Categorystudents

Free Audiobooks, YouTube, and Copyright

When searching for some of the latest news and developments surrounding the publishing industry, I felt compelled to see what new changes may be surrounding audiobooks. I didn’t choose audiobooks because I particularly like them or am familiar with them, in fact, I’ve never actually used one ever before. To me, audiobooks seemed to have more of a link to the future of publishing for a number of reasons. First of all, an audiobook is a highly accessible type of medium for people of all ages and can be experienced in a diverse range of environments. Secondly, these books fit harmoniously into the age of digital consumption, where readers are more often using their phones to get access to news and current events on the go.

With a set of headphones, readers can not only listen and experience their favourite books while in transit, but they will also retain some sense of individual privacy to the books they are enjoying as opposed to reading a codex version and revealing their personal interests to those who see the handheld book’s cover. Andrew Piper argues that we relate to reading books as individuals, and that it also serves as a form of individuation based on how we do it. Yet, at the same time, when books are placed in social media websites or apps and changed into audiobooks, Piper also argues that there can now be more of a collective association through integration with our shared online personalities.

In this case, we can understand how audiobooks are able prosper, as Piper claims: “How different technologies facilitate or inhibit the act of sharing will be a key determinant not only of their future success, but of the way we think about reading.” (Piper, 2012).

Again, I admit that I don’t use audiobooks at all despite their benefits and effective integration with today’s technology, but I was very intrigued to find out that YouTube (something I do frequently use), has been recently considered one of the five most five useful sources for free Audiobooks.  After seeing this news article, it was then that I realized that YouTube was actually one of the first places that I had ever come across an advertisement for Audible, Amazon’s portal for audiobooks. One of my favourite YouTube personalities was offering a special promotion code to Audible by embedding a sponsored message at the end of his own video content, which was different from seeing the standard types of commercials or advertisements before videos that you could skip over after a few seconds. During this promo message, I understood that audiobooks wouldn’t normally be a free service, and that some sort of subscription-based business model would be in place for the premium audio libraries such as Audible. In fact, Audible is listed among the free sources in the article mentioned above, but the supposedly “free” content is the rotating list of 50 titles in the Audible catalog that only Amazon Prime members will have access to. Essentially, after a 30-day free trial runs out of Amazon Prime, Canadians would be spending an annual fee of $79.00 plus applicable taxes to enjoy their premium audiobooks. A lot of what makes these audiobooks “premium” seems to revolve around the fact that they’re bestsellers, or that they even have celebrity narrated classics to keep listeners even more riveted with their chosen genre of book.

However, audiobooks don’t really need these elements to thrive, as YouTube has managed to prove that truly free access can be the most enticing thing necessary. By adding a YouTube account like AudiobooksFree to an RSS feed, users can essentially create their own basic subscription service of free published content to their hearts content. One classmate in my publishing class has already confirmed that he’s made the most of YouTube to find some of his favourite novels in audiobook form, but he had also admitted to it probably being “totally illegal”.

This is where books seem to begin following in the footsteps of music, which is one of many art forms that has constantly been at war with copyright infringement and illegal downloading during the digital age. There is a great irony to the fact that books are following suit, especially if we consider how music and movies seemed adopt characteristics of the book medium throughout the years by the process of remediation. By definition, remediation is “the representation of one medium in another” (Bolter and Grusin, 1998), and we see examples when we hear terms like “music libraries” or “albums”. Now, however, it seems the tables have turned so that audiobooks are inadvertently adopting the bad characteristics of music listeners by getting tangled up in copyright infringement and piracy because of their popularity online. It should then come as no surprise that authors are similarly going to war over piracy with listeners and fans of their work once it is handed out freely and loses its market value.

The aforementioned article by MoneyTalksNews reveals that many audio books on YouTube belong to the public domain, this means that their copyright laws are most likely expired and over 100 years old, or they could also be forfeited. Alternatively, many other uploaded audiobooks could very well be illegally recorded or shared, which blurs the lines of ethical sharing if users are free to access it and don’t want to know the difference.

Take this worst case scenario for best-selling author Ryan Holiday as a nightmare example, as he recently discovered his own audiobook was free to access on YouTube after reading a comment for his audiobook on Amazon where it was being sold. Holiday was forced to file a copyright claim on the videos of his audiobooks on YouTube that were collecting thousands of views and thus ruining his chance collecting earnings through Amazon. What’s worse is that authors like him are at a massive disadvantage for ensuring that their audiobooks are prevented from piracy through the use of YouTube’s ContentID tracking technology that helps to locate copyrighted material. Normally, only big publishing houses are granted the ability to use ContentID as a preventative measure to locate the illegally shared material on YouTube in the same way that copyrighted music or video files can be. Unfortunately, audiobooks are more often published by smaller companies who aren’t given the same access to this tracking technology, and are forced to hunt down the specific accounts who post pirated material. Audiobooks are also at a great disadvantage to other pirated files like podcasts because they don’t adopt the same practice of having advertisements embedded in them to guarantee some return of revenue.

Therefore, YouTube is a great vessel for the audiobook as it surges in popularity, but for the amount of legal concerns that will arise from pirated content, the website is severely lacking in adequate ways to deal with the negative impacts on authors. The publishing industry has already resorted to outsourcing their anti-piracy efforts to third party companies who help to generate the takedown requests for any e-books or audiobooks that are shared for free. As a result, the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) has reportedly doubled its takedown requests in October this year and set a new record from the amount that was sent in at the same time last year. From this emerging trend we can connect back to Piper’s quote about the success of books based on how different technologies can inhibit or facilitate the act of sharing, and especially how it determines the way we think about reading.  Those people who choose to illegally upload audiobooks are contributing to the success of the book in terms of popularity, but are also robbing the authors of their fair share of profits and tarnishing the book industry.  We can relate back to music sharing again because of the way that people are able to easily download whatever they want, but they inevitably contribute to negative implications that will impact the artists and marketplace. Audiobooks can continue to be successful themselves, but as their collective audiences continue to make a habit of cheating their way to free access, the authors will be faced with an increasingly uphill battle to regaining fair compensation.

 

References

Bolter, Jay David, and Richard Grusin. 1998. Immediacy, Hypermediacy, and Remediation.  In Remediation: Understanding New Media. Cambridge: The MIT Press.

