[Plura-list] Working as intended; Buying (not licensing) my ebooks; Scihub boosts cites; Topple monuments...with science

Cory Doctorow doctorow at craphound.com
Fri Jul 3 11:37:54 EDT 2020

Today's links

* Working as intended: My upcoming free lecture on the role monopoly
plays in distorting our discourse and creating conspiracies.

* Buying (not licensing) my ebooks: The best way to get my ebooks and

* Scihub boosts cites: Public sphere vs Elsevier.

* Topple monuments...with science: Popular Mechanics is here for you.

* Privacy Analyzer: What does the web know about you?

* Frederick Douglass's descendants read his July 4 speech: "What to the
Slave is the Fourth of July?"

* This day in history: 2010, 2015, 2019

* Colophon: Recent publications, upcoming appearances, current writing
projects, current reading


🤾🏿 Working as intended

On Jul 21, I'm giving a free live talk with Q&A; for LogicLounge, an
32nd CAV 2020 event sponsored by the Vienna Center for Logic and Algorithms.

It's called "Working as Intended: Surveillance Capitalism is not a Rogue
Capitalism," which is (not coincidentally) the title of a forthcoming
pamphlet I've written on the role that monopoly plays in our toxic and
conspiratorial discourse.


The "surveillance capitalism" thesis holds that companies spy because
data lets them conduct devastatingly effective influence operations
while racing past regulators who might otherwise rein in their operations.

I believe this gives undue credence to Big Tech's sales literature --
the source of the claims about the power of behavioral advertising to
influence behavior. Worse, it underplays the role that monopoly and
state surveillance play in both the decay of public discourse and
governmental complacency when it comes to corporate surveillance.

What if Big Tech's ability to command billions for ads have more to do
with cornering markets and eking out marginal gains through targeting,
with stale data being largely useless for commercial purposes -- but
still full of kompromat for greedy state surveillance agencies?


🤾🏿 Buying (not licensing) my ebooks

Many people have written lately asking for the best way to get
electronic editions of my books and audiobooks, so now's a good time to
remind you that I run my own ebook store, where I sell my publishers'
electronic editions of my books:


So I'm getting the 30% that Amazon would take if you bought the books
from them, then I send the 70% to my publishers, and then *they* send me
25% of that back as my royalty - basically doubling my income.

But it's also a better deal for you: while all my books, in all
bookstores, are sold without DRM (including these ones), these ebooks
are also sold with *no terms and conditions*. Kindle books require that
you "agree" to a sprawling garbage novella of impenetrable legalese.

Clicking "Buy" is also clicking "Agree" and what you agree to is a
near-total waiver of your privacy and consumer rights. Amazon even
reserves the right to reach into your device and delete your books if
they change their minds about selling them to you.

They've done that before...with George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four.
No, I'm not making that up.


I have asked dozens of Amazon press spokespeople whether they would do
this again, and...crickets.

I once got invited to give a paid speech at Amazon and I said, "Sure,
I'll even waive my fee. Just answer my questions about whether you will
delete the Kindle books people buy in the future." I never got an
answer, and I never gave the speech.

My store's also got my audiobooks. You can't even buy those on Amazon,
or its audiobook monopolist Audible - that's because Audible refuses to
carry my audiobooks because they're DRM-free.

Every book on Audible has DRM that locks it forever - even after the
copyright has expired - to Amazon's platform. They and they alone can
decide which devices can play those books.

This is the company that one day decided (for example) that it wouldn't
stream its video to rivals' TV dongles, like Google's Chromecast. They
changed their mind...eventually. Do you think it's the last time they'll
change it?

Audible controls 90%+ of the audiobook market, and audiobooks presently
account for about the same number of sales as hardcovers. That's an
entire universe of literature that is under total control of a monopolist.

There are rivals to Audible that have virtually identical inventories
and exactly the same prices: libro.fm, downpour.com, and - for my
audiobooks, at least - craphound.com/shop.

