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No, David Pogue, Ebook Piracy Is Not a Given

timothy posted more than 6 years ago | from the not-necessarily dept.

Books 268

adamengst writes "David Pogue recently wrote a widely read blog post in which he explains that piracy is the reason he doesn't make his books available in PDF format. But in this article, TidBITS publisher Adam Engst disagrees strongly with Pogue's opinion, using sales numbers from the Take Control series of ebooks (150,000+ copies sold since 2004 with virtually no copying) as proof that making electronic versions not only doesn't necessarily lead to piracy, it may be the best way of preventing illicit sharing."

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268 comments

YRO or Books (-1, Offtopic)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 6 years ago | (#23676735)

Odd that this article wasn't given a section in Slashdot. I think YRO would be a fine place for dealing with piracy. Books would also work.

David who ? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23676925)

Fuck him, I don't need to read his shitty writing.

10$ (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23677027)

10$ says someone somewhere is thinking "haha i just pwnd you on slashdot Dave!"

The best way to prevent eBook piracy... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23676741)

...is making your eBook so crappy no one wants to read it.

Re:The best way to prevent eBook piracy... (4, Funny)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 6 years ago | (#23676993)

...is making your eBook so crappy no one wants to read it.
That hasn't stopped people from pirating Fantastic 4, the Dukes of Hazzard or Scary Movie 4. Maybe....

...is making your eBook so crappy no one intelligent wants to read it.
There. Fixed.

Re:The best way to prevent eBook piracy... (1)

Vectronic (1221470) | more than 6 years ago | (#23677035)

Its possible to do both, have the actual book really stupid, to turn off intelligent people, but have the title of the book, really complex, to turn off stupid people.

Re:The best way to prevent eBook piracy... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23677175)

Yes, those movies do get pirated. But I highly doubt someone downloading crappy movies would ever consider pirating a book that they would have to *gasp* read! :P

Re:The best way to prevent eBook piracy... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23677213)

are you's guys calling me stupid er sumthing?

Freetard? (2, Interesting)

E IS mC(Square) (721736) | more than 6 years ago | (#23676747)

Point to note: Mr. David seems to be pissed off with all the Geeks shouting free (without him realizing the difference between beer and speech, of course). He wrote:

"Oh Mr. Freetard, you work as a programmer, do you? How interesting. So do you perform all your corporate programming duties for free, and earn your keep by selling personally branded mousemats on the side?

"Didn't think so."

Re:Freetard? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23676879)

I've always had a soft spot for his kitschy comic spots on the NYT video service. Shame he's such a retard about free software. Real shame he's too dense to see the obvious, nay, glaringly obvious, parallel between himself (gig with a newspaper, writing columns and getting a regular paycheque with a side-job of writing books) and Joe software engineer (gig with a company doing programming of some sort and a side-job working on some personal project).

Re:Freetard? (1, Insightful)

E IS mC(Square) (721736) | more than 6 years ago | (#23677289)

Same here. Though he looks like a retard himself going ga-ga over Apple and iPhone at every opportunity, I used to ignore it for his other interesting write-ups. You are right on about him not seeing the parallel, and he conveniently forgets everything about open source movement where geeks have contributed enough, for free.

Check that again, Senor Skimpage (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23677079)

Pogue was quoting Steven Poole. Those nasty words weren't his own. See Pogue's weblog post [nytimes.com] and the dimwitted douchebag [stevenpoole.net] 's weblog post.

Re:Check that again, Senor Skimpage (1)

E IS mC(Square) (721736) | more than 6 years ago | (#23677275)

So what? He used it to further his arguments, didn't he? What's your point?

As noted by AC above, he can't see the parallel. And not only that, he overlooks the most obvious aspect of programmers doing work for free - Open Source. He loves Mac, but conveniently forgets it's roots in BSD etc.

Re:Freetard? (1)

CaptKilljoy (687808) | more than 6 years ago | (#23677123)

>He wrote:

Bzzt, wrong. That section is quoted text from the linked blog posting by Steven Poole.

Obviously, Mr. Pogue is sympathetic to the sentiment, though, otherwise he wouldn't have quoted it.

Re:Freetard? (1)

clegrand (1082829) | more than 6 years ago | (#23677387)

Point to note: Mr. David seems to be pissed off with all the Geeks shouting free (without him realizing the difference between beer and speech, of course). He wrote:

"Oh Mr. Freetard, you work as a programmer, do you? How interesting. So do you perform all your corporate programming duties for free, and earn your keep by selling personally branded mousemats on the side? "Didn't think so."
looks like a case of RTFA ... Pogue didn't write it, he clearly attributed Steven Poole for that sentiment http://stevenpoole.net/blog/free-your-mind [stevenpoole.net] To be fair, Pogue seems to leaven the article in that direction. He follows up to address the many responses to his article http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/29/technology/personaltech/29pogue-email.html [nytimes.com] here. End result, he fence sits.

piracy is a given regardless (4, Funny)

d34thm0nk3y (653414) | more than 6 years ago | (#23676757)

Well David, you are passing up sales while preventing absolutely nothing.

Learn to live with it, the pirates always win. [thepiratebay.org]

Re:piracy is a given regardless (4, Insightful)

Smidge204 (605297) | more than 6 years ago | (#23677055)

This is certainly true. However, what most people (especially business execs) rarely understand is that piracy usually indicates an unfulfilled market.

Not everyone steals for the sake of stealing. Some steal because it's the only way to get it, or at least the only way to get it in the form they want. If you find a lot of people pirate your products, then you can probably make legit customers out of most of them by altering your distribution and control methods. Carefully consider your price points too, since the true value of something is what people are willing to pay and not always what you think they should pay.
=Smidge=

Re:piracy is a given regardless (4, Insightful)

LaskoVortex (1153471) | more than 6 years ago | (#23677613)

Some steal because it's the only way to get it, or at least the only way to get it in the form they want.