Holiday, R. (2016). When Will YouTube Deal With Its Audiobook and Podcast Piracy Problem? Retrieved October, 2016, from http://observer.com/2016/08/when-will-youtube-deal-with-its-audiobook-and-podcast-piracy-problem/

Kozlowski, Michael (2016). DMCA Takedown Requests Set a New Record. Retrieved October, 2016, from http://goodereader.com/blog/digital-publishing/dmca-takedown-requests-set-a-new-record

Neiman, Melissa (2016). 5 Sources of Free Audiobooks. Retrieved October, 2016, from http://www.moneytalksnews.com/5-sources-free-audiobooks/

Piper, Andrew. 2012. “Sharing”. In Book Was There: Reading in Electronic Times. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 83-108.

 

Print vs. eBooks: Why does it exist, and will it ever end?

It’s a debate that has now existed for a number of years and one that has almost been beaten to death; print vs. digital reading. Which will be the future? Will print books cease to exist? Or will both co-exist peacefully? It’s a topic that will not go away anytime soon, but one I am still interested in analyzing in greater detail here.

First, let’s examine print books. There are numerous articles out there stating that print book sales are on a steep decline. For example, Publisher’s Weekly published an article stating that in the first quarter of 2016, sales of adult books fell 10.3% compared to sales numbers in 2015, and mass market paperback sales fell 25.5% compared to a year earlier. In another article published by Publisher’s Weekly, they state that in a case of déjà vu all over again Barnes & Noble, the biggest book selling chain in the US, is closing another location in the New York area. It was a similar announcement to one made “almost exactly two years ago to the day.”

However, there are also people who state that print books are going as strong as ever. One such person is Michael Kozlowski. His article on Good e Reader states that in the United Kingdom, physical book sales turned up, from £2.74bn to £2.76bn. It’s not a huge improvement, but it’s an improvement nonetheless. Kozlowski in the article also states that “it looks like e-books were merely a passing fad and many people have switched back to print.” He points to numerous statistics such as e-books sales as a percentage of total book sales “fell from 35.9% in April 2015 to 32.4% in April 2016.”

The same is true for eBooks. Many people believe that the eBook is the way of the future, and that print books will slowly cease to exist. An article by Mathew Ingram in Fortune states that e-books are not declining. Ingram states that the stats that say eBooks are dying don’t take into consideration the whole picture; in fact, the market share of established publishers such as Random House has been declining, while sales of independently published e-books have been growing. He even said an article by the New York Times “had more than a whiff of anti-digital Schadenfreude about it.”

However, there are also people who state that e-books are simply a passing fad. For example, Jim Milliot of Publishers Weekly takes an in-depth look at e-books sales and their decline. His article states that Publishers found that sales of eBooks for trade publishers fell 14% in 2015 compared to 2014. Going more in depth, it says that the decline of e-book sales is probably because of two reasons. First, reading on a digital device is still an optional thing. Unlike music for example, which has entirely switched over to digital mediums such as smartphones, books haven’t had that same transition. As well, Milliot also mentions something called “digital fatigue.” Digital fatigue can be simply described as a weariness attributable to forced connectivity and excessive usage of screens, drawn from the idea that one does not want to look at an ereader after spending all day likely looking at a computer and smartphone screen.

How did it get to this point?

The debate between print and eBooks is really an extension of a larger debate within society in the 21st century. Is it better to go with new technology? Or is the old way of doing things just as good, if not superior.

We can see this debate in various other cultural industries, such as the music industry. Since file sharing site Napster started to become popular around the year 1999, the music industry has undergone a profound shift. (Side note: Napster actually still exists believe it or not. It’s just evolved into a music streaming site.) Now, instead of going to a big box music store such as HMV, people are buying music online – or more often than not, downloading it illegally. Not only are people getting music differently, but they are consuming music differently as well. 20 years ago, most people listened to music on a CD player or a Walkman; now, most people listen to music on their phones or their computer. Music is now consumed on a digital streaming service such as Spotify, illegally downloading it through a number of different channels, or purchasing it through iTunes.

Likewise with the movie industry. 20 years ago, to watch a movie at go, one had to physically pick up a copy from either a local movie place, or from a big box rental place such as Blockbuster. If you missed a movie when it was in theatres, you would have to wait until it was released on VHS before you could see it. However, that has now changed. Netflix now allows you to watch an unlimited amount of films, for a monthly subscription fee. And of course, you can illegally download films that are still in movie theaters, if you want to watch them that badly.

Now this debate has extended to the book industry. While the way in which books are read has not been decided, the way they are purchased has been. Amazon is arguably the biggest seller of print books, and one of the largest in e-books as well. Big box retail stores such as Chapters-Indigo in Canada, and Barnes & Noble in the United States, are starting to close.

The only difference is, we have yet to decide a winner. Unlike music and movies, the new way of consuming the product has not won yet. Netflix had 70 million subscribers in 2015, and that number is surely to increase in the future. Music is now predominantly streamed online or illegally downloaded. However, as we can see above, print books and e-books are currently in a battle for superiority.

The Future

So as we can see, most people are divided on the subject. Some people believe print books are dying, and some believe they are on the decline; likewise for e-books. We’ve also examined some reasons why this debate has gotten to this point. So what is the future for both? Well, it will probably be a future in which both co-exist peacefully.

First, there is no real convenience to switching to eBooks as compared to print books. Unlike music, digital formats gave way to greater convenience and sharing. With the introduction of portable mp3 players such as the iPod, no longer were you forced to carry around a bulky portable CD player. You could hold thousands of songs in the palm of your hand, and listen to them however many times you want. With the proliferation of illegal music, you could also download music from the past 40 years and have it on your iPod.

Same with movies. Netflix and other streaming services provided a way to be able to watch entire TV shows and movie series without leaving your couch. No longer did you have to physically go out and rent a series of VHS’ and DVD’s. Illegal downloads also allow you to watch nearly everything for free as well.

EBooks do not provide a higher level of convenience that print books. There’s no incentive to switch over to eBooks from print books. An e-book reader is around the same size as a paperback; they haven’t gotten to sizes of iPods or smartphones because it would ruin the experience of reading. Reading for extended period of time on an iPhone is painful; thus they have to stay the same size as books or no one would use them.

