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File-sharing Follow-up and Friday LEGO

So on Tuesday we had an all-nighter at the E.R.  Last night my four-year-old got sick.  This week officially bites the wax tadpole.

I did have two follow-ups to yesterday’s post on e-book file sharing.

1.  It’s almost a rule on the Internet: Don’t read the comments.  Particularly with something like book piracy, it’s easy to get into rabid nastiness.  Instead, once again people were thoughtful, respectful, and flat-out smart in your comments and conversation yesterday.  Thank you for that.  Y’all are awesome.

2.  One of the questions that keeps coming up is “How can someone be against file sharing but not against libraries and used bookstores and people loaning books out to all of their friends?”  Inspired in part by the discussion over on Facebook, I came up with this:

When you buy a paper book, you purchase a physical object that you now own.  It’s a thing, and you can do whatever you like with it — keep it, burn it, give it away, sell it, etc.  With an electronic book, there’s no physical object.  With file sharing, you’re not sharing a single object that you’ve purchased and now own; instead, you’re distributing that book.  You basically set up a competing “publisher,” one which takes the work done by the actual publisher, then distributes the end product for free.

Again, a lot of good points from yesterday’s comments, but the used bookstore/library question has always nagged at me, and hopefully this clarifies why.  (I know it helped me to sort some things out in my own head.)

And that’s about all my brain is good for today, so here, have some LEGO.  Most of you should recall the Nebulon-B Medical Frigate from the end of Empire Strikes Back?  Steef de Prouw has done it in LEGO.  This thing is amazing, over four feet long, with little docked X-wings and even the Millennium Falcon.  Click the pic for the full photo set.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.



( 49 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 15th, 2010 02:40 pm (UTC)
Another thing about libraries is that -until recently- if you wanted a copy of the book you checked out, you had to visit the photocopier or type it in yourself. Either way, it was very difficult to make a copy. Enter eBooks, and the ease of distribution is light years ahead of the old days. Therein lies the problem.

As for that LEGO Medical Frigate, that rocks!

(Oh, that LEGO boom box? A big fat "meh" on it; the CD player is fine, but the radio stopped working on my son's Christmas gift, and the company wants me to pay for shipping and whatnot just so they can work on it while under warranty.)
Jan. 15th, 2010 02:45 pm (UTC)
The kids are off school today (school in-service day), and that medical frigate got a lot of "Cool! Check that out!" reactions. I guess I know what they'll be doing this afternoon...
(no subject) - jimhines - Jan. 15th, 2010 02:46 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 15th, 2010 02:51 pm (UTC)
A great reasoning Jim! I think the biggest difference is you can only loan a physical book to one person at a time. Electronically, unlimited distribution, like you say.

Jan. 15th, 2010 02:56 pm (UTC)
Thanks! It doesn't give me a nice, clear-cut solution to everything, but it definitely helped me clarify why I bristle at the claim that e-book sharing is the same thing as lending out a physical book or going to the library.
(no subject) - alanajoli - Jan. 20th, 2010 02:12 am (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 15th, 2010 03:03 pm (UTC)
It's one reason I prefer paper books -- if I want to hook a friend on an author or series, I can loan them a book. Except if they live across the country, which many of my friends do, nowadays. It almost makes me wish for some kind of technology that would let me 'loan' eBooks to my friends for as long as they want, but not allow general distribution*. I'll have to stick to sample chapters, I guess, or Christmas gifts. (Granted, most of my friends are the types who prefer physical copies of books, so a book they like will eventually get purchased.)

* I can come up with ways, but either they depend on the good intent of the users (like passwords), or could easily be hacked. It's the same situation as DRM, which tends to punish the people who play by the rules, but not the folks pirating.
Jan. 15th, 2010 03:15 pm (UTC)
I'm told a few libraries have been working with ways to lend out e-books. They can be checked out, but have a built-in expiration date. I'm not sure on the details, having never done this myself, but it's an interesting idea.
(no subject) - beccastareyes - Jan. 15th, 2010 03:28 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - rimrunner - Jan. 15th, 2010 05:15 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jimhines - Jan. 16th, 2010 01:44 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - alanajoli - Jan. 20th, 2010 02:18 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - alanajoli - Jan. 20th, 2010 02:15 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - angelabenedetti - Jan. 15th, 2010 11:14 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jimhines - Jan. 16th, 2010 01:42 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - angelabenedetti - Jan. 16th, 2010 01:47 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - alanajoli - Jan. 20th, 2010 02:20 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - angelabenedetti - Jan. 20th, 2010 02:48 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jimhines - Jan. 20th, 2010 03:15 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - angelabenedetti - Jan. 20th, 2010 04:09 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - alanajoli - Jan. 20th, 2010 03:32 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - angelabenedetti - Jan. 20th, 2010 04:11 am (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 15th, 2010 03:04 pm (UTC)
The physical/non-physical analogy doesn't really work. How do I have more "ownership" of a physical book than an e-book? I assure you in my mind, I have equal ownership of both! I could sell or give away my e-book copy to someone else (a "used" e-book!) just as I could sell or give away my used physical copy. (The assumption in this transaction is that I would delete my copy of the e-book since I sold it, because keeping it would mean I illigally redistributed it.)

