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    Location: Aberystwyth, Wales, United Kingdom

    I am the owner and managing director of Information Automation Limited (IAL), a company that specialises in research, consultancy and training for the information profession. We are particularly interested in all forms of electronic information resources (e-journals, e-books, etc) and I teach a course in electronic publishing at the Department of Information Studies in Aberystwyth. Drilling down still further(!), my interests centre on the quality and evaluation of electronic information, and in the thinking that underpins activities in library and information science.
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    Monday, July 30, 2007

    e-Books: Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose

    Richard Stallman describes himself as someone who devotes his efforts to progressive activism (such as the free software movement). The largest part of his website has to do with US politics. David Rothman at TeleRead has a transcript of Rothman's July 5th presentation on copyright (taken from Slashdot and verified from watching the ogg-theora video) and has reprinted parts of it.

    The interesting bit is Stallman's rant against e-books as an evil device of publishers designed to take away the public's freedom to use books. In 'What is it about e-books?' I published Richard Charkin's (and he's a publisher) speculations about why e-books were not an over-night success in the scholarly arena; if Richard Stallman (obviously NOT a publisher!) continues to spread his message, it is going to be very hard for e-books to be accepted at all. Which would be a pity, as they clearly have much to offer - searching across a library of books in seconds has to be some sort of a bonus - and publishers, in the UK at least, are working to understand the needs of the academic and library communities in terms of copyright/DRM/licences, etc.

    And what of the rant? Here is the beginning and end of it:
    And what about … what about books? Book publishers are trying to do the same kind of thing. You might remember a few years ago, there was a lot of hype for e-Books. Supposedly we were all gonna start reading e-Books. And guess what? Those e-Books came with DRM. Readers of books traditionally enjoy a range of freedoms under copyright law, which did not give publishers total power over all use of a published work. For instance, there is the freedom to borrow a book from the Public Library, and the freedom to sell a book to a used book store, and the freedom to lend a book to a friend, and the freedom to buy a book anonymously by paying cash, and there’s even the freedom to keep the book for years and read it as many times as you’d like, and pass it on, perhaps to your children, who might read it as many times as they like... All these freedoms, the publishers want to take away from us... So we’d better spread the word now: we’d better get … we better build up the opposition to this repeat attempt to make us accept e-Books. We’ve got to value our freedom.
    I should note that this is an unofficial transcript and that David Rothman has made it very clear that he is willing to remove/edit/correct it should he be asked to do so. But he is also confident of its accuracy and asks to reprint the talk in its entirety.

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