22 October 08 | Chad W. Post

This post originally appeared on the Frankfurt Book Fair blog.

As Richard Nash and I agreed, the only thing that needs to be said about book piracy is that there’s no where near enough of it. Anyway, here goes:

The possibilities of the internet and our increasingly-connected culture can make a publisher’s eyes light up and can strike fear in his heart simultaneously. As we all know, the internet is a great tool for finding information, for connecting with other people, and now, in this “web 2.0″ world, for creating and sharing your creative endeavors, developing new communities, and connecting with friends and colleagues from all over the world.

It’s also a place where you can illegally download scanned versions of books (a la the last Harry Potter book that was leaked online days before arriving in stores), audiobooks, mp3s, movies, etc. Thanks to filesharing, one-click download sites, and other digital “pirates,” bascially anything you want you can find online for free.

To help give publishers advice on these wonderful/scary opportunities, the International Publishers Association hosted two panels today: “Online Book Piracy: Will the Internet Kill Publishing?” and “Preparing Publishers for Web 2.0.” It was interesting how well these two panels fit together in terms of viewpoint and overall tone, going from a more outraged and suspicious view of how the internet is stealing business, to a more optimistic look at the future of publishing in our digital age.

Martin Steinebach started off the piracy panel pointing out how easy it is for someone to create and disseminate a digital version of a book. Through sites like Pirate Bay (more on that in a minute) and Literature-Free.com, one can find thousands of e-books and audiobooks that can be downloaded for free (illegally, of course) with the click of a button. He also pointed out what an enormous challenge it is trying to shut down digital pirates. Every time a site or distribution method (such as a peer-to-peer site) is shut down, another site or mode of dissemination (such as a one-click download site) comes into existence. Because of the money pirates make via ads and user fees is so significant, trying to completely prevent online piracy is like trying to reverse a hurrican with a small fan.

That’s the situation in Sweden anyway, where Kjell Bohlund is trying to takedown Pirate Bay, but is struggling to overcome the dominant political and social scenes in which these digital pirates are seen as Robin Hood-like figures making cultural ideas available to everyone for free. In fact, in a recent survey 92 per cent of Swedes thought too much time and effort was going into trying to stop file-sharing websites. And the Prime Minister – in talking about illegal downloading – once said ”You can’t make a whole generation into criminals.”

Although stopping illegal downloads seems to be a Sisyphean task, there are a lot of people out there trying to curb their monetary “losses.” (I have to admit that I’m pretty suspect of all statistics on how much money is lost due to pirates. These figures seem to assume that people who “stole” a song or ebook would have bought that particular book or album if only the free downloadable version weren’t available. Which is pure rubbish and is why some publishers are experimenting with free downloads of their books.) The law firm of Covington & Burling is like the CSI team of internet enforcement, monitoring illegal downloads and helping takedown a number of these services. In the near future, educational e-books published by Even-Moor will be able to ”phone home,” allowing the publisher to “track usage of the book by IP address.” (Which sounds incredibly invasive to me. Could you imagine if there was a way that the publisher could tell where a particular copy of a print book was being read?)

The second panel on this thing we call “web 2.0″ (a term which all the panelists agreed was rather silly and meaningless) was much less reactionary. Instead, they focused on mechanisms that could be created to assist in controlling your digital content without creating such a devisive situation. As Mark Bide pointed out, right now our only tool for dealing with online copyright infringement (such as “re-using” someone’s content in a YouTube video) is litigation, which is a costly and ineffective tool. He pointed to Google Books as a better model for dealing with these issues in our day and age. Rather than suing and countersuing over copyright infringement when Google started scanning the world’s books, publishers and Google came together and came up with mechanisms and protocols so that publishers could control how much of their content was made avaialble and what restrictions were put in place. (For example, a publisher could place a restriction that only 10 per cent of a particular title can be viewed by an individual in a given day.)

