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?

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.


Tor drops DRM

Tor Books, the world's largest science fiction publisher, will be eliminating DRM from all of their e-books. See this Guardian article: Why the death of DRM would be good news for readers, writers and publishers. Please consider buying some Tor books to say thanks!

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