Printed Book Killed the Internet Star

I just came across [this Kimi’s post] and posted the link in there to my Facebook account, and I thought it was a good idea to also post some of my comments there in here.

Firstly, I would like to introduce [this article]. My opinion seems to be somewhere in between, and there are aspects of just on both sides. On one hand, indeed websites like this fail to financially recognise the original authors. But on the other hand, shutting down these websites kill scholars all around the world, especially outside the first-world countries.

I always believe that education is expensive. Doing research is expensive. Collecting papers is expensive. Analysing them is also expensive. Writing a book based on them is even more expensive. This is the effort which websites like this don’t appreciate. But as I said, scholars all around the world are murdered for not being able to purchase it. Their dreams are being crushed.

My ideal thought is to keep research and book-authoring expensive so as to maintain their qualities, but make it available in locally acceptable prices. Prices in USA will be different from prices in, let’s say, Timor Leste. But as I said, this is an ideal thought. I don’t know yet how we can make such system. Or even its possibility. How can we sell an originally USD 100 book in IDR 20,000? Using government subsidy? I am not even sure whether they are thinking about this problem. Moreover, we are talking about the international community in which one country does not have any responsibility for citizens of other countries.

My solution for now, especially for those who don’t have enough money to buy 5 x USD 100 books every semester, although I completely doubt its legality, is to buy books collectively. One hundred people can buy one book on Calculus and make 100 copies, one for each. You still need to pay, but it will be much cheaper. So, this is a trade-off for both publishers and buyers. Publishers won’t get as much money as they should have received, but at least the consumers make some contributions to them. And if you live in countries like my home country of Indonesia, I am quite sure that nobody will trace you for making numerous copies of a whole book. Anyway, we had been doing this for a long time.

BTW I am not sure whether book publishers take these people in third-world countries into account when calculating their potential revenues. They have never bought many, it seems to me. Even in the library of the faculty of the university where I used to study, you can find many copied books. A lot of them. So what I am trying to say is, is it a big loss for publishers when we do this?

Putting things aside, that’s why I always greatly appreciate authors who make some versions of their books available for free online. You can find an example here: [Planning Algorithms] by Steven M. LaValle.

The title is a homage to this classic song from The Buggles:

This is a recurring theme, when a new technology replaces older ones. Earlier this month we saw [the printed versions of Encyclopaedia Britannica being stopped, mainly due to the company’s lost to the emergence of online encyclopedias like Wikipedia]. I dub this “internet killed the printed book star”. What I bring in this post is the exact opposite, in which “printed book killed the internet star”.

3 Responses to “Printed Book Killed the Internet Star”


  1. 1 Eon Strife 18/03/2012 at 8:57 PM

    “My ideal thought is to keep research and book-authoring expensive so as to maintain their qualities, but make it available in locally acceptable prices”

    Ever heard of “International Edition” ?

  2. 2 dnial 19/03/2012 at 12:49 PM

    Non, mon ami. The textbook are expensive because the publisher can do so. The writer need to publish because it is requirement for their credibility, credit for tenure and such. The author portion of those expensive textbooks is fixed or mere 5-10%.

    That is some of the textbook author release their books for free.

    The second argument is many those research has been paid by grants from government, foundation or corporate R&D budgets.

    The publisher can charge that much mainly because their subscriber willing to pay that price. Why you sell a books 10USD a pop if you can sell it 100USD and get more profit.

    This simple economics called capitalism.

    The added values of publisher is peer review but those peer reviewer are do them for free if I recall.

    So, if you can make a collaborative textbooks(automatically peer reviewed) with open source license and can be downloaded, modified and printed at will, you can forced those publisher to lower their price and their profit margin.

    the other option is to pirate their books until they willing to lower their price.

    This of course, only for textbook. The other nonfiction deserve whole new argument.😀

  3. 3 dnial 19/03/2012 at 12:55 PM

    Maybe if sora9n join this discussion he will elaborate more arguments in the “information want to be free part” :p


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