The e-Book User’s Bill of Rights

After last week’s announcement that publisher HarperCollins is putting a cap on the number of times their e-books can be checked out from OverDrive, I’ve been even angrier than I usually am about the way publishers and distributors screw consumers and users of the rights they have with non-digital content. One of the main reasons why I don’t think e-books will make bound books obsolete any time soon is because bound books are so much freer in use than e-books. You can’t use e-books on whatever device you want without using some third-party software (and sometimes circumventing DRM). You can’t lend e-books for however long you’d like. You can’t resell or donate e-books. In many cases, you don’t even really own e-books, you just pay for the licensing to read them.

So I was very happy to read Sarah Houghton-Jan‘s post this morning of an e-book user’s bill of rights she created with Andy Woodward. I don’t think this bill of rights is the end of the discussion, but the beginning. Luckily, she’s released it into the public domain, so I’ll reprint the entire blog post (as she’s asked people to) and hope the discussion continues. Libraries and e-book users can’t just shut up and take what corporations are offering. We have to fight against this money-grubbing insanity.

The eBook User’s Bill of Rights is a statement of the basic freedoms that should be granted to all eBook users.

The eBook User’s Bill of Rights

Every eBook user should have the following rights:

  • the right to use eBooks under guidelines that favor access over proprietary limitations
  • the right to access eBooks on any technological platform, including the hardware and software the user chooses
  • the right to annotate, quote passages, print, and share eBook content within the spirit of fair use and copyright
  • the right of the first-sale doctrine extended to digital content, allowing the eBook owner the right to retain, archive, share, and re-sell purchased eBooks

I believe in the free market of information and ideas.

I believe that authors, writers, and publishers can flourish when their works are readily available on the widest range of media. I believe that authors, writers, and publishers can thrive when readers are given the maximum amount of freedom to access, annotate, and share with other readers, helping this content find new audiences and markets. I believe that eBook purchasers should enjoy the rights of the first-sale doctrine because eBooks are part of the greater cultural cornerstone of literacy, education, and information access.

Digital Rights Management (DRM), like a tariff, acts as a mechanism to inhibit this free exchange of ideas, literature, and information. Likewise, the current licensing arrangements mean that readers never possess ultimate control over their own personal reading material. These are not acceptable conditions for eBooks.

I am a reader. As a customer, I am entitled to be treated with respect and not as a potential criminal. As a consumer, I am entitled to make my own decisions about the eBooks that I buy or borrow.

I am concerned about the future of access to literature and information in eBooks.  I ask readers, authors, publishers, retailers, librarians, software developers, and device manufacturers to support these eBook users’ rights.

These rights are yours.  Now it is your turn to take a stand.  To help spread the word, copy this entire post, add your own comments, remix it, and distribute it to others.  Blog it, Tweet it (#ebookrights), Facebook it, email it, and post it on a telephone pole.

To the extent possible under law, the person who associated CC0 with this work has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to this work.



Drunk and in Charge of a Blog

Thanks to the meds I’m currently on to lower my cholesterol and triglycerides, I can’t drink alcohol. It’s not usually that big a deal, because I’ve kind of grown out of getting all liquored up, but I do miss having a tasty beer or glass of delicious wine when I want one. And although I don’t really like boozing anymore, I still like being drunk–in the Baudelaire sense of being drunk.

I’m feeling happily drunk tonight. Not on alcohol, but on love and happiness. And in that spirit, I offer you all (especially those who aren’t familiar with it already) Charles Baudelaire’s wonderful piece “Be Drunk”:

You have to be always drunk. That’s all there is to it—it’s the only way. So as not to feel the horrible burden of time that breaks your back and bends you to the earth, you have to be continually drunk.

But on what? Wine, poetry or virtue, as you wish. But be drunk.

And if sometimes, on the steps of a palace or the green grass of a ditch, in the mournful solitude of your room, you wake again, drunkenness already diminishing or gone, ask the wind, the wave, the star, the bird, the clock, everything that is flying, everything that is groaning, everything that is rolling, everything that is singing, everything that is speaking. . .ask what time it is and wind, wave, star, bird, clock will answer you: “It is time to be drunk! So as not to be the martyred slaves of time, be drunk, be continually drunk! On wine, on poetry or on virtue as you wish.”

