a curious Yankee in Europe's court

blog about living in Europe, and Italy

What’s a writer to do when publishers say no? Bradley Abruzzi

Posted on the August 23rd, 2012

If you have 70 or so minutes to spare and you are interested in the heated, at times hysterical, debate now underway about traditional publishing versus self-publishing, here’s a link to a video I highly recommend.

The speaker is Bradley Abruzzi, an attorney in the Office of the General Counsel at MIT. In this candid and thoughtful talk, however, Abruzzi’s topic isn’t his successful day job or the legal field. Instead he relates a personal story — his own long search and failure to find a publisher for his literary fiction manuscripts, and his decision finally to self-publish his own novel.

Abruzzi doesn’t try to hide his frustration and disappointment. This is fortunate for his listeners because it gives us a close-up view of the dilemma a writer confronts when publishers repeatedly say no.  Abruzzi discusses the promise, and difficulties, of digital media for writers, beginning his talk with a concise and informed historical overview of writers and publishing, ranging from the feudal times to present day.

The talk was given at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University. You can watch the full video here, or click on the screenshot above.

 

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Who’s violating fair use these days?

Posted on the November 22nd, 2010

That much debated, confusingly fluid, hugely important USA legal concept known as “fair use” is back on center stage again, according to a blog post last week by Rob O’Regan at emediavitals.com (“Fair use and copyright issues return to the spotlight” Nov 18, 2010).

O’Regan notes some recent key lawsuits in relation to fair use, and identifies three current trends involving news and magazine publishers. Read full post here.

Another blog post on the same subject is also up on emediavitals from Prescott Shibles (“Fair use: how much is too much?” Nov 17, 2010). Shibles highlights policies of some aggregator websites and rates how some of them may or may not be violating fair use.

I’ve provided some examples of aggregation at the bottom of this post. You might be surprised by who’s violating copyright and by how much.

One of them is truly a dismaying surprise. See full post here.

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Hoping for a future, magazines summon a ghost from the past

Posted on the October 14th, 2010

In their urgent push to find a business model — in this case, embracing digital “apps” as the way to induce readers (or somebody) to pay for their content — magazine publishers are hoping their subscribers will forget something rather important, according to Mathew Ingram.

Writing last week for GigaOM, Ingram said (“Too Many Magazine Apps Are Still Walled Gardens” by Matthew Ingram, Oct. 9, 2010):

…one thing is becoming clear: publishers mostly just want you to look at their content, and are hoping that you will forget all about the Internet and social media and all of those irritating things that get in between you and the consumption of their wonderful content.

Ingram reviews in particular the new app for Esquire magazine that has just been introduced, pointing out some glitches in functioning that he dislikes (he also discusses Wired magazine’s digital app, introduced earlier this year).

And since a picture is worth a thousand… etc, in order to see what exactly Ingram is talking about, here are the intro videos the two magazines produced for their apps.

First Esquire:

And Wired:

Technologically speaking, this is exciting stuff for Internet users, seems to me.  But Ingram objects strongly that these apps at present signal their publishers’ desire to turn back the clock to a “walled garden” world. Meaning that not so long ago old place and time where providers were in control of everything and users were passive and powerless and paying.

Ingram writes:

Wired’s app provides a slick interface to the magazine, but no way of actually sharing it, or of linking it to related content somewhere else — not even to Wired’s own website. It’s like an interactive CD-ROM from the 1990s.

The new Esquire app also has plenty of “interactivity,” if by that you mean the ability to click and watch an ad for a new Lexus, or listen to cover boy Javier Bardem recite a Spanish poem, or swipe your finger and watch a timeline of the construction of the new World Trade Center. All of those are very cool — but if you are looking for the kind of interactivity that allows you to post a comment on a story, or to share a link via Twitter, or to post anything to a blog and then link back to the magazine, you are out of luck. In fact, if you like the app or any of the stories within it, your only option is to close the app completely and then email someone to tell them that you liked it…

Earning praise, in contrast, from Ingram is the app for Flipboard.  As you can see in the video below, Flipboard stresses interactivity and all the social media aspects (Facebook and Twitter, as examples) of the Internet that are so hugely popular. You can read Ingram’s full article here.

Here’s Flipboard‘s video introducing its app:

For now, though, according to Peter Kafka writing in his column MediaMemo at All Things Digital (WSJ), the new magazine apps may be paying off for their publishers (“Magazine Publishers Turn Back From the Abyss” Oct 11, 2010). Alluding to the “brutal beating” magazines have experienced in recent years, Kafka reports that in recent months ad sales for magazines in general have begun to climb. Wired, he reports, is leading the pack:

Worth noting that Condé Nast’s Wired, which may have the most successful iPad magazine app, saw ad pages jump 32.8 percent.

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Wikipedia’s not just any old encyclopedia: James Bridle

Posted on the September 10th, 2010

In a blog post this week, James Bridle lays bare his optimism about humans and our doings. And this gutsy enthusiasm is a good and intelligent thing.

It’s not some pie-in-the-sky, be happy type of simpleton perspective. Bridle grounds his hope in close scrutiny of the systems we create, in particular publishing.

Bridle, a publisher and writer, is founder of the website booktwo.org. He describes the site’s focus as “the future of literature and the publishing industry”

Writing the recent post titled “On Wikipedia, Cultural Patrimony and Historiography” (Sept 6, 2010), Bridle reflects on a public talk he gave recently:

I talked about the Library of Alexandria, and the Yo La Long Dia, and the National Libraries of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Iraq—all examples of cultural destruction caused in part by neglect and willful disregard for our shared patrimony.

These losses, despite their horror, will always happen: but what can we do to mitigate and understand them? In a world obsessed with “facts”, a more nuanced comprehension of historical process would enable us to better weigh truth…

…I do believe that we’re building systems that allow us to do this better, and one of our responsibilities should be to design and architect those systems to make this explicit, and to educate.

The particular system that Bridle goes on to discuss is Wikipedia.

…for me, Wikipedia is a useful subset of the entire internet, and as such a subset of all human culture. It’s not only a resource for collating all human knowledge, but a framework for understanding how that knowledge came to be and to be understood; what was allowed to stand and what was not; what we agree on, and what we cannot.

Read the full entry here.

(Found my way to Bridle’s post via the blog Bits at the New York Times)

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