Scalzi on Libraries, Self-Publishing, and Copyright Protection

EyeinforestJohn Scalzi was interviewed by Library Journal recently. Among other things he addressed ePublishing, copyright, and the role of libraries in our culture. As always he dispatched wisdom with a solid dose of wit.

The whole article is here – it will be a well spent 10 minutes to get your week started.

On the cultural relevance of libraries:

“I’m very pro-library in a philosophical sense, because I think that every city, every town, every village, every place where there’s people needs to have a repository of knowledge and people who can help those in that area use it….the point for me about libraries is not how they work for my career but basically how they work for my culture.”

In the realm of school libraries this is more important – it is often the place where a child is pointed at THE book that lights the fire of reading and knowledge for them. That spark based on a caring adult’s guidance is essential for every developing mind.

On ePublishing from an Author’s perspective:

“I could [self-publish] right now if I wanted to write a novel, pay someone to edit it, copyedit it, put it on Amazon, the iBookstore, and Barnes & Noble retail channels and get 70 percent of that going directly to me. But then the question becomes, what are my core competencies? Do I really want to spend all that time doing all that other crap when what I’m good at is writing books and then telling people, “Hey, I wrote this cool book!” …I’m not an artist. I’m the worst copyeditor in the world. So I don’t want to do that. I want somebody else to do that.”

Scalzi is a self-publishing pioneer so he speaks with authority on this topic. We hear a lot about how teachers are going to publish their own materials. I think you could substitute teaching for “writing books” and have the same story. Yes Teachers can self-publish their materials, but they won’t be teachers any more if they do.

On copyright terms:

“While I’m alive and while my wife is alive, specifically, I want to make sure that we receive the benefits of the work. But the idea that the great-grandchildren I will never meet might be sitting there going, “Oh, well, my great-grandfather wanted this about his art, and he was very serious about this.” It’s like, “Dude, yeah, I don’t even know you. Go out and get a job.” Life plus 70 is completely ridiculous. Life plus 25 is sufficient.”

Again he nails it – authors, designers, editors, printers, coders, accountants, and all the other professionals engaged in developing meaningful instructional materials need to make a living and we need copyright protection to do that. But we also have to keep moving forward. Allowing a life plus 70 year lock down on copyright just benefits a bunch of ancestral rentiers not the larger culture.

If you like his thoughts here I recommend Scalzi’s blog Whatever where he provides a real practitioner’s insight on ePublishing and his books which are excellent SciFi.