Snowbooks on Scribd, and free content • 24 April 2007 • The SnowBlog
Snowbooks on Scribd, and free content
Yes, it's more silly-tech news from James. A few weeks ago, a very interesting site launched, describing itself as a YouTube for documents. Scribd allows anyone to upload a document in a wide range of formats, which it then converts to web-friendy formats, displays them on the site for anyone to read, and allows people to print, download and even embed them on their own sites - just like YouTube.
Having done some browsing around, there's certainly plenty up there for grabs - you can read everything from Ogden Nash poems, to maths cheat sheets, to hilarious interview advice, to the complete works of Chuck Palahniuk. Just jump on in - it's all free!
But wait, should that be a concern? You know how free and easy and webby and techy we are here in the SnowTower, and we like free stuff as much as the next man, woman and fish. But... Now, that last example, the Palahniuk one (the Nash one too, probably), is an example of blatant copyright infringement - of totally illegal piracy - and over time deals will be struck allowing some rapprochement between publishers and publicists - just as is gradually being hammered out between YouTube, Viacom and the like. What concerns us is free content.
In this passionately-argued screed, Howard Hendrix, well-published author and current Vice-President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (the SFWA), takes to task authors who distribute their own work for free, going as far to call them 'scabs', as in "someone who works for less than union wages or on non-union terms; more broadly, a scab is someone who feathers his own nest and advances his own career by undercutting the efforts of his fellow workers to gain better pay and working conditions for all." Some disagree.
It's not just obscure or genre writers who are concerned about this; Margaret Atwood raised the same issues during a seminar I attended at the London Book Fair last week. Technology, like it or not, is bringing down not only the actual price of literature, but its percieved value, and we stand to lose a lot of genuinely talented writers if we stop supporting their livelihood.
We don't have an answer. We're pro-internet. We give a lot away for free. Here's the first chapter of Stewart Home's forthcoming Memphis Underground - already available elsewhere - on Scribd (move the little slider at the top to zoom in and make reading a little easier):
Here's hoping that a few more people read the opening chapter, and are intrigued enough to buy the book.
But we're also a publisher - without selling the books, we're not going to be able to publish them, and we're not going to be able to pay the authors to write them, either. After long months and even years of writing, they deserve something for their trouble. Don't they?
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