books on the radio


Cory Doctorow Interview Redux: For the Win

Cory Doctorow's new book is For the Win, published by Tor Teen. Photo by Joi Ito.

I recently had a chance to hook up with Cory Doctorow again via skype for a quick 37 minute interview about all kinds of interesting things.

Click here for the audio edit of our skype interview.

For the Win

He’s on tour for his new book, For the Win, and was in Toronto and environs doing publicity ahead of an event at the Merrill Collection.

In this wide-ranging talk we cover quite a lot of ground.

I start off by asking Cory about his new Print on Demand (POD) project that he’s been documenting for Publisher’s Weekly that’s called With a Little Help.

What I love about this project is that Cory is leading from the front.

He’s seen the opportunity to put some real numbers behind a POD project, has laid his process bare and is experimenting with a number of price points for fans and consumers.

Anyone interested in self-publishing or Print on Demand needs to know more about this project.

From there we discuss his new book, specifically the idea of ‘gold farming’, which, very generally, is the act of gamers in 3rd world countries working their way thru complex gaming levels and amassing treasure, loot or gold which they then sell to 3rd parties who then sell it on to others.

Sounds ridiculous, right? Sounds like something out of a science fiction story, right?

Except that it’s real. A weird new kind of colonialism, or a virtual sweatshop.

This leads us to discuss ‘Benevolent Dictators’, hackable devices, technical vs information challenges before moving on to discuss DRM, digital locks and possible consequences of the proposed new Canadian copyright legislation contained in Bill C32.

The conversation ends with Cory offering some advice to young creators – digital natives – who may be confused by the current discussions of ‘piracy’, DRM, windowing, POD.

Some very interesting insights on creative strategy, partnerships.

What do you think about the ideas that Cory expresses in this interview?

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Copyfight Fatigue: My Proposal to End a Polarizing Debate
May 31, 2010, 3:43 PM
Filed under: Copyright, Creative Commons, DRM, Enthusiasms, Imagination, Industry Change | Tags:

It's because of home taping that we no longer have music. Let's not make the same mistake with books. (Photo by Martin Conway)

This Week in Copyright

This week is the all copyright, file-sharing, DRM week from hell with a sick kitty thrown in (not literally thrown in, ‘course) for good measure.

On Thursday the Canadian Government is set to introduce a new bill that will seek to address and update our copyright law.

Then on Friday I’ll be interviewing Cory Doctorow via skype from Toronto where he’ll be touring his new book, For the Win.

Then on Saturday I’ll be skyping in to Bookcamp Halifax to present a session called Simplicity and Control: Digital Potential Beyond DRM.

So, it’s a watershed week where we determine whether law, behavior and the digital landscape can coexist without litigation and acrimony.

Smart money says not a fricking chance.

*

Photo by William Soo.

First Things First.

We’re going to get a new copyright bill in Canada one way or another and really, why not? Let’s just get it done and move on.

There’s been a lot of windmill jousting on all sides of the debate – thank god that analogy is in the public domain! – and I agree that it’s time for our elected representatives to put up or shut up on this.

It’s not a stretch to suggest that a lot of the pressure for this new bill to be introduced in Canada is coming from foreign politicians and from companies who desire to have their content and oil-based distribution chains protected from digital incursion.

That does not make these companies or the politicians “evil”: it makes them companies and politicians.

It is what it is.

The new bill is certainly not being put forward after a deafening hew and cry from creators in this country, though admittedly most will welcome it if only to know where they stand.

And, of course, everybody needs money: countries need money, political parties need money, creators need money, executives need money, we all need money.

I think that it’s obvious that companies with huge amounts of money invested in licensed creativity, content, product, etc… will naturally try to exert as much pressure as possible in order to protect and monetize their assets to their maximum ability.  Many of the creators in their ‘stable’ expect no less.

All of this is understood just as it’s understood that ability and willingness to change and adapt to new business models is very very low on the priority list.

Politicians want to stay in office and donations help to fund election campaigns.  Investments, locally or federally, from big companies or other countries help to make our politicians look good, to grease the economic gears, maybe create some jobs.

These kinds of influences and relationships have occurred since before the invention of fire.

Content creators/licensees want to protect their abilities to maximize their return on investment.  Politicians want to stay in power and also want to be able to fund their next election campaign.

Those are some of the fundamentals.

*

Photo by Kate Black.

P2P Filesharing & Bit Torrent: A Digital Apocalypse or a Huge Opportunity?