Corollary: If DRM makes it too hard to steal to get it in the form they need it, then people will seek alternatives to both buying legitimately and stealing, then the companies start to loose their user base. I've phased out Adobe products and Microsoft products for exactly that reason. Both are gradually providing less value to me per dollar and both make it too difficult to get a working copy, so I've moved to OpenOffice, Gimp, and Inkscape. If Apple ever DRMs there OS (and I paid full price for a family pack of 10.5 so I own two more licenses of than I can use), then I'll phase them out too.

Re:piracy is a given regardless (5, Informative)

rboatright (629657) | more than 6 years ago | (#23677121)

Uh, look, the analysis is flawed.

First, books are an odd special case.

I can't fit the analysis in a slashdot post... if you haven't read McCauley on Copyright, and if you haven't read Eric Flint's analysis of copyright, piracy and e-books as they effect modern authors, do so.

Start here:
Spillage: or, The Way Fair Use Works in Favor of Authors and Publishers http://baens-universe.com/articles/salvos8 [baens-universe.com]

then go here and read _all_ the salvo's columns...
http://baens-universe.com/authors/Eric_Flint [baens-universe.com]

Meanwhile, there's been very little said about copyright in the last century that McCauley didn't already address... http://www.baen.com/library/palaver4.htm [baen.com]

Re:piracy is a given regardless (1)

bane2571 (1024309) | more than 6 years ago | (#23677271)

That's the thing I don't get about this arguement.
As a personal anecdote I was in a popular IRC book pirating channel on the day Harry potter 5 was released. Piracy was happening so fast in there that you were able to get each chapter from scans as you were finishing the previous one.

The fact is ebooks couldn't make book piracy any simpler than it already is. The pirates have already got it covered

Disclaimer: I own the HP series in hard copy as well as any other books I download that are legally available in my area.

Re:piracy is a given regardless (1)

houstonbofh (602064) | more than 6 years ago | (#23677441)

As a personal anecdote I was in a popular IRC book pirating channel on the day Harry potter 5 was released.

This gives me shudders on so many levels...

Re:piracy is a given regardless (1)

bane2571 (1024309) | more than 6 years ago | (#23677753)

Wow, you know, now that I think of it that really is quite a higher level of geekiness then I usually put out. In my defense I was in high school at the time.

Like the series or not they are extremely popular. At the time I was in that channel a lot so it was an interesting experience for me to see a book go from release to fully proofed and error free, especially since there were already 10's of thousands of books available that must have gone through a similar process.

Re:piracy is a given regardless (1)

houstonbofh (602064) | more than 6 years ago | (#23677407)

He is actively hurting his cause. The Bean Free Library proves it. http://www.baen.com/library/ [baen.com] I have actually purchased books I started reading free. And they keep adding books, so I would guess it is not driving them out of business.

Re:piracy is a given regardless (1)

MsGeek (162936) | more than 6 years ago | (#23677737)

PDF files of books are enough of a pain in my ass to where I usually break down and buy the book if I use the PDF enough.

Giving people a taste in PDF form is a great way of promoting your dead-trees book.

Not everyone is going to do the right thing and buy. But they might not have bought anyway.

Maclover (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23676813)

He loves Mac, that makes him a jackass by definition. The idiot loves DRM and no wonder he opposed to open format

Re:Maclover (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23676891)

If you overlook "jackass" and "idiot", the parent has a very valid point.

Sad that this guy writes for NYT (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23677219)

For someone that writes for New York Times as Technology Writer, he demonstrates remarkable ignorance in regards to what he writes about. It's terrifying to think that this loop is feeding his ignorance to the masses.

First Post for Anonymous Coward (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23676823)

Woot!!

Free as in Library (0, Redundant)

GabriellaKat (748072) | more than 6 years ago | (#23676827)

By "illicit sharing" does he mean my local library, where someone may have donated a copy?

Not a big market for piracy surely (5, Insightful)

lobiusmoop (305328) | more than 6 years ago | (#23676835)

I cant help but wonder if the lack of ebook piracy is more down to the fact that old fashioned paper books are still much more prevalent that eboook readers, and can be had for a reasonable cost. I'd say the day ebook readers go the way of the iPod, piracy will explode.

Re:Not a big market for piracy surely (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23677099)

That's right; because we all know that iPods are just filled with pirated content.

Re:Not a big market for piracy surely (4, Insightful)

Kjella (173770) | more than 6 years ago | (#23677117)

Well, I can't speak for anyone but myself but paper books are very abuse-friendly, I throw it in my backpack when my stop approaches, I can read them at the beach in direct sunlight and drop it in the sand without issue, it's no big deal if I forget it somewhere, it's not attractive to steal, it doesn't use batteries, it's a throwaway so scratches don't matter and so on. As far as environmentalism is concerned it's a drop in the bucket compared to the junk mail / free newspapers I get which go directly into the trash. I can think of some conditions where it could make sense, but they mostly involve using my large monitor rather than an ebook reader. The few conditions where I'd prefer an electronic version (because of e.g. bulk of a paper book) I'd rather have an audiobook than a tablet, it doesn't get smaller than a mp3 player + ear plugs. I think you're seeing more the opposite, people don't have ebook readers because they don't make sense.

Re:Not a big market for piracy surely (2)

Maestro485 (1166937) | more than 6 years ago | (#23677961)

There's also the friend factor. I share similar taste in books with a few friends and we're always passing books back and forth. And, as you said, if I don't get every one of them back it's really no big deal.

One genre I do like having electronic copies of, however, is (surprise) tech books. Since they usually don't need to be read cover to cover and often contain a lot of reference material its usually more convenient, especially since their page count often high and carrying even one can be a pain.

Re:Not a big market for piracy surely (1)

rboatright (629657) | more than 6 years ago | (#23677135)

Paper books are not going the way of the dodo any time soon.

Detailed analysis:

http://baens-universe.com/articles/Paper_books_are_not_going_to_be_joining_the_dodo_a [baens-universe.com]
http://baens-universe.com/articles/A_Matter_of_Symbiosis [baens-universe.com]
http://baens-universe.com/articles/The_Nature_of_Transitions [baens-universe.com]

Re:Not a big market for piracy surely (1)

Fanro (130986) | more than 6 years ago | (#23677201)

I'd say ebook piracy is less prevalent than movie piracy since movie watchers far, far outnumber book readers

And since ebooks are that much smaller than video files, all pirated ebook traffic taken together is minimal

But pirated (scanned) ebooks are not realy rare, I'd estimate there are more ebooks than movies available, if you know where to look.

