Affordability of books, income levels and distribution models v0.2

Prices of  books are relative to the living standard (income levels in dollars, purchasing power) of those interested in reading them. We don’t have to run questionnaires among unemployed Greek young left activist, or people of south Italy, or vast majority of the population in former socialist countries in the East Europe … or indeed sections of  the US/UK population … to know that for them it is not easy to buy those books, especially not many books. Situation is of course far worse if we include the average income in dollars in Africa, Asia and Latin America. 

In short, for majority of the population in the world, Haymarket, Pluto, Verso (and other left publishers) books are way too expensive. Since we can safely assume that left authors and publishers do want to be read as widely as possible regardless of the class and national separations (or at least they should want so), the minimum anyone one the left should expect from them is to be exceptionally well aware of the differences in the perspectives on prices of things from London & New York and other less wealthy places. 

An approach to publishing that considers those incomes differences can perhaps be found, we need to experiment and try different models. This is far from saying that writers’ and publishers’ labour should not be paid for, it has to be, for the production to continue and expand. 

While it is in the interest of anyone in the left anywhere in the world that left publishers in the West prosper, it should be in the interest of those publishers to recognize the privilege of their own position and position of their authors, and act accordingly: in solidarity and in the interest of the works being read by anyone who wishes to do so, regardless of the the ability of the reader to pay. 

Electronic distribution of knowledge gives us a chance to come closer to the practice of the communist principle of distribution of wealth (those books are wealth) according to need. The question is how to move towards such models in ways which do not undermine the existence of publishers and writers ability to write. The answer is: 1. define & try out new models -> 2. measure, analyze -> 3. tweak -> 4. try again. In short, test distribution and pricing models and tweak them until the right models are found.

Some quick and rough ideas on what could be considered

Please note: This is the result of  couple of hours of quick thinking. There will be for sure plenty of valid for/against arguments and other models to consider.  I can be emailed at toni.prug@gmail.com, or the comment feature on this blog can be used for constructive suggestions and critiques. Any arguments that seem to me valid and offering an improveent will be moved from the comments into a new version of the text.

Commons to both model is the following: a selection of books gets a different pricing to increase sales for the potential buyers whose purchasing power limits their ability to buy the books.

1. distribution/pricing model ONE

  1. Decide on a narrow selection of new books (half a dozen or so) to participate in this model.
  2. Sell PDF’s and epub formats and make them less than half price (or so) to start with.
  3. Do not sell PDF’s/epub through other online retailers (especially not through Amazon or similar large ones), so that all traffic and income comes to the publisher directly, and so that readers know they will not find ebooks on any other online shops.
  4. Run this for a year, run reports each quarter and compare whether this increased or decreased sales according what was expected (i assume there are sales expected figures for each book. if there are none make them).

Note: PMPress has been recently offering PDF’s at reduced prices. Asking them how is it going might help.

For:

  1. Majority of the sale price of a printed book goes to Amazon (for example), each half-price PDF sale will generate roughly the same income.
  2. Readers will come straight to publisher website, additional sales (buying more) and promotional activities (reading about other books) are a click away
  3. PDF/epub sales could increase print sales

Against:

  1. additional  work, which might not be available
  2. danger of PDF/epub sales undermining print sales

2. distribution/pricing model TWO

  1. Decide on a wide selection of new and older books (20-30 books) to participate in this model.
  2. Create two additional pricing models  for the books according to the region of the world where they are being sold. Do this according to the average income (not the best measure, due to possible deceiving income distribution patterns). So that the pricing becomes, for example: Region 1 (richer states in the West and mostly North), Region 2 (Greece + East Europe + parts of Asia, Africa, Latin and Central America), Region 3 (rest of the world).  Region 1 would be the existing pricing. Regions 2+3 would need creating.
  3. Run this for a year, run reports each quarter and compare whether this increased or decreased sales according what was expected (i assume there are sales expected figures for each book. if there are none, make them).