Another thing that has played into the popularity of digital music and movies that will probably not translate into digital books is time of consumption. The average song is around 3 minutes and 30 seconds in length, with a whole album being around 1 hour or more. The average TV show is 21-42 minutes without commercials. Movies range from one hour to close to three. This plays into the hands of the digital medium; it’s easily digestible and once you finish one, you can easily move on to the other.

However, it takes much longer for someone to read an entire book. From personal experience, the fastest I’ve ever read a book was in six hours, and that was an incredibly short book. And unlike movies or music, you don’t read an entire book in one sitting; you usually read parts of it at a time over an extended period of time. Thus, you won’t be scouring the internet constantly looking for new material, and won’t be likely to buy or download a ton of eBooks.

Conclusion

In all, the truth between eBooks and print books lies somewhere in the middle. EBooks will probably not change the way that books are read in the near future, but they are not going away either. Likewise, print books are not once the dominant way of reading, but they are not going away anytime soon. The publishing industry has changed; however, unlike other forms of media, the new way of consuming the content will probably not take over quite yet. Both will coexist for the time being.

Crowdfunding – A Way to Involve Readers in the Publishing Process

Crowdfunding books is an opportunity for authors, both new and well-known, to share their new ideas with the general public. Authors can find out if their book idea would sell just by using online crowdfunding websites. Although publishers still play a role in the creative process, the decision of whether or not the book will be published is based on consumer’s choices. Crowdfunding a book does not always mean asking for the entire costs for it. Some people only require a certain amount that they cannot afford, for example, money to pay for an artist to design their cover art (Bausells, 2015). Platforms such as Kickstarter and Unbound are one of many sites that help crowdfund projects and “gives publishers the capacity to involve fans directly, and skip all the layers between the creator and the reader” (Bausells, 2015).

The connection between authors and readers are bridged because they are part of the creative process. Crowdfunding is a way for authors to connect with their fans and ask for help in making their book a reality. Generating sales is not the first priority of this process but finding support is. This support is as much about helping the author as it is about supporting an idea for a book. Most, if not all, crowdfunded books are either partially written or not written at all. Some authors start their crowdfunding to see whether or not their idea is compelling to readers before they spend time on writing it. An example of crowdfunding being successful is a book called “Content Warfare” by Ryan Hanley which was crowdfunded on Publishizer.com (Morkes, 2016). He had an interesting idea but was unsure of whether or not it would sell. So he started crowdfunding and within 30 days of his campaign he reached $10, 000 for his unwritten book (Morkes, 2016). This displays a possible market for crowdfunded books. It creates a fanbase for an author’s book that includes both supporters and fans who are eagerly waiting for the completion of the book.

There are two different methods of crowdfunding, “platforms that help you connect with your audience or full-service book publishers that use crowdfunding to decide what to publish” (Kaye, 2015). Fundraising Platforms such as Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and Publishizer allow authors the freedom to choose their own editors, designers, printers, marketers, etcetera. Authors only have to give a small portion of the money raised to the platform they chose to use; percentage of the said small portion is dependant on the platform as well and whether or not the crowdfunding was successful. The second method involves book publishers that use crowdfunding sources. The book publishers would take care of finding editors, designers, marketers, and distributors for the author; the publishers would only profit if the crowdfunding was a success (Kaye, 2015). These crowdfunding publishers include Inkshares and Unbound. Crowdfunding is an opportunity for open collaboration with the possibility of making a profit throughout the process, “it can be democratic, open, and financially lucrative for authors while also inviting the participation of a broad community of booksellers, publishing professionals, and readers” (Kaye, 2015).

To provide an example of how a fundraising platform works, here is Publishizer. There are three simple steps for the author: write a book proposal, validate readership, and choose a publisher. For the first step, the author needs to write something like a business plan for their book. The second step for authors is to generate support for their idea. The specific goal for the author is to have 500 pre-orders for their book within 30 days. If this goal is reached Publishizer will query interested publishers for the author. The third step involves the author contacting the list of interested publishers that Publishizer has collected and request publishing offers (Publishizer, 2016). When readers browse different books on Publishizer, they see a list of different books, each with their own cover art as well as information regarding how that particular book is doing. Readers would see the monetary amount raised, the number of pre-orders that author has, the number of days left in the campaign out of the 30 day limit that is given to the author, as well as the number of publishers that have shown an interest in their book idea.

An example of a website that helps full-service book publishers to use crowdfunding to decide what to publish, here is Unbound. Similar to Publishizer, Unbound has a number of stages to its crowdfunding process. Authors are required to go through five steps: pitching an idea, the contract, crowdfunding, production, and the completion of the project. The first step for authors is to pitch their book idea to the Commissioning Editors; where they will decide if the idea is worth supporting. The second step involves signing a contract; the author maintains their intellectual rights, Unbound gets the licence to produce and publish the author’s work, and profits are split 50/50 (Unbound, 2015). The third step is to write the book; this is more of the waiting period for authors, while they write their book, pre-orders are sold by Unbound. The fourth step is production; Unbound has a team of professionals who include writers, designers, editors, publishers, and product managers who will take care of the whole production process (Unbound, 2015). The final step is the completion of the project. Not only do supporters of the book receive a physical copy, the book is also sold into popular stores by Penguin Random House (Unbound, 2015). While browsing the various book ideas, readers can immediately see the percentage funded. On Unbound however, the cover art is not created and may prove difficult in catching readers’ attention. Many people judge a book by its cover, in this case, select a book by its cover. Unlike Publishizer, Unbound does not put a time limit for the authors. Once the book reaches the funding target, the publishing process begins.

Both fundraising platforms, Publishizer and Unbound, provide readers with a video trailer of the author and the book idea, a synopsis of the book, a small biography of the author, and different monetary ways readers could support their favourite idea. Readers have the freedom to choose the denomination they want to contribute to a partially written book. Authors have the responsibility to only provide rewards that they can fulfill once the process has ended. Lower monetary donations are awarded with perks such as their names printed on the back, a physical copy of the book, and an ebook. Some more expensive options include $50 for a copy of the book with a limited edition cover art, $310 for a personal dedication from the author, and $1000 for 50 signed copies of the book, shirts, posters, and coffee mugs. This is all dependant on the author and the crowdfunding platform they choose to use.