My audiobooks - like my ebooks - come with no terms and conditions. The
deal you make with me is the same deal you make with bookstores when you
buy physical books: "Every right Congress ever gave you is intact. Don't
violate copyright. We're cool. Thank you and come again."

As far as I know, this is the *only* way to buy ebooks published by
commercial publishers without signing away your rights. It's not a
"license," it's a sale. You bought it, you own it. It's a book. Books
are older than copyright, than publishing, than paper, than commerce.

I totally reject the idea that the ancient compacts that bind us when we
trade in literature can be unilaterally rewritten by a monopolist simply
by making you click "I agree."


🤾🏿 Scihub boosts cites

Alchemy looks a lot like science: an alchemist observes a phenomenon,
hypothesises a causal relationship, and designs and performs an
experiment to test the hypothesis.

The difference is in what happens next.

The scientist publishes their findings so that others can critique it.
The alchemist does not. Scientists aren't smarter than alchemists, so
scientists are every bit as capable of making themselves believe that
drinking mercury is good for their health.

But scientists have to expose their work to peer-review, which means
that their self-deception can be exposed and corrected. Alchemists just
die of mercury poisoning.

Today, most peer-review happens through publication by a handful of
giant, monopolistic journal publishers.

Scholarly and scientific research, most of it publicly funded, is given
for free to these multibillion-dollar empires, who then charge the
institutions where the authors work millions to access the journals in
which that work appears.

The editorial boards and reviewers of these journals are volunteer
positions, filled by scholars from those same institutions that pay
millions to access the journals they're producing.

The journals themselves are pure rentiers, useless intermediaries that
barely even edit the papers they publish:


And yet, scholars send them work, because their career advancement
depends on publication, preferably in widely cited journals.

For more than a decade, scholars have been fighting back, switching to
"open access" journals that fund their (minimal) costs by charging to
submit a paper for review and then publish for free. Major science
funders now demand that grantees promise open access publication.

But the paywalled journals are still hanging in there. They have huge
warchests of money looted from universities, and they have massive,
locked up back-catalogs of scholarly work whose copyright they extorted
from uncompensated researchers.

Enter Scihub, an unauthorized repository of millions of scientific and
scholarly papers liberated from paywalls and made available for free to
all comers.

The scholarly publishing industry hates Scihub so much that they've
actually gone to courts around the world to demand that Scihub and its
mirrors be blocked by national firewalls, censoring science in a bid to
restore the mercury-swilling days of alchemy.

But what about the scholars - the actual researchers whose uncompensated
words publishers sue to suppress when they go after Scihub?

For them, Scihub is a godsend.

Not only does Scihub make it possible for scholars to see all the
literature they need to review to continue their work, irrespective of
institutional affiliation (this is especially important in the Global
South, where many universities can't afford subscriptions).

But - as a quartet of scholars from Brazil, Colombia, Czech, and
Australia show in a new paper...well, the title says it all, really:


That is, when your work is freely available, more people read it and
cite it. And for scholars, more citations means more career
opportunities: jobs, grants, conference invites...Everything that
matters to the progress of scholarship.

I mean, yes, it's obvious, but it has some pretty fascinating
implications - like, "If you're a scientist who wants to progress, you
should let Nature publish your work and get the prestige, then defeat
Nature's paywall so that Scihub can distribute it and get the impact."


🤾🏿 Topple monuments...with science

With monument-toppling season upon us, it's time for the popular
scientific and engineering press to dust off their beloved "What's the
scientifically best way to tear down a statue" pieces and republish them
for our quick reference.

"How to Topple a Statue Using Science," by James Stout for Popular
Mechanics covers all the classics:


Leverage: Get 70 buddies (for a notional 7000lb horse statue), 4x4
recovery straps (tied for leverage, look for heads, etc), split in two
teams and rock back and forth.

Heat: You can reduce the team-sizes by weakening the materials - 40mins
with a butane torch or 15-20 with propane torch.