The major difference is one of scale. Below a certain point, the effects of people redistributing a book is negliable so it's not worth worrying about the few people who did it. But current technology has allowed us to drastically lowered the bar to make it a snap for many people redistribute content on a scale not achievable before.

When books were only on paper and computers were scarce, if you wanted to make multiple copies you had to photocopy the book page by page. That's an immense amount of work. Multiple photocopies takes time and uses a lot of resources. It wasn't really cost effective for your average reader to become a redistributor of books, because, frankly, the cost of the mass market paperback was cheaper than the cost of their time and money to make the copies! So the few people who pirated books through photocopying? It's not just worth worrying about them as they're not going to have any noticable affect on 99% of the book sales out there.

Again, in the early days of the internet, some people were known to retype in books and then make their typed in version availble to friends or perhaps to the internet as a whole. Again, this represents a level of effort that few people were willing to engage in. In the end, the cost of redistributing the book to many people was probably cheaper than photocopying, mainly due to the number of people they could reach. But the internet was a much much smaller place back then, so while people were starting to make noise about piracy, it wasn't on most people's radar and probably had little if any noticeable effect on book sales.

Today, with e-books "pre-made" for your reader, the cost of redistributing is virtually zero and the audience you can reach is millions and millions!

Jan. 15th, 2010 03:14 pm (UTC)
"How do I have more 'ownership' of a physical book than an e-book?"

I'm not sure I understand the point of the question. I never said you don't own an e-book.

"The assumption in this transaction is that I would delete my copy of the e-book since I sold it..."

Exactly. Unlike a printed book, there's no physical thing for you to give away with an e-book. There really isn't a way that I can see to pass on the ownership of the e-book you've bought to someone else, aside from the "I'll just delete my own copy out of the goodness of my heart" approach, which doesn't strike me as practical.
(no subject) - shekkara - Jan. 15th, 2010 04:24 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jimhines - Jan. 15th, 2010 04:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 15th, 2010 03:16 pm (UTC)
Yesterday on Jeopardy!, one of the categories was "The Lego Art of Nathan Sawaya." They showed his Lego versions of an iPhone, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Seattle Skyline, van Gogh's Starry Night, and New Orleans.
Jan. 15th, 2010 03:20 pm (UTC)
Oh, wow. That's impressive.

Now I want a LEGO pop-up book!
(no subject) - shsilver - Jan. 15th, 2010 03:30 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jimhines - Jan. 16th, 2010 01:41 am (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 15th, 2010 03:26 pm (UTC)
::Grin:: I haven't checked out Brick Testament in ages. Looks like they've added some new content.

(Technically, I believe there are plenty of public domain bible translations, so this probably wouldn't count as pirating the bible.)
Jan. 15th, 2010 03:41 pm (UTC)
I didn't get into the comments on yesterday's post, but here's how I feel as regards electronic books.

If I buy that electronic book, then it should be mine, just as any book is mine when I buy it. However, that doesn't mean I should be allowed to make 1,000 copies and Email it to my best friends, or that I should be able to put it on a torrent site or other place where as many people can grab it as they want.

The problem here is that the technology isn't doing what it should be doing. What they need to figure out is how to make it so that you can LOAN an electronic book to someone else just like any physical book you would loan. When the person is finished with it, they can then give it back to you. They need to code it so that the file can be transferred back and forth but never copied. That way, I can share the file with others, but in the same manner as I would share a physical book.
Jan. 16th, 2010 01:40 am (UTC)
I think the technology is in flux. So is publishing, for that matter. Both are evolving, and I think it will be a little while yet before things catch up. I don't know exactly what form e-books will take then, but hopefully it will eliminate some of the sillier problems we're having right now.
Jan. 15th, 2010 04:33 pm (UTC)
A: I hope all is well. Not a parent, but know so many parents and anything involving a 4 year old and the ER makes my heart clench.

