Monday News: Reselling ebooks, Economist on Romance, spoilers, and protecting indigenous languages
Should it be legal to resell e-books, software, and other digital goods? – The Dutch Tom Kabinet case regarding the legality of ebook resale is set to be heard by the Dutch supreme court this week, and the widespread expectation is that the case will go to the European Court of Justice after that hearing. The ECJ’s most significant ruling has allowed the resale of digital goods like software and CD’s, but the question of “intangible” digital goods has not been directly and exclusively addressed. Nate Hoffelder argues that the more important question is whether digital books should cost more for fewer rights, but I think that’s a different question, one definitely related to the (US) First Sale doctrine, but not identical or substitutable for the question of legality regarding resale.
The crux of the ECJ’s ruling was this: once the copyright holder of the software (Oracle in this case) has sold the product, it doesn’t get to stop the buyer from selling it on as she wishes. Its rights as the seller are “exhausted” in that first sale. In Europe, this is known as the “principle of exhaustion”; in the US, it’s called the “first-sale doctrine.”
That decision became a landmark interpretation of the EU’s 2009 Software Directive. The directive clearly said the principle of exhaustion applied to a purchased copy of software. However, before the ECJ’s ruling, there was some debate over whether this applied to “intangible” downloaded software as well as more traditionally packaged products.
As is the norm these days, Oracle claimed it sold not the software but the license to use it. The court was unimpressed by this argument, noting that there is no point downloading something if you can’t use it, and calling the software-license bundle “an indivisible whole.” It said the principle of exhaustion was not limited to copies of software sold on physical media, and vindicated UsedSoft’s business model—up to a point. – Ars Technica UK and The Digital Reader
Book-publishing’s naughty secret – I know this kind of article will piss a lot of Romance readers off, but I’m frankly amused by the attempt to understand the success of Romance and erotic fiction, and the blatant self-contradiction employed by someone who understands that sexism is diminishing the value of fiction focused on romantic and sexual relationships, while diminishing the value of fiction focused on romantic and sexual relationships. It’s particularly amusing that the article uses several images of Mills & Boon books, which are, what, under 200 pages, while elevating lit fic novels because they ‘take longer to read.’ HELLO, THEY ARE GENERALLY AT LEAST TWO TO FOUR TIMES AS LONG. And, let’s not confuse the number of hours it takes to read something and the days that pass before someone completes a book. Or suggest that women who read romantic and erotic fiction are not ALSO reading other genres, including lit fic. If you’re embarrassed that other women are reading “those books,” then maybe it’s time to consider the idea that there’s more to those genres than you want to believe. Also, way to go with the vagina dentata imagery in “devouring” books — what was that about sexism, again?
Such hostility is probably due, at least in part, to old-fashioned sexism. Romance—along with any other genre of book that deals with strong emotions including grief, revenge and loss—appeals disproportionately to women. (Women are also between two and three times more likely to finish such a book once they have started it, according to Jellybooks, who also note that women have greater staying power as readers across genres.) . . .
Literary snobbery also plays a part. Because all romance novels are united by two guiding principles—the centrality of an initially-troubled relationship, and a happy ending—they have been written off as formulaic and light reads in contrast to literary fiction. Critics are on firmer ground here. The median reader spends a paltry three to six days devouring a romance book; this rises to between one and three weeks for literary novels and to between three and six weeks for a work of non-fiction. – Economist
Stop Worrying About Spoilers–They Actually Help You Enjoy the Story More – I haven’t read the studies in question, but I am definitely the reader/viewer who finds that spoilers help me calm down and actually focus on the storytelling. I rush to the ending of a book (and a movie, if I can) if I feel like things are getting too suspenseful. Maybe, though, for some people that suspense is part of the enjoyment? Interesting idea, though, that spoilers are good for us:
That’s the message of a new video from the University of California, San Diego, highlighting the work of psychology professor Nicholas Christenfeld over the last five years or so. . . .
So what’s going on? Christenfeld thinks that spoilers free us up from having to pay too close attention to the plot, thereby enabling us to focus on other, richer aspects of the book, film, or TV show of choice—character development, sensory descriptions, or minor details we may have missed the first (or second) time around. “If you’re driving up Highway 1 through Big Sur [in California], and you know the road really well, you can now peek around and admire the view, the otters frolicking in the surf,” he said. But the first time you drive that route, you’re focusing almost entirely on all the twists and turns, and you miss all that scenic detail. – Gizmodo
Canadian Press Breathes New Life into Aboriginal Languages – The University of Regina Press is working to restore knowledge of aboriginal languages in Canada. This story reminded me of a recent piece in The Smithsonian about a discovery of more indigenous languages than were previously known to exist in what is now the US. I am glad to see this work being undertaken, but we will probably never know how many cultures and languages were destroyed through conquest and colonization.
