Here’s a podcast of my last Publishers Weekly column, Digital Lysenkoism :
Talking with the lower echelon employees of publishing reminds me of a description I once read about the mutual embarrassment of Western and Soviet biologists when they talked about genetics. Soviet-era scientists were required, on pain of imprisonment, to endorse Lysenkoism, a discredited theory of inheritance favored by Stalin for ideological reasons. Lysenko believed, incorrectly, that you could create heritable characteristics by changing a parent organism—that is, if you cut off one of a frog’s legs, a certain number of its offspring would be born with three legs.
Lysenkoism was a disaster. When it was applied to food cultivation it led to ghastly famines that killed millions. So, when Soviet scientists met their Western counterparts, everyone knew that Lysenkoism was an awful absurdity. But the Soviet scientists had to pretend it wasn’t. Not unlike some of the discussions inside today’s major publishing houses when it comes to DRM.
I recently solicited several writers for inclusion in the Humble E-book Bundle, for which I’m acting as a volunteer editor. The Humble E-book Bundle is the first foray into e-books by the Humble Indie Bundle project, a nonprofit that has run several insanely successful video-game distribution events in which customers got to name their own prices for a collection of independent, DRM-free games. Each of the Humble Indie Bundle projects so far has grossed around a million dollars and has made hundreds of thousands of dollars for each contributor . And I’ve recruited enthusiastic contributors from all of the big six publishers for the Humble E-Book Bundle—that is, all except one, which has an all-DRM-all-the-time policy and won’t consider publishing anything without DRM in any of its divisions.
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John Taylor Williams is a full-time self-employed audio engineer, producer, composer, and sound designer. In his free time, he makes beer, jewelry, odd musical instruments and furniture. He likes to meditate, to read and to cook.