Chem heat: Thermite around the ankles is more efficient than torches but
is potentially harder to source

"Editor's Note: As national and worldwide attention to the removal of
statues has grown, we have continued our reporting on the related
science and safety issues, and have amended this article to reflect our


🤾🏿 Privacy Analyzer

The Privacy Analyzer from Privacy.net is a good, comprehensive way to
check what kind of data your browser is leaking to the ad-tech industry:


It steps through five separate tests:

I. Basic info (IP address, OS, etc)

II. Autofill leaks (does your browser allow malicious scripts to capture
sensitive info with "autofill" capture?)

III. Which services are you logged into? (third parties can use this to
figure out what services you use)

IV. Browser capabilities (including whether you have dangerous plugins
that allow for malicious code execution)

V. Browser fingerprint: how unique is your browser configuration (tells
you how easy it is to track you across the web even without cookies)


🤾🏿 Frederick Douglass's descendants read his July 4 speech

With July 4th upon us*, it's a good time to (re)acquaint yourself with
Frederick Douglass's "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July," which
you can read here:


*Remember, though: All countries matter

NPR gathered five of Douglass's young descendants and had them read
excerpts from the speech, reacting to each. It's a powerful, moving
video, and a reminder that this isn't just history, it's the present moment:



🤾🏿 This day in history

#10yrsago Hardware, software and services I use

#5yrsago XKEYSCORE: under the hood of the NSA's search engine for your
Internet activity

#5yrsago July 4: Rumblefish claims to own US Navy rendition of "America
the Beautiful"

#5yrsago Why we're still talking about Terminator and the Matrix

#5yrsago EFF's new certificate authority publishes an all-zero,
pre-release transparency report

#5yrsago Haunted Mansion Graveyard Scene made from My Little Ponies

#1yrago Youtube's ban on "hacking techniques" threatens to shut down all
of infosec Youtube https://boingboing.net/2019/07/03/nobus-r-us.html

#1yrago The rent's less damned high: rents falling in most of America's
most expensive cities

#1yrago User Inyerface: collecting every "dark pattern" of web design in
one place https://userinyerface.com/

#1yrago Celebrate Independence Day with Cordell Jackson, the "Rock n
Roll Granny" a psychobilly pioneer who played until she was 81

#1yrago Insiders claim that Google's internet-fixing Jigsaw is a toxic
vanity project for its founder, where women keep a secret post-crying
touchup kit in the bathroom

#1yrago After Propublica expose, the "nonprofit," "Christian" Memphis
University Hospital suspends practice of suing the shit out of poor

#1yrago The widening health gap between America's rich and poor is the
result of worse health for the poor, not better health for the rich

#1yrago Frontier: if you don't buy your router, we'll charge you a
rental fee; if you DO buy your router, we'll charge you a "support" fee


🤾🏿 Colophon

Today's top sources: Slashdot (https://slashdot.org/), Kottke
(https://kottke.org/), Dennis, Skepchick (https://skepchick.org/).

Currently writing:

* My next novel, "The Lost Cause," a post-GND novel about truth and
reconciliation. Yesterday's progress: 510 words (33951 total).

Currently reading: Anger Is a Gift by Mark Oshiro

Latest podcast: Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town (part 08)

Upcoming appearances:

* In Conversation with Hank Green, Jul 10,

* "Working as Intended: Surveillance Capitalism is not a Rogue
Capitalism," Jul 21,

Upcoming books: "Poesy the Monster Slayer" (Jul 2020), a picture book
about monsters, bedtime, gender, and kicking ass. Pre-order here:
https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781626723627. Get a personalized, signed
copy here:

"Attack Surface": The third Little Brother book, Oct 20, 2020.

"Little Brother/Homeland": A reissue omnibus edition with a new
introduction by Edward Snowden:
https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250774583; personalized/signed copies

This work licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license.
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*When life gives you SARS, you make sarsaparilla* -Joey "Accordion Guy"

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