Category Archives: Publishing

The EU’s proposed “link tax”: a modest proposal

Despite the disastrous effects of the same policy in Spain, the European Union is flirting with the idea of a link tax. This autumn’s proposals for copyright reform in Europe might contain all sorts of good things — not least, Hargreaves-like rules for content-mining — there is also the real possibility that they will also propose requiring payment for linking to content.

road_block

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How much are e-books worth compared with physical books?

We all have a good intuitive grasp for the value of a physical book. We grew up with them. We know roughly what they cost new (£5-15), what they cost in a second hand book-shop (about half that) and what you’d expect to pay in a charity shop (20p-£1).

We don’t really have a sense yet of what an e-book is worth. Continue reading

To Kill A Mockingbird is a fine example of how copyright is failing us all

I read this recent piece on how Harper Lee has finally allowed an e-book edition of her classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird, to be produced. Of course, in the absence of an authorised e-book that readers can pay for, there are plenty of unauthorised ones — it’s trivial to find on any torrent site. My eye was caught by a comment on the article, discussing the existence of these pirate e-books:

This is sad, but doesn’t surprise me. Its the reality of the world we live in today. I suspect the biggest purchasers of this e-book will be over the age of 40 – those under don’t tend to realise the purpose or value of copyright.

That is exactly wrong.

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My book is out! The Eleventh Doctor: a critical ramble through Matt Smith’s tenure in Doctor Who

It’s here!

The Eleventh Doctor: a critical ramble through Matt Smith's tenure in Doctor Who by Mike Taylor

My book on the Eleventh Doctor is now out in Kindle editions [amazon.com, amazon.co.uk]! Please, folks, spread the word in any Doctor Who communities that you’re a part of, and on your own blogs!

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How I came to buy the DVD of series 2 of Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle

A true story:

  • My favourite author in the world is C. S. Lewis. I’ve read everything of his that I’ve been able to find, most of it four or five times. I long ago lost count of how many times I’ve read the Narnia books.
  • Long ago (in Internet years) I searched for a C. S. Lewis FAQ, and found one that was written by someone called Andrew Rilstone.
  • I started reading the rest of Rilstone’s web-site (as it then was), then his blog once he started writing in that format. Highly recommended, by the way: full of insight, wit, and a gloriously eclectic mix of high literature and pop-culture.
  • One of the more frequent commenters on Rilstone’s blog was Andrew Hickey, whose blog Sci-Ence! Justice Leak! I also started to read.
  • In one of Hickey’s link round-ups, he linked to an article about James Ward’s fruitless efforts to change his name to James Ward.
  • I immediately liked Ward’s blog, I Like Boring Things, and started to keep an eye on it. (Also highly recommended, by the way. He repeatedly demonstrates that, really, nothing is boring.)
  • A post on Ward’s blog included a video of his talk at The Lost Lectures. At about 4:55 on the video he very briefly mentions Stewart Lee’s book How I Escaped My Certain Fate [amazon.com, amazon.co.uk]. It was the first time I’d heard of Lee.
  • On a whim, I bought the book — something I can hardly explain, as Ward in his video says nothing at all about it except that it quotes someone else he wants to discuss. It turned out to be very funny and insightful. Among other things, it mentioned Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle, a TV series (consisting so far of two seasons of six episodes each.)
  • Having read quite a bit of Lee’s stand-up (the book contains exhaustively annotated transcripts of three of his full-length shows), I was interested to see how it worked in performance, so I torrented the first series [amazon.com, amazon.co.uk].
  • And then I liked that so much that I bought the second series on DVD [amazon.co.uk; doesn’t exist on amazon.com except as an expensive region-2 import].

Now.

There are a few things we can learn from this.

  • You can’t predict how a sale will be made. There’s nothing Stewart Lee could possibly have done to make this sale happen. It happened because of chance, and also because he is good at what he does. My conclusion? You can’t control the chance, but you can control whether your’re good at what you do. Be good.
  • Over a period of a decade, the Internet can take you somewhere very different from where you started. Part of why I love C. S. Lewis’s writing is because it shines such a clear light on, and through, Christianity. Stewart Lee is absolutely not any kind of Christian. But I love his work because there is a common thread of insight and wit that leads through Lewis, Rilstone, Hickey and Ward to Lee.
  • Piracy is good. It leads to sales. If I had not been able to pirate Comedy Vehicle series 1, many publishers like to think the alternative would be that I’d have bought it instead. But I wouldn’t; the only difference would have been that I’d never have seen series 1 so I’d never have bought series 2 either.
  • Finally, unavailability leads to piracy. Since series 2 of Comedy Vehicle is not available as a region-1 DVD at any price, Americans who want to watch it have a choice: buy an overpriced import and watch it on an illegally region-unlocked player, or torrent it. Which do they imagine will happen?

The publishers of Comedy Vehicle can only hope that Americans will torrent series 2 and like it enough to buy series 1 — the opposite of what I did.

Help the USA into the 21st century (even if you’re not American)

[This is cross-posted from my other blog, Sauropod Vertebra Picture of the Week. I never cross-post: this is, as far as I remember, literally the first time I have done it. But this issue is so important and so urgent that I am making an exception. Please, please: sign the petition, upvote the Reddit and Hacker News submissions, blog about it, tweet about it, tell your friends.]

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Good news! If you want to read research that was funded by the U.S. National Instututes of Health (NIH), you can. Their public access policy means that papers published on their dime become universally accessible in PubMed Central.

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Who needs access? You need access!

If you’re wondering why it’s been so quiet around here recently …

I’ve been working on a new site, which I and two colleagues will be maintaining, and which I think is potentially the most important thing I’ve ever done.  It’s called Who Needs Access? You Need Access!, and you can read it at http://whoneedsaccess.org/

Who needs access?  Kelly Trout, nurse and independent researcher

We have a problem: the majority of the research that our governments fund is not available to most people.  Continue reading