Monday, November 23, 2009

Cory Doctorow on the Future of Publishing

Meet Publisher's Enemy No 1, Corry Doctorow
John Barber

From Saturday's Globe and Mail
Published on Friday, Nov. 13, 2009 4:37PM EST
Last updated on Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2009 3:42AM EST

The traditional publishing industry's worst nightmare arrived in Toronto this week when science-fiction author Cory Doctorow addressed the TD National Reading Summit on the burning question of “How to Destroy the Book.”

As one of the world's most successful bloggers, a writer who freely gives away his work as well as selling it – and not least, a genuine expert in the suddenly fraught world of international copyright – this Toronto-born phenom knows as much about wrecking traditional publishing as anyone alive.


The novel, about the struggles of technology hackers in a future economic upheaval, is being made available in a dizzying variety of forms – from downloads and “aps” to a deluxe limited edition of 250 copies made at a family-owned bindery near Doctorow's London home, priced at $250 a piece. But like Little Brother, Doctorow's bestselling young-adult novel of 2008, Makers will be free on his website to any reader with the hard-drive space to store it. Those who want a $15 paper copy will be able to order it from print-on-demand publisher

As a service to other writers, Doctorow said in an interview conducted while he stood on the platform between carriages of a speeding British train, he is experimenting in ways to “delaminate” the traditional publishing industry.

“Right now, we have this vision of the publisher as a monolithic service entity that proves everything from typesetting and printing to distribution to sales support, marketing and PR,” he said. “But there's no reason it has to do all those things in one go.”

Or even the basic ones – like providing its products to retail outlets.  [...]

But these are not the book-destroying feats Doctorow detailed at this week's conference in Toronto, which is devoted to the development of a national reading culture. The real wreckers, according to him, are the publishers and entertainment firms using digital technology to undermine the traditional rights of readers.

“What they're doing is throwing away copyright rules that describe what rights readers have to a book, and replacing them with these farcical end-user licence agreements that say you don't really own the book, you only license it,” he said, noting that consumers who buy audio books from iTunes are required to agree to a 26,000-word licence agreement.

“I don't think people write 26,000-word licence agreements in order to give you more rights,” he said. “They only do it to take away your rights.”

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