For:

  1. Reduced prices for most of the world: a) increases chances of sales in those areas; b) shows political sensitivity
  2. It will encourage readers to order straight from the publishers website, additional sales (buying more) and promotional activities (reading about other books) are a click away

Against:

  1. additional  work, which might not be available
  2. more complicated accounting and arrangements with distributors
  3. possibility of books from cheaper markets leaking back to Region 1 market, thus undermining Region 1 pricing sales

Why Open and Not Free v0.7

THESE ARE NOTES FROM THE TALK GIVEN AT DISCLOSURES,
31th March 2008, Common Room of Middlesex Street Estate, London E1

---
Hacking Ideologies: The spectre of free information is haunting
capitalism, but what's in it for us?
---
If the Open Source movement was created to attract and include
capitalists, what can be said of Free Software? Is there anything
in it for those who dream of new egalitarian social orders? Sharing
is great. Yet, IBM agrees. The spectre of free information is
haunting capitalism, says Eben Moglen. What if that spectre wins,
capitalists fail to assert control over it, and all that can be
copied digitally becomes shared? Would that enable, or assist us
in any way to establish an entirely different set of egalitarian
social relations, based on new modes of production and consumption,
coordinated by a different set of political institutions and
organisational forms?
---

Written for the CLUC/DORS April 2008 conference in Zagreb/Croatia.

[Ranija verzija na Hrvatski, v0.5.6 PDF | CLUC/DORS 2008 Video prezentacije ]

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Open-process academic publishing v0.6

The Internet Model = why Open Access is not enough

This is an early version of the text. Latest version of this text is here.

Publishing and peer review processes in academia are currently closed models. In my view, at least in the areas i operate in (social sciences and humanities), these processes should be far more, if not entirely, open, with a provision for privacy in special cases. I call this model Open-process academic publishing. The name deliberately distinguishes it from Open Access, which refers to only the final outcome of academic knowledge production being open.  The suggestion is not to open the processes in random ways, but in ways in which this openness — fundamentally based on volunteer participation — brings/enables more structure, more internalized working discipline, more commitment, and more ability to improve cooperation/collaboration with deliberate precision – all with the goal of improving the outcomes.  “[...] culture of open processes was essential in enabling the Internet to grow and evolve as spectacularly as it has”, hence, we could call it The Internet Model (software/FS + networking/IETF). Its potential screams for being reused, hacked, for other areas of production. Academia, especially its publishing side, seems to me capable of embracing such volunteer-core open-process cooperation.

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A worker-inquiry: The Objects of Communism, State-form Hacks v0.6.3

Free-market capitalist ideology died in the financial crisis of 2008. But its zombie flesh eaters – destruction of the planet and human spirit, its wars, thieves and speculators – might linger for centuries. Unless we make it obsolete. Dismissing the parliamentary capitalist framework as dysfunctional is easy. 1) what do we replace it with?; 2) and HOW do we replace it?

We need a new egalitarian project. A new attempt at implementing the ideas of communism. I conceptualize it as communism hacked with Open Process [1]. Hacked with ethics and organization, both in the political domain and through the eventual replacement of the capitalist economic model, of its trade secrets and commodities. Namely, hacking ‘to reinvent the organizational principles of mediation between productivity and circulation that wouldn’t go via alienation through commodification and general equivalent of money’ [2], nor via alienation and corruption of the representative political models.

The open-process model can be derived from communities of hackers, engineers, academics and hobbyists that gave us the Internet, the Web, their protocols and tools. Open Source is a capitalist appropriation, selectively composed rewritten history of partially excluded original communities for the purpose of fitting the capitalist economy. Free Software stands for ethics, Internet Engineering Task Force for open process, Open Source for capitalism.

