Tag Archive for Creative Commons

Countdown to the End

Fair warning: there’s just ONE WEEK LEFT to download the e-edition of The Late Age of Print.  It will only cost you a tweet or a Facebook post.  Beginning August 1st, 2013, if you want the book, then you’ll have to buy it—in other words, for money!

This link will take you to the download page.

Thanks, and I hope you enjoy.  And while you’re at it, why not put a little goodwill back into the world.  Help support The Late Age of Print and my wonderful publisher Columbia University Press by liking the book’s Facebook Page, posting a review, assigning it in your classes, or, heck, even choosing to buy a physical copy.  My kid needs to eat, you know.

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Free Download and Other News

Sorry, dear readers, for the precipitous falloff in posting.  I was on a roll during the first two or three years of The Late Age of Print blog, but since then I’ve been overwhelmed by administrative duties, my ongoing research on the topic of algorithmic culture (as well as some other side projects), and helping to raise a preschooler.  Blogging has become something of a luxury of late.  Not to worry, though: I’m not hanging up my gloves, though obviously I’m backing off a bit.

I’m writing, first of all, to alert you to my latest interview, appearing on Figure/Ground.  If you’re not familiar with F/G, it’s a fantastic “open source, student-led, para-academic collaboration.”  There you’ll find an outstanding series of interviews with leading figures in media/technology studies—people like Ian Bogost, Jodi Dean, Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Gary Genosko, Katherine Hayles, Henry Jenkins, Douglas Kellner, Robert McChesney, Eric McLuhan, John Durham Peters, Douglas Rushkoff, Peter Zhang, and a host of others.  Needless to say, I’m honored to join such distinguished company.  I thank Justin Dowdall for taking the time to prepare such challenging questions.

I’m also writing to give you some fair warning.  Columbia University Press, my publisher, and I have been in talks for a few months about the freely downloadable, Creative Commons-licensed PDF of The Late Age of Print.  As you may know, it’s been accessible via this blog for more than four years now.  I don’t have an accurate count of the number of times it’s been downloaded, though I can assure you the number would be reasonably impressive.  But it’s been four years, and print sales have slowed somewhat.  Back in December I implemented a “pay with a Tweet” program, requiring anyone who wanted to download the book without paying also to spread the word about the book on Twitter or Facebook.   That’s helped to jumpstart sales a bit, but in any case my editor at Columbia and I agreed that it’s finally time to pull the plug on the free download.  I hope you’ll understand.

I plan on taking the free PDF down at the end of July.  If you still want the book for the cost of a tweet or a Facebook post, this is your last chance (of course, I’d welcome reviews on Amazon.com or additional likes on the book’s Facebook page, too).  After that…well, you know the drill.

 

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Late Age of Print – the Podcast

Welcome back and happy new year!  Okay—so 2013 is more than three weeks old at this point.  What can I say?  The semester started and I needed to hit the ground running.  In any case I’m pleased to be back and glad that you are, too.

My first post of the year is actually something of an old one, or at least it’s about new material that was produced about eighteen months ago.  Back in the summer of 2011 I keynoted the Association for Cultural Studies Summer Institute in Ghent, Belgium.  It was a blast—and not only because I got to talk about algorithmic culture and interact with a host of bright faculty and students.  I also recorded a podcast there with Janneke Adema, a Ph.D. student at Coventry University, UK whose work on the future of scholarly publishing is excellent and whose blog, Open Reflections, I recommend highly.

Janneke and I sat down in Ghent for the better part of an hour for a fairly wide-ranging conversation, much of it having to do with The Late Age of Print and my experiments in digital publishing.  It was real treat to revisit Late Age after a couple of years and to discuss some of the choices I made while I was writing it.  I’ve long thought the book was a tad quirky in its approach, and so the podcast gave me a wonderful opportunity to provide some missing explanation and backstory.  It was also great to have a chance to foreground some of the experimental digital publishing tools I’ve created, as I almost never put this aspect of my work on the same level as my written scholarship (though this is changing).

The resulting podcast, “The Late Age of Print and the Future of Cultural Studies,” is part of the journal Culture Machine’s podcast series.  Janneke and I discussed the following:

  • How have digital technologies affected my research and writing practices?
  • What advice would I, as a creator of digital scholarly tools, give to early career scholars seeking to undertake similar work?
  • Why do I experiment with modes of scholarly communication, or seek “to perform scholarly communication differently?”
  • How do I approach the history of books and reading, and how does my approach differ from more ethnographically oriented work?
  • How did I find the story amid the numerous topics I wrestle with in The Late Age of Print?

