Friday, February 17, 2006

Cory Doctorow on Google and the future of books provided a link to an article in Boing Boing about Google Book Search.

Now although Boing Boing is a very famous blog -- one of the first -- I don't go there very often and it was not immediately obvious to me who the author of this article was. However, as I read on I said to myself, Hmm, this reads a bit like Cory Doctorow. And guess what -- I was right. (Various clues in the text, such as the titles of his books; and, actually, his name in small print at the end.)

Not surprisingly, if you've been paying attention recently, Cory's article is full of good sense and clear thinking. Anyone who is sufficiently interested in books and publishing to be reading the GOB really ought to read the Doctorow article in full; but here are a few tasters of what he has to say.

His main point is that those publishers who are opposing the Google Book Search project (i.e. virtually all of them) have no case in law, and no moral case either; and, even if they had, would be far better employed in helping the project rather than hindering it.

Then, once again, he highlights the sheer technological ignorance, not to say foolishness, of those who think that digital rights management is actually going to work. 'From here on in, barring nuclear holocaust, bits will only get cheaper and easier to copy, period. Anyone who thinks bits will get harder to copy is either not paying attention or kidding himself or kidding you.'

And then he reminds us that the biggest problem that 99.999% of writers have to deal with is not the theft of their copyright, it is the fact that no one has ever heard of them. 'The majority of ideal readers who fail to buy my book will do so because they never heard of it, not because someone gave them a free electronic copy.'

And a whole lot more. Such as the fact that every twenty years or so the entertainment industry uses its muscle and wealth to 'persuade' the politicians to extend copyright still further, to no one's benefit except that of the shareholders in the big companies involved.

Towards the end, the article broadens out into a wider consideration of the future of the book.

If I were a religious man I would go down on my knees and thank the Lord for sending us Cory Doctorow and the few others who seem to possess any common sense in this world of books.

Which reminds me. At the end of the recent discussion on this blog about the thoughts of Jeremy Snippet, Mr Snippet (I think it is he) closes the proceedings by accusing me of being too nice to publishers. Me? Nice to publishers?

I must say my mouth dropped open a bit at that one. It seems to me that for the past two years I have sat here and made the same old statement, time after time, like an 78-rpm record stuck in a groove. What I have said, briefly, is this:

All the publishing folk that I have met over the past fifty years or so have struck me, as individuals, as being pleasant, polite, good company over a meal, and all like that. Collectively, however, as an industry, publishers are manifestly clueless. Braindead. Out to lunch. Nothing between the ears. Not fit to be allowed out without Nanny.

True, they have begun to focus a bit more sensibly, these last few years, on the need to make a profit or die. But the poor old things have no real idea how to do it, and they flail about helplessly for the most part, working by guess and by God. As for the future -- well, they have so much trouble working out whether it's Wednesday or Thursday that asking them to think ahead is a bit unkind really.

However, they might start by reading Cory Doctorow.

1 comment:

ivan said...

An unpalatable truth:
It's not the publishers.
It is us.
We are all illiterate and incompetent.