29 November 2011

The evils of DRM

Charlie Stross has just posted some words of wisdom on ebooks and DRM (here). The core of his argument is that:
As ebook sales mushroom, the Big Six's insistence on DRM has proven to be a hideous mistake. Rather than reducing piracy, it has locked customers in Amazon's walled garden, which in turn increases Amazon's leverage over publishers. And unlike pirated copies (which don't automatically represent lost sales) Amazon is a direct revenue threat because Amazon are have no qualms about squeezing their suppliers — or trying to poach authors for their "direct" publishing channel by offering initially favourable terms. (Which will doubtless get a lot less favourable once the monopoly is secured ...)
Hopefully, the accountants in the Big Six will wake up to this threat before it is too late.

Meanwhile, I have recently run into DRM in an unexpected and rather unwelcome way. One of the venerable traditions of book reviewing is that the reviewer gets to keep his review copy. Since most reviewers are not otherwise paid for their efforts, it seems the least the publisher can do by way of thanks for taking the time and trouble to look seriously at their book. In fact, in this new age of electronic publication it is not the least the publisher can do. The least they can now do is supply electronic review copies with time-limited DRM. Two books I have reviewed recently have now 'timed out', which feels like a slap in the face after spending several hours reading those books, thinking about them carefully and writing what I hope were fair reviews.

23 November 2011

Anne McCaffrey

I’ve just heard that Anne McCaffrey died on Monday after suffering a massive stroke. She was the grand old lady of science fiction and the first woman to win the Hugo and Nebula awards (she won both in 1968 for Dragonflight), and her novel The White Dragon was one of the first SF novels to make it onto the New York Times Best Seller List.

To be honest, I don’t think her novels really stand the test of time – ripping yarns, but the language doesn’t sparkle and at times her characterization verges on the stereotypical. But she was one of the first SF writers I ever read and enjoyed. She was also a nice person (I had the privilege of meeting her twice: once at a kaffeeklatsch at the Glasgow Worldcon in 1995 and later at a science fiction evening at Heffer’s in Cambridge).

07 November 2011

Revelation for Everyone

Another book review:

Revelation for Everyone by N.T. Wright
London: SPCK and Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011.

This brief introduction to the book of Revelation is part of a series which has the rationale that the books of the Bible should be available for everyone and not just biblical specialists. Tom Wright’s uses his own translation of the text, which is straightforward without dumbing down the text or being patronizing to the readers.
          There is a useful glossary of the key theological terms that appear throughout the book. In the early sections there are paragraphs on context. However, there is none of the background material on context or authorship you would expect to find in an introduction to a New Testament book.
          Wright splits the text of Revelation into bite-sized chunks following a fairly standard division of the text. Each section begins with his translation of the passage, which is generally followed by a scene-setting story. Then he spells out what he sees as the central message of the section, offering his interpretation of the text with no space being devoted to alternative readings. You will not find any references to other approaches to the interpretation of the text. The overall feel is very much that of a series of short sermons.
          As you would expect of a leading Anglican evangelical, Wright takes the text seriously. He demonstrates that the Revelation of John is as relevant to us as it was to its first readers because it presents us with a clear vision of God’s ultimate purpose for the whole of creation: the overthrow of evil and the victory of God. But he sees it very much as a unified vision, rather than a history of the future, and the various episodes of the text are understood as different symbolic perspectives on that single vision.
          My main reservation is that it lacks any guidance for readers who wish to take their study of Revelation any further. At the very least, it could have included a short guide to further reading. That apart, this volume is accessible, interesting and helpful.