Thursday, March 06, 2014

History of the book trade

Dan Francis notes the passing of pioneering bookseller Judith Mappin of the Double Hook Bookstore in Montreal:
Younger readers may not appreciate how underdeveloped CanLit was back in the 1970s. Even if you wanted to read some, you were unlikely to find anything but the most meagre selection in the bookstores of the day. Was there even a demand?

The Double Hook and all the bookstores like it are gone, too, of course.  And Robert McCrum in Britain notes the passing of that era when there was a book trade that could support some writers:
"Thomson is not yet broke, but he's up against it. The story of his garret is a parable of literary life in Britain today. Ever since the credit crunch of 2008 writers have been tightening belts, cutting back and, in extreme cases, staring into an abyss of penury."
The other day I got an email from a professor friend about copying a bunch of my material for a class he's teaching. My work actually gets copied a fair amount in schools and universities. I know because once or twice a year I get a printout of the details and a small cheque from the collective that handles my reprographic rights.

But the university where my friend teaches has repudiated the contract that licenses it to copy. When students misappropriate intellectual property, the university calls it plagiarism and expels them. But when the university misappropriates intellectual property, it calls it "fair dealing;" sue if you don't like it.

McCrum again:
Copyright is the bone-marrow of the western intellectual tradition. Until the book world, like the music world, can reconcile the extraordinary opportunities provided by the web with the need for a well-regulated copyright system, artists of all kinds will struggle.
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