I hope you like the podcast.  Do feel welcome to share it on Twitter, Facebook, or wherever.  And speaking of social media, don’t forget—if you haven’t already, you can still download a Creative Commons-licensed PDF of The Late Age of Print.  It will only cost a tweet or a post on Facebook.  Yes, really.

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The Season for Giving

“As my bishop would say, I’m livin’ because of my givin’.”
—Rev. Run

‘Tis the season for giving, and in the spirit of the season I’m giving away free downloads of The Late Age of Print.

Well, maybe “free” isn’t exactly the right word. The download will cost you a tweet, or a post on your Facebook wall. But hey—that’s a pretty reasonable price for something that took me more than five years to research, write, and publish, wouldn’t you agree?

I’m managing the release with a new social downloading system that I’m excited to tell you about. It’s called, appropriately enough, “Pay With a Tweet.” I discovered it via the 40kBooks blog, whose editors recently released a collection of their best interviews for 2012 (including, ahem, one with me) using the social payment system. I was really intrigued, and even more intrigued once I got it up and running here on this site.

A free, Creative Commons-licensed PDF of Late Age has been available since the physical book was published back in 2009. But truth be told, I grew somewhat frustrated by what I perceived to be the unevenness of the exchange. That’s why I’m so taken with the idea of paying for the book socially: you help me get the word out about the book, and in return you get a free digital copy. If you’re interested in giving back even more, you can also write a review of Late Age or like the book’s page on Facebook.

Of course, none of that should preclude you from buying a physical copy of the book. The paperback edition contains a new foreword that does not appear in the free e-edition, so if you want my most up-to-date thoughts about the late age of print, that’s where you’ll want to go.

Happy holidays, dear readers. Thanks for all of your support, this year and beyond. I’ll see you again in early 2013.

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The Visible College

After having spent the last five weeks blogging about about algorithmic culture, I figured both you and I deserved a change of pace.  I’d like to share some new research of mine that was just published in a free, Open Access periodical called The International Journal of Communication

My piece is called “The Visible College.”  It addresses the many ways in which the form of scholarly publications — especially that of journal articles — obscures the density of the collaboration typical of academic authorship in the humanities.  Here’s the first line: “Authorship may have died at the hands of a French philosopher drunk on Balzac, but it returned a few months later, by accident, when an American social psychologist turned people’s attention skyward.”  Intrigued?

My essay appears as part of a featured section on the politics of academic labor in the discipline of communication.  The forum is edited by my good friend and colleague, Jonathan Sterne.  His introductory essay is a must-read for anyone in the field — and, for that matter, anyone who receives a paycheck for performing academic labor.  (Well, maybe not my colleagues in the Business School….)  Indeed it’s a wonderful, programmatic piece outlining how people in universities can make substantive change there, both individually and collectively.  The section includes contributions from: Thomas A. Discenna; Toby Miller; Michael Griffin; Victor Pickard; Carol Stabile; Fernando P. Delgado; Amy Pason; Kathleen F. McConnell; Sarah Banet-Weiser and Alexandra Juhasz; Ira Wagman and Michael Z. Newman; Mark Hayward; Jayson Harsin; Kembrew McLeod; Joel Saxe; Michelle Rodino-Colocino; and two anonymous authors.  Most of the essays are on the short side, so you can enjoy the forum in tasty, snack-sized chunks.

My own piece presented me with a paradox.  Here I was, writing about how academic journal articles do a lousy job of representing all the labor that goes into them — in the form of an academic journal article!  (At least it’s a Creative Commons-licensed, Open Access one.)  Needless to say, I couldn’t leave it at that.  I decided to create a dossier of materials relating to the production of the essay, which I’ve archived on another of my websites, The Differences and Repetitions Wiki (D&RW).  The dossier includes all of my email exchanges with Jonathan Sterne, along with several early drafts of the piece.  It’s astonishing to see just how much “The Visible College” changed as a result of my dialogue with Jonathan.  It’s also astonishing to see, then, just how much of the story of academic production gets left out of that slim sliver of “thank-yous” we call the acknowledgments.

“The Visible College Dossier” is still a fairly crude instrument, admittedly.  It’s an experiment — one among several others hosted on D&RW in which I try to tinker with the form and content of scholarly writing.  I’d welcome your feedback on this or any other of my experiments, not to mention “The Visible College.”

Enjoy — and happy Halloween!  Speaking of which, if you’re looking for something book related and Halloween-y, check out my blog post from a few years ago on the topic of anthropodermic bibliopegy.