The problem is this: creative content is worth something to the creator, the licensee, the fan and everyone else in the ecosystem that facilitates taking the product from creator’s mind to audience.

Digital innovations have created an opportunity for files – potentially carrying creative work whose copyright provisions do not allow for any kind of non-monetized electronic dissemination – to be transmitted quickly and efficiently all over the world.

P2P File Sharing Networks and Bit Torrent technologies are the most efficient distribution system we have invented for getting information – digital files containing anything from scans of a shopping list, to Shakespeare’s sonnets, to a photo of your mom in front of the Louvre, to leaks of patent pending inventions, published unpublished and unpublishable novels, songs, your wedding photographs, etc… – from one computer to other computers quickly and practically instantaneously.

Fortunately or unfortunately these tools for sharing files and data don’t care what those shared files contain.  To them it’s all just information to be transferred.

Hurt Locker or Ishtar are the equivalent of Lady Gaga, a photo of a llama, episode 3 of Rock of Love Season 2, an excel file, a scan of a Mark Danielewski novel, Twilight, whatever. It all has the same basic value.

That value is zero.

* (The zero value is based on the file itself – infinitely replicable and basically indistinct for others – and not the work that went into what the file contains. The value of creation, editorial, design, etc… is invaluable. Unfortunately, these super efficient distribution tools are not designed to monetize in a way that we traditionally link to these kinds of exchanges.)

If you wrap your digital content in a protective layer – DRM – it is easily hacked open and shared regardless.

Even though there no evidence to support the notion that downloading digital content from P2P sites equals a lost sale or in any way negatively impacts revenues for content creators or licensees that does not prevent the appearance of a general assumption that something has been lost, taken, stolen or pirated that should have been rightfully monetized.

As though the 100,000 people (random figure, possibly too low) who have downloaded and watched Iron Man 2 from a practically infinite number of torrent sites around the world would have otherwise paid money to see that movie.

Surely there’s at least a ghost of logic to that statement, right? But can we monetize based on the ghosts of logic?

Probably not.

So… to distill it down to an essence: people are experiencing kinds of content all over the world for free.  This content is being acquired via P2P file sharing sites and is being seeded and further leeched by others around the world via an impossible to track bit of perfectly legal software called Bit Torrent.

Though this content is being experienced and shared by many more people than would otherwise have experienced and shared it previously this is a problem because there’s a perceived loss of revenue attached to this file sharing behavior.

The monopolized traditional distribution chain has been subverted and the digital efficiencies are built on the same logic that brought us the “genius” of the Amazon personalized algorhythm and effectively destroyed north American independent bookstore culture but is now wreaking havoc a little further up the food chain.

Rather than see this technological development as an opportunity to develop new ways of communicating, collaborating, community building and discovering new markets through innovation and imagination our government has decided that we need to legislate protections around ineffectual digital locks.

Digital locks that even the very politicians in our ruling minority federal government admit they broken many times in the average use of their iPods and PVRs.

Digital locks that have never worked, that don’t work even for well-meaning citizens but that will potentially criminalize them regardless.

*

Photo by Ben Heine.

My Proposal to End the Copyright Debate:

Like most of my favorite ideas this one is overly simplistic, possibly idealistic and probably impossible.

But here goes:

Copyright holders should lock up their content to the maximum limit if they want to.This is not mandatory, it is a conscious choice.

If copyright holders want to deprive their readers of the ability to widely share the content that they purchased or to transfer the same content between devices or whatever, that is their right.

And if the readership doesn’t like it, well then they can choose from some of the super-abundant alternative content available that doesn’t possess those same law bound restrictions.

Lock it up and throw away the key, maximize that revenue. It’s what copyright is all about, right?

The locks on this content should also not be broken and the content should not be shared on the P2P sites.

Just let it sell from the standard online channels.  Peddle it from websites and Amazon and iBooks, wherever.

If, however, you understand and are excited by the potential of these P2P sites for all of the digital benefits that they possess and you’re inclined to use other technologies like POD, paypal, skype, social media platforms, mixing tools, Adobe/Apple content creation software to augment your own stories, products or non-fiction writing then you should make that known and freely embrace the potential.

The traditional methods – paper books, vinyl records, prints, dvds, etc… – will continue to support, augment and quantify the work.

That’s it.  It’s that simple.

By taking control of the means of dissemination to build your audience, to collaborate and cross-pollinate media, to explore potentials for new markets and to reach those markets with real product you control your ability to do some really original work and to find ways to get paid that your audience agrees with.