B: To me that's the rational explanation. Object based economies - which ours is still - are set up to compensate for multiple users of a concrete thing. They aren't designed for the magic replicator economy, especially not one where you still have to pay for food and shelter.
Jan. 15th, 2010 04:37 pm (UTC)
Thanks. The ER trip was for my wife, who's okay. (Follow-up checks with her doctor, but nothing urgent right now.) The boy caught whatever bug is going around preschool ... nasty, but as long as he doesn't get too dehydrated, we shouldn't need a hospital trip for him.
(no subject) - alanajoli - Jan. 20th, 2010 02:23 am (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 15th, 2010 04:41 pm (UTC)
The difference between a person or a library lending out a book and people proliferating e-copies is one of scale.

I like being a lending library for my friends, mostly because then I know I have people to talk books with. When I act as such, I'm basically doing publicity. My one copy is shared around, creating awareness of an author and work. Down the line, people are more likely to purchase other works by the same author due to this familiarity.

But this sharing is also limited. Most people I loan to would not have purchased the books in question, for whatever reason, and I strongly suspect the same is true of the library scenario. The readers in this situation are looking to try something different with a very limited outlay of cash.

With file sharing, it's more like the sorcerer's apprentice. Each new sharing can spawn more sharing and more sharing, and... well, yeah. In this situation people who may have bought a copy may abandon that in favor of a free one. Penny-Arcade talks about that issue today, in fact, with respect to the Kindle.

Also, if a book is popular in a library, that library might buy more of future works by an author; so to might a book lender notice friends with common interests start buying gift copies rather than watch a favorite tome get ground up by many hands as it is lent out for a good chunk of time. File sharing will, most likely, never increase the actual sales of a person's work.

(sorry I missed the comments yesterday, as well)
Jan. 16th, 2010 01:34 am (UTC)
I really like the sorcerer's apprentice metaphor.

If I remember the research right, the #1 reason a person tries a new author is word-of-mouth. So by all means, please continue pushing books on your friends and talking about them :-)
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 16th, 2010 01:25 am (UTC)
Thanks. He's doing much better tonight. I hope the universe stops messing with you and your family soon.
Jan. 15th, 2010 05:49 pm (UTC)
I'd like to cheer your point #1. People here disagree so politely that it's easier to appreciate their points. Because of that, I read the comments here, and have learned a lot.

I give you full credit for that, Jim. It's not enough for a blogger to say, "I don't tolerate trolls/flame wars" on my blog. The blogger, must set the tone. Your posts are thoughtful, kind, and you're always open to learning new things and changing your mind.
Jan. 16th, 2010 01:26 am (UTC)
Thank you. I figure it's a collaborative thing :-)
Jan. 15th, 2010 09:43 pm (UTC)
I'm sorry you're having a crappy week. I hope it, and your four year old, both get better quickly.
Jan. 16th, 2010 01:27 am (UTC)
Thanks. The boy is doing better tonight, and me ... well, it's a 3-day weekend, so hopefully that will give us all the chance to catch up on sleep :-)
Jan. 16th, 2010 01:20 am (UTC)
Sorry to hear about your child. Hope everything is OK!
Jan. 16th, 2010 01:23 am (UTC)
Thanks. 24 hours later, and he's doing much better. A few minutes ago he was running around trying to give me a boot to the head.
(no subject) - ckastens - Jan. 16th, 2010 01:44 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jimhines - Jan. 16th, 2010 01:45 am (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 16th, 2010 07:16 am (UTC)
Mermaid's Madness
I'm glad to hear that your son is doing better! I hope you and your wife get to sleep a bit during the weekend.

I finished reading "The Mermaid's Madness" this week. I thought it was quite strong throughout and the information reveled about the characters brought out more depth without changing the pacing. I liked where you went with this one! I really couldn't guess how this tale was going to unfold.

It was gritty and satisfying but had its bright spots as well. You have managed to keep the bright palette of a fairy tale but brought in enough real world elements to make it feel very believable and the characters human (when they should be). So I hope this cheers you up a bit. I don't know how to do a review on Amazon or I'd sing your praises there. ;)
Jan. 18th, 2010 06:00 pm (UTC)
ebooks, copyright, and ownership
Last year, I researched the ebook question of ownership and the right to resell an ebook.

The "First Sale Doctrine" which allows the resale of a used paper book does not apply to ebooks. According to copyright law, you don't own the content of any book, either paper or ebook. The content is owned by the copyright owner.

Even the publisher doesn't own it, the publisher leases it from the copyright owner.

You have the right to resell the paper, ink, and binding that is a paper book, but you can't do anything with the content including making a digital copy of it, using its characters and world for your own books, or making a movie of it without the copyright owner's permission.

Ebooks have no physical existence so there is nothing to resell.

If you'd like a more detailed explanation, go to my blog and scroll down to the labels section on the left then click "copyright."

The blog entries have some excellent links to legal articles and copyright laws if you'd like to learn more.

( 49 comments — Leave a comment )


Jim C. Hines


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