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Sampling Licenses, Thoutreader, Antonia Remembered

Via the creative commons-license list, I have been learning a lot about the full implications of various licensing. I have been finding that the various sampling licenses are much more flexible and usable than the NC-BY-SA licenses. They apply more towards derivative work situations. The sampling plus license lets you create derivative works for commercial purposes without the copyleft hassles. Cool.

Erik Moller’s piece (mentioned here a few days ago) highlights an important need for CC licenses to be able to work nicely with one another. If you are creating a hybrid work made of photographs, sound, text and video, chances are there will be discrepencies between the terms of each license. Even if you gain the rights to use them, chances are that one of the elements will affect the overall license you use..

Thoutreader has plans to adopt the openreader format in spring. This is especially promising for several reasons. First, thoutreader already has buyin from major technical publishers (including Oreilly, Wiley and Manning). Second, its java-based reader is likely to have cross-platform support (I would be very interested to see how well it works on the Nokia 770). Third, so far, the Thoutcreator conversion tools (though fairly new) are still free. A commenter pointed out a very interesting aspect of Thoutreader: the ability to make and download “collective notes” from a public notes server. I assume this also implies the ability to update a technical ebook to include the latest specs and updates. That would be a major win.

The downside of Thoutcreator is its lack of a reader for PocketPC or any PDA platform. I assume that is forthcoming. Second, I would most like to see support for OEBPS, which actually is a way of packaging various html and image components into a single binary. The conversion programs are more geared to converting docbook type. Another thing is sluggishness. On my PC the reader looks and feels a lot like javahelp–structured and powerful, but slow and bulky.

My musings about licenses makes me wonder whether OEBPS metadata should include better information about licenses. The specs were written in 2002, and they didn’t have a chance to incorporate those things. I’m guessing also that they expected information about licenses and DRM to either be part of the text, or part of the enclosing file format. I would like to see the toplevel packaging metadata include some fields for these kinds of values, so an application how to treat these packages. Perhaps I am misunderstanding something basic, I don’t know.

Other news. I will probably be moving to Zope-based webhosting, and a cursory look reveals that Zettai now offers Corehosting, which is as close as you’re going to get to a moderately priced dedicated server.

In other news, teleread’s Teleread’s David Rothman confesses that Willa Cather’s My Antonia is one of his favorite novels. Well, David, it’s one of my all time favorites too. Every time I read that book, I discover new wonderful moments, new secret joys. In Albania, I required my students to buy $1 Dover Editions of My Antonio, and we would be reading it together in the spring. Little did I know that a civil unrest would cause me to leave Albania early and the city itself to be lawless (I mean literally; no policemen in the city) for several months thereafter.

A random favorite moment: Antonio lets the protagonist’s family try these strange/unusual vegetables which they had never seen before, and which Antonia’s family had brought with them on the boat from Czechoslovakia/Bohemia. I like the way Cather describes them, as though they were magic potions, and then she reveals that what Antonia’s family was cooking were called mushrooms.

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