Does IFLS mean anything to you?
It’s ‘I F—ing Love Science’ (the dash is where ‘uck’ would be) and it often hosts thought provoking posts. About Science.
You can pretend you don’t notice the name, call it IFLS for short. I do.
One of my ‘friends’on Facebook, who has a PhD, ‘liked’ it, which is how I came to see it.
Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean the friend actually ‘likes’ it.
And it’s possible IFLS posted it to stimulate a debate, not as an endorsement.
But judging by the few comments that I read (of gazillions), I suspect I’m being generous – unlike the people who posted links to sites where students can download illegal free copies. And yes, I know that they know they’re illegal – they use the word ‘illegal’.
Before I vent my spleen on this one, I want to make a brief personal comment.
As a writer (even if that’s as mythically as a unicorn in my own mind) my creativity – such as it is – is splurged for free on an unsuspecting world through this blog.
You’re reading it on a URL I pay for, so you don’t have to see advertisements and I don’t have to include ‘.wordpress.com’ in the site’s address.
You don’t pay me anything, I don’t ask you for anything. Well, except fair treatment of my stuff as regards copyright.
I have, however, written – and published – a book. It was a chastening experience.
Imagine you spend a lifetime acquiring the expertise to do something. Spend years – or many months – distilling it. More months honing it – and possibly your own money publishing it.
A friend says, ‘I’m enjoying your book.’
You smile, possibly ask where she or he bought it.
‘I borrowed it off Annabelinda.’
You smile back, with gritted teeth.
‘That’s a shame.’
‘Well, quarter of the proceeds from sales of the book goes to …’ a good cause.
Bewildered look. Money? Book?
‘What does it matter as long as I enjoy it,’ thinks the casual reader, ‘isn’t that why you, dear author, have written this masterpiece?’
I’m used to it, now. It’s a risk I took – and I accept it.
what really, really angers me about the idiots who responded positively to the IFLS post, who displayed such nonchalance about behaving illegally, was their sheer, obtuse, ignorance about what goes into making the books they seem to need.
My husband has written three academic books as a sole author, one as a co-author with a colleague in Oxford. He’s edited one volume based on an international conference which he organised and for which he raised the funding. Two, possibly three of these books could be regarded as ‘textbooks’, albeit somewhat specialised in scope.
Each time he writes a book our world changes.
Life revolves around it. Spare time dribbles away. Deadlines result in stress, tension, overwork. We share some of the strain, because of my expertise in editing and proof reading.
We eat too much cake (the brain uses a lot of energy, I learned that from his most recent book) and grow chubby.
This takes months. Can take years.
If you add the learned expertise, or field work (many years of it) necessary to be able to write the wretched thing in the first place – well, it’s not just a matter of slapping a lecture series online and adding a few pictures, as one IFLS commenter suggested.
Pictures, for a start, have to be sourced. Grants have to be sought for travel to take the pictures. Museums have to be paid for photographing images. Specialist illustrators have to draw archaeological specimens.
Permissions have to be sought for quotations and illustrations. Copious references have to be read and amassed as lists. An index has to be written, or funding raised for an indexer to do it. And then there’s the checking of the editing. And proof reading. And so on.
The author does all this, not the publisher. And mostly in his or her ‘spare’ time.
If you Effing Love Science, isn’t that knowledge – and work – worth something?
If no-one writes the books (because there’s no reward), how will that learning be recorded and transmitted? Is that worth paying for, or not?
But, let’s back to real, expensive books.
I have a rather daring suggestion to make.
If you’re at a university or college, chances are you have this thing you could use called a ‘library’.
Libraries tend to have lots of books -including textbooks available as e-books – for students to use, for free. Legally.
Until recently I was an academic publisher, in a very small way. I know how Effing unrewarding scholarly publishing can be if you’re not a giant conglomerate.
And who in their right minds, you might wonder, would want to write a book these days?
Well, it seems there are lots of mad people out there – and I’m one of the many.
But what a shame there are also so many lazy, law-breaking ignoramuses. People who’d rather exploit the limitless possibilities of our amazing, knowledge-sharing, liberating technology in illegal ways than log-in to a library and download an ebook.
Call me old fashioned. I believe in paying taxes, too.