Archive for Abominations

“But NOTHING bad will happen if you all switch to ebooks. Trust us.”

Cory Doctorow

Doctorow's sales went UP as he offered ebooks for free, or without DRM controls.

I keep trying to like the concept of ebooks. Trying to believe everyone who says that of course nothing will go wrong and we’ll have total control of those electronic files on our readers. I’ve even decided which reader I’d like to get. (Though after today, I won’t waste the extra bucks on a Sony ereader after all; I’ll stick with the much cheaper Kobo.) I can see a real convenience for ebooks, especially if you need to cart lots of books with you and can’t take a whole suitcase of them.


But now this Cory Doctorow article(**):

HarperCollins to libraries: we will nuke your ebooks after 26 checkouts

it’s absolutely true: on the whole, DRM ebooks, like DRM movies and DRM games work pretty well.

But they fail really badly. No matter how crappy a library’s relationship with a print publisher might be, the publisher couldn’t force them to destroy the books in their collections after 26 checkouts.

This is simply an abomination. We are constantly assured that when we buy an ebook — just like when we buy a physical book — that book is ours. (Even though we can’t resell it second hand. That’s already one difference.) When something happens like Amazon going into people’s Kindles and zapping a book — oh, that’s just an exception. Right? They’ll never, ever do it again. Right?

This HarperCollins crap is not an exception. It is a policy. And we know from experience that the “thin edge of the wedge” really does exist. Someone intrudes into our ownership a teeny bit — and we allow it and get used to it. So they intrude a little more — and we allow that. Do you think these publishers won’t end up at a point where they’ll only allow us to read an ebook a certain number of times, even though we’ve legitimately purchased it and put on our readers?? Don’t be naive. Those books were also bought by the libraries. The books were supposedly their property.

Doctorow’s advice to libraries, though I doubt they’ll follow it, and I doubt this will prevent the same screws from being applied to us one day unless we can kill DRM:

Stop buying DRM ebooks. Do you think that if you buy twice, or three times, or ten times as many crippled books that you’ll get more negotiating leverage with which to overcome abusive crap like this? Do you think that if more of your patrons come to rely on you for ebooks for their devices, that DRM vendors won’t notice that your relevance is tied to their product and tighten the screws?

You have exactly one weapon in your arsenal to keep yourself from being caught in this leg-hold trap: your collections budget. Stop buying from publishers who stick time-bombs in their ebooks.

So mad at this FUCKING GREEDY MOVE by HarperCollins that I could set a flamethrower on them!

(**Doctorow is a published author whose sales and earnings went UP after he started offering his books online for free, and released them in DRM-less efiles. He knows what he’s talking about. He makes his living studying this. When he speaks on these matters, people should listen.)

Rabid Capitalism and the “Democratization” of Book Reviews on Amazon

Photo of British poundsThere’s something to be said for expert critics in the art world, though they have often been criticized for being “elitist.” I am less enamored of “populism” lately, and don’t really have an axe to grind against most elites. The reason is that those who are criticized for being “elites” are often merely the target of less educated people who are envious of others’ achievements, and want to drag them down somehow. Pure and simple.

One may disagree with many of the experts who offer critiques of films, books, restaurants, or other things. But most of the time, the real experts have at least educated themselves in their field, and can offer genuine reasons why they drew the conclusions they did. They can give real critiques of how the writer/chef/painter performed their craft.

But with the current fad of “democratizing” everything, so that everybody gets an equal say no matter how educated or uneducated they are, critiques have become a free-for-all of opinion, often based on nothing but “I like it so it’s good,” or “I don’t like it so it’s crap, no matter how well done it is.”  Or, god forbid, critiques are offered not as genuine assessments of how well something is crafted, but as screeds that push an ideology at the expense of, well, everything else.

So for example, I never read the comments after news articles because there is virtually never a reasoned discussion about anything. There is nothing but ideology-pushing, with the most fervent ideologues being the least coherent (and the least able to spell or put a complete sentence together!). And eventually the comments section is merely a shouting match with a few brave souls attempting to speak rationally, while hundreds of others yell at them, frothing at the mouth and proud of it.

Photo of American money(And this is civilization? How do these people look themselves in the mirror and think, “I am so proud of my civilized society, and I’m glad to be a typical representative of it”? How do they not look in the mirror instead and think, “My society is getting more and more barbaric and vicious, and I am a typical representative”?)