Although there are many pros to crowdfunding, one of them being that the success of their book is largely based upon consumer interests, authors are still facing the difficulty of having publishers decide whether or not their idea is worth supporting. Publishizer requires publishers to be interested in the author’s idea and Unbound requires the idea to be accepted by their Commissioning Editors before moving forward. Authors are putting their faith in readers themselves; to give their idea a chance. Another factor that needs to be considered with the idea of crowdfunding a book is that the book is not complete. This means that the little preview of the book that people have read may be the best part of the book. Similar to watching a movie trailer, thinking that it would be an amazing movie, deciding to pay to see it in theatres, and then coming out disappointed because the best of the movie was the trailer itself. Crowdfunding is not something like Netflix where the audience has the ability to exit out of their choice and select another movie to watch. It can prove to be difficult to find supporters if people can walk into a bookstore, pick up a book, and if they like what they are reading so far, they purchase it. Crowdfunding a book, or crowdfunding anything, requires people to put a lot of faith in the creator of the project, as well as a monetary donation. Depending on the amount that people donate, it may not be an issue if the supporter receives a poorly written book for a $5 donation. On the opposite end of the spectrum, if someone pays $1000 for the book to be published, they are probably expecting an amazing book as a result.

“The idea of funding books by subscriptions is actually something that was very popular in the 18th century” (Kaye, 2015) and has made its way back into the industry. It is an increasingly popular way for authors to not only spread their ideas across the globe but to involve their potential readers in the publishing process as well. The method of crowdfunding books seems to be a growing industry and although it has its pros and cons, much like everything else, it would be interesting to see whether or not it it takes over as the main method of book publishing.

 

References

Bausells, Marta. (2015, June 5). Kickstarting a books revolution: the literary crowdfunding boom. Retrieved from: The Guardian https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/jun/05/the-literary-crowdfunding-boom

Kaye, Matt. (2015, March 31). What You Need to Know About Crowdfunded Publishing. Retrieved from: Jane Friedman       https://janefriedman.com/crowdfunded-publishing/

Morkes, Tom. (2016). The Complete Guide to Crowdfunding Your Book. Retrieved from: Tom Morkes                                                                                             http://tommorkes.com/the-complete-guide-to-crowdfunding-your-book/

Now, there is a better way to get published. (2016). Publishizer, Inc. Retrieved from: https://publishizer.com/about/authors/

How It Works. (2015). Unbound. Retrieved from https://unbound.com/about

Planned Obsolescence: Publishing, Technology, and the Future of the Academy

Planned Obsolescence: Publishing, Technology, and the Future of the Academy is a book by Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Director of Scholarly Communication at the Modern Language Association and Visiting Research Professor of English at New York University, published by NYU Press on November 1, 2011. Authorship is one of the chapter’s from this book. In this chapter, Fiztpatrick talks about changing the traditional authorship methods of writing scholarly articles. She thinks that we need to approach authorship from a different perspective in the digital age—the key lying in interaction. She critics the individualistic and solitary approach to writing a paper as an elitist and limited way of approaching a particular topic. She accepts that the traditional method holds more originality and authorship to the article but on the other hand she feels that academic articles must be more accessible to everyone by making them more collaborative and interactive by enabling readers to comment and develop their own ideas which the author could implement in their writings.

Thus, Fitzpatrick defines in her chapter the significant changes that should happen with academic authorship – from a final product to a process of constant interactive changes, from an individual effort to a collective achievement, from an original idea to a remix of several different perceptions, and from intellectual property to the gift economy. Essentially what she is talking about is a shift from the accepted traditional method of authorship to a one that involves a community of interested readers to generate different ideas and formulate an article with more minds than one. She identifies that the word processing as a highly interactive technology that enables interested readers to revise and comment back almost instantly. She argues that by releasing the text to the readers and making them available to comment upon, authors can immerse into several different ideas that he/she may not have thought about. Essentially her model of writing would make online authorship an ongoing, process-oriented work which would increase the amount of time that they must invest in their writing. Fitzpatrick believe that allowing readers to comment on early versions helps improve later drafts.

Fitzpatrick acknowledges that online writing, and particularly the use of platforms that enable reader comments, will require authors to develop a different relationship to their work and completely rethink their perception of writing. They would have to return to their website to read constructive comments and make changes accordingly. She suggests that scholars use a Creative Commons license for scholarly work to facilitate the use and reuse of material for the collective benefit of the community. She thinks that the writers must be committed to supporting online discussions without dominating them, encouraging to share the most radical to the most constructive comments. She suggests that giving our work away “in a manner that acknowledges that its primary purpose is to be reused and repurposed, we have the potential to contribute to the creation of both better tools and a stronger sense of the scholarly public” (83).

She also discusses the academic anxiety about writing and thinks that network technologies might help us feel less alone and less lost in the writing process. Writing and publishing in networked environments might require a fundamental change not just in the tools with which we work, or in the ways that we interact with our tools, but in our senses of our selves as we do that work, and in the institutional understandings of the relationships between scholars and their now apparently independent silos of production. She argues that thinking about authorship from a different perspective could result in a more productive, and less anxious, relationship to our work. The interaction, participation, and conversation that occur during scholarly creation helps the academy communicate with the broader public. She says “We need to think less about completed products and more about texts-in-process; less about individual authorship and more about collaboration; less about originality and more about remix; less about ownership and more about sharing.” (p. 83)

I thought her proposed method of authorship is quite idealistic as it would be very difficult to moderate user comments and also verify the legitimacy of the article. Will students be able to use an interactive scholarly article for research purposes? How do we know if all the information or data on the article are accurate? Then there’s also the question of being too open and who’d benefit from the published article? The original author? Then what about the readers who have actively commented on the process of writing the article. What would be the incentive of the writer other than betterment of the community? Surely if there are no economic incentives to writing there would less and less people interested to invest their time and effort into it.

Works Cited

Fitzpatrick, Kathleen. 2009. Two: Authorship. In Planned Obsolescence: Publishing, Technology, and the Future of the Academy. Media Commons Press.