Gatekeeping and the relationship between audiences and creators was the key for this panel. The web 2.0 model is one of interactivity and re-use. Of allowing audiences to participate in creating content, closing the gap between publisher and reader. Author sites, wiki sites, co-created sites, and similar ideas present amazing marketing opportunities (Simon Juden of the Publishers Association emphasized the new ways in which communities can be formed around ideas, books, or authors, in today’s world, and the ways in which this can be advantageous to publishers), and sticky rights issues. Looking to the future though, publishers will have to deal with these isuses and strike the correct balance that allows readers to creatively interact with a publisher’s content while also rewarding creators and maintaining a certain degree of control over how their intellectual property is distributed.


Comments are disabled for this article.
....
Sphinx
Sphinx by Anne Garréta
Reviewed by Monica Carter

Founded in 1960 by such creative pioneers as George Perec, Raymond Queneau and Italo Calvino, the Oulipo, shorthand for Ouvroir de littérature potentielle, came about in when a group of writers and mathematicians sought constraints to find new structures and. . .

Read More >

Morse, My Deaf Friend
Morse, My Deaf Friend by Miloš Djurdjević
Reviewed by Vincent Francone

There’s little to say about a series of prose poems that willfully refuse to identify pronoun antecedents. Or perhaps there are a million things. The poems in Morse, My Deaf Friend— the chapbook by Miloš Djurdjević published by Ugly Duckling. . .

Read More >

The Crimson Thread of Abandon
The Crimson Thread of Abandon by Terayama Shūji
Reviewed by Robert Anthony Siegel

The Crimson Thread of Abandon is the first collection of short fiction available in English by the prolific Japanese writer and all-around avant-garde trickster Terayama Shūji, who died in 1983 at the age of 47. This collection would be important. . .

Read More >

Life Embitters
Life Embitters by Josep Pla
Reviewed by Christopher Iacono

Last year, NYRB Classics introduced English-language readers to Catalan writer Josep Pla with Peter Bush’s translation of The Gray Notebook. In that book, Pla wrote about life in Spain during an influenza outbreak soon after World War I, when. . .

Read More >

The Physics of Sorrow
The Physics of Sorrow by Georgi Gospodinov
Reviewed by Izidora Angel

“Your bile is stagnant, you see sorrow in everything, you are drenched in melancholy,” my friend the doctor said.
bq. “Isn’t melancholy something from previous centuries? Isn’t some vaccine against it yet, hasn’t medicine taken care of it yet?” I. . .

Read More >

Vano and Niko
Vano and Niko by Erlom Akhvlediani
Reviewed by Vincent Francone

What to make of Vano and Niko, the English translation of Erlom Akhvlediani’s work of the same name, as well as the two other short books that comprise a sort of trilogy? Quick searches will inform the curious reader that. . .

Read More >

The Indian
The Indian by Jón Gnarr
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

The opening of Jón Gnarr’s novel/memoir The Indian is a playful bit of extravagant ego, telling the traditional story of creation, where the “Let there be light!” moment is also the moment of his birth on January 2nd, 1967. Then. . .

Read More >

Mother of 1084; Old Women; Breast Stories
Mother of 1084; Old Women; Breast Stories by Mahasweta Devi
Reviewed by Christopher Iacono

Mahasweta Devi is not only one of the most prolific Bengali authors, but she’s also an important activist. In fact, for Devi, the two seem to go together. As you can probably tell from the titles, she writes about women. . .

Read More >

Tristana
Tristana by Benito Pérez Galdós
Reviewed by Lori Feathers

The prolific Spanish author Benito Pérez Galdós wrote his short novel, Tristana, during the closing years of the nineteenth century, a time when very few options were available to women of limited financial means who did not want a husband.. . .

Read More >

The History of Silence
The History of Silence by Pedro Zarraluki
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

Pedro Zarraluki’s The History of Silence (trans. Nick Caistor and Lorenza García) begins with the narrator and his wife, Irene, setting out to write a book about silence, itself called The History of Silence: “This is the story of how. . .

Read More >

The next few events from our Translation Events Calendar: See More Events >