Now combine this system of “democratized critique” with the rabid capitalism of our day, and you get what has long been a problem on — people writing scathing “reviews” of a book that competes with their own, or a book that contradicts their own ideology. These so-called “reviews” have nothing to do with whether the book is good, well-written, well-crafted, well-argued. It’s all about “preventing anyone from buying their book so they will instead buy mine.”

Amazon has tried to prevent this sort of thing, but has never really succeeded. And now we have another instance of it: Women writers at war over fake book reviews on Amazon. Not only are rival writers seemingly leaving blistering anonymous (cowards!) “reviews” of others’ books. But there are firms who actually hire themselves out to place favourable reviews for other books.

Photo of Canadian MoneyAll for the almighty buck (or, in the case of this story, the almighty pound). This scrabble for dollars and, of course, prestige has turned everyone into slavering beasts clawing each other’s eyes out. It demonstrates that no, we haven’t learned anything in our efforts to civilize ourselves, and we’ll happily turn back into animals at the least opportunity. It’s depressing and nasty. And a desperately failed experiment.

I think I’ll watch out for true, educated, thoughtful Experts from now on. And maybe the occasional personal review on book blogs where the writer is just talking about books they like, and has nothing at stake.

I’m also thinking that I may no longer read reviews on Amazon, any more than I read comments on news stories. At least — no reviews of new or current books. At least I know that reviews of older books are more likely to be honest, because nobody is scrabbling on the floor for loose change over them any longer.

Banned Books Week: Some Suggestions

If you’re wondering what banned books to read this week, in defiance of those who try to legislate what we read, see, and even think, here are some ideas: 50 Banned Books That Everyone Should Read.

I’m pleased to report that I’ve already read 17 of these banned books. Thirty-three to go! Though not all this week. (*gasp*)

Go. Read. Celebrate the freedom!

What Banned Book Will You Read for Banned Books Week?

You may not be aware of it, but Banned Books Week is coming up, from September 25th to October 2nd. It’s sponsored by, among other organizations, the American Library Association. It was created in protest against those who want books banned because the tomes don’t fit their personal beliefs or religious or political agenda.

Today I ran across an example of another author whose book is under threat of banning prompted by the activities of a right-wing religious organization. Laurie Halse Anderson is the author of Speak, a book about a high school girl who gets raped. The girl stays silent about it (hence the irony of the title), and there are all sorts of negative consequences. When she finally speaks up, it’s a real victory, not just for her, but for her whole school.

The Adventures of Huckleberry FinnThis book has helped many young women truly Speak about being raped, and how this crime affected them. And these young women are not a rare occurrence either. As an adult, learning more about my circle of female friends, I discovered that the majority of them had either been raped or sexually abused. I, who had not been, was in a decided minority, and remain in a minority among the women I know now. Almost none of these women came from “bad homes,” and absolutely none of them “asked for it” or got a sexual thrill out of being attacked and abused in that way.

Anderson writes about this issue, and the title of her blog entry sums everything up:  This guy thinks SPEAK is pornography. That’s right, the person who wants Speak banned considers it “soft core pornography” because there are two rape scenes in the book. This says vastly more about the contents of his mind than the contents of the book. He clearly believes that rape is sexually exciting; after all, that’s what pornography IS. He doesn’t “get” that this is a crime issue, and something that affects huge numbers of women in his society. No — he finds sexual excitement in the idea of rape, and that’s why he wants this book, which has been so helpful to so many young women, removed from the shelves.

The Grapes of Wrath(Why? So they won’t know they have a right to speak up, to fight back, to stop men who find rape sexually exciting from continuing to perpetuate this crime??)

This particular instance accentuates how important it is not to give in to the narrow minds that want books they have a problem with denied to everyone else.

So. What are you going to read during Banned Books Week, that these small, crabbed little minds would prefer you didn’t? If I can find Speak, I’ll try to read that. Otherwise, I think I’ll grab something from the top ten challenged books of 2009, or perhaps pick one from this Book Bans and Challenges, 2007-2010 map.

Or I might pick one of those evil, harmful books like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or perhaps The Grapes of Wrath. Or the Bible. Or, for that matter, the Qur’an.

Got any other ideas for reading, for Banned Books Week?

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