I think the time will come when this is how every book will be published. Classics return with a click of the mouse
It will be one small step further for Australian literature - and a giant step into the future for books.It will completely change the publishing model and drastically reduce the material flows, not to mention the wastage of printing each year millions of books that nobody wants.
On Monday night 25 out-of-print Australian literary classics will become available to readers through the click of a mouse.
The titles, most of them novels, are part of an initiative by the Copyright Agency Limited (CAL), the Sydney University Press (SUP) and the Australian Literature Gateway organisation (AustLit) to provide print-on-demand books through the internet.
Ross Coleman, collections co-ordinator at the University of Sydney's Fisher Library, said the project developed out of a growing concern among scholars that the teaching of Australian literature was being constrained because so many important Australian books were now out of print.It will also completley wreck Amazon's business model which, despite its techie propaganda and cool online tools, makes its bucks the old way, moving atoms. If we end up with a host of publishing houses, each of whom sends the file to print at your local library, bookshop (read kiosk) or coffee shop, then Amazon will become an no more than an aggregator, and you can get one of those from Awasu any time. Publishers will link with libraries via the next iteration of LibraryLookup and sink Amazon (plus most other bookshops) without trace.
"We have been using this technology for three or four years, digitalising out-of- copyright books in the areas of history and literature," he said. "But as the concern grew about the number of Australian classics now no longer available, especially those still in copyright, we decided to do something about it."
"If this pilot project works, we hope for the future to have nominated sites for collection all over the country," Mr Coleman said.
"With digital technology it doesn't matter where you are - you just send the encoded information to wherever your machine is. Your book emerges in 10 minutes after pressing the button."
In the future, machines such as the CAW prototype could be located in airports, supermarkets and hotels, all encoded with digital files containing the text of hundreds of thousands of books
So, why does this development make me nervous? This
CAL was brought on board to deal with matters of copyright and the Classic Australian Works (CAW) was born. ... The program lets readers log on to the SUP website, browse the list of works and click on their selected title for a fee.Once we accept that any and every book ever published can be reprinted efficiently and economically anywhere and any time, there will be an even stronger motivation for publishers and copyright holders, especially corporate ones, to extend that copyright indefinitely.
While the possibility currently exists for the market to reach a point where the book has been out of print for a long time, no residual copies are left and the demand has fallen to almost, but not quite, nothing (making reprints completely uneconomic), it will be easier to allow the document to fall into the public domain eventually.
But when copyright ownership produces absolutely nothing but royalty, every time, everywhere that a copy of the book is needed, while the production and distribution costs are handed over entirely to the buyer, it will start to look very much like "free money".
I sure hope Tim O'Reilly's model works out better.