Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Why I Love Today's Technology

One of my lifetime top-ten books is In His Steps by Charles Sheldon. I've been listening to an audio version of it lately. The true test for me of a good book is my ability to enjoy and appreciate it enough that re-reading it (or re-listening to it!) is as thoughtful an experience as the first time through--if not even more so. I'm about a third the way through again, and keep waiting for opportunities to be in the car or doing something that gives me an excuse to plug my headphones in.

Considered a Christian classic (the phrase "What Would Jesus Do?" gained much of its currency from this book), it might not appeal to those who aren't interested in the religious discussion. But I wanted to point out two interesting aspects of this book right now for me that relate to our discussions of web technology:

1. Because of a mistake by the publisher, the book was not copyrighted correctly, and so was in the public domain immediately--and published by others without permission from or compensation to the author. Sheldon does not appear to have let that bother him, and apparently donated what small royalties he did receive to charity. I have often wondered if the incredible popularity of the book, and the attention it continued to bring to Sheldon and his ideas, might not have been largely aided by its freer dissemination through that fortuitous mistake. And I do think this is an idea that authors, publishers, and musicians are struggling to understand in our new world.

2. I've been listening to the book from a series of mp3s that I downloaded for free, and recorded by an amateur. At least, I assume it is an amateur, since there are some pauses and slight sound quality changes at times that are absolutely trivial, but would never be left in a professional recording. Do I care? No way. I listened to a Jane Austen novel this way as well, and the quality is plenty good enough for me to have a great listening experience. Check out Librivox. This is an example of user/peer/amateur production, and I think it's a great thing (and so does the New York Times).

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