Remember back in the day, like July, when the rage against TUEBL began?
While TUEBL is just fine, last week, the angry mob took a civilian casualty: LendInk – a list of lendable books from the kindle store. Mistaking it for a pirate site, the authors took their pitchforks and torches to LendInk’s hosting company, Amazon, and the poor owner – a disabled army vet. Of course, LendInk isn’t a pirate site. Not even close. The angry mob just has bad aim. Fortunately, the internet has a keen eye for bullshit, and pretty quickly the story was picked up.
For now, there’s not much we can do but send our love to LendInk and give the poor guy who ran it it the hope to keep going.
For those of us familiar with the interwebs and the things found therein, it is almost unbelievable that such hysteria could happen. We’re used to the court cases by now, the DMCAs, the mass settlement scams. The naivety displayed by this particular mob of authors is shocking (they LEND…. my book? But-but…. it has DRM! Wait…. what?) But authors are waking up. And it looks like they’re getting a bit of a crash course in the internet. The storm has finally hit the literary world, and it’s time for all of us to think about what role we want to play.
Among my own battles, I have found it hard to choose which to fight.
The Agent Query thread that brought the storm to my attention (and sadly, I think, helped brew it) was finally locked. And much as I would like to say the vitriolic naivety and personal attacks don’t touch me, I will admit that this particular flame war left its mark – a mark that will have a say in how I choose my own role to play in the storm. In the end, the discussion was ended not over implications of bodily harm, nor over the continued slanderous use of words like “theif,” not over the circular debating, or the abject and seemingly irreparable lack of understanding. Over…………. sarcasm. And who’s fault was that?
Yeah…. yours truly. I chose lulz over class.
And I realized: I don’t want this.
Do I want to argue the existence of argument? Do I want to argue over whether my hands should be cut off or my head beaten in? Do I want to argue over basic read comprehension or elementary source-checking?
No. I don’t.
And that a literate person – let alone several – could deny the existence of hundreds of years of debate – or more specifically over a decade of debate specific to the internet is beyond me.
I will gladly leave that behind.
Don’t get me wrong, I want to argue. I want to argue facts and statistics and historical precedent and court cases and legislation. I want to argue workable solutions and compromises and practical ways forward and opportunities for a better future. And on the day that authors and publishers are ready for rational, fact-based discourse, I’ll be there.
But my place of the internet is not about wasted, hateful debate. It’s about LOVE. I love libraries, I love books, I love sharing. And while the pitchforks and torches are flying, I will gladly smile and nod and sneak away to make sure TUEBL’s ok, to spread the word, to pave the way for Pirates in Congress, and to make the internet safe for all libraries.
We are at a crossroads, and in the middle of the roads, there is grey area. But our future is brighter. It can be, anyway, if we work to make it so. And the future will look back on us-as-history and things won’t look so grey.
The fight for freedom and access and culture will always stand in the light – in hindsight if not before.
But I don’t need to wait for hindsight – do you?
One day when the internet and all its citizens are free, those who come out unscathed will look back and laugh at the silly debates. And, hopefully, even those who might not be lucky enough to come out unscathed will at least come out victorious and then look back with pride, if not with laughter (Richard…. Kim….. Brokep…. 10,000% behind you guys!) And maybe, just maybe, they will eventually laugh, too.
But me? I’ll just start now.
Send your love to the haters! Take your battle to the halls of Congress and Parliament. Vote with ballots and with dollars. Answer threats with kittens. And always, always, always seed the faith, friends!*
Ok, I realize that for sites like TUEBL, “seed the faith” is technically incorrect. Possible to agree on a metaphorical use of the phrase?