Lisa Nakamura: “Words with Friends”: Socially Networked Reading on Goodreads

The ways in which we receive information and interact with our environment and others have dramatically changed; the book is at the forefront of this change, with technology being its catalyst. When we consider what the role of the book in society is today, this question is certainly complex and multifaceted. By comparing the traditional print forms such as books and newspapers with the digital platforms of social media applications, it is evident that these different publications overlap in nature. In the article “Words with Friends”: Socially Networked Reading on Goodreads, Lisa Nakamura offers an insightful critique on how our relationships within our social networks have been modified by technological disruption and intervention. Specifically, she focuses on how digital media has new created new social valences of reading, emphasizing how websites such as Goodreads offers all the conventions of social networking which allows reading to become a more social and creative process.

Nakamura begins by highlighting how digital media has allowed texts to become more lively because writers and readers can interact with each other and create intimate social relationships. She suggests that instead of focusing on the book’s new forms and the devices themselves, we should shift the conversation to understand how that use of digital reading devices have added value to the act of reading and the surrounding discourse. I appreciate the author challenging the notion of false divisions between old and new media, which we also touched upon last week in the reading Mediation and the Vitality of Media. In the era of movable type and handwritten manuscripts, public engagement was low and rare. With the emergence of the public sphere, we have experienced a vast shift in society from a print literate to digitally literate culture. However, it is important that we acknowledge that it is not the tools themselves that have singlehandedly created this shift in our media landscape, but understand that is it our shift in behaviour and how we interact with these tools that have transformed our readership and authorship. The focus should not be on the apparatus itself, but instead its functions, what it has to offer, and how it benefits our user experience.

Goodreads, the largest social network site for readers, is regarded by Nakamura as an “exemplary Web 2.0 business” as it offers all the conventions of social networking, inviting participants to comment, buy, blog, rank, and reply through a range of devices, networks, and services. Of course, Web 2.0 is reflective of how we are all now creators and shapers of content and experience, which brings us back to the author’s emphasis on how books have always been a means of social networking and should be viewed as being commodified and digital. While different mediums offer very distinct reader experiences, when we begin to unpack the idea of a book, it is not bound by any one form but as its role in society, which is a source of communication. Regardless of the medium, both print and digital technologies offer a social experience.

What I found the most intriguing about this article is Nakamura’s critique on how Goodreads creates an “egocentric network of public reading performance” which emphasizes the “pleasures of readerly sociality… [and] foregrounds reading as a spectacle of collecting.” The author explains how the website’s main purpose is to provide users with familiar tools that encourage them to perform their identities as readers in a public and networked forum. She supports this argument by highlighting how Goodreads shelves remediate earlier reading cultures where books were displayed in the home as signs of taste and status. As a website that is structured around public consumption that produces and publicizes a reading self, does it then become just another extension of our digital identity? I would tend to side with Nakamura as she continually drives the point of our identities as readers as being a “spectacle” and a “performance.” As we communicate through these social media applications, we become more aware of ourselves relative to the rest of the online community that we engage with. These tools contribute to our reputation management and community participation and become another way for us to negotiate our sense of self within the public sphere.

She further argues that by availing ourselves to display our readership, “we are both collecting and being collected under a new regime of controlled consumership”. Goodreads shows us how social networking about books has become a commodity and how user content has been placed in the service of commerce. I found Nakamura’s argument to be a deeply interesting link to our identities as consumers, where she highlights how we “pay with our attention and our readerly capital, our LOLs, rankings, conversations, and insights into narrative, character, and literary tradition.” Not only has digitization transformed the way we access and consume information and how we experience books, it has also transformed the way we understand our consumership and what we value and privilege. There is a constant battle for our attention in an increasingly cluttered and competitive media landscape, and we “pay” through means of social capital.

Within digital publishing, we have experienced significant developments in defining the roles of author, publisher, and reader. More than ever before, it is crucial for users to learn how to be able to mediate between these various roles with ease. Authors are able to have the flexibility and freedom to create and share their content, while also having the opportunity to play an active role in being able to build and engage with their publics and audiences. As the patterns of the digital network are exploratory and unpredictable, the pace of our creation and participation have also subsequently accelerated, which bears a whole new level of potentiality for sharing ideas and collaboration. As we examine the features of this new environment and consider both the benefits and implications, we are then able to gain a better understanding of how much the web is becoming integral to how we understand and co-exist with both our digital selfhood and the world around us.

Works Cited

Nakamura, Lisa. 2013. “Words with Friends”: Socially Networked Reading on Goodreads. PMLA 128 (1). 238-243.

Take it and Read – Andrew Piper

Katrina Abel
Publishing 401
September 27, 2016

In chapter one, Take it and Read, Piper discusses historical text dated back to the end of the fourth century. Piper outlines the important relationship between text and touch and how the book has served as a tool of reflection. He introduces ‘touch’ as the most elementary sense. Piper uses the sense of touch to recognize that the physical connection between humans and text is constantly being challenged by new technology. He argues that digital text has altered the human physical connectivity with the written word. Our generation has become reliant upon digital text which provides a stimulation that diminishes the authenticity of the book.

Piper discusses the end of the fourth century, the time of St. Augustine and his influence during the development of Western Christianity. Piper addresses this time period when codex formally took the place of the scroll. At the time, codex was the most common and everyday form of reading material. St. Augustine’s conversion to Christianity was enlightened through his physical connection he felt when reading the bible. The bible and its material function was a symbol for St. Augustine during his conversion. It “was an affirmation of the new technology of the book that within the lives of individuals, indeed, as the technology that helped turn readers into individuals” (Piper, 2012). Turning the pages of the book was powerful enough to change him from a reader to a spiritual human being.

Piper conveys his ideas through St. Augustine’s experience with codex. Piper’s idea that the book can turn a reader into an individual carries immense responsibility. I find it intriguing that by holding a book, the reader can feel the way that it is bound together. The pages and print provide a different connection; one that many prefer over reading off of a screen. Before reading this chapter I never put much thought into why I preferred the authenticity of holding a book as opposed to digital text. Piper’s discussion of the sense of ‘touch’ and its definition as “the most elementary sense” (Piper,2012) provided some answers for me. Pipers explanation of the book as a tool of self reflection allowed me to better understand his argument.

The ‘at hand’ concept of the book provided a climactic period in St. Augustine’s life. The material ability of the book created a physical sensation through touch. It also created an unexpected spiritual relationship. I learned throughout this reading that the hand is symbolic for openness. While our hands are open our minds are open. The transition from the scroll to the book allowed for humans to physically feel, what Piper calls, the ‘graspability’ of a book. I prefer to hold a book and read the pages over reading the same story from an e-reader. When I am holding the book in my hands, the book also holds my attention; immersing me in the story and characters without any distractions. This codex form allows me to access the story that is inside of the book.