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Open-process Academic Publishing v1.2

Abstract

Publishing and knowledge production in academia can be significantly improved if aspects of cooperative models developed in software and networking communities are adopted. Open Access movement does that partially, by focusing on the openness of the final result. The most important attributes of the development of the Internet, the Web and their communication-cooperation tools is openness of the entire process of production. The novelty that can take many forms is in the organizational structures, decision making and cooperation. This article argues that journals adopting a form of open-process approach could benefit by increased quality of submissions and publications, faster and more responsive pace of research and by attracting more risk taking and innovative authors. Through clearer structure and visibility of tasks, equally important could be possible internal benefits for journals: recognition of the most important workers and decision making in their hands, easier and improved project management, attracting new volunteers and reducing the impact of counter-productive participants. If these changes were implemented well, such open-process journals would gain readership and reputation. Open-process academic publishing can take procedurally and technologically complex forms. A simple transition model is suggested: how to start with an email list and right cultural safeguards.
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Series on Commu(o)nism: Open Process, the organizational spirit of the Internet Model, pt 1 v0.5.2

Abstract: The desires and the sources of emancipatory potential of the commons for the cooperative and egalitarian global togetherness, for a new communism born through the new generation of tools and organizational practices, have temporarily been appropriated and hi-jacked by capitalism under the Open Source and to an extent Creative Commons movements. Through and with the Open Process methods of the founding Internet communities, we can make a significant step towards claiming it back. Commu(o)nism, we could call it, is a new emerging form of communism hacked with open process and new commons. The small (o) in the middle stands for open.

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Series on Commu(o)nism: Open Process, the organizational spirit of the Internet Model, pt 2 v0.5.2

Engineering the privatization of the common

Tim O’Reilly was, along with Raymond, perhaps the key figure in the business part of the group of Open Source (let’s not forget that almost all of the Open Source founders were part of the FS communities to an extent) counter-revolution. Behlendorf, one of the Apache project founders, was inspired how the Internet developed through the IETF principles: rough consensus and running code, specialist working groups open to all, and Requests For Comments (RFC) documents (Moody 2001, 128). In 1999, Tim O’Reilly invited Behlendorf to develop his new ideas on open source business models. The results was a joined company which in June 2000 closed $35 million round of funding, including Dell, HP, Intel, Novell, Oracle and Sun amongst the investors (Moody 2001, 249). Early signs of a capitalist counter-revolution were encouraging.

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Student Control Over the Faculty in Croatia v1.1

The History of Financial Violence and The Directly Democratic Response (hrvatski prijevod)

In the twenty years since the nationalist takeover of state power in Croatia, the idea of collective good, beyond its mandatory and narrow identification with the nation, has  been absent from public discourse. In those rare moments when it appeared on the margins of public life, evoking the economic aspects of the collective, the state and media were successful in containing it, narrowing it down, rephrasing it ideologically, and preventing it from spreading in undesired forms [1]. For the previous forty five years, Croatian citizens have enjoyed the benefits of free education and health care. Even the most efficient ideological engine, the liberal parliamentary capitalist one, could not erase that over night. As less and less remains in the carcasses of industries to be ripped apart and stolen from the people (in Yugoslavian socialism, they were formally owned by the people, not the state, see Branko Horvat), the capitalist vultures turned to one of the remaining mainstays of the 45-year socialist project: free education and health.  Their problem this time was that they found a formidable opponent.

freeEd.sfinga

The privatization of education has been introduced gradually – most likely in the hope that no one would notice. Not this time.

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Hacking ideologies: Open Source, a capitalist movement v1.0

Writen as a 24c3 (24th Chaos Communication Congress, Volldampf voraus!) event proposal. Based on unpublished dissertation “Free Software”, Aug 2007.

————————————————————————
Believe. “The World is Yours.” (Ian Brown, 2007)
————————————————————————

The Open Source initiative re-interpreted Free Software to include it into the
neo-liberal ideology and the capitalist economy – whose aims are contrary to
the FS starting axioms/freedoms. This platform will focus on ideological
and political aspects of this. It will also suggest FS recovery strategies.

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Techorg v0.1

Technology and organization are political ingredients of society that are often seen in separation, both from each other and from politics and philosophy. Texts below are a collection of work in progress that analyse and demonstrate why they cannot be seen in isolation: what are political consequences from seeing them in isolation and what political opportunities open up from considering them together. The concept of techorg is inspired by reading David Harvey’s The Enigma of Capital, where he frequently repeats technology+organization in a way which makes tons of sense to me, for now. It’s there to put a collection of texts under a concept, and the term might morph or disappear as the work develops.