Re:Not a big market for piracy surely (1, Redundant)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 6 years ago | (#23677409)

A run-of-the-mill e-book maybe, but *ahem* downloaded textbooks are a godsend. Try getting one of those for a "reasonable price" when they change editions every 2 weeks and the professors are chummy with their textbook author/professor buddies!

Re:Not a big market for piracy surely (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23677629)

I cant help but wonder if the lack of ebook piracy is more down to the fact that old fashioned paper books are still much more prevalent that eboook readers, and can be had for a reasonable cost.

Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner!

Since I'm posting as AC anyhow, I'll go ahead and say it outright: I do pirate stuff. But I almost never pirate ebooks. I much, much prefer to read a printed copy. If I want to have a copy for my own, I get it cheap on Amazon.com or elsewhere. Most of the IRC channels I go to have little ebook-sharing because most other people feel the same way. The vast majority of ebooks I have -- and I do have a large library -- are public domain. Most of these are stories that are 100 years or older. Still, a couple of these, like a collection of Poe's works, I have in nice leatherbound copies on my bookshelf.

Required reading IMHO. (5, Informative)

Knightman (142928) | more than 6 years ago | (#23676863)

Macaulay on copyright law: http://www.baen.com/library/palaver4.htm [baen.com]

Eric Flint on making books available online: http://www.baen.com/library/palaver6.htm [baen.com]

nuff said.

Re:Required reading IMHO. (4, Informative)

eht (8912) | more than 6 years ago | (#23676919)

I love directing people here

http://baencd.thefifthimperium.com/ [thefifthimperium.com]

Because I know that people who read these books end up buying more books, maybe not everyone, but enough that they're still running this program with more CD's each year

Re:Required reading IMHO. (1)

Minwee (522556) | more than 6 years ago | (#23676997)

Because I know that people who read these books end up buying more books

And they can buy them in the same formats that the Free Library uses at Webscription.net [webscription.net] . It's the next best thing to throwing money directly at the authors.

Re:Required reading IMHO. (1)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 6 years ago | (#23677401)

Heck, Baen must love me. I've spent a couple hundred there at least.

Part of it is organizational. I often travel for extended periods of time, and can read a book in an hour. I can carry several hundred books in the space of one. I often have limited access to the internet, but little access to libraries or bookstores durng my travel. Ebooks don't take much space individually. Electronic format works quite well for me.

And I LOVE that I'm supporting the authors by purchasing there. Encourages them to write more. I also like enabling Baen to rub their successes in the face of the DRM sellers who don't make as much money. Oh, and the fact that I can't lose my collection by accident or fire*. I can download them again anytime, or even read online. As it is my house looks like a library in spots.

*Well, Baen going bankrupt might do it, but I DO have backups.

PSP eBook Reader (5, Insightful)

GottliebPins (1113707) | more than 6 years ago | (#23676869)

I have a PSP and thanks to all of the rediculous DRM to prevent people from enjoying various media on the device of their choosing I have no choice but to pirate eBooks that I already paid for to remove the DRM so I can read them on the PSP. I found that hacking PDF's is impossible, but eBooks are easy to remove the DRM then convert to PDF so I can read them on my PSP. Because of their rediculous paranoia it actually encourages people to pirate to avoid all of the lame restrictions. Same with iTunes. I looked all over for a song and could only find it on iTunes. So I had to buy it there, then burn it to cd, then rip it back to mp3 so I could play it on my PSP. DRM is stupid. It just encourages people to download it without paying.

Converting is not pirating (2, Informative)

breem42 (664497) | more than 6 years ago | (#23677209)

I found that hacking PDF's is impossible, but eBooks are easy to remove the DRM then convert to PDF so I can read them on my PSP. Because of their rediculous paranoia it actually encourages people to pirate to avoid all of the lame restrictions.

Changing a document (or an audio or video track) to another format is not pirating, even if you circumvent copy protection in the process. If you were to copy the item and then sell it, or make it available via internet that would be copyright infringement [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Converting is not pirating (1)

bane2571 (1024309) | more than 6 years ago | (#23677323)

I think the point he was trying to make is that if he has to go through all the pain of converting a DRMed file why not juts skip tat and download it for free in non-DRM format in the first place?

Re:Converting is not pirating (1)

breem42 (664497) | more than 6 years ago | (#23677617)

I'm sure you are correct. My point is that people go around all the time saying that converting formats is piracy, which it is not. It is this kind of thinking which causes people like "DVD Jon" [wikipedia.org] to be prosecuted. From Wikipedia's description of the DeCSS case:

The defense argued that no illegal access was obtained to anyone else's information, since Johansen owned the DVDs himself. They also argued that it is legal under Norwegian law to make copies of such data for personal use.

Maybe I'm just being pedantic, but the point remains.

Re:Converting is not pirating (1)

bane2571 (1024309) | more than 6 years ago | (#23677693)

oh without doubt, you are completely correct and it's one of my pet peeves too.

I like dead trees (4, Interesting)

fyoder (857358) | more than 6 years ago | (#23676911)

It might not be green, but the best reader I've found is the book. Perhaps I'm in the minority. I saw somewhere that there are people in Japan who not only read books on their cell phones, they also write books on their cell phones. Perhaps they're more evolved than me. If I found a book online that looked interesting and was available in dead tree format, I'd buy it in dead tree format, or look for it at bookmooch.com [bookmooch.com] .

That applies to reference books as well, like Mr. Pogue's. I've got shelves of them. But in the case of reference books, I wouldn't mind a searchable version as well. Hm, perhaps I should pay a visit to thepiratebay.org...

Re:I like dead trees (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 6 years ago | (#23676931)

Pulp wood is a well managed resource. There is plenty of paper, the only (slight) downside is the energy consumed in its production.

