Enjoy classic illustrations of the micro world, for free

This illustration of a flea comes from Robert Hooke's Micrographia — an amazing collection of illustrations drawn from microscope images, first published in 1665. Think of it like a proto-viral blog post that somehow fuzed Nature and Buzzfeed. Something with a headline like "15 UNBELIEVABLE IMAGES OF EVERYDAY THINGS!"

Micrographia — the whole thing — is now available in ebook form. For free. In several different formats. To give you a sense of why this is worth checking out, here's Carl Zimmer on the book's social/scientific impact back in the 17th century:

In January 1665, Samuel Pepys wrote in his diary that he stayed up till two in the morning reading a best-selling page-turner, a work that he called "the most ingenious book I read in my life." It was not a rousing history of English battles or a proto-bodice ripper. It was filled with images: of fleas, of bark, of the edges of razors.

The book was called Micrographia. It provided the reading public with its first look at the world beyond the naked eye. Its author, Robert Hooke, belonged to a brilliant circle of natural philosophers who--among many other things--were the first in England to make serious use of microscopes as scientific instruments. They were great believers in looking at the natural world for themselves rather than relying on what ancient Greek scholars had claimed. Looking under a microscope at the thousands of facets on an insect's compound eye, they saw things at the nanoscale that Aristotle could not have dreamed of. A razor's edge became a mountain range. In the chambers of a piece of bark, Hooke saw the first evidence of cells.

Hooke gave a lecture to the Royal Society about these investigations, and the members of the Society were so impressed that they urged Hooke to publish a book--a visual argument for the new scientific method.

Read the rest of Carl Zimmer's review, and check out links to the various ebooks of Micrographia

A classic work of entomology, available online in French and English

In 1879, Jean-Henri Fabre wrote a book about insects called Souvenirs entomologiques. Today it's considered a classic of entomology. An English translation, with some absolutely beautiful illustrations like the cicadas pictured above, was published in 1921.

You can read the full book online for free. Yes, both versions. The original French work is available at Gallica. Meanwhile, you can read the full English version at Google Books. Very neat!

Via Alex Wild

Rebuttals to David Lowery's indictment of "free culture" and its alleged murder of musicians

The Internet has been abuzz with Emily White, a intern at NPR, and her article about how she has never bought music and probably never will. and the response from David Lowery of Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker. Lowery's response is a powerful piece of writing, and contains some valuable insights into what the old music industry did well, but it's also a mess. He has some weird conspiracy theory that the "free culture" movement is funded by large tech companies as a stalking horse for their issues. Speaking as someone who's raised a fair bit of money for that movement, I'm here to tell you that he's just wrong. For example, most of my wages when I was at the Electronic Frontier Foundation were funded by a grant from the MacArthur Foundation. He also blames the tragic suicides of two musicians on the free culture movement and the alleged effect this has had on musicians' fortunes. Even if you stipulate that the fall in those musicians' fortunes could be blamed on the "free culture" movement (a pretty weird idea in itself), this would logically put the blame for all musicians' suicides prior to the Internet's disruption of the music industry on the shoulders of the major labels.

I thought Lowery's piece was so badly flawed, with its conspiracy theories and sloppy appeals to emotion, that it didn't warrant a response. But others didn't feel the same way. Techdirt's Mike Masnick has posted a guided tour of the best rebuttals, including Jeff Price from Tunecore on the real data on musicians' income in the Internet age; Steve Albini on the false picture Lowery paints of a golden age of the labels that never existed; Jonathan Coulton on the perversity of mourning for a loss of scarcity; former Warner Music CTO Ethan Kaplan on how the labels cut their own throats by fighting innovation; Travis Morrison from Dismemberment Plan on how access to music and compensation for artists are separate issues. Taken together, it's a series of bracing reads and a strong tonic. Here's some of Tunecore's Jeff Price:

Previously, artists were not rolling in money. Most were not allowed into the system by the gatekeepers. Of those that were allowed on the major labels, over 98% of them failed. Yes, 98%
.

Of the 2% that succeeded, less than a half percent of those ever got paid a band royalty from the sale of recorded music.

How in the world is an artist making at least something, no matter how small, worse than 99% of the world’s unsigned artists making nothing and of the 1% signed, less than a half a percent of them ever making a single band royalty ever?

Finally, as much as I hate to say it, being an artist does not entitle the artist to get money. They have to earn it. And not everyone can...

Revenue to labels has collapsed. Revenue to artists has gone up with more artists making more money now than at any time in history, off of the sale of pre-recorded music.

Taken a step further, a $17.98 list price CD earned a band $1.40 as a band royalty that they only got if they were recouped (over 99% of bands never recouped).

If an artist sells just two songs for $0.99 on iTunes via TuneCore, they gross $1.40.

If they sell an album for $9.99 on iTunes via TuneCore, they gross $7.00.

This is an INCREASE of over 700% in revenue to artists for recorded music sales.

Update: Evolver's Eliot Van Buskirk sez, "thought you might want to include this. I think it's a good rebuttal of the David Lowery piece because it's based on firsthand reporting and a conversation with the guy in charge of distributing the music from over 10K indie labels through Spotify."

Some Facts & Insights Into The Whole Discussion Of 'Ethics' And Music Business Models