A Canadian book blog: Publishing, marketing, books and technology from a Canadian perspective

Thursday, October 27, 2005

The War of the Worlds: Publishing vs Search

Vancouver Public Library has a series this week called Speak Up: Who Owns Knowledge. I attended the session last night on copyright.

Andreas Schroeder was a speaker on the panel representing the Writers’ Union of Canada and, in particular, writers who make their living from writing. Some of those writers are concerned about the seeming conflict between their right to earn a living from their creations and users’ ideas about the right to pay little or nothing for works available online.

There was a certain amount of heated debate, which I’ll refrain from at the moment. But writers and publishers pay attention. It is no longer just Google trying to “get your horse out of the gate.” [I’m quoting a speaker from the session.]

EdinburghNews.Scotsman.com reported today that an alliance has formed between Microsoft and Yahoo! to challenge Google’s project to digitize the world’s books.

The group - the Open Content Alliance (OCA) ..., unveiled earlier this month by a group of digital archivists and also backed by Hewlett-Packard and Adobe, says it has signed up more than a dozen major libraries in North America, the UK and mainland Europe.

Danielle Tiedt, general manager of Microsoft’s MSN Search, said the world’s largest software maker would fund the digital duplication of 150,000 old books over the next year.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Copyright Law and Google Print Library Project

The Association of American Publishers and the US Authors Guild have filed two separate law suits against Google, saying that the Google Print Library Project infringes on their copyrights.

My understanding of the Library Project is that the information displayed about the book is the bibliographic data only. The exact information that publishers spend all sorts of time and energy trying to get out to Amazon, Bowker, BookNet (in Canada) and other data aggregators.

A user searches for book information, maybe using “Battle of Britain” as a keyword, and the Library Print Project screen—for books protected by copyright—will show that search term within a sentence or two to give the user context. The bibliographic information for the book is also shown: title, author, publisher, publication date, number of pages, etc. The full page of the book is never shown.

So why are publishers and authors upset?

In my opinion Google is not doing a good enough job expressing to publishers, authors and the general public that full pages are not shown on books protected by copyright. They are showing less information than what is available on most Amazon listings.

(Google is doing a good job of providing publishers with links to their blogs and newsletters. What I think they need to do in addition is get the traditional media talking about the exact amount of content shown on the Library Project listings. The conversation is drifting into a general debate about copyright and digital copyright and those are confusing issues. Look at the debate about Bill C-60 and the amendments to the Copyright Act in Canada. These topics are less clear than the root issues of the Library Project, which is a user is looking for book on X, Google shows Y.)

On the opposite side of the fence, publishers and authors are not clearly expressing their concerns. I don’t think the issue has anything to do with Google providing users bibliographic information. I think publishers and authors are concerned that a giant corporation will have access to the full text of millions of books. When those books do fall into the public domain, Google will be able to easily profit from having those materials. So the “free” service Google is providing publishers definitely has a labour cost associated with it for Google, who I assume is treating the scanning process as an investment in future knowledge acquisition.

Now why is that wrong? A work in the public domain can be exploited by anyone who wants to repackage it and sell it. In the case of Google they are doing the repackaging (scanning the text) years in advance of when the book falls into the public domain.  But, they are not selling it and they are not distributing the contents in any way that infringes on copyright.

In regards to the Google Library Project, you have a company who is providing a service to book readers and researchers. Google is making books easier to find and buy. The nature of the internet expands the audience so the number of users who might be looking for a book on “Battle of Britain” increases substantially from just the folks in your local library to folks around the world. That’s a good thing. Any sales of the book, while it is protected by copyright, benefit the content creator (the author, publisher). Authors and publishers benefit for the entire lifespan of the book, the entire time the book is protected by copyright, 50-75 years after the death of the copyright holder.

Publishers and authors should really reflect on the root of their fears and clearly express those concerns to Google, then Google will have an opportunity to respond. But saying it is the act of scanning the text and equating it to photocopying an entire book is not the same, and I don’t think any court will think differently.

And authors who want to be included in the Library Project, don’t worry about it. It is better to submit your work to Google Print, which offers a similar service but displays the content of the book differently.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Undeniably Good

James’ novel Up in Ontario is reviewed in Prairie Fire magazine.

