Sunday, 29 July 2012

Word police go for gold

Language is our tool for communication. We can use it well, or we can use it badly, but it is something we create and use, a democracy of sounds and scribbles.

We're seeing increasing attempts by big business to change all that. Spend enough money and you can make common words illegal. I was horrified to read about this in connection to the Olympics: The Independent, Marketing Week, Examiner and so on have all covered it. More commentary here, here and here. We've already had companies branding common words, taking ownership of them. Now we are seeing tentative attempts to ban use of common words to protect commercial interests. I recently read about an author whose children's fantasy novel included animals setting up the 'animal olympics'. He was told he would have to use a different word than 'olympics' because of the threat of litigation. Since when did a group gain ownership of an adjective for a place - Olympia - where games were held before corporations existed?

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Don't be sloppy with the tool of language

The barriers to publishing novels electronically are being smashed. As a result the number of self-published books available is going up all the time. This is a table from the Smashwords blog showing the increase in the number of titles they host (the graph shape is similar for other platforms e.g. Amazon's Kindle).

It can be difficult to stand out as part of that sheer avalanche of digital words. The other day I had a comforting thought, which I'll get to in a minute.


Friday, 13 July 2012

Monday, 9 July 2012

The dented tin cup

If you follow my blog, or know me personally, then you'll realise that I'm not a fan of DRM on books, music, films or games. Big publishers think people as a whole can't be trusted, so implement systems to try and force people to behave. Whereas I like to think that most people can be trusted, and those who can't aren't worth worrying about anyway.

In my case I find myself sometimes buying things I don't even want, just to support things I like. "Wowzers! A new publisher is trialling making their game DRM-free on GOG - I don't want the game but I want the trial to be a success, so I'll buy it!" or "By Jupiter! The next Humble Indie Bundle is out!" It's a bit like the charity donations we all make (but with a bonus game at the end of it).