Boing Boing 

Collaborating with your kids: the story of "A Dark and Dismal Flower"

JC Herz and her five year old daughter, Eve, created A Dark and Dismal Flower, a beautifully-animated picture book. In this essay, Herz offers her advice on how to collaborate with your own kids.

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How Hachette made the rope that Amazon is hanging it with


In my latest Guardian column, "How Amazon is holding Hachette hostage," I discuss the petard that the French publishing giant Hachette is being hoisted upon by Amazon. Hachette insisted that Amazon sell its books with "Digital Rights Management" that only Amazon is allowed to remove, and now Hachette can't afford to pull its books from Amazon, because its customers can only read their books with Amazon's technology. So now, Hachette has reduced itself to a commodity supplier to Amazon, and has frittered away all its market power. The other four major publishers are headed into the same place with Amazon, and unless they dump DRM quick, they're going to suffer the same fate.

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Interviewing Leila Johnston about Hack Circus


My latest Guardian column is an interview with Leila Johnston about her Hack Circus project, which includes a conference, a podcast and a print magazine, all with a nearly indefinable ethic of independence and art for its own sake.

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Court finds full-book scanning is fair use


The Hathi Trust has won another important victory in its court battles against the Authors Guild over the right of academic libraries to scan books under the banner of fair use. Hathi creates full-text indexes of books from academic institutional libraries that were scanned by Google, so that academic libraries can access full-text indexes of the books, as well as offering the books in assistive formats used by people with visual disabilities, and providing long-term archives of rare texts that are still under copyright.

The Authors Guild members are overwhelming trade-book authors; the books scanned by the Hathi Trust are overwhelmingly scholarly books written as part of an academic tradition that takes free access and sharing as its foundation. The court remanded a question of standing in the case, asking the Guild to demonstrate that it represented authors of the affected works.

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Academic publisher tried to stop publication of paper on price-gouging in academic publishing

The editorial board of the journal Prometheus: Critical Studies in Innovation has threatened to resign because the academic journal's corporate owners, Taylor and Francis, have ordered them not to publish a paper critical of the academic publishing industry. The paper, Publisher, be damned! from price gouging to the open road, was written by academics from the University of Leicester's School of Management.

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Backers get gruesomely murdered in crowdfunded Elite novel


BBC presenter Kate Russell's first science fiction novel is Elite: Mostly Harmless, a novelization of the classic video game Elite, whose production was successfully kickstarted last year. One of the backer rewards was to have yourself gruesomely murdered in the pages of the book, and six lucky fans are now enjoying their deaths:

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Humble Ebook Bundle adds Lawful Interception audio and more

The latest Humble Ebook Bundle has added four new titles: Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell's From Hell, the From Hell Companion (review), Too Cool to Be Forgotten (review); and my audiobook for Lawful Interception, the sequel to Little Brother and Homeland. They join a stellar lineup of other comics, novels and ebooks with work by Neil Gaiman, George RR Martin, Ed Piskor, Nate Powell, Paolo Bacigalupi, Tobias Buckell and Terry Goodkind.

Name your price for them -- all DRM free, and you can contribute to charity when you buy!

Humble Ebook Bundle

Kickstarting a Skull-a-Day book

Noah Scalin writes "At long last I'm finally publishing all 365 of my original Skull-A-Day creations in a single book! I've partnered with Chop Suey Books, an amazing local independent bookseller here in Richmond, Virginia to finally create the ultimate volume of my yearlong skull art making project. The store is even launching a new imprint, Chop Suey Books Books, just to make and distribute this beautiful hardcover volume (if I do say so myself, since I'm the one that designed it!). I'm most excited about sharing a new model for artists and local businesses to work together to create something outside of the old systems, that can benefit us both, as well as our community. To kick things off we've decided to pre-sell the book on Kickstarter with some unique thank you gifts, including some of the actual original pieces of the project! I hope you'll check it out."

$24 gets you an early-bird book. Noah is a guy who ships what he starts, too.

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Kickstarting a kids' picture book about girls and science by Zack "SMBC" Smith

Zach Weinersmith, creator of the wonderful Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal and the Kickstarter-record-busting Trial of the Clone choose-your-own-adventure is unstoppable: he's kickstarting Augie and the Green Knight: A Children's Adventure Book , a girl-positive kids' picture book about science. $25 gets you the book and the ebook (I bought in!).