Re:I like dead trees (4, Informative)

belmolis (702863) | more than 6 years ago | (#23677109)

It's a bit more complicated than that. The byproducts of pulp production are a problem. Pulp mills vent small particles that are bad for the health and must be removed. They also vent a number of chemicals including some nasty smelling sulfur compounds. This is locally referred to as "the smell of money". The official view here in Canada is that these smell bad but are not toxic, but a lot of people question that. When I lived in central part of the city, I noticed a strong correlation between days when I woke up feeling crummy and days when the pulp mill smell was strong. I made a point of moving uphill to the outskirts where the odor is not as strong. We have three pulp mills and air quality is a major local issue. Levels from air quality monitors at three sites are reported every day on the news.

Pulp mills also produce really nasty liquid effluent. Even with the current treatment, studies here show that it causes mutation in the genes of the salmon. Some information from Environment Canada is here [hc-sc.gc.ca] .

Re:I like dead trees (3, Interesting)

maxume (22995) | more than 6 years ago | (#23677337)

I grew up about 5 or 6 miles from a paper mill. It was pretty much the industrial base of the local community, situated about 2 or 3 miles from the town. We rarely smelled it, but a big part of that was that it was downwind during prevailing weather conditions. My impression was that it also added a great deal of scrubbing and whatnot when I was about 4, so it was much better as I was growing up than it had been.

People weren't real excited to eat fish that came out of the river it was on, but there were fish in the river.

It isn't that it is free of effects, it is that the effects are due to production of enormous amounts of paper. The environmental harm contained in 1 book (and thus in the several dozen that most people carry around) is very small.

Re:I like dead trees (3, Funny)

ikkonoishi (674762) | more than 6 years ago | (#23677943)

Yeah thats why I buy all my books printed on baby seal leather with ink made from ground endangered butterfly wings.

Re:I like dead trees (1)

Vectronic (1221470) | more than 6 years ago | (#23677177)

"It might not be green, but the best reader I've found is the book."

How is that not "green"? it is far more ecologically "green" than a PDF Reader which is filled with all sorts of different plastics, chemicals and alloys.

Paper, generally does contains some chemicals, but, it all breaks down in the span of a month (excluding the plastic coating on newer book covers)

Plus, like Maxume said, "Pulp wood is a well managed resource." You can also hand over a book to anyone you wish, without worrying about DRM, or "being caught", books only require light, not electricity of any kind, you can use books to prop things up, start a fire, insulate walls, etc, etc. A book is universal, you wont need to upgrade anything to be able to re-read it in 5 years, etc.

Its far more "green" to use real books, because thats the definition of "being green" really, using whats provided by the earth, that also returns to the earth naturally.

Everytime you buy batteries for your PDF reader, or plug it into the wall... what do you think happens? pixies?...

Re:I like dead trees (1)

Obfuscant (592200) | more than 6 years ago | (#23677313)

Not only all those things you said, you forgot that a book is a dandy carbon sink. I have a whole wall of carbon credits on my wall and stacks of carbon credits all over the place. Each one has a title and consumes NO futher energy. I've even read some of them. :-)

I came across the silliest DRM a few days ago. A research group had produced it's translation of a text in PDF and had turned on the "you may not print this" flag. The only way they wanted me to read their work was on-screen. Consuming power the entire time. Tied to one place.

xpdf honored the flag, as did all the Adobe acro-this and acro-that. I downloaded a copy of xpdf and found the one function call that tested the "may this be printed" flag. It now always returns "yes, you may". Of course, I didn't have the truetype library so it wouldn't run anyway, but it did tell me that pdf2ps and other functions would.

Hmm, I said. I tried pdf2ps. No problem. Well, one problem. It tried to set the page size to something invalid for my printer. one pass of sed removed all that. I can now read the text where I want when I want on paper. And the text is bigger than it would be normally!

Re:I like dead trees (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 6 years ago | (#23677529)

Just for reference, there is about 5 pounds of carbon in a gallon of gasoline. A whole lot of books amounts to sinking about 1 tank (100 lbs of carbon!) of gasoline. Or maybe 5 tanks if you really have books.

Re:I like dead trees (1)

urcreepyneighbor (1171755) | more than 6 years ago | (#23677785)

pixies?...
Don't be silly. Everyone knows we get electricity - Daddy calls it the "Devil's blood" - from the heat generated by fairies having sinful relations in Hell while being burnt for all eternity.

Re:I like dead trees (2, Interesting)

shadwstalkr (111149) | more than 6 years ago | (#23677543)

They aren't more evolved than you, they just have better phones in Japan.

I like dead electrons (1)

arth1 (260657) | more than 6 years ago | (#23677619)

When reading a paper book these days, I often find myself missing the features of the e-book, like tapping on a word to get the dictionary definition, or changing the font size.

Speaking of font size... PDF for e-books is idiocy, lunacy, and the worst possible format I could think of. When the content is TEXT, why should you want to enforce a special formatting on the user? That's removing some of the great advantages of e-books, namely that you can change the formatting and fonts to suit the USER, and not be fettered to an old print style that's no longer relevant. Not to mention how extremely slow and memory hungry PDF is for leafing through, compared to just about any other e-book format.

So far, I've bought around 300 books as e-books, and I can carry them all with me at all times. That's convenient. And the device I use has a built-in backlight, so I can read in the dark. That's very convenient too -- the main time I have to read is after the wife falls asleep, but before I do, and something as bright as a book torch would not work, while a backlit PDA works just fine.

But PDF? No, thanks. Too big, too slow, too limited.
And Sony Reader? No backlight = No buy.

Paper book piracy is also rampant (4, Insightful)

WallyDrinkBeer (1136165) | more than 6 years ago | (#23676915)

There are these "libraries" where people file-share paper copies of books. FOR FREE!!!!
David better not release paper copies either.

Re:Paper book piracy is also rampant (2, Insightful)

SoupIsGoodFood_42 (521389) | more than 6 years ago | (#23677483)

Last time I checked, library books were a limited supply. You can only lend a book out to one person at a time, and only for a certain amount of time. If libraries gave away unlimited free copies, I'm sure more people would have a problem with them cutting into sales.