Here’s the review:

Sometime about 1996 James and a group of friends (I tagged on the next season) were frustrated by literary magazines of the time. In particular, we were all frustrated that the venues for new authors and new writing seemed to be reserved for already published authors. It seemed to us that already published authors didn’t count as new authors. How did you get published as an author? So Jesse James Press was born, a chapbook press with the mandate to publish good writing from unpublished authors. The authors retained all copyright but granted Jesse James Press the right to publish the work in chapbook form. No royalties were paid and the money the press made went to production and promotion.

James and I worked to get the chapbooks into bookstores, McNally Robinson was amazingly helpful as was the now-defunct Heaven Art and Book Cafe. And we got the works reviewed, Geist and Broken Pencil were the best supporters at the time.

There were 9-12 chapbooks produced over 3 years, 3 of the authors are now published authors, one chapbook won the Chapbook of the Year Award, which was part of the Manitoba Literary Awards, and the whole venture was my introduction to the publishing world.

Now I told you that story so I could tell you this one.

Bloody hell, now we’re reviewed in Prairie Fire. Well, James is. It was Up in Ontario, the chapbook, that won the Chapbook of the Year Award, James was one of the now published authors, and I love everything about the book, which is why I’m so happy others like it too.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Congratulations McNally Robinson

Quill and Quire is reporting that Holly and Paul McNally of McNally Robinson Booksellers have won the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award for the Prairies region.

McNally Robinson is one of my favourite bookstores. Their flagship store is in Winnipeg and there is a great spiral staircase up to the children’s section. The store is a bit like a garden. There’s a cobblestone-style path through the store, rich greens, great little seats, a fantastic cafe, and the staff are phenomenal.

If you are ever in Winnipeg, McNally’s is worth a visit.

My romance with James even started in the bookstore, we were on a field trip to the newly opened store. I bought Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy and James lent me Ernest Buckler’s The Mountain and the Valley. It was a big day.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Harbour Publishing and Boston Legal

Last night James and I saw an ad for the ABC drama Boston Legal. I don’t keep up with the TV news but this morning in Quill and Quire I read that a Canadian book by Harbour Publishing—fine folks—will be featured. A bit out of date considering the show aired on Oct 11 (yesterday), but pretty exciting nonetheless.

The show was set in a BC town that is engaged in a real-life dispute between environmentalists and fish farmers, in particular about the negative effects of farmed fish on the wild salmon stock.

The book is A Stain Upon the Sea: West Coast Salmon Farming, which is a collection of essays.

Go Harbour!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

While I Was Away

Just catching up on the news:

Yahoo launches podcast site (Washington Post). http://www.podcasts.yahoo.com

Bible group spreads word by SMS (cnn.com). The Bible Society in Australia launched a SMS translation of Bible verses: “In da Bginnin God cre8d da heavens & da earth.” The word of God dispensed via cell phones, oh dear.

Oct. 29, Business Blogging 101 seminar in Seattle: Business Blogging 101 is a full-day workshop for those new to blogging. Get up and running with an effective weblog strategy. Cost is $195.00 and includes lunch and continental breakfast. Great speakers: Molly E. Holzschlag, Robert Scoble, DL Byron, Buzz Bruggeman and Steve Broback. http://www.blogbusinesssummit.com/seminars/

Home Sweet Home

Yahoo! Last night James and I returned from Greece and Turkey. James’ brother picked us up at the airport and delivered us to his house for turkey dinner. That was awesome, even though I was ready to fall asleep after the first sip of wine, ok, it was even before the wine. We woke at 5 am, caught the 6 am airport shuttle, got on the 9 am flight to London, then the 3:30 pm flight to Vancouver. And after a full 22 hours we were back in Vancouver.

Quick trip review:
London was amazing and I cannot believe how many things we saw in 3 days, it was an unbelievable time. Then we went off to Greece and took the ferry to Santorini island for some R&R. Again we had fabulous dinners and some Santorini white wine. James and I scootered across the island. Scooter buddies. We went to a red sand beach, a black sand one, and a white sand beach. These are pebbly beaches rather than soft sand.