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Ambivalently Scribd

You may remember back in March my announcing that The Late Age of Print was available on the document sharing site, Scribd. I was excited to see it there for many reasons, chief among them the Creative Commons license I’d negotiated with my publisher, Columbia University Press, which provides for the free circulation and transformation of the electronic edition of Late Age. The book’s presence on Scribd was, for me, evidence of the CC license really working. I was also excited by Scribd’s mobile features, which meant, at least in theory, that the e-book version of Late Age might enjoy some uptake on one or more of the popular e-reading systems I often write about here.

Lately, though, I’m beginning to feel less comfortable with the book’s presence there. Scribd has grown and transformed considerably since March, adding all sorts of features to make the site more sticky — things like commenting, social networking, an improved interface, and more. These I like, but there’s one new feature I’m not feeling: ads by Google. Here’s a screenshot from today, showing what The Late Age of Print looks like on Scribd.

Screenshot of Late Age on Scribd

Note the ad in the bottom-right portion of the screen for a book called, Aim High! 101 Tips for Teens, available on Amazon.com. (Clearly, somebody at Google/Scribd needs to work on their cross-promotions.) You can subscribe to an ad-free version of Scribd for $2.99/month or $29.99/year.

Now, I’m not one of those people who believes that all advertising is evil. Some advertising I find quite helpful. Moreover, on feature-rich sites like Scribd (and in newspapers and magazines, on TV, etc.), it’s what subsidizes the cost of my own and others’ “free” experience.

Here’s the problem, though. The Creative Commons license under which the e-edition of Late Age was issued says this:

This PDF is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License, available at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/ or by mail from Creative Commons, 171 Second St., Suite 300, San Francisco, CA 94105 U.S.A.

“Noncommercial” as defined in this license specifically excludes any sale of this work or any portion thereof for money, even if the sale does not result in a profit by the seller or if the sale is by a 501(c)(3) nonprofit or NGO.

I’m pretty sure the presence of advertising on Scribd violates the terms of the license, albeit in an indirect way. It’s not like Late Age is being sold there for money. However, it does provide a context or occasion for the selling of audience attention to advertisers, as well as the selling of an ad-free experience to potential readers. Either way, it would seem as though the book has become a prompt for commercial transactions.

As of today, the site has recorded close to 2,000 “reads” of Late Age (whatever that means), which would indicate that Scribd has managed to reach a small yet significant group of people by piggybacking on my book.

Honestly, I’m not sure what to do about this.

In software terms I’ve always considered the e-edition of Late Age to be more like shareware than freeware. That is, my publisher and I are comfortable with some folks free-riding provided that others — hopefully many others — go on to purchase the printed edition of the book. The e-edition is not, in other words, a total freebie. Columbia has invested significant time, money, and energy in producing the book, and if nothing else the Press deserves to recoup its investment. Me? I’m more interested in seeing the arguments and ideas spread, but not at the cost of Columbia losing money on the project.

In any case, the situation with advertising on Scribd raises all sorts of vexing questions about what counts as a “commercial” or “non-commercial” use of a book in the late age of print. This became clear to me after finishing Chris Kelty’s Two Bits: The Cultural Politics of Free Software (Duke U.P., 2008). Kelty discusses how changes in technology, law, and structures of power and authority have created a host of issues for people in and beyond the world of software to work through: can free software still be free if it’s built on top of commercial applications, even in part? can collectively-produced software be copyrighted, and if so, by whom? should a single person profit from the sale of software that others have helped to create? and so on.

Analogously, can the use of an e-book to lure eyeballs, and thus ad dollars, be considered “non-commercial?” What about using the volume to market an ad-free experience? More broadly, how do you define the scope of “non-commercial” once book content begins to migrate across diverse digital platforms? I don’t have good answers to any of these questions, although to the first two I intuitively want to say, “no.” Then again, I’m pretty sure we’re dealing with an issue that’s never presented itself in quite this way before, at least in the book world. Consequently, I’ll refrain from making any snap-judgments.

I will say, though, that I recently ported one of my wiki projects, Differences and Repetitions, from Wikidot to its own independent site after Wikidot became inundated with advertising. In general I’m not a fan of my work being used to sell lots of other, unrelated stuff, especially when there are more traditionally non-commercial options available for getting the work out.

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Where Credit Is Due

Wow!  I’ve been blown away by the response to The Late Age of Print Open Source Audiobook Project, which I launched a couple of weeks ago now.  The project got amazing buzz in its initial days, and generous volunteers have been editing the chapters to help produce a free, Creative Commons-licensed audio edition of my book.  The end product is, as you know, a text-to-speech version, but there’s even some chance that a bona-fide, spoken-word audiobook might emerge at the end of all this.  More on that anon.