Reality, learn to live with it (4, Insightful)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 6 years ago | (#23676937)

If it is in digital form, and it is popular, it will be pirated. Period.

If there are eBooks that are not being passed around on P2P sharing networks, it is not because there is any increased respect for eBooks than music or movies. It is because nobody cares about the content.

If I were to publish an eBook on the mating habits of the German Cockroach, I would expect that it would not be heavily pirated. Equally, I would expect a photoeassy on the day in a life of a proctologist would similarly be immune from piracy. However, an eBook of any popularity would immediately be copied and passed around freely regardless of the wishes of the author.

Does eBook mean piracy? No, clearly not. However, anything that is popular is likely to be pirated regardless of any wishes of the author. The author (like Stephen King) can make the content available online free or not, as they choose. However, once it is in digital form the author loses the ability to control the outcome. This much should be obvious to everyone by now.

Re:Reality, learn to live with it (3, Funny)

kernowyon (1257174) | more than 6 years ago | (#23677077)

If I were to publish an eBook on the mating habits of the German Cockroach...

Insect pr0n? I would like to subscribe to your newsletter.....
I expect it beats David Pogue's ebooks anyway!

Re:Reality, learn to live with it (2, Funny)

cavtroop (859432) | more than 6 years ago | (#23677187)

Equally, I would expect a photoeassy on the day in a life of a proctologist would similarly be immune from piracy.

You, sir, must be new to this internet thingy.

Re:Reality, learn to live with it (2, Funny)

jonaskoelker (922170) | more than 6 years ago | (#23677259)

Equally, I would expect a photoeassy on the day in a life of a proctologist would similarly be immune from piracy.
I think it was preemptively pirated under the name hello.jpg.

Re:Reality, learn to live with it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23677263)

Then why do people here get so up and arms over GPL violations? That seems pretty inevitable too.

Period.

Re:Reality, learn to live with it (1)

Mistshadow2k4 (748958) | more than 6 years ago | (#23677699)

Because most of the people doing the pirating are not big corps making big money by stealing GPL code. Sure, that doesn't include the pirates selling stuff, which most /.ers do object to, but the Avergae Joe does do a little pirating and never makes a dime off of it.

Re:Reality, learn to live with it (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 6 years ago | (#23677933)

I am against copyright infringement, personally. I find it to be abusive towards the author. However your comparison makes no sense.

One thing is to make a copy of something for personal usage (which GPL allows)

Another is to take someone's copyright and claim that it is yours by distributing the material as part of your own distribution package and going away from the license (the GPL). These things are completely different.

Re:Reality, learn to live with it (3, Interesting)

WolfWalker545 (960367) | more than 6 years ago | (#23677453)

But how many of the people who get a pirated copy would have paid for a reasonably priced copy if it was available? My wife's book is available on one of the Baen free CD's at baencd.thefifthimperium.com, and has been for a while, but the royalty statement she got today still has Webscriptions royalties... There have actually been cases where people tried to upload Baen ebooks to pirate sites and were shot down by the pirates because they feel that Baen, by charging a reasonable fee, is doing it right, and that pirating their stuff is like killing the goose that laid the golden egg. It's when publishers try to charge more for an electronic copy than they charge for a print copy that piracy is considered ethical by some of the piracy groups. Since my wife is an author, I get the dead-tree versions of all Baen books free. But I still buy some books through Webscriptions for the convenience, and to make sure my friends get paid for their work (of course, some just email it to me, just like they can request electronic copies of my wife's work). I don't understand how any business can survive by treating their customers like thieves - if the customers aren't already, a sizable percentage will either decide they may as well be thieves, or just walk away and refuse to deal with that business again (it's been a LONG while since I bought an album from a major label, for example).

Re:Reality, learn to live with it (1)

urcreepyneighbor (1171755) | more than 6 years ago | (#23677735)

It is because nobody cares about the content.
If you're an author and you can't write something more popular than Fecal Incontinence - Diagnosis and Treatment - C. Ratto, G. Dogglietto (Springer, 2007) WW.pdf (a random pdf from hfrarg), it's time to consider a new line of work. ;)

Free made a buyer out of me... (2, Interesting)

Kernel Corndog (155153) | more than 6 years ago | (#23676945)

I didn't read any of the articles linked but I can say from person experience that, even though Practical Common Lisp [amazon.com] is available for free on-line [gigamonkeys.com] (HTML, PDF) I still bought my copy. It is worth every penny. Had it not been available on-line, it probably would've taken me even longer to convince myself to buy it.

Re:Free made a buyer out of me... (1)

rboatright (629657) | more than 6 years ago | (#23677155)

which, of course, has been Baen's experiance now for more than a decade offering books on line in high quality editions FOR FREE with the absolute REQUEST that you distribute them, and this act INCREASING the sales of the hardcopy.

Numbers with proof available at the Baen Free Library. (Google it, it's good for you.)

oh, really ... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23676973)

"due to the way his technology sensibilities have been honed by years of being a Mac user. "

stopped reading right there :-P

Surprise. Nobody's pirating technical manuals... (1)

wisconjon (1064136) | more than 6 years ago | (#23677009)

Even if nobody's pirating music from your neighborhood band, that says little about the overall effect of music piracy. 150,000 downloads in 4 years? That microcosm can hardly speak to the vast wealth of popular books sold every minute on this planet. And e-readers are only now starting to become popular, so the number of illegal downloads is bound to explode, as it did when mp3 players got big (Winamp, etc). Oh, to be in college now! Free music, free textbooks, and a political movement worth following...

PDF = Promotes (3, Insightful)

Piranhaa (672441) | more than 6 years ago | (#23677013)

I didn't RTFA... but i know as a fact that people would rather read a hard copy book rather than on a screen. I, myself, have downloaded many ebooks (and had some sent to me from friends), read them and bought them after if they were actually good. It's sad to see that some authors (and other corporations) that 'piracy' always leads to lost revenue.. Even if someone would never have purchased the product before. When will they learn?

Re:PDF = Promotes (1)

clegrand (1082829) | more than 6 years ago | (#23677105)

I didn't RTFA...
stopped reading the post right there :-P

Re:PDF = Promotes (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 6 years ago | (#23677545)

Where am I? Where's my mop?

