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Linux.com: Copyleft Publishing

Mar 21, 2000, 16:31 (5 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by David Fugate)

"Not surprisingly, it's been the open source authors who've primarily been interested in doing books under a copyleft license. Their goal is often that they want the work to become a living part of the community itself -- to be redistributed widely, commented on by many, added to by some, taken in wildly different directions by others, and so on, with the idea that it will ultimately lead to a much better book and benefit everyone. It's a compelling vision and one that I happen to like and admire tremendously."

"However, a book is not quite the same as a piece of software. All kinds of interesting issues are raised, for both the publisher and the author, when you try to publish a book under copyleft. For the publisher, who has to invest $40-50K to publish the book, the concerns are perhaps the greatest. For one thing, under the copyleft license, there's the potential for a competing publisher to simply republish the book. That's a nightmare for almost any publisher to contemplate, and what's worse is that because the competing publisher doesn't have to pay an author royalties, and doesn't pay for editorial, they'd always be able to undercut the original publisher on price because their margins are so much better...."

"From the author's standpoint, it can get interesting as well. Linux, remember, is given away for free. Tough for a derivative product to harm its sales, because there aren't any sales in the first place. Not so with a book. Also, resellers of Linux don't make their money selling the product, they make it through servicing the product. Also not so with a book, because there's very little service necessary (unless you count an official Web site that you direct readers to where you'd assimilate new information and such, but it's still not quite the same)."

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