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Harvard Bluebook: more threats to those who would cite the law

Carl Malamud writes, "On May 16, Boing Boing brought us the story of five years of intimidation on the Uniform System of Citaiton required in the United States, a system otherwise known as The Bluebook. Based on your story, a stern keep off the grass warning was dispatched from the ever-growing Bluebook Legal Task Force at the eminent white shoe firm of Ropes & Gray."

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Kickstarting a coffee-table book of grisly, real Russian nursery-rhymes

Russian-born comedian Ben Rosenfeld is kickstarting a book of gruesome, real Russian nursery rhymes, illustrated by Dov Smiley (example: "A little boy found a machine-gun, nothing lives in the woods anymore"). $25 gets you the book and the ebook.

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Tor.com: a new short-fiction imprint from Tor


Tor Books founder Tom Doherty's speech at Book Expo America yesterday didn't just explain the company's DRM-free strategy, it also announced a new imprint based on Tor.com, publishing DRM-free novellas and novelettes as ebooks:

Each DRM-free title will be available exclusively for purchase, unlike the current fiction that is free on the site, and will have full publisher support behind it. It will have a heavy digital focus but all titles will be available via POD and audio formats. The imprint will also consider traditional print publishing for a select number of titles a year. All titles will be available worldwide.

"In the past six years we have had the great fortune to work with literally hundreds of authors and illustrators in the publication and promotion of their short fiction. Transitioning to an author-centric digital imprint which fosters and revives novella and short novel length commercial science fiction and fantasy is the next logical step in Tor.com's evolution." says Fritz Foy, Macmillan Executive Vice President and Digital Publisher.

"We're using this opportunity to re-evaluate every step of the publishing process," says Associate Publisher Irene Gallo. "We don't want to make any assumptions based on how we currently publish stories. We're really looking forward to creating something with a start-up mentality but with the rich legacy of Tor Books and Tor.com behind us," she continued

Announcing Tor.com the Imprint (via IO9)

Kickstarting an augmented reality, artificial lifeform in a kids' picture-book

Wagner James Au sez, "Created by virtual world/avatar pioneer Jeffrey Ventrella, Wiglets are self-animated, augmented reality creatures for mobile devices powered by an open source AI system, and have genomes that are stored in the cloud along with their geo-locations. 'This means they can exist in specific locations in the real world,' Jeffrey explains. The overall goal with Wiglets is to encourage kids to find/play with their creatures in the natural world."

$65 gets you the book and a virtual Wiglet.

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Humble Ebook Bundle: name-your-price comics & books with Gaiman, GRRM, Goodkind, Moore, Piskor, and more

The fourth Humble Ebooks Bundle is up and running, and it's a name-your-own-price, DRM-free, comics-heavy doozy, including our own Ed Piskor's brilliant Wizzywig (review); graphic civil rights history March; the Lovecraft's Monsters anthology (with Neil Gaiman); George RR Martin's Sword and Sorcery anthology, Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell's From Hell; Terry Goodkind's Wizard's First Rule; Paolo Bacigalupi's The Alchemist; Tobias Buckell's The Executioness; and Yahtzee Crosshaw's Jam. And there's more books coming in week two (good ones -- I've had a sneaky preview!).

Tor founder Tom Doherty on publishing without DRM


Two years ago, Tor Books, the largest sf publisher in the world (and publisher of my own books) went DRM-free; yesterday, Tor's founder and publisher Tom Doherty took to the stage to explain why he dropped DRM from his books. Doherty spent some time talking about the business outcomes of life without DRM (in short, there's no new piracy of Tor books as a result of publishing without it), but really focused his talk on the community of readers and writers, and their conversation, and the role Tor plays there. Doherty's philosophy is that books get sold by being part of a wider context in readers' lives -- being something they talk and think about and share, and that DRM just gets in the way of that.

Meanwhile, Hachette -- publishing's most ardent DRM advocate -- and Amazon continue to duke it out in a ghastly and abusive public spat in which Amazon is attempting to extort deeper discounts from Hachette by de-listing, delaying and obfuscating its titles. If Hachette books were DRM free, the company could announce an "Amazon-refugee discount" of 10% of all its ebook titles at Google Play, Ibooks, and Barnes and Noble, and offer a tool to convert your Kindle library to work on one of those other players. But because Hachette allowed -- insisted! -- that Amazon put its own DRM on Hachette books, the only company that can authorize converting Amazon Kindle titles to work with other readers is Amazon.