Re:PDF = Promotes (1)

SoupIsGoodFood_42 (521389) | more than 6 years ago | (#23677547)

But he writes reference material. Many people just want to know something and decide to take the cash hit since they know they will get the info they need. If they can get it for free, they are probably more likely to justify doing so than with a fiction novel as you don't normally decide to read only a few parts of a novel -- you intend to make use of the entire work.

That may be true (1)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 6 years ago | (#23677015)

Things will get pirated. It's undeniable. I'm also not familiar with Pogue's writing.

But 99% of what I need to read is already freely available on the internet not only because of books, but also forums about specialty topics, news sites and things of that nature. Years back, when I was looking to learn lisp I found the easiest/best book was available free (by Touretzky). [cmu.edu]

And several newer ones (and highly acclaimed) were freely available as well. They sold well when they made it to print.

The way I see it, good books/resources are already so widely available on the internet that authors are shooting themselves in the foot by not putting themselves out there on a digital format. It's rather like refusing to print books because the library offers them for free and they can be xeroxed.

They don't have to compete on price, but just be better than the free competiton. I know I would be more apt to buy a book on computer languages written by Touretzky. I know this because I have been a repeat customer of other authors I like from fiction to mathematical textbooks -- my time is more valuable than trying to cop a free book. If I know an author can entertain/teach me in the allotted time, I'll pay the price.

When you consider the average American moves every 7 years, the hassle of libraries, the expense/convenience of keeping a paper library, and the inherent advantages of a digital e-ink readers; these will become a major market soon especially for the younger generation.*

It's rather like artists/RIAA of the 90s saying they wouldn't put their music out as mp3s because of piracy, they'll stick with the good old CD. The format exploded despite the content providers liking it or not.

*(Although I have dealt with DRMed digital textbooks, I won't have anything to do with them. IMO, DRMed books are a million times worse than a DRMed song. Stallman was right on the money here.)

Re:That may be true (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23677161)

When you consider the average American moves every 7 years

That explains the weight problems in the States! DAILY exercise people, daily!

Little Brother (2, Insightful)

davidpfarrell (562876) | more than 6 years ago | (#23677191)

I'm guessing Cory Doctorow [craphound.com] might have something to say in regards to Pogue's sentiments.

The link is to the main page for Cory's "Little Brother" which is hitting its 4th week on the bestseller list.

And there is a link to download the eBook right there on the page.

Re:Little Brother (1)

Zadaz (950521) | more than 6 years ago | (#23677927)

I'm also put to mind of Getting Real [37signals.com] . You can read the HTML version for free or pay $19 for a PDF and they've still sold tens of thousands of copies of the PDF, not to mention the paper version.

Paper books can't be pirated by ass... (3, Insightful)

Rakishi (759894) | more than 6 years ago | (#23677203)

I've seen some lovely torrents filled with thousands of OCRed versions of paper books. All you need I'm assuming is an auto-feed scanner, some nice paper cutting equipment and decent OCR software.

In other words if your book is popular it will be pirated without too much difficult no matter what format it's in. If it's not popular than likely no one will care enough to pirate it no matter what format it's in. On the other hand if I can't easily get an non-pirated copy of you book then well the pirated version will be tempting simply because its more convenient.

But his books are already available! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23677207)

Just search eMule.

Real-World research has proven Mr. Pogue wrong... (5, Interesting)

Marful (861873) | more than 6 years ago | (#23677269)

Baen Publishing (Baen.com) has been offering most of their books FOR FREE on their website [baen.com] for years.

Here is what Eric Flint has to say about ebooks and piracy:

Baen Books is now making available â" for free â" a number of its titles in electronic format. We're calling it the Baen Free Library. Anyone who wishes can read these titles online â" no conditions, no strings attached. (Later we may ask for an extremely simple, name & email only, registration. ) Or, if you prefer, you can download the books in one of several formats. Again, with no conditions or strings attached. (URLs to sites which offer the readers for these format are also listed. )

Why are we doing this? Well, for two reasons.

The first is what you might call a "matter of principle." This all started as a byproduct of an online "virtual brawl" I got into with a number of people, some of them professional SF authors, over the issue of online piracy of copyrighted works and what to do about it.

There was a school of thought, which seemed to be picking up steam, that the way to handle the problem was with handcuffs and brass knucks. Enforcement! Regulation! New regulations! Tighter regulations! All out for the campaign against piracy! No quarter! Build more prisons! Harsher sentences!

Alles in ordnung!

I, ah, disagreed. Rather vociferously and belligerently, in fact. And I can be a vociferous and belligerent fellow. My own opinion, summarized briefly, is as follows:

1. Online piracy â" while it is definitely illegal and immoral â" is, as a practical problem, nothing more than (at most) a nuisance. We're talking brats stealing chewing gum, here, not the Barbary Pirates.

2. Losses any author suffers from piracy are almost certainly offset by the additional publicity which, in practice, any kind of free copies of a book usually engender. Whatever the moral difference, which certainly exists, the practical effect of online piracy is no different from that of any existing method by which readers may obtain books for free or at reduced cost: public libraries, friends borrowing and loaning each other books, used book stores, promotional copies, etc.

3. Any cure which relies on tighter regulation of the market â" especially the kind of extreme measures being advocated by some people â" is far worse than the disease. As a widespread phenomenon rather than a nuisance, piracy occurs when artificial restrictions in the market jack up prices beyond what people think are reasonable. The "regulation-enforcement-more regulation" strategy is a bottomless pit which continually recreates (on a larger scale) the problem it supposedly solves. And that commercial effect is often compounded by the more general damage done to social and political freedom.

In the course of this debate, I mentioned it to my publisher Jim Baen. He more or less virtually snorted and expressed the opinion that if one of his authors â" how about you, Eric? â" were willing to put up a book for free online that the resulting publicity would more than offset any losses the author might suffer.

The minute he made the proposal, I realized he was right. After all, Dave Weber's On Basilisk Station has been available for free as a "loss leader" for Baen's for-pay experiment "Webscriptions" for months now. And â" hey, whaddaya know? â" over that time it's become Baen's most popular backlist title in paper!

