Last spring I secured a Creative Commons license for my book, which is under contract with Princeton University Press. It was was a huge relief for me as I want to publish with PUP but knew there was a serious contradiction if I published a book on Free Software under a copyright license (sort of like printing a Hindu prayer book on leather…).
This article in the chronicle Saving Texts From Oblivion, which opens with a fascinating though unsurprising finding, points to other reasons why an open license is a sensible thing to do, that is, if you want students to read your book:
At a focus group in Oxford University Press’s offices in New York last month, we heard that in a recent essay assignment for a Columbia University classics class, 70 percent of the undergraduates had cited a book published in 1900, even though it had not been on any reading list and had long been overlooked in the world of classics scholarship. Why so many of the students had suddenly discovered a 109-year-old work and dragged it out of obscurity in preference to the excellent modern works on their reading lists is simple: The full text of the 1900 work is online, available on Google Book Search; the modern works are not.
The article, written by Oxford’s editor, has an interesting set arguments about why to support the Google book settlement. It does not, however, really address the question of book piracy, which if anyone has taken a minute to explore, will notice that it is a booming underground economy and the quality of the books is utterly fantastic.
Given these conditions: what will the academic publishers do? No one, at least in academia, wants them to go under and yet conditions have made it difficult for them to survive. I do hope that some interesting solutions, with the financial aid of university support (after all, many are calling for open access) are hacked up.
Calling for tighter copyright controls as this famous judge has done in the case of newspapers is not the path that I hope anyone entertains. In fact, releasing books after a year or two under a CC license might be one path to take, along with providing affordable e-books so that those who do want to support authors and books buy them instead of hitting the pirate stands.