Good luck with that.

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Literally: portraits of booksellers


Photographer Steve Kenward's Literally is a series of portraits of booksellers in their native habitats (their bookstores). As a former member of the tribe myself, I recognize these for the fine specimens they are: magnificently nearsighted, slightly askew, and posed with the treasures they have personally assembled and arrayed for the public's delectation. Each portrait is accompanied by a list of favorite books, which is the only part of this that rings hollow -- a bookseller with only one favorite book is like a chef who only likes one dish. Impossible.

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Really Creepy Bundle: name your price for amazing, transmedia horror


Jamie from Vodo writes, "We've launched the Really Creepy Bundle, a brand new collection of terrifying, chilling and downright disturbing indie creativity that includes four highly-rated games (Oknytt, Finding Teddy, The Path and Sang Froid), award winning fiction (Nebula nominee Stranger In Olondria, and a month subscription to Nightmare magazine), four spooky short films, an 8 track compilation from LA's Not Not Fun Records, laden with doom plus the definitely disturbing and massively entertaining graphic novel (The Furry Trap) -- which Boing Boing rated one of the best damn comics of the year in 2013. Check out the whole bundle and choose your own price. 5% of earnings are going to the Electronic Frontier Foundation!"


The Really Creepy Bundle

Kickstarting a multilingual kids' picture book about humanism

The Croatian Center for Civil Courage, a "feminist and free thinking organization," is kickstarting a kids' picture book called Humanism for Children, seeking funds to translate and publish it in English and German (it's already in Bosnian and Croatian). The book consists of "Humanism is for everybody" (an introduction to humanism and scientific ideas) and "How to live a fulfilling life" -- advice on being a "a thoughtful, jovial, rational and cheerful person" without religious stricture. £20 gets you an English copy.

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MK Wren's House of the Wolf [book excerpt]

Here’s a thrilling cut from the third part of MK Wren’s science-fiction epic, available now as an ebook exclusively here at Boing Boing.

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Five years of being intimidated by the Harvard Bluebook's copyright policies

Rogue archivist Carl Malamud sez, "For five years, Professor Frank Bennett, a distinguished legal scholar at Nagoya University School of Law, has been trying to add Bluebook Support to Zotero, the open source citation tool used all over the world. Professor Bennett asked Harvard Law Review for permission. They said no. He asked again. They said no again. He secured Larry Lessig as his lawyer. They said no to Lessig. I pitched in and got a bunch of angry letters from the most expensive law firm in Boston. Even a flaming headline in Boing Boing wasn't enough to get the Harvard Law Review off their $2 million/year revenue stream to permit a little bit of innovation. Frank Bennett finally said the hell with it after asking nicely for 5 years, and has now released Bluebook Zotero. It's shameful that Bluebook, Inc. couldn't deal with this situation in a better way."

The Bluebook: A Plot Summary (Thanks, Carl!)

Authors Alliance: new pro-fair use writers' group


The major US writers' group, the Authors Guild, claims to represent all writers when it sues over library book-scanning and other fair uses; a new group, the Authors Alliance, has been launched by leading copyright expert Pam Samuelson to represent the authors who like fair use, users' rights, and who reject censorship and surveillance. I'm a proud founding member, along with Jonathan Lethem, Katie Hafner and Kevin Kelly.

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Hugo-nominated authors blame Orbit for withholding their books from voters' package

Charles Stross, Mira Grant (Seanan McGuire) and Ann Leckie -- all nominees for this year's Hugo Awards -- have issued a joint statement blaming their publisher Orbit (a division of French giant Hachette) to withhold their nominated novels from a packet of ebooks sent to Hugo Award voters. This packet was originated by former Science Fiction Writers of America president John Scalzi, and for years, it has afforded all Hugo voters the opportunity to review the full slate of nominated works prior to voting. Hachette -- long known in the industry as the most reactionary and technophobic of the major publishers when it came to electronic publishing and DRM -- has taken the unprecedented step of undermining their own authors' chances at winning the most prestigious award in the field in order to conform to its business-wide doctrinal terror of piracy and ebooks substituting for print books.

Hachette has insisted that it took this step because it believes that authors should have control over their copyrights, but it's clear that these Hachette authors' wish is for their copyrights to be exercised in this specific way.