And so I volunteered my first novel, Mother of Demons, to prove the case. And the next day Mother of Demons went up online, offered to the public for free.

Sure enough, within a day, I received at least half a dozen messages (some posted in public forums, others by private email) from people who told me that, based on hearing about the episode and checking out Mother of Demons, they either had or intended to buy the book. In one or two cases, this was a "gesture of solidarity. "But in most instances, it was because people preferred to read something they liked in a print version and weren't worried about the small cost â" once they saw, through sampling it online, that it was a novel they enjoyed. (Mother of Demons is a $5.99 paperback, available in most bookstores. Yes, that a plug. )

Re:Real-World research has proven Mr. Pogue wrong. (1)

Marful (861873) | more than 6 years ago | (#23677299)

I forgot to add, that when you buy a hardbound book from baen, it includes a CD with an electronic version of every book they have published that month.

Needless to say, their hardbound book sales figures extend for a longer period of time than normal because of this.


I also almost exclusively buy ebooks and paper books from them now because of their policies.

Re:Real-World research has proven Mr. Pogue wrong. (1)

Tuoqui (1091447) | more than 6 years ago | (#23677567)

Makes me want to vote with my dollars... read a few of these and buy some of the dead tree format... Apparently the post above this one indicates that when you buy the dead tree version you get the electronic versions of ALL of the ebooks they've ever published as well.

Foiled my plan (2, Insightful)

wildem (1267822) | more than 6 years ago | (#23677307)

I love reading great books and some are either way overpriced or the hold on them in the library is 50 plus long. If a book is on the shelf and I can physically pick it up , guess what , I'll read it in store for free. What's his answer to that ?? Turn down the lights in the book store to stop me from reading the damn book.

Write a good book, price it well and people will support you so that you won't have to pander to the copyright zealots.

David Pogue's books (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23677327)

Sorry to personally attack the guy, but having read "Hard Drive" 10 years ago I can say I don't think he's qualified to be a "techno-thriller" writer. I find it interesting that he seems to have such a following with that little understanding of how software works.

Perhaps he's gotten better at it. The plot itself wasn't awful, but every time he tried to say something smart it grated on my nerves.

Anyway, he might want to consider his audience (supposed techno-savvy people) when he decides on the publishing methods of his books. It could be that he's losing sales from people who really would buy and read his stuff (through some online sci-fi ebook portal or something.. If I had an ebook reader, I could see buying a few books to try while I was in an airport..)

Serious flaw in his thinking (3, Insightful)

SoupIsGoodFood_42 (521389) | more than 6 years ago | (#23677389)

Do we really need to point out the obvious -- that perhaps David Pogue's books are more popular than whatever this guy is talking about?

I don't get too many people copying photos from my site, but that doesn't mean there aren't a lot of Ansel Adams' photos scattered around the net in violation of copyright.

If David Pogue doesn't want to risk a loss in sales because of piracy of ebooks, then at least he has simply decided not to make an ebook available, rather than jump on the pro-DRM bandwagon. He has to put food on the table and it's his reasonable right to make such a decision.

Of course, as many of the comments here already confirm, I'm sure this forum will simply end up twisting this into some sort of anti-Pogue, anti-DRM argument, making him out to be the same as the RIAA. I mean, look at WallyBeerDrinker and his knee-jerk comment about libraries (which I would normally agree with, BTW), or d34thm0nk3y.

Maybe raise the money before writing the book. (1)

Pixelstuff (1249622) | more than 6 years ago | (#23677405)

As the internet becomes "everywhere" and distribution becomes virtually cost free, maybe the new production model or books for music is could be for the author to say, I'll write another volume in the "such and such series" if people donate $100,000 or whatever to support me for the estimated two years it takes to write the story.

Then once it's released it doesn't matter if it gets copied. Of course that would eliminate the concept of working for a few years and having income for the rest of your life. But people who build houses don't get paid a tax as long as the house is occupied either. So it's not like it's without precedence.

There isn't much of a market for PDFs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23677411)

I've seen the numbers for books that are offered as PDFs and the sales relative to paper books is paultry.

I will never read e-books (1)

Monkey_Genius (669908) | more than 6 years ago | (#23677481)

I don't care if it's the actual 'Word of G-d' himself. I will not be told by the author, publisher, or the marketer, where, when, how or for how long, I can read the books that I purchase.

"unbreakable copy protection"? (3, Interesting)

urcreepyneighbor (1171755) | more than 6 years ago | (#23677561)

From the article:

Actually, authors like me are lucky; our work is, at this point, pretty much protected with unbreakable copy protection. That is, our bound and published books can't be duplicated infinitely and distributed by the millions online.
Speaking as someone that has personally scanned well over a hundred books (I have no life... seriously... sadly), all I can say is: never underestimate the length a person with OCD will go.

Never. :)

The only form of "unbreakable copy protection" (in the sense used by the author of the article) is security thru obscurity. Ha!

Control of work vs being paid for it (2, Interesting)

syousef (465911) | more than 6 years ago | (#23677611)

The problem I have with copyright and IP law in general is much less to do with compensating the creator (Why a creator should be compensated every time their work is used, when the work is only done once is a whole other issue). My main issue is that it gives someone the artificial right to control something they've created. If a plumber does a job for you he doesn't then get to tell you how the pipes may be used, or dictate when you can shower or use the toilet. (Perhaps I shouldn't give plumbers ideas). Why should a an author or other media creator, or inventor have this level of control? IP law lets the creator deny innovative use of his or her creation outright, or charge through the nose for it. The trouble is we've grown up being taught that this control is a right and all our laws are based on it. Not just for original works but also derived works. It's so wasteful it's insane.

Re:Control of work vs being paid for it (4, Insightful)

Concerned Onlooker (473481) | more than 6 years ago | (#23677883)

I believe the idea is to protect creators for a reasonable period of time during which they can profit solely from their labor. The idea was to offer an incentive for the creation of art, literature, music etc. in the first place, which seems reasonable to me. The problem is that for the last several decades the big dollar content owners (not necessarily creators) have lobbied for and gotten unreasonable extensions to copyright periods. Mickey Mouse should have been in the public domain long ago.

