September 26, 2012
A Bit More On Suppressing Books
I draw your attention to an article in The Atlantic called How To Make A Book Disappear by Maria Konnikova. The book in question is Jonah Lehrer’s Imagine, which has been pulled from sales by its publisher over alleged fabrications. Konnikova reviews other titles that have met the same fate though she is concerned that in the digital age books may not also disappear, but may be suppressed by publishers without explanation.
She recounts the lesson of Amazon years back having pulled George Orwell’s 1984 from Kindles because the company did not have the rights to sell electronic copies in the United States. Most agree that episode was a heavy handed reaction to a legal question of rights. The Lehrer removal wasn’t nearly as unilateral. Copies that existed on electronic devices stayed. All links, however, were removed from official commercial sources.
I wrote yesterday about publishers’ refusal to sell e-books to libraries as a type of banned books. I also discounted the fear of piracy as one of the excuses publishers generally use to keep their product out of the digital hands of library users. It really is a matter of control. I agree with Konnikova that we should be concerned when digital systems can be used to censor content without a real explanation. I would only add that the Internet is a lot like Las Vegas: what happens on the Internet stays on the Internet.I searched the words Jonah Lehrer Imagine PDF in Google and found a copy of the advanced uncorrected proof in less than 30 seconds. For those who condemn Google for making this available, the same search in Bing offered the same links. My point is not to promote literary piracy. Rather, the point is that piracy regrettably becomes the only alternative when no legal means for acquiring content is available. [MG]