Fingerprinting e-books

At The Guardian James Bridle reports on a plan to automatically alter the text of digital books in order to foil piracy after the fact.

This involves making small changes to the code or design of each copy so that any pirated editions can be traced back to their purchaser or distributor.

This is apparently intended for non-fiction works, though Bridle points out that there are experimental precedents in fiction.

Rephrasing in experimental fiction has a fine lineage, and it’s not hard to see how an author might collaborate with the German algorithms to produce a new version of Raymond Queneau’s Exercises in Style, or multiple variations on Georges Perec’s A Void. Software already supports literature’s production and distribution at every stage, but at some point it might become collaborator as well.

On a related note the idea of computer authoring has had quite a lot of press this year. One system developed by Phil Parker (as reported by Adam Popescu at readwrite.com) already creates thousands of non-fiction books, and can write poetry. It could also generate a blog post like this one he claims:

There’s been in the last 2 weeks about 10 articles written about what I’ve done and none of them talked to me about it. They’re all copy and pasting from each other. I think it’s very a interesting observation that they’re using a formulaic method to deliver content and put their name on a byline, when in fact they’ve done a formulaic cut-and-paste. I would call those kinds of articles low on the creativity front.

Busted.

The Millions on Kindle Worlds

At The Millions Elizabeth Minkel has posted a new article on Kindle worlds. Like Scalzi, she is highly sceptical:

The whole venture hints at broader questions that swirl around a lot of Amazon’s recent projects as they attempt to knock traditional publishing models out of whack. If it didn’t feel like such a fundamental and remotely insulting misunderstanding of fan culture, if it didn’t feel like a prime chance for corporations to exploit rather than promote, I might even praise Amazon (praise Amazon, for Christ’s sakes) for trying yet one more thing that deviates from the publishing status quo.

Minkel’s piece stresses the top down nature of the Kindle Worlds project, and the fact that fan fiction gains its strength from its unorganised (not disorganised) grass roots nature.

the whole point of it, beyond all that deep love and celebrating any given fandom, is taking a character or a setting or just the tiniest inkling of an idea and rolling with it. The possibilities spin off into exponentially increasing permutations, spurring weird stuff and beautiful stuff, quite often fiction that’s better written than the source material that inspired it, creating fandoms that are so broad and varied and encompassing that a person can usually find whatever they’re seeking within. If not, well, that person may as well just write it herself. If that’s not the most accurate reflection of the rest of the internet — the organic, cultivated internet, grown from the bottom up, with no contracts, no exchanges of cash — then I don’t know what is.