29 February 2012

Torch-and-Pitchfork Party at Bibliothèque Nationale

If you're just here for the party, you can skip down to the third link sausage... but I recommend warming up with the first two sausages for a little more context.

  • Elsevier blinked — in one eye, anyway — and the so-called Research Works Act has been withdrawn. Now, if Elsevier will just stop being an academic vanity press; and just stop acting like a monopolist and monopsonist... we'll only have about four other major journal vendors to deal with to reform the academic journals "market" into a market. And then, after we gather data for a few years, we can see if it really acts like a market anyway.
  • And then there's outright piracy. <SARCASM> No, there weren't any obvious red flags from which the vendor should have realized that this was probably a pirated e-book collection — not even the famous-on-the-internet size of the collection. </SARCASM> The best part: The vendor is partly owned by MicroSoft.
  • The biggest pirate of the day, though, is the French government... which is engaging in a rights grab to nationalize every book published in France in the 20th century that does not remain in print today. My reading French is slow; my legislative French is both slow and abyssmal; but my understanding (such as it is) of the statute is consistent with various English-language statements, including the one I linked to: That the French National Library will list its holdings in a database of works published in the twentieth century that do not appear, to it, to remain in print in France. Rightsholders then have six months to object... or (a) the work will be digitized from the copy held at Bibliothèque Nationale on that date, and (b) the work will then be considered "held" for purposes of issuing commercial digital editions by a rights coalition, which will pay some pittance to the rightsholder long after the event with even-more-opaque-than-commercial-press-royalty-statements accounting.

    Read the article. Despite the seeming hysteria, it's not overstating the matter at all. I'll have further comments down the road on proactive measures that authors may take... if they become reasonably possible. In the meantime, Occupy Bibliothèque Nationale!

  • Jim Hines remarks on his disappointment with BBT on his blog. There's a bigger-picture issue that I think he misses, though:

    In H'wood, smart people do no work.

    Really. The characters in that antiintellectual piece of crap are (mostly) supposed to be scientists, and yet it's extraordinarily rare for them to actually do any work. We at least see regular parodies of the work done by cops, by lawyers, by doctors, etc. on TV and in films. I suppose that one could argue that there's no drama/comedy in watching endless labwork, and that's probably true... but never seeing the central part of these characters' lives? And when we get some bizarre sideways reference to it, seeing them outside their fields?

    Ultimately, the real problem is that the show creators (et al.) not only have virtually no real experience with intellectual pursuits — whether in the lab or in the library is irrelevant — but disdain those who do. Virtually all of the comedy in BBT comes from the supposed inherent social ineptitude of the nerds, and/or the "surprising" adaptability of some/all of them. In short, smart people act funny and stupid, and everybody should laugh at them because they're different. But then, anyone who had seen as many as two episodes of Chuck knows that Mr Lorre is antiintellectual...

    Any relationship between this link sausage and the preceding one is entirely coincidental. Yeah, right.