A PresiDigital Q&A

George Washington’s ghost is fascinated by digital publishing. (In much the same way that Adriano Fruzzetti is fascinated by mug cake. I.e., if he knew it existed–and if he himself exists–he would be.) This week’s web links and attendant philosophizing come to you via this excerpt from an imaginary presidential interview.

GW: …But what of that concept you explained to me some time past–copyright?
AF: What of it, your excellency?
GW: Suppose I download a Lerner eBook of interest to me. It is now on my computer. I read it; I enjoy it. But because I already know all about the Revolutionary War, it is of limited long-term use to me. My friend, Mr. Lincoln’s ghost, is less intimately familiar with the subject and, furthermore, has tight purse-strings. Could I not sell him my eBook at a reduced price, and thus violate the copyright?
AF: You have a devious mind, sir. But you’re not the first to think of this, or to worry about it. The resale of “used” digital books has been a hot topic lately [Publishers Weekly]. And copyright in general, in this digital age–
GW: I wish you would stop using that phrase. It reminds me how dead I am.
AF: in this digital age, is running into challenges and question marks that never came up before.
GW: I verily believe it. Suppose, for instance, that I read a different eBook–a work, let us say, of fiction. It inspires me; it obsesses me. I must express my love for it. So I make a sketch of a pivotal scene, captioned by a line of dialogue. Then I render this image onto, let us say, a waistcoat.
AF: Let us say a T-shirt.
GW: Aye, and then I sell it. The art is mine, but the characters and dialogue are not.
AF: That’s precisely the conundrum that author John Green addressed recently [The Digital Shift / School Library Journal]. I could not say it better than he does, at least not without first downing several energy drinks.

GW: This digital age you speak of is most problematic.
AF: But it’s also most exciting. Where did Gutenberg’s ghost wander off to? He’d back me up on this. Anyway, trust me, there are so many creative, fun ideas afoot, especially on the eBook front [bookbusinessmag.com]. It’s worth the headache of trying to keep up with ourselves.
GW: I am familiar with the nature of revolutions, my dear. From aspiration to novel reality is one leap, and from novelty to integrated, actualized status quo is another leap.
AF: I forgive you for that sentence because you’re 281 years old. But yes, I agree: We know by now that digital publishing isn’t just a flash in a pan. It’s not going away; it’s only becoming more vibrant and more vital. So the trick is to figure out how to make it practical, accessible, and fair…while still, of course, allowing it to be innovative.
GW: Indeed. Consider the new eBook ordering system for libraries [TeleRead], allowing them to make digital acquisitions directly from publishers instead of using a third-party ordering system. Or the first digital-only library in the United States [The Guardian], soon to open in Austin, Texas. Did you know, by the bye, that Texas is in the Louisiana Territory? Apparently we own that now.
AF: Times do change, your excellency.
GW: Indeed they do.
AF: Welcome to the digital age.

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