I realized that my imagination is far more creative and meaningful when I plunge into a book’s story line than when I have the ability to skim through digital text on an e-reader. The words on the page become multidimensional. For many, books have been an immediate source of media from a young age. It is comforting to know that the book is there, regardless off its different formats.

Piper continues his argument by stating that digital text cannot be held or grasped. The folds and pages of a book have now been transformed into an unreliable online world. Digital text can be altered and deleted making it hard for readers to trust. I agree with Piper when he says the online world may seem a little out of touch. This is because anyone is capable of going online and changing information. I strongly believe that technology has made the mind of our generation lazy.

A book should always be a symbol of freedom of mind and imagination. As Piper states, “our hands are becoming brooms, sweeping away the alphabetic dust before us”, (Piper,2012) just as every new media is sweeping away a book’s authenticity in some form. I hope that in future years, readers will still have an urge to pick up a book and make a connection, similar to the one that I feel. Physical touch with a book has allowed me to realize the potential in my mind that I do not feel with digital text. I believe that there will always be an intimacy in holding the book and flipping the pages.

Work Cited

Piper, Andrew. 2012. “Take It and Read”. In Book Was There: Reading in Electronic Times. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1-44.

Mediations and the Vitality of Media Life after New Media: Mediation as a Vital Process by Kember, S. and Zyliska, J.

In the first chapter of “Life after New Media: Mediation as a Vital Process (2015),” Sarah Kember and Joanna Zyliska have drawn theoretical foundation and applied case study for understanding the old and new media and its dynamic processes of mediation. New media, which authors define as ‘a set of discrete objects to understanding media, old and new, in terms of the interlocked and dynamic processes of mediation’ (p. 1) have resulted a division of the world into categories, also called false divisions. Our limited dualism or binary or oppositional thinking such as analog vs. digital, readerly vs. writerly, mass vs. participatory, constructs ontological conceptualizations of them (p. 3). The authors then address the concept of ‘originary technicity,’ which proposes, “We have always been technical,” in other words, “we have always been mediated” (p.18). They argue that mediation is interconnected with ‘life’. Their study concludes that “mediation” is being-with and emerging-with the technological world.

The initial aspect of the term “new media” is ‘newness.’ However, authors highlight that the newness of the products and processes that get described as “new media” should not be taken at face value (p. 3) because their meaning is different. They express “newness” functions as a commercial imperative (p. 4). For example, new products or services demand to upgrade computers, smartphones and any devices in order to exhibit the one’s advanced labour and social relations. However, authors point out two key terms illustrating “new media,” which are converging and interactive. It is aware that new media are categorized as more active consumption whereas old media such as newspaper, radio and books as passive consumption. However, according to the reading, authors have depicted one of the old media, book as a medium that isn’t different from new media: “… a philosophical plane of immanence or a fictional world of novel has always required an active participation and contribution from the reader, not to mention the efforts of all those who have been involved in their editing, design, production and distribution. Arguably, books are thus as hypertextual, immersive and interactive as any computerized media (p. 4)”. Therefore, it is significant that old media is already interactive and converged and thus there is no borderline between new and old media. Although Gary Hall, the author of Digitize This Book!, demonstrates old media, including book is inherently instable and becomes obfuscated since it is difficult to find interactivity between authors and readers and more leaning toward to creativeness and collaboration of “new media”, this point of view enhances the binary concept, resulted in linear, cause-and-effect way thinking, which is the major problem of making false division. Thus, its binary and an cause-and-effect thinking about media and the process of mediation must be eliminated.

The authors then bring the concept of ‘originary technicity’ by illustrating the history of Greeks by Stiegler. This history uncovers that human is a technological being: human being that has the power to create but also relies on external elements to fully realize his being (p. 16). He states, “orignary technicity can therefore be understood as a condition of openness to what is not part the human, of having to dependent on alterity – be it in the form of gods, other humans, fire or utensils – to fully constitute and actualize one’s being” (p.17-18). This statement underlines that technology was and still is part of us (human) and we have always been technical or mediated. According to Bergson, mediation can be seen as another term for “life,” for being-in and emerging-with world (p. 22). The authors believe that the possibility of the emergence of forms always new or potentiality to generate unprecedented connections and unexpected events (p. 24).

This reading has changed the way I think of new media and the process of mediation. As a student in the field of Communication, the concept of digital media is understood as more structuralized and more technologically advanced version of old media, ensuring there is a significant transition from old to new media. However, throughout the study of philosophical literatures in this reading, it is significant that digital media is a part of a long historical trajectory. Stieger’s study of the Greeks is one of the examples reveals that human has an instinct power, which endures and reaches for what is not in human, from creating tools to making fire. Therefore, it is true that human himself is a tekhne, or technology for achievement.

Overall, it is impossible to speak about media without indicating the process of mediation. The limited dualism and false divisions of old and new media have been problematic in understanding the actual meaning of media. Given the philosophical works, it is significant that media need to be observed as particular tekhne, which enables the “temporary “fixings” of technological and other forms of becoming (p. 21)”. The authors remark, “by saying the logic of technology (as well as use, investment and so on) underpins and shapes mediation, we are trying to emphasize the forces at work in the emergence of media and ongoing processes of mediation” (p. 21). As mentioned in the introduction, the term “mediation” means ‘being-with’ and ‘emerging-with’ the technological world. The lifeness, or vitality of media indicates that human and media are strongly interrelated. More specifically, media in terms of the process of mediation has been already associated with the world. Thus, we should not make a cause-and-effect way thinking or linear thinking when understanding the media.

Work Cited

Kember, S., & Zylinska, J. (2015). Mediation and the Vitality of Media. In Life after New Media:Mediation as a Vital Process. Cambridge: The MIT Press. 1-28.

Immediacy, Hypermediacy, and Remediation

Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin provide an in-depth exploration of the logic that surrounds new media in Immedicacy, Hypermediacy, and Remediation (1998), particularly how digital technologies begin to arouse those aforementioned ways of thinking through their existence in contrasting media outlets.