Techorg = technology + organization + politics(philosophy).

- Hacking ideologies: Open Source, a capitalist movement (December 2007)

- Series on Commu(o)nism: Open Process, the organizational spirit … pt 1 (v0.5.2) (2009/10)

- Series on Commu(o)nism: Open Process, the organizational spirit … pt 2 (v0.5.2) (2009/10)

- Open-process Academic Publishing (v1.2) (July-November 2009)

- Free Software (August 2007)

- Why Open and Note Free? (April 2008)

HM 2011 – prvi dan v0.2

HM, 1. dan – ukratko: dva RMF panela + plenari.

Plenari razocaravajuci, sto je bilo za ocekivat. Mada se cistom filozofijom tesko moze odgovorit na pitanje sto bi i kako trebalo radit u pogledu napredaka ljevice iz ugla trenutne krize i popularizacije lijeve kritike i sve sire upotrebljavanih direktno demokratskih (dirdem) metoda, aktivisticki pogled nije bio puno konstruktivniji (osim poziva da se izadje na ulice 30. Nov kad u engleskoj strajka 3mil radnika).

Panagiotis Sotiris i Joel Geier su spomenuli dirdem kao nezaobilazan element buduce ljevice. Geier drzi da je pobuna u Wisconsinu ranije ove godine bila kljucna za spoj direktne akcije, dirdema, okupacije i sindikata u americi (“nove” i stare metode na ljevici). Claire Solomon je imala obraza (nakon izostavljanja kuvarice iz verso knjige, unatoc pozivu da damo prilog i objektivnoj vrijednosti tog dokumenta u okviru studentskih pobuna zadnjih godina) reci da su general assemblies kljucni novi element na ljevici (bestimao sam sebi u bradu dok je govorila). Situacija u Grckoj i Italiji je prozvana auto-pilot momentom kada se politika ukida, a profesionalni neoliberalni bankari preuzimaju vlast. Demokratska maska liberalnog kapitalizma je pala. Medijacija i legitimacija prema interesima kapitala trenutno nisu potrebni. Kriza je izrodila odnose moci ogoljene do kosti. Alberto Toscano je izvrnuo jucerasnji tweet Nouriela Roubinija (italija umjesto kapitalizma): “kapitalizam je ne samo prevelik da propadne, vec i prevelik da ga se spasi”. Povijest SAD-a je izgradjena na grandioznim narativima (sloboda, demokracija, nezavisnost), no to su bili narativi zaborava kojima se postojanje cijelih naroda i njihovih nacina zivota (nativni Indijanci su u nekim djelovima SAD-u imali za tadasnje vrijeme visoko razvijnu poljoprivredu) brisalo kao da ga nikad nije bilo (Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz). Unatoc analitickoj limitiranosti termina 99%, recentni protesti i okupacije moraju dobiti podrsku ljevice, a direktni angazman je zadatak svih revolucionarnih marksista (Joel Geier). Na pitanje o mogucnosti da narod u SAD-u stane iza radikalnijih politickih programa koji bi bili u korist 99%, jedan od panelista je odgovorio da je to tesko moguce zbog finacijalizacije radnika i kucanstava cije su obveze i imovina, tj ukupan balans i dugorocni financijski dobitak, upleteni duboko u strukturu nereguliranog kapitalizma u SAD-u.

