Technology

NEWS | Reason.tv Interviews David Brin Thumbnail

David Brin is the author of science fiction novels The Postman, the Uplift series beginning with Sundiver, and others as well as the ever-popular nonfiction work, The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force Us to Choose Between Privacy and Freedom?. He recently sat down with Reason.tv’s Tim Cavanaugh to discuss his recent criticisms of “dogmatic libertarians,” his hobbyhorse of government transparency, and the subject of uplifting dolphins.

I have much to say about Brin’s attacks on “dogmatic libertarians,” by which he means followers of Murray Rothbard and Ayn Rand who worship property too much, but watch the video first and then continue on below for my commentary.1

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  1. It’s heartening to see that the video on YouTube has more dislikes than likes at the moment. 

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Tor Books

Tor Books

It’s been a news-heavy month. Here are a few more tidbits:

  • Yesterday, Tor/Forge announced that it will make all of its ebooks completely free of DRM by early July 2012. This is a momentous and welcome change. Tor/Forge is a genre imprint of Macmillan, one of the Big Six publishers. It’s the first of these publishers to cave to author and cusotmer pressure on DRM. It may have helped that Macmillan is not a publicly traded company. Cory Doctorow believes more Big Six publishers are sure to follow; he’s “had contact with very highly placed execs at two more of the big six publishers.”
  • Last month, James Cameron promoted private deep-sea exploration. He’s also partnered with Google’s Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, and Ross Perot Jr., to back private space company Planetary Resources. Immediate plans are to design and build low-cost robotic spacecraft for survey missions. The firm, founded and chaired by Peter Diamondis (creator of the X-Prize Foundation) and Eric Anderson, hopes to then build on this technology and begin mining Near-Earth Asteroids (NEAs) within the next ten years. For an extended explanation of how and why Planetary Resources can succeed, read Phil Plait’s post on the Bad Astronomy blog. We live in exciting times for the exploration and exploitation of space.

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Book Publishing's Real Nemesis

Book Publishing’s Real Nemesis

Book Publishing's Real Nemesis
Book Publishing's Real Nemesis

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Sharis Pozen

DoJ Assistant AG Sharis Pozen

Sharis Pozen
DoJ Assistant AG Sharis Pozen

Get this: The federal bureaucrat who last month started the litigation against Apple and book publishers for ebook pricing is the same person who, back in the stone age, represented Netscape in its lawsuit against Microsoft.

Recall that Microsoft was trying to give away its Internet Explorer to computer users for free. Netscape went nuts and got the government to clobber Microsoft for being so nice to consumers. It put the company through litigation hell and even demanded that Microsoft change its operating system code to untie it from IE.

The person’s name is Sharis Pozen, and she is acting head of the Justice Department’s antitrust division and a political appointee of the Obama administration. She claims that she is threatening state violence against Apple and publishers for pricing collusion — and that it’s her job to protect consumers.

Interesting. She began her career trying to protect the rights of an old-line company to rip off consumers. To her, a price of zero was unfair competition. She was sure that a browser should be a paid product. The progress of history flattens that argument. Today, dozens of companies beg you to download their browser for free. Browser use is all over the place, sort of like a free market. There is no Microsoft monopoly, contrary to the overheated predictions.

Given that history, one might suppose she would retire from public life and maybe go into flower arranging or something. Instead, she is still at it. Last year, she denied a proposed merger between T-Mobile and AT&T that would have improved your cell service. This year, she says that a deal between publishers and Apple is harming consumers, so she has to act.

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In my last news roundup, I briefly discussed the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction being put online for free by Gollancz. At the time, I speculated: “Why [put it online for free]? Oh, I don’t know, maybe reading through the encyclopedia will tempt people into buying more books and ebooks of and about the stories and authors described within it.” This was before I had heard about Gollancz’s new SF Gateway imprint.

SF Gateway will be publishing online in ebook form a catalog numbering in the thousands of out-of-print backlist books from its authors. Including “the classic SF pulp writers of the Golden Age right through to modern award-winning authors,” SF Gateway purports to be “the largest library of digital Science Fiction and Fantasy ever assembled.” All of these titles will naturally be directly interlinked with author and title entries in the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, so the encyclopedia will serve as a handy way to spur sales. The SF Gateway site will also serve in part as a social network, which is another clever idea — build up an online community around the encyclopedia and that large library of sf&f ebooks. You can read more about it in the pdf press release.

Also in the last news roundup, I mentioned some innovations in publishing. Here is some more info on a couple of them:

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  • From Mike P. over at The Emptiness comes “Socialism: A love story — Star Trek,” in which he discusses his love affair with Star Trek and how realizing it’s a utopian socialist fantasy actually makes the show more enjoyable.
  • From SF Signal comes news that the Hugo Award–winning Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, edited by John Clute and Peter Nicholls, is receiving a long-awaited update to its third edition (the last, second, edition was published in 1993) and — wait for it — is being made available for free online. Why? Oh, I don’t know, maybe reading through the encyclopedia will tempt people into buying more books and ebooks of and about the stories and authors described within it. And simply keeping the history of the genre alive and readily accessible to future generations is a worthy endeavor in itself, of course.

    From the press release:

    The third edition of the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, the definitive reference work in the field, will be released online later this year by the newly-formed ESF, Ltd, in association with Victor Gollancz, the SF & Fantasy imprint of the Orion Publishing Group, whose support will enable the text to be available free to all users. This initial “beta” version, containing about three-quarters of the total projected content, will be unveiled in conjunction with Gollancz’s celebrations of its 50th anniversary as a science fiction publisher.
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The Economist, July 2–8, The End of the Space Age

So announces the cover of the July 2nd – 8th issue of the Economist.

The Economist, July 2–8, The End of the Space Age

I’m not privy to what angle the article or articles will take, but I presume the cover is referring to the retirement of NASA’s space shuttle program without a government replacement. But why need that mean the end of the space age?

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