Up and At ‘Em, Part 2

At this morning’s weekly Web Content Team meeting, we were informed by our supervisor that IT has decided to buy us all new laptops to replace our desktop PCs. I was very excited about this and mentioned my last blog post. We then talked about shifting my cubicle workspace a bit so that I can have access to both a tall desk that I could stand at and a regular desk I could sit at.

I’m obviously very pleased about this. I think it will help my energy and productivity at work a lot.

Up and At ‘Em!

As many people know, I’m pretty lazy. I’m a constant procrastinator and I frequently have to really push myself to get up off my tuchas and do something.

I got to work this morning feeling really motivated to knock stuff off my to-do list and Get Things Done. But as soon as I was situated at my desktop PC, sitting comfortably in my chair, I became easily distracted, unmotivated and lazy. Which is frustrating, because I really was looking forward to working hard today. I’ll still get as much done as I can, but now it will be like pulling teeth instead of happily playing. Even more frustrating, I’m like this at home, too. When I sit around reading, I have a tendency to fall asleep, no matter how exciting the book or comic is. I frequently have to push myself to do something other than sitting around in front of the TV.

I think my problem is one of motion and inertia. Walking from my car to the library, I was all fired up. But once I was safely schlumped in my chair, I lost that spark. I’m starting to think I’d work better, both professionally and personally, if I used a netbook or tablet, something lightweight, easy to carry around and move. I think if I could alternate between sitting and standing, being still and moving around, I’d keep more of my energy and be more productive.

Paper Hearts

I’ve never really liked Valentine’s Day. I’ve never really done anything special for the day, whether I was in a relationship or not. I’m fairly romantic by nature, but a day centered around romance and couples just seems forced. And for people not in relationships, it just seems mean, as if your life is less complete because you’re single. That’s a pretty horrible message to send to people. There’s just something creepy and codependent about Valentine’s Day. So, yeah, I’ve never really been a fan.

Except I did used to like Valentine’s Day. In elementary school, Valentine’s Day was about giving valentines (and candy) to everyone in your class. It was about celebrating all kinds of love and friendship, not just celebrating being part of a romantic duo. It was a pink, lacy version of Hallowe’en, where everyone got a treat just for showing up and getting into the spirit of things. That is my kind of romantic holiday!

I’m very happy to be with my girlfriend, Brooke. But I’m also happy to have so many great friends that I love dearly, in all kinds of ways. Why focus solely on my romantic relationship? Why focus on only one type of love?

So…here’s to love in all of its many forms! Happy Valentine’s Day to my dear friends and family that I love so very much. May you feel loved every day of your lives.

Slings and Arrows, Pratfalls and Triggers

I really think Community is one of the best shows on TV right now, for a variety of reasons. Last week’s episode, “Advanced Dungeons and Dragons,” was one of the best of the best. It was hilariously funny, but also very touching, and it was more accurate in the way it portrayed people playing Dungeons and Dragons than most TV shows and movies. But for me, one of the most interesting things about the episode, which I wasn’t expecting at all, was how uncomfortable I was watching it. It triggered some pretty bad memories of being bullied in high school, and in parts of the episode, I could feel myself getting angrier and more anxious as I watched. I had a physical response to some scenes, and it wasn’t entirely pleasant. But by the end of the episode, I relaxed and I really appreciated all of the ways, good and bad, in which the episode got to me.

Which brings me to Penny Arcade. I was pretty late getting onto the Penny Arcade bus, and after reading it regularly for about a year or so, I gave up. While I found the strip incredibly funny sometimes, I just don’t play enough video games to really get most of the jokes. So I pulled it out of my Google Reader and haven’t read it since. Which means I missed a particular strip that touched off a pretty big internet kerfuffle: the “dickwolf” strip. I actually learned about it from a post on my pal Steve Lawson’s blog, which led me to the Debacle Timeline website. I read the original strip and a number of the responses to that strip. I’ve ruminated over this for the past few days. Today, I realized what I really think about it all.

