Ebook seminar

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Ebooks: Reading, Copyright, and Digital Rights, soctech seminar Spring 2005

This Week (May 10)

Week 6. More licensing of digital documents

  • Read, prior to class:

Course Description

For several millenia, books have been the primary means used in society to attempt to permanently record and hand down knowledge. By the late 20th Century, books were part of a complex system involving readers, publishers, and authors, each of whose rights were balanced by two hundred years of copyright law. The massive growth of distribution of information in digital form at the end of the 20th Century, including electronic books or "ebooks," created a new environment which challenges the existing balance.

This seminar will explore the present issues surrounding ebooks, including the implications for readers, the law, and technology. No prior background in computer science or law is required. The first weeks of the quarter will focus on a framework for discussion, followed by several theme sessions on various topics.

Schedule details

Week 7. Scholarly publishing

Week 8. Preservation

Week 9. Digital documents in international development

Week 10. Accessibility

Past courses to mine for useful content

Floating readings

These are readings that haven't been matched to a date yet.

  • David A. Bell. "The Bookless Future - What the Internet is doing to scholarship." The New Republic, May 2, 2005 p27

on-campus link

Other notes

  • assumptions:
    • everyone will have at least a layman's understanding of terms
    • we can come up with one good discussable reading per session
    • a volunteer or assigned discussion facilitator for each session
  • Honestly, I don't particularly like the name ebooks. For me, the term is to closely associated with a struggling publishing industry. I think this class is more generally interested in the digital rights issues, and looking to exclude visual and audio art. How about the term "digital word?" - David
  • I don't like the name either, but what does "digital word" mean to anyone? We'll deal with the misconceptions in class. :) - Joshua

How many days worth of class is this?

Past Discussions

Week 1: Intro

  • Discussion leader: Joshua
  • Topics:
    • What this is course about and not about, and why are we here?
    • basic definitions,
    • what attendees want out of the class
  • Notes:
  • We have a wide range of interests, including but not limited to:
-Why are people reading books on tiny screen, and how can it be a better experience?
-How will ebooks fit into the public library?
-With DRM, are we using the "hammer" of technology against a problem that isn't a "nail"?
-Several people are interested in the law, intellectual property, copyright, and fair use
-How can we deal with the very real accessibility concerns?
  • Our attempts at what the definition of an ebook is based on:
-the effort it takes to produce one
-its difference from articles, news, etc.)
-the rights that come along with the name "book"
-something that it relatively static (content-wise)
-we don't know, let the experts decide
-what you do with it defines what it is
-ability to compare with others over time and/or space
-emotional or sentimental connection with an object
  • Ditto, for DRM:
-any technology that treats the user as an adversary
-technological measures that give the illusion of protection/control
-an alternative to trust
-things that give personal comfort to rights holders
  • Joshua's central question for the course:

Taking the current balance for books as a model, what should be balance of rights look like for ebooks and how can DRM technology implement this balance?

Week 2: The Basic Framework

Week 3. Copyright of digital documents

Week 4. DRM Technology

Week 5. In Libraries: "Can I check out this eBook?"

Please check out an ebook before class so that you can more readily understand the process from the users perspective.

  • Discussion leader: Peter Cole and KCLS Guests: Selection Librarian Angie Benedetti, Associate Director Bruce Schauer
  • Topics:
    • library's issues to include ebooks- selection, vendors, public access
    • complicated and expensive reading devices
    • potentially crippling legal problems