RMF1 + RMF2 paneli su bili dobri, pogotovo RMF1, John Weeks je bio izvrstan, Leda Paulani jako dobra. Centralno mjesto oba izlaganje je bila tvrdanja, izrecena sasvim drugacijom terminologijom, da je financijski kapital (prividno) autonoman od proizvodnih sektora roba. Zbog te prividne autonomnosti financijski spekulatori idu do kraja, osjecajuci da su u rudniku zlata. No u nekom momentu zakon vrijednosti uspostavi balans ukidajuci nasilno privid vrijednosti financijskih dobara (imovina, poput CDOs). Ti su momenti ono sto dozivimo kao krize ekspanzije kapitala (Weeks priznaje samo dvije krize 1930 i danasnju). Neoklasicni analiticari to vide kao gubitak, rusenje vrijednosti. No Weeks inzistira da tu vrijednosti nikad i nije bilo – Meadway je na RMF2 vrlo slicno objasnio rusenje sekuritiziranih lanaca i njihovu prividnu vrijednost. Weeks iznistira da svjetske kriz nema. Radi se o krizi dereguliranog modela kapitalizma. Modela s kojim su zapadne sile, pogotovo SAD, na pladnju servirale Kini i ostalim nadolazecim zemljama otvorenu borbu za buduca vodeca mjesta u svjetskom poretku. Predavanja su bila slojevita, pogotovo rasprava. Za Weeksa je u srzi krize tehnoloska promjena koja velikom brzinom devalvira postojece zalihe kapitala (zalihe roba, novac, postojeca ulaganja u tehnologiju i sve ostale vrste kapitala). Povijest nam govori da se ni jedno rusenje svjestkog imperija i promjene u svjetskom vrhu nije desilo mirnim putem. Opasnost novih ratova medju svjestkim silama je relano. O tome, kaze Weeks (samo djelomicno u šali), cemo pricat sljedece ljeto.

RMF2: Özlem Onaran je empirijski pokazala austerity cuts u brojkama i grafikonima – predviljivo i dosadno za slusat, ali bitan te jako koristan rad i materijal. Tko placa rezove? Onaran odgavara rezolutno i empirijski potkovano: u drzavama Evrope u pravilu izmedju 70-80% cijelokupnog prikupljenog poreza dolazi od place. Dakle drzavu, grubo receno, placaju radnici svojim radom [1]. Istovremeno, dofinanciraju se gubitnicke banke, dok se budjeti radnicima najbitnijih drzavnih elementa – javnih dobara, poput obrazovanja zdravstva, skrbi – drasticno smanjuju uzrokujuci veliki gubitak radnih mjesta i usluga koje ti sektori nude.

James Meadway je naglasio da ne mozemo sadasnju krizu promatrati kao klasicnu bankarsku krizu u kojoj ulagaci i stedise odjednom svi zajedno zatraze svoj sredstava (run on banks). U tim klasicnim slucajevima radi se o nepovjerenju u isplacivanje bankovnih obveza (prema ulagacima, stedisama). Danas je ipak rijec o nestanku povjerenja u drugu stranu obracunske tablice: imovina banaka, slozeni financijski proizvodi su ti cija se vrijednost naglo rusi kao kula od karata i koji su okidac nedostatka povjerenja u citave banke. Nepovjerenje nastaje zbog imovine, a ne zbog obveza banaka.

Jeff Powell je o Meksiku pricao, no kao da je predavao o Hrvatskoj: a) ekstreman porast financijalizacije kucanstava (udio kucanstava u cijelokupnom kreditiranju banaka se penje sa 10% 2000 na oko 50% 2010), b) banke u stranim rukama 84%, c) paradoks da unatoc eksploziji financijalizacije kljucni agenti razvoja, poput strateski vaznih domacih firmi, nemaju sredstava, jer strane banke ne zanimaju takva ulaganja; d) radnici su finacijalizirani kroz imovinu: nekretnine, mirovinski fondovi, dionice … vrijednost istih dugorocno raste, pri tome vezujuci buduce dobrostanje radnika za uspjesnost kapitalizma u cjelini; tako se relativno male rizike koji je do implementacije neoliberalizma preuzimala drzava prebacuje u obliku puno vecih, individualno plasiranih rizika na radnike; e) Powell je rekao da situacija nije gora nigdje u svijetu, osim nekoliko istocno evropskih zemalja (to je onako usput spomenuo).