So, pass a law if you want to. But it won’t take long before it becomes insignificant and/or irrelevant as the true creators of the present and the future go to the places that give them the maximum freedom to create and collaborate with the maximum audience and influences.

Taking ‘copyrighted’ content away from the networks won’t stop that it will only serve to create a whole other self-sustaining market based on concepts of creation, sharing, remixing that are outside our common notion of copyright.

And that’s ok.

There is nothing wrong with the traditional model and how it has helped create our current notion of what copyright is and how we should protect it.

But that notion of copyright no longer has exclusive rights to reality.



Kris Krug Talks China, Creative Commons, COP15 and more

Books on the Radio vs Kris Krug: We'll be in the garage fixin' the car!

*Click here to hear the extendo-interview with Kris Krug*

I first met Kris Krug earlier this year at the Alliance for Arts & Culture Annual General Meeting at the VPL.

Come to think about it, it was also the day that Michael Jackson died.

Copenhagen Bikes. By Kris Krug.

The end of an era, I suppose.

Or maybe, better put, it was the end to the end of an era for a voice that had long ago fallen silent.

But I digress.

A few days later, the good folks at Burnkit put us in touch and I went over to his place.

Kris had agreed to show me some tricks for listening to the internet and give me advice on how to best participate in online discussions using social media tools.

Over the course of our conversation I discovered a couple of things about Kris: He’s a very open guy with a wicked intelligence and a lot of different talents and interests.

He’s outside the box and he’s not going back in.

*

I spend a lot of time following people in the online/social media circles just to see how the game is played, who is playing it with style and who actually has something to say.

A portion of this time is spent watching what Kris is doing and how he’s doing it.

He mixes style, substance, ridiculous photography skills, support for cool projects with a vision for technology that is open, inclusive and always pushing forward.

Detained in Copenhagen. By Kris Krug.

It’s about positive hunger at a very fundamental level.

*

So it’s great to bring this wide-ranging and unexpurgated 40 minute extendo-interview to you here.

(It will run at just under 30 minutes when it airs on CJSF 90.1 FM.)

We talk about Kris’ beginnings as a photographer, his use of social media and Creative Commons to distribute and cultivate awareness of his work.

We discuss his experiences at the Olympics in Torino and Beijing and the upcoming 2010 Winter Games in his adopted city of Vancouver.

We talk Geeks on a Plane.

And TEDx Shanghai, Honolulu, Vancouver.

Kris tells us about the book that he’s working on that showcases the underground art scene in Shanghai and his interesting ideas for publishing that book.

We talk about the True North Media House and the W2 Culture and Media House.

It’s an awesome interview.

Just listen to it and let me know what you think.

Open Hand, Copenhagen. By Kris Krug.

Kris Krug Rocks Copenhagen with Daryl Hannah. Mint. Photo. Op.




Makers: The Cory Doctorow Interview (Built from Scratch)
Cory Doctorow Banner

Cory Doctorow Photo by Jonathan Worth.

This interview has it all.  Well, some of it.  In pieces.  Kinda glued together.

Click here to hear the podcast of my interview with Cory.

I called Cory on Thursday November 12th, 2009 from Control Booth B at CJSF.  He was in his hotel room getting started on a day of media publicity for the launch of his new book, Makers, published by Tor Books.

I have no idea whether I was his first interview of the day but I am certain that I wasn’t his last.

He did TVOntario, CBC’s The Hour with George Strombo and countless other interviews throughout the day.

He eventually finished with a talk at the Toronto SF reference library, the Merril Collection, where his old friends at Bakka Phoenix Books (where Cory once worked as a bookseller) sold out of books for him to sign.

His talk the next day at the National Reading Summit was a huge success according to all of my sources in Toronto.

Well, all of my sources except the Globe and Mail’s John Barber, who apparently couldn’t be bothered to actually show up.  Not that a little detail like being physically present prevented him from writing about it.

But back to the interview that you may or may not have already started listening to.

It’s a bit of a reanimated corpse brought together by magic and electricity.  The sound quality is off and my recording software kinda crashed about half way through then came back to life again and then died for good.

So I apologize for the quality and I promise that I’m going to get this whole ‘sound’ thing figured out.  I finish the show off with a recording of Cory’s reading from the Makers that night at the the Merril Collection Science Fiction Reference Library in front of his home town audience.  It’s a great piece about Suzanne Church’s first encounter with a few of the Makers. A scene that I allude to earlier in our talk.

