Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Organic Farming and Ebook Piracy

Yesterday in my car I was listening to a recent episode of this excellent Catalan radio show about technology (and “what people do with technology”), l'Internauta, hosted by Vicent Partal. The filmmaker, Anna Boluda, was co-host, and the special guest was Simona Levi who was talking about "free culture" and lots of other interesting things

At 37:09, Vicent said something that really caught my ear (my translation, original at end of post):
Two things that I always put on the table and that at Vilaweb [Vicent's news portal] we are always thinking about and working on: the first is sufficiency, that is, you don't have to earn that much money, you just have to earn enough, no? I mean, is it possible to imagine a model in which, for example, in our case, those who are really interested and care about Vilaweb pay for it, and for those for whom it's just another website, well, thanks for reading. You don't have to make everyone pay, you can find a mass of people that is enough for you and you don't necessarily need everyone to pay you.
The second thing, said the other way around, is sustainability, that is, you have to know what you need to keep yourself financed and you have to act from that base of sustainability for your own project. In my opinion, that comes naturally and doesn't need complicated algorithms or arguments, it's just that there's a certain equilibrium, no? between the people who say I'll pay [and those who won't] and if the ones that are willing to pay are enough, well, you don't have to force the machine and turn yourself into a huge global power, I don't know, I see it as one of the keys, and of course, the only problem is that sufficiency ends up depending on each person, for one person it's enough to have a house, and for the next guy only a three masted yacht will do...
And it made me think about something I read in one of Barbara Kingsolver's books, maybe it was Prodigal Summer. It doesn't really matter where it came from; it's a common tenet of organic farming... that you have to plan to make a big enough crop so that losing some of it to "pests" isn't the end of the world. And not only that, if you spray pesticide over your crops to kill the bad bugs, you inevitably kill lots of beneficial bugs as well.

What are the beneficial bugs in the ebook ecosystem? They are your loyal readers who want to read your book and then will talk about it with other people so that they want to read your book too. When you tie your ebook up with DRM, you make it a hassle not just for pirates (who, like corn borers, just evolve to beat you another day) but for the folks who would buy your books and promote them to your friends.

You can find the recording at Vilaweb. Here's my rather wobbly transcript of Vicent's Valencian Catalan:
Dues claus que jo sempre poso sobre la taula i que també a Vilaweb estem d'alguna manera amb +Vilaweb pensant i treballant sobre tots aquests conceptes: un el de suficiència, és a dir, no cal guanyar tants diners, cal guanyar els justos, no? és a dir, és necessari, podem plantejar un model en el qual per exemple en el nostre cas, plantegem un model, a qui realment li interessi i li importi Vilaweb que ajudi pagant, però a qui som un més, gràcies per llegir-nos, no cal, per tant, no cal obligar a tothom a pagar, tu pots pagar un nucli de gent que és suficient per a tu ja i no necessites que et pagui tothom per dir-ho d'alguna forma i el segon que és girat al revés el de sostenibilitat és a dir, tu també has de saber el que necessites per finançar-te i per tant actuar sempre des d'aquesta base de la sostenibilitat del teu propi projecte. Per mi hi hauria una especie de diàleg molt difícil de fer segurament però a la vegada molt, tinc la sensació que molt natural, que naix de forma espontànea, que no requereix ni grans algoritmes ni grans discusions que és com un cert equilibri no? natural entre la gent que diu no, jo pague i aquells que diuen jo pague si ja són prou, no cal forçar la màquina per a convertir-te en un potentat, no, no sé, jo ho veig com una de les claus i clar, això, diguem, el defecte que pot tenir és que la suficiència al final acaba depenent de cadascú, per algú és suficient tenir una casa i per algú per ser suficient necesita un veler de tres pals...


  1. Excellent, as always, Liz!

    A great way to capsulize the whole to DRM or not to DRM quandary.

    The biggest anti-DRM'ers are usually those who have yet to dip their toes in the eBook waters.

  2. this is exactly the way I feel. All of those estimates of xx billions of dollars "lost" by software companies, music publishers, film companies get their inflated figures by figuring that every pirated copy is a lost sale. Bullshit; a large percent (75%, 85%?) of the people who pirated copies would never buy the software/music/film if it was impossible to pirate it.

  3. Organic farming increase yields, reduce expenditure, and also help to retain soil fertility. The farmer is benefited in multiple ways..

  4. I've subscribed to eMusic for years, and I pay money every month and legally download great indie albums that are hard to find anywhere else. Good music, well-priced. eMusic brought Sony on board, so suddenly Australia isn't an "approved country" any more. That's OK, I don't buy the music they are selling. Then eMusic makes big changes and now I can't buy HEAPS of their music library - but still charge me the same monthly fee. eMusic has learned how to turn a customer into an ex-customer and Sony has learned how to turn a consumer into a pirate.


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