As the posting frequency gets slower and slower, it gets harder to tell when this blog is on vacation. But it is. For the next week we’ll be in a house on a lake without internet. At first that seemed like a problem but as we pack to leave, it feels more like an amenity. I’m taking a few paper books, a Kindle stocked to the gills, swimsuits and games and a few DVDs we never seem to find time to watch.
I’ll come back in a week, tanned and relaxed (just like Nixon) and ready to tackle a busy fall into a busy holiday season followed by an extremely busy 2011 for us. This might be the last good sleep I get in some time. Hold down the internet without me.
Here is the direct MP3 download for the EGC clambake for September 19, 2010. I play a song from George Hrab; I talk about about the new addition to the family and my reaction to a post on Boing Boing; I play a song by the Beatnik Turtle that I co-wrote with them; I talk about shutting down AmigoFish and starting up Ebooks From TV; I play a song by Boiled in Lead and hurl … myself into the future.
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I saw something very intersting on the Mobile Read forums yesterday. Science fiction author Jeffrey A. Carver posted his DRM pledge. Basically it is his promise to not let customers of his books down, even when the DRM his books are wrapped in fail them. The key portion of the pledge:
If you buy one of my ebooks from a store that uses DRM, and you can’t download or read the book on your chosen device—whether it’s the reader you originally bought it for or another—I want to help. Email me, preferably with some evidence of your purchase, and I will provide you with a copy that works for you. If you want to share it with a family member or a close friend the way you might a paper book, that’s fine with me. If you want to convert the file to work on a different device, feel free. I trust you not to share it indiscriminately. I figure if I treat you with respect, you’ll respect my need to earn a living, so I can continue to write. And you’ll get to read my book and own a copy of it, which was the whole point to begin with.
This is a highly respectable thing to do, and a move that I suspect will engender some goodwill amongst potential readership. Back when I was doing my mobile reading on a Handspring device, I purchased some books from Fictionwise and Peanut Press. Every book I ever bought from Fictionwise I still have access to, and most of those are sitting on my Kindle right now because they had no DRM on them. The Peanut Press books are useless. I suppose I could find some sort of cracking program or a Palm device emulator but really, I don’t care that much. It would be cheaper to me to buy the books again than spend that kind of time recovering access. In practice, I’d never do that because I still feel burned most of a decade on. Having someone make an assurance to me that won’t happen is a very good thing. Even better, I’ve found at least one other author making the same pledge. I’d love to see this become a movement.
I appreciate Jeffrey Carver’s stance and his willingness to short-circuit one of the biggest impediments to getting involved in ebooks from big publishers. Even as they are arguing why they should be charging more than the $9.99 price for the electronic versions, they insist on locking it with DRM that prevents you from using it in the future. Big publishers choose to reduce value to consumer while raising prices.
I’ve come to believe that over the 20 years I’ve had some small dealings with this kind of stuff that publishers are the businesses that are the very worst at business. “Hey, this new product has come along with zero marginal costs to us per copy sold. I can’t see how we can possibly make any money on that! Let’s jack up the prices and fiddle around with customers whose primary interest is reading our books.” Oh boy, I’ve been on this train before and I remember how it comes into the station. When your authors have to put their own balls on the line to protect customers from your business practices, that’s an indictment of a whole industry. One of the interesting side-effects of the pledge is that it strengthens the relationship between Carver and his fans, and weakens even more that between the customers and the publishers. It’s one more step down the trail of publisher irrelevance. The wise publishers would notice that and change business practices to keep themselves in this loop.
I applaud Jeffrey A. Carver for making this pledge, and I condemn all the executives and decision makers who have made it necessary.
I heard an interesting session from the O’Reilly Tools of Change conference via my IT Conversations podcast feed. One of Google’s senior copyright lawyers William Patry spoke about how you can’t use copyright law to solve your business problems – not by altering the enforcement of it or lobbying for stricter laws or any of it. Key quotes (paraphrased from memory as it was a 6 AM dog walk when I heard it):
“When you use the legal system to try to solve your business problems, and the ultimate effect is losing respect for the legal system”
“You can’t sue your customers into caring about and buying your product.”
I think this is a very interesting listen. It’s under 25 minutes total and if your income is in any way is tied to copyright, you should invest a half hour listening to this.
I’ve been reading Daytripper from Vertigo Comics since it began. It’s a project of Brazilian twins who are artist-writers, Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon. Having just read the last issue of the series, I’m declaring this work to be a masterpiece. It is Contract with God good. It is Death of Speedy Ortiz good. The stories are simple and each story is self-contained but added together they make up a mosaic that is so much effective and important than the sum of its parts.
Like the recent works of Michael Moorcock or the Aeon Flux cartoons, each issue has much the same cast of characters but the stories all end up at different places. I find this examination of characters through many different circumstances to be a satisfying way to tell a story. It’s like shining a light through a crystal from many different angles to see what it illuminates.
Multiple issues in this series, including #10 the final issue, made me weep openly. That’s a pretty good trick for a comic series to get the readers that emotionally involved, but I am. Practically any mention of this series will take about how the main character Bras dies over and over. Having read the full series, it is about life. Death exists to add urgency to why we should live today, and love those around us and make something of the time we have.
The series will be collected soon in trade paperback and I give this my highest recommendation. The art is beautiful, the writing emotional and effective and reaction I have upon reading it is to enjoy my life more. What more can you ask from a comic book than it make you a better person for having read it?