Open Letters Monthly has an article called In Defense of the Memory Theater, by Nathan Schneider in which he argues that books on shelves perform the function of reflecting memories back at us. They are a constant reminder of the various events, stages, and emotional states of our lives. We look at our shelves and can instantly catapult ourselves back in time to events surrounding our reading of various volumes.
Schneider mentions a 16th-century memory theater that used images and symbols of the cosmos to inspire observers and enhance their intellectual powers. Books, for Schneider, do something similar when they are visible on our shelves. I agree up to a point. I am often taken back in time by my own books upon their shelves. But so am I transported by nearly every object in my home. Objects all have this power. Books are not exceptional in this regard.
Is it ethical to steal an eBook if you’ve purchased the hardback version? Sure. Stealing the hardbacks themselves is much more fun though. Is it ethical for a publisher to charge what they charge for hardbacks? No way at all. Sorry publishers, your pricing sucks and you know it. So, certainly it’s ethical to steal an eBook if I’ve been robbed by the hardback price already.
Now of course all the minimum wage proof readers in New York City will pounce on me and call me terrible names because they dread being turned into temp workers.
But stealing books is a real talent. You need a big army jacket that has lots of giant pockets inside and out. It’s best to steal them from large grocery and discount stores. eBooks are too easy to steal and you never really know what’s waiting for you on the other end of a download link anyway. The photo is of me demonstrating my own book-stealing technique. I have amassed quite the respectable library this way. But I never lend books out because they seldom make their way back home.
Here is an effort by a New York Times writer to answer the question of whether stealing ebooks is ethical or not if you’ve already bought the hardback.
But here’s a better piece at The Millions about an eBook pirate who’s pretty clear about what he likes.
Also, if you want to see how stealing books actually improves the world and culture, read The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño.
I sat down with my Kindle e-reader on Saturday morning to read the Los Angeles Times. There was an article about an L.A. used bookstore called Iliad Books. Sounded nice. So I went. What should I find but a section of books about books and publishing. There was a copy of The Nature of the Book: Print and Knowledge in the Making by Adrian Johns. The author’s main thrust is to examine how books in early modern England influenced and largely caused the development of the modern scientific method and the general acquisition and spread of knowledge. He wonders why readers assume that books are accurate and fixed. This is an interesting inquiry in light of the recent changes in publishing which involve ever-changeable electronic publishing and web postings. The history of the effort to make books fixed and true representations of their authors’ intentions and ideas is a fascinating one. It includes an analysis of widespread piracy that dogged publishers of books from the very beginnings of printed material.
Thinking about the nature of books and their history, along with the underworld of book manipulation, piracy, copyright, and the conveying of knowledge is essential as publishing undergoes its greatest changes since the beginnings of the printed page.
There’s been a huge battle of the ebooks going on between Amazon.com and publisher Macmillan. Last week, Macmillan, in response to rotten Apple’s announcement of $14 and $15 ebooks on its new iPad, insisted that Amazon give Macmillan the right to choose its own higher ebook pricing for the Kindle ereader device. Amazon got peevish about the deal and simply de-listed all of Macmillan’s books. I thought that was a nice nasty smack in the kisser for a doomed publisher at the time. I was feeling so good about Amazon and its Kindle and so snitty about Apple’s iPad that I was within 60 minutes of plunking my digital money down on a brand new shiny Kindle. But wait! Amazon caved! They rolled over and gave Macmillan what it wanted.
So now, dear reader, your Kindle ebooks from Macmillan will cost more. Frankly, I was always kind of miffed by the whole $9.99 price tag on Kindle ebooks. Too high. Ebooks are invisible. You can’t stack them and put boards across to make a coffee table. Ebooks don’t have nice covers or fancy paper that you can bend and spill coffee on. I don’t know about anyone else reading this blog out there, but when I walk into a book store I’m just a customer. I don’t frankly give a damn about how the publisher is doing or how Amazon is getting along, or care a whit for Steve Jobs’ health, or the status of your average mid-list author and how he or she’s going to pay their mortgage. I don’t give one syllable of a damn. Continue reading
Apple really could be preparing to announce something pretty extraordinary for content publishing, creation and consumption today. Its widely rumored tablet device will very likely put most other ebook reader devices out of business simply because the Apple product will be a real computer, useful for reading and for creating. It will most likely build a seamless content-creation universe that ties directly to online sales platforms. It will be a ‘publishing’ tablet really. Not just an e-book device.
Wired is covering the Apple press conference event all day with blog entries.
I have not purchased any kind of an e-reader device, in spite of the hysteria surrounding them, specifically because of Apple’s plans. There is no way under the sun that anyone else is going to compare favorably to what Apple is about to drop on us today.
Cartoonist Lucy Knisley has a comic online called ‘Downloading Optimism: Pessimism Virus Detected.’ It’s a funny but very direct assault on the tendency in some quarters to fret and worry about the emergence of digital books and online reading as the driving force behind the new world of publishing. She doesn’t understand why some of our most creative writers and artists are feeling so gloomy about their prospects in a digital publishing world.
She’s been reading enormous amounts of online text since she was a little girl. Her point of view is dead on the money. One little thing I know is that I began publishing for kids online back in 1995. The kids came and were reading lots of stories. Let’s say a bunch of them were only 5. Well, they’re 20 now, and they are making it plain that they want their books on screens just as often as they might want them on paper. You ignore them at your peril.
I found this comic via Boing Boing