The first hurdle I came across with this reading was the lack of familiarity with the two latter terms, so I pulled some dictionary definitions off of Google to start my note taking process.

 Hypermediacy is ” a style of visual representation whose goal is to remind the viewer of the medium” (Bolter and Grusin 272). Hypermediacy plays upon the desire for immediacy and transparent immediacy, making us hyper-conscious of our act of seeing (or gazing).”

We then learn from the authors that Remediation is “the representation of one medium in another,” and later on in the reading they argue that this is actually a defining characteristic of digital media.

Initially, I assumed that hypermediacy was something that always worked against establishing immediacy, which is considered the quality of bringing one into direct and instant involvement with something to give rise to a sense of urgency or excitement. This was not the case, as Bolter and Grusin begin introducing these three terms by saying:

“We do not claim that immediacy, hypermediacy, and remediation are universal truths; rather, we regard them as practices of specific groups in specific times” (Page 2).

To expand on that, we learn that immediacy can be seen differently from the perspective of artists, designers, theorists, or any viewers with less knowledge of the processes associated with the creation or presentation of media forms. Although, we also discover that hypermediacy brings a wider array of reactions that occur according to contemporary ideas that surround immediacy, so we already start to see how these two forms of logic are intertwined in that respect and not always polarized.

Furthermore, Bolter and Grusin assert that remediation will always operate under whatever cultural assumptions are associated with those two aforementioned themes. Yet before any contemporary examples of remediation are picked out for deciphering, first the historical resonances to Renaissance painting, nineteenth century photography and twentieth century film are examined among many other technologies.

Beginning with virtual reality, we are introduced to the term “transparency” and its relation to the immediacy of a medium, or our way of getting lost in the moment of being exposed to it. Virtual reality is presented as a very obvious example, as Bolter and Grusin describe it as so realistic that we are meant to forget about the fact that we are interacting with technology.

Transparency is then identified in Renaissance painting methods, where artists make use of linear perspective to draw what Alberti (1972) calls “an open window through which the subject to be painted is seen” (55). Additionally, paint artists use erasive methods such as removing brush strokes to establish a stronger sense of immediacy for viewers.

With the advent of photography and television, these technologies began to automate the techniques associated with linear perspective, thus also making it even easier to conceal the artist and artistic process so much more through their remediation of painting concepts. The same can be said for computer animation as well, where it is now commonplace to function as a film by presenting a “sequence of predetermined camera shots” (Page 9-10).

From this point of analysis, Bolter and Grusin then begin to highlight how the logics of immediacy and hypermediacy are governed by contemporary thoughts surrounding new media, such as a computer desktop full of windows.

“If the logic of immediacy leads one either to erase or to render automatic the act of representation, the logic of hypermediacy acknowledges multiple acts of representation and makes them visible. Where immediacy suggests a unified visual space, contemporary hypermediacy offers a heterogeneous space, in which representation is conceived of not as a window on to the world, but rather as “windowed” itself—with windows that open on to other representations or other media” (Page 15).

Thus our contemporary logic of hypermediacy falls in line with how we interact with the digital media of today, which are proving to be increasingly more multidimensional and versatile according to how we handle it. The desktop computer screen’s graphical user interface (GUI) was already mentioned before, but there are other examples such as opening multiple tabs on an internet browser which fall into Bolter and Grusin’s notion of “replacement” being the operative strategy in our windowed technology nowadays.

In addition, our ability to scroll through or zoom in on photos while using smart phones allows us users to become the mediators of the technology in more of a transparent fashion, as these methods remediate the older ideas introduced by computers, where visible buttons for a magnifying glass tool or scroll bar was accessible.

To conclude the analysis, the authors rebut against the argument made by media theorist Steven Holtzman (1997), who states that digital media “cannot be significant until they make a radical break with the past (Page 31). I would agree with this position as well, and the fact that there will always be a reflection or an idea of older media when it is compared to the actions of newer digital media.

It is exactly as Bolter and Grusin put it in their final sentence: “Repurposing as remediation is both what is ‘unique to digital worlds’ and what denies the possibility of that uniqueness” (Page 31).

Works Cited

Bolter, Jay David, and Richard Grusin. 1998. Immediacy, Hypermediacy, and Remediation.  In Remediation: Understanding New Media. Cambridge: The MIT Press.

Immediacy, Hypermediacy, and Remediation

In Immediacy, Hypermediacy, and Remediation, Bolter and Grusin focus on three different topics, each of which involves how media is portrayed, represented, and presented. The paper highlights how remediation operates under cultural assumptions about immediacy and hypermediacy, and touches on all three subjects. Bolter and Grusin make the point that these three concepts did not get their start with the digital age. Rather, they have existed long before that in various different forms of media.

The first section of the paper focuses exclusively on immediacy. Immediacy is our need to have media that reflects our reality as close as possible. There is a trail throughout our cultural history of attempts to create media that do this. The example used first is that of virtual reality. It is supposed to make us feel closer somehow but still, contains many ruptures. Bolter and Grusin say that this sort of transparent interface is born out of the need to gloss over the fact that digital technology is by definition mediated. Later on, the examples of renaissance painting and photography are used to illustrate immediacy through transparency. They make the point that each was the best attempt at immediacy up until that point. Each was the best representation up to that point. (Bolter & Grusin, 26) They then connect the concept to most recent times, suggesting that computer graphics are an extension of the need for immediacy. Later on, they state that the human agent being erased from the media is a big part of immediacy. It is what makes it seem legitimate or not.

The next section is based around the concept of hypermediacy. Hypermediacy can be defined simply as multiple forms of media combined together in a viewing experience. Hypermediacy “privileges fragmentation, indeterminacy, and heterogeneity and emphasizes process on performance rather than finished art object. ” (31) Although one can think of the internet as a good example of this, it didn’t start with it. Bolter and Grusin use the example of magazines such as Wired to illustrate that this is not new. A magazine layout features many combinations of mediums such as text and images, all together but not one overbearing on the other. Much like windows on a desktop, they don’t all try and blend into each other. They contrast with each other, and give you different perspectives. They also explain the difference between immediacy and hypermediacy. Immediacy is a unified visual space; hypermediacy is windows that open to other representations or other media. Finally, they comment that the internet is culture’s “most influential expression of hypermediacy.” (43) They also state that the internet is an exercise in replacement. It is most radical when new space is a different medium, such as reading an online article and then switching to a video. Finally, they state that the difference between immediacy and hypermediacy is the difference between looking at, versus looking through something.