I still like the interview, though.  I’m sorry that an infernal machine ate chunks of our conversation about DRM and most of the talk on Google Books and everything about his With a Little Help Project that he’s cataloging for Publisher’s Weekly.

Here’s the video from his excellent talk on TVOntario:



Impact of Piracy and P2P on Book Sales: Frankfurt

Impact Of Piracy And Free ( T O C F F)

View more presentations from bfoleary.
Brian O’Leary of Magellan Media has updated the data for his Impact of P2P and Free Distribution on Book Sales.  He presented this update at the 2009 Frankfurt Book Fair.
Brian’s research and methods have been very influential on my own work.


O’Reilly Radar Picks Up the Future of Publishing Interview

Picture 11

Mark Sigal at O’Reilly.com included a link to the Open Book: Toronto interview that I recently did with Book Oven‘s Hugh McGuire in his most recent O’Reilly Radar posting.

To be mentioned positively on the O’Reilly Radar is a huge enough honor but to be included in a piece about the revolutionary prospects of the forthcoming Apple tablet… well, that’s just beyond words.

Mr Sigal’s piece begins with this quote:

“It is August, 1927, and Al Jolson is industriously, unwittingly, engaged in the destruction of one great art form and the creation of another…In four short years, the ‘talkie’ will completely subsume the silent movie.” – from The Speed of Sound by Scott Eyman

Here’s what he had to say about our interview:

In “The Future of Publishing,” Sean Cranbury and Hugh McGuire do a beautiful job of getting to the it of what makes a book, a book.

They say that the primary thing a book has to do is “fulfill its promise as a transmitter/inspirer of ideas, art, thoughts, story, entertainment.”

Thanks again to Amy and Clelia at Open Book: Toronto for being so great.  And to Hugh McGuire for being an amazing accomplice in this.



What I Want When I Want It: Chris Anderson’s Free

ff_free1_f

The first time that I read Chris Anderson’s new book “Free” was on a website called Scribd.  The book had just been released and Scribd was (and still is) allowing readers to check out the book’s entire content for free: so long as you’re not trying to read the book for free from Canada.  That kind of cross-border digital experience is strictly forbidden.

Didn’t bother me much. I wasn’t paying for it so I couldn’t really argue but I’ve been following some of the conversations and interviews that Mr Anderson has been doing online over the past month and I thought that I’d share a few links that I think are interesting.

The first link will take you to the lengthy article at Wired.com that forms the basic argument for his book, Free. The article is called “Free! Why $0.00 Is the Future of Business.”

And then there’s a very interesting interview that he did with Der Spiegel Online about the demise of print journalism, traditional media and the inability of old terminology to adequately describe new realities.

The interview is called “Maybe Media Will Be a Hobby Rather Than a Job” which is a mis-quote from something that Anderson said during the interview. It sounds juicier when taken out of context.

The interview ends with this nifty little exchange in italics below.  I think it’s a lucid distillation of the issues that journalism, traditional media and the publishing industry are facing now.

SPIEGEL: Conclusion: There is no convincing solution so far — even from provocateurs like yourself?

Anderson: I think we will discover that whatever the business model of the 20th century was, it will be different in the 21st. Maybe we realize that selling ads is not the business we’re in. Maybe we’re into selling online content to audiences, or in creating communities or into selling events — in a similar way to which parts of the music industry is making money from concerts. Maybe companies that were built around the old business model will go away and other companies will come up, in much the same way as old record industry labels may disappear but the Apples of the world, with their iPods and iPhones, will continue to do well.

SPIEGEL: One last thing, why isn’t your book free?

Anderson: You only pay for the hardcover version. The marginal cost for the digital file is zero, so I’ll give the digital text and the audio files away for free. However, if you want to have the abridged audio book in a 3-hour-version, then you’ll have to pay.

SPIEGEL: Because time is money?

Anderson: Exactly.

* I have added this last bit to the conversation that Michael Tamblyn and I had over at the ShortCoversBlog and have updated my earlier post about eBooks pricing.  Note Anderson’s mention of ‘marginal cost’ for a digital file – it would appear that Scribd is still offering Free for free on their site but Amazon US has it for $19.99 ($9.99 for the Kindle edition) and ShortCovers has it on their site for $9.99 ($11.99 CDN).  The devil is in the details as always.

** By the way, I was tipped to a lot of this by Andrew Savikas who wrote about it here.  If you’re not familiar with Andrew’s work please take the time to read through his site especially his piece, Content is a Service Business.  Compulsory reading.