Ocjene dana: RMF1 -5, RMF2 4,  Plenarna sesija +2. Lapavitsas RMF moderiranje: 5! Mjerio je gotovo u sekundu vrijeme govornicima (ocito je imao stopericu ispred sebe, jer je govorio “30 sekundi do kraja” izlagacima), komentare iz publike skracivao, pitanja dobro grupirao, pohvalio svako kratko i jasno pitanje sa “odlicno, jasno i kratko”.

[1] vidi takodjer Anwair Shaikh, Who Pays for the “Welfare” in the Welfare State?  A Multicountry Study;  Social Research, Vol  70, Broj 2, Ljeto 2003, stranice 531-550, http://homepage.newschool.edu/~AShaikh/welfare_state.pdf

Hack the State? Artist in Residency Report by Patrice Riemens v1.0

HACK THE STATE?

Substantive report on my artist-in-residency at Sheffield’s Access Space,
March 8-27, 2010.

http://www.access-space.org

Introduction and context

In the second half of 2009 I applied for and was awarded a one month
residency with Access Space, the ‘Free Media Lab’ in Sheffield, UK. This
residency took place during the largest part of March of this year (2010).

The project I submitted for consideration was termed “Hacking Society” and
was inspired by Toni Prug’s initiative “Hack the State”
(http://hackthestate.org). Its leading idea was to research on the
opportunities (and actual occurrences) for citizens collectives to have
the machinery of government work with and for them instead of the other
way round by opening up its structure and mechanisms. Indeed, to ‘hack’
the state. (see Appendix … for the full description of the original idea).

The format of this research, apart from site-specific requests voiced by
Access Space, was in my mind to be very similar to the research I
undertook while in residency with the French Media Lab APO33 in October
2008. This enquiry had hackers, and hackers-related events, initiatives,
‘spaces’, and ‘texts’ as its subject. The idea being to compile a
‘reasoned catalog’ of such occurrences, along with a tentative theoretical
exposition of their nature and their ways of coming about [1]

This relatively straightforward model, with regard to both idea and format
did not turn out to be practicable however. This was mainly due to the
fact that issue at stake proved in the course of looking at it far more
complex than I initially envisaged, something that also manifested itself
spectacularly in developments that took place in its immediate aftermath.

The consequence is that reporting on the subject matter of this residency
did not only turn unfortunately slow – for which I offer my apologies -
but also remains very much a ‘work in progress’ , or in less charitable
terms, an unfinished business.

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The Mirror’s Gonna Steal Your Soul v1.0

logo

Published on Media Mutandis – a NODE.London Reader (http://publication.nodel.org)

Ideas Can Not Be Free

The Free Software and free culture movements are today’s loudest opponents of the wide introduction and implementation of patents and copyright, the main tools of intellectual property regimes. At the heart of their arguments lie the values of sharing and creativity. Yet, obsessed as it is with novelty, innovation and the possibility of bursting creativity, theory coming from and around these movements has remained largely free from an engagement with the history of technology and its role in the development of current civilization. Whatever historical reflection does take place is usually limited to the consideration of US history, and works through a re-examination of American documents, events, organizations and processes. Rare exceptions are partial inclusions of French and British histories and cultures, which are read selectively so as to compliment the dominant US discourses that theorise Free Software/culture movements. In British academia, the same has been said about international relations studies [1], where “most of the rest of humanity is rated according to its degree of importance to ‘western interests’”. (Pilger, 2002, p 160) No wonder then, that when economy is mentioned within and around Free Software theory, discussion hardly ever moves beyond free markets, and trade and any kind of production are assumed to be beneficial. The logic of growth through creation is unquestioned and its value inflated. As with history, such narrow theorising falls apart under a global view of economics, as we know from ecological studies: U.S. levels of consumption are unsustainable for the rest of population of the planet, and economic growth (Rivero, 2001, p 87), as currently defined, is neither possible or desirable globally without a complete reconceptualisation [2].

Taking the global and historic view, what kinds of problems start to emerge with the Free Software and free culture movements?

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