PDF dilemmas (dilemmae?)

My new book is nearly finished, and I have decided that — at least initially — it will be published only as a PDF e-book.

Reasons abound. An e-book is appropriate for a book about online writing. PDFs are getting more and more accessible and user-friendly. PDf saves painful or expensive pre-press work. With PDF, screenshots can adapt in size to the reader's screen. PDF enables links. PDF saves me finding a sponsor or a big whack of investment money. (In case you wondered, I'm reverting to self publication for this book: love it!) And so forth.

But using a PDF forces some interesting questions into the front line. Questions of control vs. freedom, control vs. generosity, copyright vs. piracy. The questions have always been lying in wait like a nose-high mud bog. They just become more ominous when related to a book I've been working on for the past year. I don't care much if people pinch my articles. I like it when others reprint or quote me, and many kindly let me know. But in this case, more is at stake.

People buy a PDF e-book for say $49. They can then forward it to hundreds of other people, who get it for free. Hm. On the other hand, people buy a real book and can then lend it to hundreds of their friends.

I could ensure that a PDF is printed only once. But that seems rigid, and some people will want to just print a few chapters.

I could prevent cutting and pasting from the PDF. But that would frustrate reviewers and students as well as plagiarists.

There's no right or wrong here, just people tipping towards one or the other solution. I'm inclined to just set this book free.

1 comment

Jan 29, 2009 • Posted by how to write a good dissertation

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