, every aspect of the public good begins to look like a collectivist plot cleverly designed to undermine self-reliance and freedom.

Here is uber-capitalist Andrew Carnegiewho advocated the rich should donate libraries to communities! — on why public libraries should be community-funded:

The result of my own study of the question, What is the best gift which can be given to a community? is that a free library occupies the first place, provided the community will accept and maintain it as a public institution, as much a part of the city property as its public schools, and, indeed, an adjunct to these. It is, no doubt, possible that my own personal experience may have led me to value a free library beyond all other forms of beneficence. When I was a working-boy in Pittsburg, Colonel Anderson of Allegheny – a name I can never speak without feelings of devotional gratitude – opened his little library of four hundred books to boys. Every Saturday afternoon he was in attendance at his house to exchange books. No one but he who has felt it can ever know the intense longing with which the arrival of Saturday was awaited, that a new book might be had. My brother and Mr. Phipps, who bave been my principal business partners through life, shared with me Colonel Anderson’s precious generosity, and it was when reveling in the treasures which he opened to us that I resolved, if ever wealth came to me, that it should be used to establish free libraries, that other poor boys might receive opportunities similar to those for which we were indebted to that noble man.

Great Britain has been foremost in appreciating the value of free libraries for its people. Parliament passed an act permitting towns and cities to establish and maintain these as municipal institutions; whenever the people of any town or city voted to accept the provisions of the act, the authorities were authorized to tax the community to the extent of one penny in the pound valuation. Most of the towns already have free libraries under this act. Many of these are the gifts of rich men, whose funds have been used for the building, and in some cases for the books also, the communities being required to maintain and to develop the libraries. And to this feature I attribute most of their usefulness. An endowed institution is liable to become the prey of a clique. The public ceases to take interest in it, or, rather, never acquires interest in it. The rule has been violated which requires the recipients to help themselves. Everything has been done for the community instead of its being only helped to help itself, and good results rarely ensue.

Boldface emphasis added by me.

Those are Andrew Carnegie’s own words, from his own book, The Gospel of Wealth.

Which any Objectivist moron can read for free at the non-profit Internet Archive. If they ever want to look outside of the masturbatory echo chamber of Objectivism — a twisted philosophy that none of them could ever conceive on their own, as they repeatedly submit evidence of their lack of ability to actually think — and, most importantly, think for themselves. Seeing themselves all as John Galts, they fail to realize others see them for what they actually are: cheap sub-Peter Keatings.

And one other thing, you Dollar Uber Alles Objectivist idiot: Ayn Rand met her future husband Frank O’Connor in a public library!


Smart Digital Books Vs. The ePub FAIL Model

September 24, 2009

Post-Medium Publishing

Smart Digital Books:

When you see something that’s taking advantage of new technology to give people something they want that they couldn’t have before, you’re probably looking at a winner.

Axis of E (eInk, ePub, eBook) FAIL Model:

And when you see something that’s merely reacting to new technology in an attempt to preserve some existing source of revenue, you’re probably looking at a loser.

The only thing the ePub FAIL model offers is to strip the words from the physical blocks of paper, period. And even that isn’t done properly.

Previously here:

The Coming Collapse Of eBook Prices
How The Axis Of E Is Killing Publishing
The Continuing Horror Of ePub
Would A US$50 eBook Reader Be A Disaster?
The Devaluation Of The eBook
ePub: The Death Of The Index?
The eBook Cover Scandal
He Understands Something Is Missing
Where I Stand Now
The Axis Of E Book Holocaust
English-Subtitled Editis Smart Digital Book Video
The Issue Of eBook Pricing
Why eInk, ePub, And eBooks Will Fail
Dumb eBooks Must Die, Smart eBooks Must Live
ALL eInk Devices: BAD For eBooks!


Google Always Had POD Planned

September 23, 2009

GoogleCover

I’ve been going through Google Book Search and have been noticing many public domain books have two covers. One of them created by Google, such as the one above.

This never made sense to me until Google recently announced it would be offering public domain books via Espresso machine Print On Demand. That announcement was made on September 21st.

This was on September 16: Photos: Books in a minute (or three)

See how it works with Google? They are always thinking ahead.

And these are the people the Authors Guild want to indenture all writers to? They will rob us blind.


Google: Now View PDF Search Results In Google Docs

September 22, 2009

I don’t know how long this has been going on. I don’t recall seeing any announcement by Google about this. It seems to me this is a major change and would have made a splash. Maybe I missed it because PDF is not interesting to me?

Previously, when encountering a PDF document in a Google search result, there was a View As HTML option. Now this seems to be getting replaced with an option simply called View.

GDocsPDF
Click = big

What’s interesting about this is that it launches that PDF into Google Docs, where it’s now displayed as a full PDF, with all formatting seemingly intact!

Just plop PDF into Google’s search box and sample the change!


A Contrast In Scale

September 21, 2009

FlashForward Author Robert J. Sawyer on How George Lucas Pre-Empted His SciFi Series

You look at Battlestar Galactica: Wonderful series, on a really good week it had 875,000 viewers out of 315 million people.

Bold emphasis added by me.

‘Lost Symbol’ Also a Big Hit on Kindle, But How Big?

But it seems that the breathless reception of Amazon’s news is a little overblown. Although Knopf Doubleday, which printed 5 million hardcover copies of “The Lost Symbol,” has declined to say what proportion of the more 1 one million copies of hardcover and e-book editions it sold on the first day of the book’s release were actually in digital form, a person familiar with the sales figures said far less than 5 percent were electronic book editions.

Bold emphasis added by me.

So that would be less than 200,000? 50,000?

Update: Really, I should by law be prohibited from touching numbers and calculations. With all the people who’ve read this post, I would have expected someone to point out that horrendous math FAIL of mine.

Previously here:

The Lost Symbol: The eBook Tipping Point?


“EPUB” Is A Registered Trademark

September 21, 2009

And yes, the mark is all caps. So rubes will think it’s pronounced “EP-ub.” Marketing 101 FAIL.

Word Mark
EPUB

Goods and Services
IC 009. US 021 023 026 036 038. G & S: Computer services in the nature of a XML based electronic file format standard for creating electronic books and other digital publications composed of the Open Publication Structure, Open Packaging Format and Open Container Format. FIRST USE: 20060910. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 20070911

Standard Characters Claimed

Mark Drawing Code
(4) STANDARD CHARACTER MARK

Serial Number
77574103

Filing Date
September 19, 2008

Current Filing Basis
1A

Original Filing Basis
1A

Owner
(APPLICANT) Open eBook Forum DBA International Digital Publishing Forum non-profit corporation D.C. 244 Fifth Avenue #2347 New York NEW YORK 10001

Attorney of Record
Erica Lazzaro

Type of Mark
TRADEMARK

Register
PRINCIPAL

Live/Dead Indicator
LIVE