DRM, or “digital rights management”, is one of those topics that never ceases to generate heat in online discussions. Here’s a good post at O’Reilly Radar by Joe Wikert, in which he gives four reasons why DRM is like airport security: false sense of security; treats everyone like a criminal; is highly inefficient; and introduces silly limitations. Junk it, is his advice. For a consumer, it is annoying to pay more for an ebook than for a print hardback (partly for tax reasons), and then not to be able to loan it to anyone. It is also annoying to know that an ebook can be downloaded by a reader in one part of the world but not another. (See also Piracy adding to publishers’ digital costs at The Bookseller blog.) For my part, I seem to have stopped reading books in the e-format, pretty much, unless I see a book I’m about to buy in print on sale in e-form very cheaply. Even that assertion does not always hold, for example I’ve been shelling out £6 or £7 a go for Anthony Trollope books which are free in e-format (thanks to the Gutenberg project). I think it’s their sheer length that puts me off reading them on screen. And, returning to a point made above, the fact that someone else might want to read them as well as me. The Gutenberg project, incidentally, has just released its 30,000th English language book. DRM eat your heart out!
There is a fascinating slide presentation by Paul Adams, ex-Google and now at Facebook, about “how real social networks work, and why online social networks leave us feeling exposed and awkward”. (The slide show is embedded at Scholarly Kitchen but was presumably originally uploaded somewhere else.) The points are obvious but very well-put together and convincing. Or at least, they are in the first 30 or so slides, I got the message by then and did not progress through to slide 224, though I am sure they are all very good. In a sort-of similar point on a different topic, Alex Howard (at O’Reilly Radar again) argues that as “we all struggle to make sense of a world rapidly changed by technological disruption, the institutions that preserve cultural memory are becoming even more important.” He uses a museum project, Ignite Smithsonian, as an example.
How book publishing has changed since 1984 – this is a great article by Peter Osnos as he looks back “at an age of old retail and indie bookstores, before computers, celebrity memoirs, and megachains came to dominate the literary world.” And it isn’t only book publishing that’s changing. In the wake of its recent sale to AOL, The Huffington Post is being sued for back-pay by 9000 of its bloggers, who previously wrote for nothing.
Some nice book reviews this week: What Was Lost by Catherine O’Flynn (review at Reactions to Reading); Rupture (1000 Cuts) by Simon Lelic (review at Mysteries in Paradise); and Hotel Bosphorus by Esmahan Aykol (review at A Work in Progress).
Short links to posts I liked this week:
Help! I need a publisher. Have you been to Oxford? (Nicola Morgan)
London Book Fair vote shows that publishers are still relevant (Future ebook)
Novelists: What are you trying to accomplish? (Mysterious Matters)
Huh?! Faber (and Marcus Chown) to answer science’s biggest questions in tweets. (Bookseller)
Stupid, stupid. Want to avoid a retraction? Hire a medical writer, say medical writers. (Retraction Watch)
Even more stupid. Despite demand, parents urged not to use direct-to-consumer genetics tests on their kids. (Spoonful of Medicine)