For now, I need to publicly thank a bunch of folks without whom this project would have fizzled right from the start.  For blogging about it I owe my gratitude to Burku Bakioglu, Ryan Chapman, Cory Doctorow, Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Jason Jackson, Liz Losh, and Timothy Vollmer.  For Tweeting, a tip of the hat goes out to Burku Bakioglu, Mark Bell, Ryan Chapman, Ron Charles, Kathleen Fitzpatrick,  José Afonso Furtado, Jason Jackson, Henry Jenkins, Kembrew McLeod, Richard Nash, Howard Reinold, R. C. Richards, Brian Ruh, Siva Vaidhyanathan, and Timothy Vollmer, in addition to a bunch of people whom I don’t know but who I understand kindly retweeted the news.  I owe a special thanks to my publisher, Columbia University Press, and especially to my talented and amazingly-willing-to-go-there-with-me editor, Philip Leventhal.  Finally, let me thank all of the extraordinary individuals who’ve already shared their time helping to prepare The Late Age of Print audiobook, as well as those who will do so in the future.

(A thousand pardons if I’ve accidentally left anyone off the list.  Please email me if if your name should appear here.  I was in touch with so many people the week I launched the audiobook project that it was easy to have lost track.)

The Late Age of Print OS Audiobook Project is still up and running, by the way, and continues to need your help.  If you want to know more about what we need to do to make an audiobook out of the raw text of Late Age, scroll down to the next entry on this blog or click the link at the beginning of this paragraph.  Either will tell you everything you need to know.

Remember: you don’t need to do much at all to help out the cause.  Even a couple of minutes of your time, combined with that of lots of other contributors, will get this thing finished — and finished well — lickety-split.  That’s the power of mass collaboration, and the wonder of wikis.

After this post it’s back to my regular commentary on the past, present, and future of books and book culture, although I may share some brief updates on the audiobook project from time to time.  I’ve actually learned a great deal about collaborative audiobook production in the process of launching my little experiment, so you can expect to hear more about that soon.

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The Late Age of Print Open Source Audiobook

I’ve been hinting for the last few weeks that I had a big announcement brewing.  Well, at long last, here it is: together we’re going to make a free, Creative Commons-licensed audiobook of The Late Age of Print! First, some background on what inspired the project, and then a word or two on how you can help.

Listening to Chris Anderson’s Free: The Future of a Radical Price on a long car trip got me thinking: why not make an audiobook out of The Late Age of Print? And why not, like Anderson, give the digital recording away for free? The thought had barely crossed my mind when reality started to sink in. “You’re no Chris Anderson,” I told myself. “You don’t have the time or the resources to make an audiobook out of Late Age. Just forget about it.”

Well, I didn’t forget about it. I figured if I couldn’t make an audiobook myself, then I’d do the next best thing: let the computer do it for me, using a text-to-speech (T-T-S) synthesizer. The more I thought about the project, the more convinced I became that it was a good idea. It wouldn’t just be cool to be able to listen to Late Age on an iPod; an audio edition would finally make the book accessible to vision impaired people, too.

And so I got down to work. I extracted all of the text from the free, Creative Commons-licensed PDF of Late Age and proceeded to text-to-speech-ify it, one chapter at a time. I played back my first recording — the Introduction — but it was disaster! The raw text had all sorts of remnants from the original book layout (footnotes, page headers/numbers, words hyphenated due to line breaks, and whole lot more). They seriously messed up the recording, and so I knew they needed to go. I began combing through the text, only to discover that the cleanup would take me, working alone, many more hours than I could spare, especially with a newborn baby in my life. Frustrated, I nearly abandoned the project for a second time.

Then it dawned on me: if I’m planning on giving away the audiobook for free, then why not get people who might be interested in hearing Late Age in on it, too?  Thus was born the Late Age of Print wiki, the host site for The Late Age of Print open source audiobook project.  The plan is for all of us, using the wiki, to create a Creative Commons-licensed text-to-speech version of the book, which will be available for free online.

There’s a good deal of work for us to do, but don’t be daunted! If you choose to donate a large chunk of your time to help out the cause, then that’s just super. But don’t forget that projects like this one also succeed when a large number of people invest tiny amounts of their time as well. Your five or ten minutes of editing, combined with the work of scores of other collaborators, will yield a top-notch product in the end.  I’ve posted some guidelines on the wiki site to help get you started.

I doubt that I have a large enough network of my own to pull off this project, so if your blog, Tweet, contribute to listservs, or otherwise maintain a presence online, please, please, please spread the word!

Thank you in advance for your contributions, whatever they may be.  In the meantime, if you have any questions about The Late Age of Print open source audiobook project, don’t hesitate to email me.  I’d love to hear from you!

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