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Celebrate the Day Against DRM with 50% off O'Reilly ebooks and videos


Sara from O'Reilly writes, "Can we stop DRM here, 'fight tooth and nail to keep DRM out of web browsers '[as] a quarantine measure?' as Jeremy Keith suggests? Can we hit the pause button on efforts to lock down everything that might ever be for sale? Or will we find out just how toxic DRM can be when it's far too late? While we continue to remind folks of the ineffectiveness of DRM, it's ultimately up to you to take a stand. Together, we can take back those keys. In celebration of DRM free day save 50% on all 8000+ ebooks & videos from oreilly.com."

In Celebration of *Day Against DRM* (Thanks, Sara!)

Crowdfunding an illustrated A-Z defending libraries

Gary sends us, "a library crowdfunding project I am involved with. It is aiming to creatively highlight the value of public libraries to those who believe they are outdated or irrelevant. This is particularly important at the moment as many local authorities are closing libraries and reducing their hours, as a result of cuts in central government funding."

I put in £20!

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Rudy Rucker kickstarts the Transreal Trilogy and a Keroacian memoir

Rudy Rucker writes, "I'm running a new Kickstarter project: Transreal Trilogy + All the Visions. What's the new project? Four novels bound as two books. And what is 'transrealism'? Your usual life, only it's an SF novel!"

If there is an archetypal Happy Mutant, it might just be Rudy Rucker. A gone and gonzo genius whose transrealism is surrealism with physics, math, and science fiction and the nightmarish world of Breugel thrown in for good measure. This looks amazing. I bought in for $50, which is all the books as physical editions with signed and numbered bookplates.

If you are looking to get turned onto Rucker, I highly recommend starting with Spaceland, an n-dimension take on Flatland, which gave me a totally new answer to the "what superhero power would you like to possess?" question (answer: the ability to extrude yourself into a fourth spatial dimension).

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Humble Image Bundle: name your price for Walking Dead, Saga, Chew and more; benefit CBLDF too!

The latest Humble Bundle teams up with DRM-free indie comics leader Image Comics, offering nine digital titles from Image on a name-your-price basis. You can also divert some or all of your payment to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, a vital free speech organization that helps comics publishers, creators and sellers who face censorship and even jail for daring to create cutting-edge media.

The bundle includes some of my favorite comics, including the comics version of The Walking Dead (even better than the TV show); the spectacular Saga (a delightfully unhinged effort from Brian Vaughan, who also created Y: The Last Man); and the genuinely demented Chew.

As with all the Humble Bundles, the Image Bundle is an object lesson in the trustworthiness of audiences, and the value of giving people what they want at an unarguably fair price (since you get to name your own) with a creator-friendly deal that lets readers and creators connect more directly than ever before in publishing history. I just bought in!

Humble Image Comics Bundle (pay what you want and help charity)

Edible cookbook embossed upon lasagne noodles


Korefe presents "The Real Cookbook," a book whose leaves are large lasagne noodles, impressed with a recipe for lasagne. As you read the recipe, you peel off each page and slather it with sauce and cheese, building up the dish described in its pages, leaving behind no trace save for your satisfied appetite and a slight propensity to insulin resistance.

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Publishing as personal: lessons from giving away a debut novel online

Amelia Beamer writes, "I share what I learned from giving away my debut novel The Loving Dead, and why I think that the publishing industry has become personal. I also speak of an incident involving free bacon."

Beamer raises good points about what authors are really competing for: not reading time, but attention.

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Radical press demands copyright takedown of Marx-Engels Collected Works

Lawrence and Wishart, a radical press founded in 1936 and formerly associated with the Communist Party of Great Britain, has asserted a copyright over "Marx-Engels Collected Works," a series of $25-50-ish hardcovers, and demanded that they be removed from the Marxist Internet Archive. As Scott McLemee notes, the editions in question were "prepared largely if not entirely with the support of old-fashioned, Soviet-era Moscow gold" and consist, in large part, of arguments about the moral bankruptcy and corrupting influence of claims of private property.

Marx-Engels Collected Works will be removed from Marxists.org on May Day. Here's a torrent of the full set.

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Homeland audiobook, direct from me

My independently produced audio edition of Homeland, read by Wil Wheaton, is now available direct from me as a $15 MP3 download. The audiobook not only features Wil's reading, but also Noah Swartz reading his brother Aaron Swartz's afterword and Jacob Appelbaum reading his own afterword, recorded at the Berlin studio of Atari Teenage Riot's Alec Empire.

Here's a free preview of chapter one.

Homeland audiobook purchase