Tag Archive for HarperCollins

“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.)

Book Review: Suddenly, by Bonnie Burnard

"Suddenly" by Bonnie BurnardSuddenly, by Bonnie Burnard, is a hard book to read, at certain points. You know that Sandra, the main character, receives a diagnosis of cancer, but after the introduction in which she discovers the breast lump, it’s disconcerting that she is already dying as the first chapter begins, four years later. She has been taken from the hospital and brought home for her final days of around-the-clock care, and it’s a bit depressing to realize that you’re watching a woman’s dying thoughts for the last few days of her life. If this is the beginning of the book, just how morbid and depressing will it get by the end?

But as you read what Sandra is thinking, meet her various grownup children, other family members, and close friends, and root with her through the journals she kept as they all lived their lives together, things slowly begin to change. You start out knowing where they have all ended up, but gradually you also discover what brought them to this point and made everyone into the people they are. And while Sandra doesn’t consider herself to be anyone that special, you gradually recognize how she held everyone together and formed a centre around whom they all revolved.

The story is told in the present tense. This isn’t a form I usually like, but it seemed appropriate in this book. Even with Sandra’s reminiscences through the journals (where the narrative switches to past tense), she is very much living in the present moment. Through her eyes, we see that at the end of our lives what really matters is narrowed down to some crucial present- and future-tense concerns. How we relate to our families. How our friends will do after we’re gone. Whether our own legacy will help or hurt the people we love.

I really enjoyed getting to know Sandra, her husband Jack, and her closest friends, Colleen and Jude. It was moving to see how they have reached a point of equilibrium in their lives, after their past struggles. Even the women’s own impending loss of their friend, devastating as it will be, is going to be something they survive and eventually move on from with some grace. And you can tell that Sandra’s influence in their lives has a great deal to do with that. It probably even explains why Jack himself can move on, relatively quickly, despite how deeply he loves his wife.

I’m not sure how I’d rate this book, overall. On one hand, it’s a heartwarming story about the importance of an ordinary woman’s life. On the other, it does move rather slowly and you never quite escape the oppressive feeling, knowing you’re watching that woman die. I did think the gradual movement from her point of view to those of her friends – so that the story continues for a few chapters even after Sandra does leave us – was masterful.

That itself may be part of the message of the story: that we live, have an influence, then move on while the story continues without us.

Would I recommend that someone rush out to buy this book? Maybe not “rush,” but give it a look. Given the subject matter, it’s hard work sometimes. But the novel shows deep insight into human relationships and teaches grace in the face of the flow of life and death.

[Note: I worked with an uncorrected review copy, meaning there could be some changes in the published version. The book is published by Harper Collins.]

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