Two Things Not mentioned by Pogue or this article (4, Informative)

cmacb (547347) | more than 6 years ago | (#23677701)

are the significant differences between fiction books and technical references. In the threads here someone mentions cheap paperbacks, being dropped at the beach, not worth stealing etc. All true for casual fiction. But much of this does not apply to what is mostly a reference book on some hardware/software.

For such reference materials there are two sides to this story:

A particularly good reference work that is about a particularly popular and long lasting subject would of course be worth getting in electronic form for free, especially if the 500-page tomb costs $50 and up retail (as such books often do). But I've bought my share of these and have (or had) bookshelves full of such reference works that I could often get my employer to buy, or claim as a deduction while consulting etc.

On the other hand, I've bought quite a few of these reference book and ended up not using them a single time. I could just as well wait until I had a question on a particular subject and taken pen and paper into the nearest Barnes and Noble and written down the answer. I bought these books "just in case" as I'm sure many people do when they get a new OS or new kind of gadget that they think they might need some help with. Would Pogue or authors like him be willing to give refund for unused copies of his book? I rather doubt it.

I think if Pogue as more of a humorist than anything else, his books pretend to be reference works, but like his NYTimes articles are generally more like stand-up routines, long on wit, short on actual information. He is probably a special case, and as such, might not want to be held up to a true usefulness test.

Light reading, not worth stealing? Sure print it in cheap paperback and let people drop it at the beach.

Hard info, repeated reference material? Might do better as a paid subscription service online. People would pay to get the info they need and the more that service proved useful the more they would try and us it. Furthermore, in this form, the more likely it would be that you could support the content with ads rather than subscriptions. That's the direction the world is going for technical info, which means that Pogue should milk his job at NYT for all it is worth. More people are using tools on the web now and expecting to find answers on the web as well, either included with the tool, or for free elsewhere. We aren't abandoning books to save the rain forests, we are abandoning them to use something better and more convenient. Just as I'd rather be typing this than writing it out in long-hand with a fountain pen, I'd rather solve my next puzzling OS X conundrum by doing a Google search than thumbing through fifty dusty books on my bookshelf. In the not too distant future, you will sell your "books" online, or not at all.

What just happened? (3, Interesting)

fishthegeek (943099) | more than 6 years ago | (#23677813)

I followed the links after RTFA and ended up on Doctorows website, Started reading the blurb on his book "Little Brother", downloaded the palm ebook and purchased the audio book. I can't tell if I'm really interested in the book or if I just fell for the most frakin clever slashvertisement of all time.

Ebooks not pirated? (3, Informative)

Auldclootie (1131129) | more than 6 years ago | (#23677959)

A quick scan through the popular torrent sites will enable you to download up to 50,000 books in a dozen or so torrents. Even allowing for the quick scan through to delete the rubbish - that is still a decent sized library. SCRIBD/Baen/Gutenberg et al prove there is a market for ebooks. My own uploads to SCRIBD have had more tha 80,000 views in the last few weeks and they are nothing special... All these - 'smell and feel of a book' people are just Luddites. I love my dead tree library too - but its not portable. My Hanlin book reader holds several thousand books on a 2gb SD card - it is DRM free, lightweight, comfortable to read anywhere - including in direct sunlight, reads a multitude of formats and has adjustable font sizes. It turns 9,000 pages before a charge is needed and can be left on indefinitely - it uses no power to leave the display on for weeks as the screen is e-ink/paper. It runs on Wolf Linux and is the only practical way for someone like me who like reading (but is always traveling) to get a print fix... E-books are the future - like it or not - and sooner the better - especially for the text book industry which is well overdue for euthanasia...

PDF is the way to go (3, Insightful)

Orion Blastar (457579) | more than 6 years ago | (#23677985)

because it is cheaper to create a PDF and sell that, than print out a lot of paperback or hardcopy books.

The #1 reason why people pirate a book is cost, but a PDF book is relatively cheap next to a paper book, and Lulu.com [lulu.com] knows that and helps people self publish ebooks in PDF format for really cheap, cheaper than a paper publisher would charge.

I am a big Traveller fan, and Far Future [farfuture.net] and Marc Miller are putting Traveller V5 in PDF format and selling the CD. Actually they have T5 in PDF format on the Citizens of the Imperium forums only available to people like me who paid for T5 in advance and let us become beta testers for the new gaming system and allow us to give feedback on the new T5 changes. Oddly enough, the T5 PDF files, while not copy protected or even watermarked, never found their way to file sharing networks unlike a lot of old RPG and Gaming materials already have. Most Traveller fans don't want Traveller to die out, so they refuse to pirate the PDF files for T5 and Mongoose Traveller, despite a lot of the Classic Traveller, etc stuff already been scanned and put on file sharing networks already.

In some cases, piracy of the Classic Traveller materials got enough people interested in the new T5 materials to buy them, and some even buy the Classic Traveller CD set from Far Future to support Traveller and make sure that it survives to the new settings and new T5 system.

Besides Google has Google Books [google.com] that has a lot of books available online for free and while you cannot read a whole book you can search through it enough to find what you need so that you don't have to buy the book. Even if their are partial previews, they allow enough info to learn what you need and you can search through the book, chapter by chapter, and in theory read the whole book for free. I don't really see a difference between reading a book for free in Google Books or downloading it from a file sharing network for free before actually buying the book later to have a hard copy and see if you like the book enough to buy it. In a library or book store you can read the whole book for free anyway. Then decide to buy it or not, based on how you like it.

In that way Piracy actually helps people decide what they want to buy, provided they like it enough to buy it after previewing it. I myself have bought books for $20 to $55 or more, then finding out later that the book was useless or I didn't like it, but I was stuck with it and out of money and had to buy a different book that was better. Reviews really don't help, as people are paid to shill for a book and write a good review even if the book is horrible. Besides the person who liked the book and wrote a review, might not like the same things that I or anyone else likes to see in a book.
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