We practically missed our flight from Athens to Leros. The train was delayed 2x and we got to the airport 15 minutes before the flight. The agent told us we couldn’t get on the flight but we begged. Eventually she let us go with our bag, which we had to drag to the passenger gate and then beg security to push it through the scanner. That was no small feat! In the end we made the plane and I was thrilled it was Greece and not Canada. I doubt we would have had any luck getting on a Canadian flight 15 min. before departure.

In Leros we met up with a bunch of other couples for our sailing trip. Two weeks sailing from Greece to Turkey. It was so incredible. Greek food was fresh and lovely and cheap. The islands were beautiful and then Turkey was even better. The food was better tasting and the landscape was brilliant, lots of red rock and cliffs.

After the sailing trip we had 8 days beating around Turkey. We took minibuses and coaches to Ephesus, where the ruins of an ancient city exist. That was really cool—3,000 year old rocks set in amazing cliff faces. I was wishing I had a geologist friend along to explain the land formations.

We flew to Istanbul for our final 4 days and the night we arrived was the first day of Ramadan. Around the Blue Mosque were all sorts of street vendors and every night there was a market with sausage and corn, kebabs, donars, cotton candy, twirl candy, dates and almonds. I loved it.

I still can’t believe how much we did in 5 weeks, now I feel like I can barely think about going back to work and regular life.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Ramadan in Istanbul

James and I arrived in Istanbul yesterday at sundown, the exact time that Muslims were finishing the first day of Ramadan.

Ramadan is celebrated in the 9th month of the Muslim calendar, which means it occurs at a different time each year. It is believed that the Holy Quran was sent down from heaven and the Fast of Ramadan lasts an entire month. During this time Muslims cannot eat or drink during daylight. At the end of the fast there is prayer then a big meal. They get up before sunlight, about 4 am, to eat again then sleep and go to work. Lots of people complain of headaches but I’m not sure if that is from the fast or because they cannot smoke.

Istanbul is the perfect place to be at the moment. Every night there is a festival and food vendors around the Blue Mosque. We had popcorn and dates and almonds yesterday, and today we had a traditional dessert made of milk and walnuts and cranberries. I had a spicy sausage and James had a donar plus more popcorn. I’d like to have a twirl candy tomorrow. It looks ghastly sweet and I drank pomegranet juice tonight so I was not up for any more sweetness. The festival lasts all month so I think I can guess what we are doing for the next couple of days.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Successfully Navigated the Dolmush

Dolmush is the phonetic pronunciation for the mini-buses that ferry people across the great land of Turkey. James and I arrived at the bus stop at 8 am, then we took a coach to Aydin. We are staying at Jimmy’s Place in Selcuk. The c has a cidilla, which means the town is pronounced Sell-chuck.

The hostel seems pretty fun and we have a nice room and I’m hoping that the shower pummels me with water tomorrow morning. Showering from a garden hose has gotten a little tiresome.

We went to the Ephesus Museum today, then climbed the hill to St. John’s Basillica, built in 58 AD. The ruins here are incredible. Tomorrow we visit Ephesus, which is the largest ancient city still, kind of, intact. (I don’t know if that is true.)

At 6 pm we leave for Istanbul, the final leg of our trip.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Get the Hell Out of Dodge

Ok not Dodge but Marmaris. James and I originally planned to go to Rhodes from Marmaris but now we are going to Epheseus and we do not know how to get there. Marmaris is a busy tourist trap that we must flee. I do not know if we will have to pay for both nights here or not, we are trying to leave 1 day earlier. It is all complicated and my least favourite part of travelling. That and not being able to find the apostrophe key. No conjunctions until we leave Turkey.

Just in: shift 2 is apostrophe. Excellent.

James and I left Keci Buku today. Our boatmates left at 5:30 this morning and the sky was chucking down the rain. That is when we found the sky light leaked. About 8 L of water collected in tupperware. It was quite the party. Thankfully the rain stopped and we left around 11 am.

The rest of the itinerary is in the air. We are going to have to trust the crazy carpet salesman who has a friend in Selcuk with a hostel. Sounds dodgey, but we’re getting out of Dodge.