Ursula Le Guin has some stones. This whole Google digital books settlement is a bit complicated, but it boils down to something more than opting in and out for the authors. It’s about signing away your authorship, and forcing companies like the great and powerful Goog to negotiate with you before you do so and not after they’ve been caught. Le Guin says it better:
The “opt-out” clause in the Settlement is most disturbing:
First, it seems unfair that, by the terms of the class-action settlement, authors can officially present objections to the Court only by being “opted in” to the settlement and thereby subjecting themselves to its terms.
Second, while the “opt-out” clause appears to offer authors an easy way to defend their copyright, in fact it disguises an assault on authors’ rights. Google, like any other publisher or entity, should be required to obtain permission from the owner to purchase or use copyrighted material, item by item.
The free and open dissemination of information and of literature, as it exists in our Public Libraries, can and should exist in the electronic media. All authors hope for that. But we cannot have free and open dissemination of information and literature unless the use of written material continues to be controlled by those who write it or own legitimate right in it. We urge our government and our courts to allow no corporation to circumvent copyright law or dictate the terms of that control.
Google has some stones as well, dictating the terms of their own settlement to authors of works they’ve digitized without consent. Perhaps Google is trying to claim some sort of perverted sense of fair use by chumming with libraries to assist in their digitization without bothering to negotiate with authors and forking out the dough to buy the item they want to scan from Amazon or AbeBooks.
A perfect exposition of science fiction, Italo Calvino’s Cosmicomics is a tender and dreamlike weaving of stories that touch upon the sheer wonder both the universe and consciousness itself. Calvino begins each story with an established scientific conjecture, thereafter placing an anthropomorphic and wildly fictitious annotation of the universe at various stages or for lack of a better word, times. Narrating from entities personified through equations and representations, predominantly through the central character Qfwfq, Calvino wistfully describes the universe through fleeting instances of love, attraction, loss, creation and change.
The stories range from the concrete to the fluid, including a time when reaching the moon is as simple as climbing a ladder, the astronomical paranoia induced from simple messages sent from distant observers and millennia, where a dinosaur ponders the significance, perhaps even the power of its own extinction, to the familial colloid particles, uncertain of their new inertia, being torn apart in the creation of matter and planets. Though all have a human feel, it is a joyous exposition of the unfathomable, alien events we cannot ponder enough.
The sentience that Calvino gives to the entities persisting and changing throughout Cosmicomics is an appreciation not only of the scientific beauty of the universe, but of the beauty of his fiction.
What with the Kindle being the super number 1 product on Amazon, it initially appears that the clamour of preferring ebooks over their physical counterpart is slightly a bit disingenuous or at least misguided. After all, it appears that of the titles bought for the Kindle, more often than naught are, shall we say, priceless:
And how much money is Amazon making? How much money are authors and publishers making? When GalleyCat examined the Kindle Store bestsellers, they found that 64 of the 100 bestselling eBooks, the majority, were, in fact, free, including the number one bestseller, “Midnight in Madrid”, by Noel Hynd.
It’s question of cost, and the chilly reception from publishers who probably never thought the iTunes effect would be superimposed at great length upon their industry:
But publishers have ignored this demand. In response, several conglomerates have aggressively moved to protect their legacy. Macmillan recently announced a plan to delay the publication of e-books and offer enhancements that will justify a higher price. This tactic is aimed at Amazon’s policy of trying to set $9.99 as the expected price for an e-book. Most are priced much higher — but that’s beside the point. Amazon and publishers are fighting over this fiction, not the reality. Because Amazon’s customers have made it clear that $9.99 is still too high for their taste. Most titles in the company’s list of top 100 Kindle bestsellers are priced below $9.99, and the most popular price point is $0.00. But publishers can’t hear this, because they’re a little distracted right now.
All this is coinciding with imminent launch of the super secret Apple Tablet so achingly soon. And it’s no coincidence, since I feel that while Amazon has successfully developed and marketed its own niche in the book industry with the Kindle, consciously or not, they are following the Apple iTunes model of providing a platform for cheaper, more widely disseminated content. That is what consumers want. That is what authors, especially new aspiring authors, want.
Somewhere between Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities and Cormac McCarthy’s darker roads is situated the powerfully bizarre and intriguing Motorman, written by David Ohle. It’s not a new work, but it has generated a consistent buzz in terms of the ever popular dystopia-themed literature. It’s a short offering that provides only glimpses into an utterly improbable world that’s actually quite fathomable when framed from a sense of despairing fabulism. It’s concerns the flight of a character named Moldenke away from a series of meaningless activities in Texaco City to a safe-haven away from the omniscience of one ever-present Mr. Bunce. More than his flight though, Motorman is about a vision of a future, or perhaps a dream, in which our conception of time, survival and humanity is greatly accelerated and/or extended. With the appearance of multiple suns and moons (invented or otherwise) along rapidly moving calendars, it is either a cosmic time-shift or mild concussion upon which the reader must decipher and refocus. That, along with the buzzing and fluttering of one’s numerous implanted hearts, especially upon an ubiquitous onrush of mindless jellyheads. Ohle doesn’t provide many answers, but he does depict fragments of a life under continual decay amid continual surveillance. Ohle writes his chapters briefly, often corresponding between characters as if in the middle of a war, though eerily the setting is oddly quiet throughout. As such, Motorman is a hazy, prescient and disturbing work that bridges our dreams to a fantastic reality.