Finally, they touch on the topic of remediation. This is a concept that should be familiar to most communications students. Remediation, to quote Bolter and Grusin is when content is borrowed from a certain form of media, but the medium is different. (44)  With remediation, the medium borrowing the content rarely mentions the medium being borrowed from. For example, a movie based on a book would never mention the novel that it is based off. This is because it would ruin the illusion of immediacy. Remediation has permeated culture and society, Bolter and Grusin actually define remediation by different degrees. The first one is when an older medium is represented digitally without irony or critique. An example of this is CD-ROM picture galleries. The second one is when a medium emphasises the differences rather than try to erase is. The example they give is Microsoft’s Encarta, a digital encyclopedia that highlights the fact that it is a digital version. The third one is refashioning the older medium while still marking the presence. An example is e Emergency Broadcast Network’s Telecommunications Breakdown, where television and movie clips are inserted with techno music. And finally, when a new medium tries to absorb the old medium entirely. An example of this is the video game Doom, which remediates cinema.

In all, the article focuses heavily on immediacy and hypermediacy, which is understandable. Remediation is a fairly basic concept that most can easily understand. However, the first two take a bit of time to grasp, thus the pages of examples. As well, the concept of remediation builds upon both of the first two concepts. You get a better understanding of remediation by knowing in depth what immediacy and hypermediacy are, and how they relate and contrast. It is also interesting how they use previous examples of media to illustrate all three concepts. Most people think that they have their origins with digital media; it is interesting to see the various examples that are used to illustrate that these concepts have existed as long as media has existed.

Works Cited

Bolter, Jay David, and Richard Grusin. 1998. Immediacy, Hypermediacy, and Remediation.  In Remediation: Understanding New Media. Cambridge: The MIT Press.

Print Culture (Other Than Codex): Job Printing and Its Importance by Lisa Gitelman

Print culture in its self is very ambiguous to define, as the word culture is often characterised by various aspects of collective behaviour and social constructs.  In her exploration of such discourse, author Lisa Gitelman examines the role of noncodex work through her written piece fittingly entitled Print Culture (Other Than Codex): Job Printing and Its Importance. In this article Gitelman highlights the overlooked and almost erased history of job printing as a discipline of publishing that grew from distinct practices surrounding printers. As she reveals through her analysis, the meanings and definitions of print and print cultures are not only difficult to identify, but shaped by specific historical agents and structures. Thus by focusing on job printing, Gitelman emphasizes their economic importance and significance on changing the public as she argues from passive readers to active users (p. 192).

Beginning with distinguishing publication formats, Gitelman discusses how codices are essentially any form of text that resembles a book. In this sense the codex is interpreted in relation to older formats such as the scroll, in which she illustrates the dynamic connotations of media. Similarly, the semantics of the word print are also under scrutiny as it has “come to encompass many diverse technologies for the mechanical reproduction of text” (Gitelman, p. 184). As new advancements in print are presented over time, the use of the word print has become free of technology, and even human hand. While this may be a result of such technology, when discussing print as a culture one cannot ignore the influences of socio-economic circumstances in any given time period. Print culture as a whole is then subject to the developments and usage of print in affinity to modernity and the customs of social actors (Gitelman, p. 185). That the rise of other expanding institutions in Western society intertwined with print to create new decentralized industries, with revision to format and consumption.

Gitelman quotes Stallybrass in pointing out that “printers do not print books. They print sheets of paper.” (p. 186). The quote is symbolic because it communicates the idea that not everything printed is always traditionally published. This is in contrast to the historical belief and acceptance of publishing being typically in codex format as some sort of book. Although with printing capabilities being around for quite some time, it was not the technology that drove for innovation; but the social and institutional changes as discussed earlier. The surge in noncodex work that was heavily produced in the early 20th century brought upon a new use for print that left behind the old presumed characteristics of codex. Gitelman addresses this by looking at how noncodex works had slim survival rates, and were consumed immediately, losing value overtime. As a result, she views these textual snippets as vital aspects of the publishing industry that are often seen as meaningless, despite the overlapping implications they had on society, commerce and print culture overall. While being something to be indulged and not last the test of time, this type of work known as job printing was transformative in using the noncodex format as a way to expand the utility of publishing.

Since noncodex print is in contrast to conventional publishing, it was not measured and recorded in circulation. From this Gitelman suggests that job printing was not heavily monitored, and at one point might have even accounted for 30% of industry labour (p. 189). With such large numbers, work consisting of making receipts, labels, letters and so on are vastly underrepresented in publishing scholarship and studies. Ultimately, job printing became an underground section of the publishing industry that connected it to other forms of production as a dominate medium at the time through modern capitalism. This conversion from publisher to individual, now became business to the business as a way to “function as instruments of corporate speech” (Gitelman, p. 190). Gitelman observes that this stands in opposition to most literary works, as a way to simply see printing as solely printing instead of distinct publication. Thus with changes to the product, citizens as agents consume them differently within the public sphere. Gitelman argues that readers under the control of “corporate speech” become users of this text instead of readers because they do not read them, or share the same romanticized ideals as the text fades (p. 191-192). Job printing also then brought upon contemporary issues of copyright and ownership that are still debated in the digital age over the “idea-expression dichotomy”.

In consideration to my own interpretation of the topic, I think Gitelman presents a case of trying to understand publishing from its direct response and evolution to other establishments. That job printing existed not from a need of publishers, but from a society that saw its potential not being fully utilized. Just as with any technology, the changes brought upon format and usage were not dependent on the technology alone, but in conjunction with social actors as Gitelman noted. We see the same debates happening today with copyright noted in the article, but also with physical and digital books. That while print is free of technology, the definition of it just like print culture is constantly changing relative to the time and society at large. Whether it be the different format text takes on via codex, or the type of work performed such as job printing, we cannot undermine the ramifications of any technical instrument in shaping the future of publishing from the proceeding.

 

Works Cited

Gitelman, L. (2013). Print Culture (Other Than Codex): Job Printing and Its Importance. Comparative Textual Media Transforming the Humanities in the Postprint Era, 183-198. doi:10.5749/minnesota/9780816680030.003.0008

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