Here goes…

I don’t think rape is particularly funny. In fact, I think it’s pretty horrific. While I’ve never been raped (knock on wood), I have friends who have been, and I’ve seen some of the after-effects of it. I find the casual use of the word, such as when pundits complain about the government “raping us” in this way or that, to be pretty moronic and insensitive (not to mention hyperbolic beyond all reason), and I don’t find most jokes about rape to be all that funny. Having read a number of Penny Arcade creators Jerry and Mike’s responses to the criticism of their comic, I absolutely think they could have responded in ways that were much more sensitive and understanding, much less sarcastic and defensive.


I absolutely, positively do not think art and comedy should be safe. They’re not here to make us feel comfortable. They’re not here to help us avoid our fears, our anger, our darkness. It’s not the role of the artist and the comedian to avoid people’s bad triggers. If a comic strip like Penny Arcade or a TV show like Community makes you feel uncomfortable and forces you to deal with your own darkness, it’s not failing, it’s doing what it’s supposed to do. That doesn’t mean you have to like it, but it also doesn’t mean your dislike is the fault of the artist and the comedian. Art should be, on some level, offensive. Comedy should be, on some level, offensive. And it’s the responsibility of the audience, not the artist and comedian, to know where our boundaries are between “I’m uncomfortable, but I like this” and “I’m uncomfortable and I hate this.”

Like I said, I don’t find most rape jokes funny. (Although I thought this joke was pretty damn funny, and I retweeted it after laughing my ass off.) I’m certainly not going to tell anyone that they lack a sense of humor (or are “too uptight” or whatever) because they are offended by rape jokes. But that doesn’t mean rape jokes are objectively unfunny, it just means I personally find them to cross the line from “good uncomfortable” to “bad uncomfortable.” And if an artist or comedian crosses that line too many times for my taste (like, say, Andrew Dice Clay and his “misogynistic asshole” routine), I stop watching them. I change the channel (literally or figuratively). I don’t blame anyone for giving up on Penny Arcade because of a rape joke, but I refuse to accept that it’s Jerry and Mike’s fault that other people were offended by their comic. It’s not their job to avoid people’s triggers. It’s their job to hit them.

I Was Only Dreaming…

I had a long, elaborate dream last night. That’s not unusual for me, but this dream was impossible to sum up in 140 characters, unlike a lot of my other dreams. It’s stuck with this morning, so I thought I’d blog about it.

In my dream, I was hanging out with an aging rock star, a Mick Jagger-type in his early 60s. He acted very flamboyant and effeminate, and many of the other people hanging around with us suspected him of being homosexual. He swore that he wasn’t and made frequent remarks about “shagging lots of babes,” although no one ever actually saw him being physical with women. I also frequently got the impression he was subtly hitting on me. Finally, when the two of us were alone, he confessed that he was more attracted to men than to women, but because he’d grown up in a situation where that was frowned upon, he didn’t really know how to handle it or how to express it publicly. I began talking to him about how sexuality isn’t really binary, that nobody is really “straight” or “gay,” and he needed to accept that he was simply attracted to who he was attracted to, and as long as it was all consensual and adult, it was perfectly fine. I also suggested he seek out a good therapist who could help him come to terms with his sexuality.

(Gee, I’m really wise in my dreams!)

Then the rock star and I went with some friends to a shopping mall that mostly catered to “alternative” folks: supermarkets that sold health food, imports and organics; movie theaters that showed foreign and independent films; occult bookstores. The shopping center was familiar to me; I was sure I’d dreamed about it before. But when I woke up, I realized I can’t actually remember having dreamed about it before last night.

It’s fascinating to me how dream characters and dream locations can seem so familiar in the dream, evoking feelings and emotions so deep that upon awaking, you still feel drawn to these nonexistent people and places. I’ve had at least two dreams set in a city that I was sure was the same city, but who can really say? Dreams are ephemeral, yet they often stick with us long after we’ve awaken. They’re disjointed and illogical, but they often hold some inner sense and logic to them.

Dreams are funny things. And thank goodness for that.