To help address this history of oppression, this June URP will release a book titled 100 Days of Cree by Neal McLeod, a professor at Trent University and a poet. The nonfiction book is divided into 100 themes and offers Cree words and English explanations for everything from traditional subjects such as powwows and medicine to modern subjects such as Facebook and Star Wars. It also includes a guide to pronunciation written by Arok Wolvengrey, a linguist and the author of a Cree-English dictionary. . . .
MacLeod said that he and Wolvengrey worked to keep a balance between traditional usage and modern adaptations. “To revitalize our languages, we have to do two things: we have to document the classical terminology, because within that terminology are all of our metaphors and idioms; but we also have to think of how to put old words together, to coin words, to describe the contemporary world.” – Publishers Weekly and Smithsonian
Things I learned today:
1. There are people who don’t believe a story without suspense isn’t worth reading/watching. I’m bored out of my mind if nothing surprising is properly set up and executed. Sensory descriptions… snooze. What is causing character development if not the plot some people don’t want to “pay too close attention to”? It’s enlightening to hear how differently others navigate any process that seems so obviously one-right-way to me.
2. Never drive on Hwy 1 because frolicking otters are added to the lengthy list of diversions used by bored drivers to excuse failure to observe basic motor vehicle safety. Will I or won’t I get in a head-on collision with a rubbernecker? is the kind of real-life suspense I’m happy to avoid.
Not reading the article, because we’ve already had two power outages today, but if length of time it takes to finish a book is an indicator of literary merit, then Kushiel’s Dart is a masterpiece, since it took me five years to finish it. ;) (The advantage of using receipts as bookmarks.)
I think spoilers can be a good thing. But is it really a spoiler when you rewatch a movie you’ve already seen or reread a book you’ve previously read? I am a big rewatcher/rereader with certain movies, TV shows, and books but I don’t consider that spoiled. To me a spoiler is if I’m given info before is watch or read something the first time.
And yes sometimes that can be a bad thing, but not always. If i am watching/reading a suspense movie/book then I’d rather not know the ending. But if it looks like the hero will cheat on the heroine, I’d wanr to know beforehand. While the driving analogy isn’t a very good one there are plenty of movies and books I enjoy more the second (or more) time around. I just don’t equate that with spoilers.
before I watch and I’d want to know.
I really shouldn’t post responses from my phone.
And here I was thinking there wouldn’t be a Memorial Day post.
1) I hope you’ll do a follow-up when there’s a ruling. The original article and NH’s both raise interesting points. It’s somewhat true that an ebook retains its material value better than a paper book, but not entirely. People have totally different expectations of the two media. First edition? Autographed copy? Book with that original cover art? People will still want those and will pay good money for them. Lots of used books of all kinds going for big bucks on Amazon–some so far out of my price range it’s laughable. Neither the author nor the publisher is benefiting from the sales, but I’m not hearing any kvetching over that. OTOH, I doubt there’d be a huge market for “used” digital copies of The Da Vinci Code. Seriously, all of the initial purchases should be treated the same. If not, then there should be more prominent warnings to consumers that ebook “purchases” are a lesser beast with fewer rights conferred, often for a higher price. Publishers keep wanting to have it both ways.
2) The comments on that Economist article were also interesting. We’ve been down this road so many times that I can’t be bothered to care about the pseudo-intellectual hand-wringing over women’s low standards in reading material. The correlation between reading time and value was particularly odd. It didn’t take me long to read the article, so I guess it had no value, either. (The one thing I did find interesting was that women had greater staying power across all genres. We already know that women buy/read more books in general, so why isn’t there more interest in this rather than narrowly focusing on romance.)
3) I don’t mind spoilers at all and can’t think of a single instance where my enjoyment was diminished because of them. Feel free to tell me the man was really a woman, the doctor is actually a ghost, the wife isn’t dead, etc. And, seriously, please do tell me in advance if the dog dies because I can’t stand worrying about that the whole time. OTOH, I won’t ruin it for those who don’t like spoilers, with the caveat that there’s a statute of limitations. It hasn’t been a secret for 150 years that Mr. Rochester keeps his crazy wife in the attic. Get over it.