One of the defining attributes of the late age of print is the erosion of old publishing certainties. Among them is the notion that the free circulation of book content leads inevitably to lost sales. Another is the belief that strong, proprietary systems are the best way for publishers and authors to secure value in their intellectual properties. Maybe it’s too soon to let go of these notions completely. It’s fast becoming clear, however, that they cannot be taken for granted any longer.
There are two ways of responding to the erosion of old certainties like these. One way is to dig in your heels, hoping to keep familiar ground from shifting under your feet. The other is to allow the erosion to expose opportunities that may have been buried underfoot all along. With the latter you risk coming up empty, but with the former you risk something worse — inertia.
I’m pleased to report that my publisher, Columbia University Press, isn’t one of those digging in its heels. It’s taken the bold step of releasing The Late Age of Print: Everyday Book Culture from Consumerism to Control not only as a copyrighted, bound physical volume, but also as a Creative Commons-licensed electronic book. You can download the e-edition by following the “download” link of the navigation bar, above, or by clicking here. The file is a “zipped” .pdf of the complete contents of Late Age, minus one image, for which I was (ironically) unable to secure electronic publishing rights.
I thank Columbia University Press for releasing my book electronically under a Creative Commons license. In doing so, it’s embraced the extraordinary spirit of openness that is beginning to flourish in the late age of print. Mine is the first book the Press has decided to release in this way. Here’s hoping that many more will follow.