The End of History (Books)

Yes, it’s stunning to watch the spinning images in the table of elements ebook that comes with the iPad.  But what does the brave new world of ebooks hold for educational and nonfiction authors?

In order for electronic books to live up to their billing, we have to fix a system that is broken: getting permission to use copyrighted material in new work. Either we change the way we deal with copyrights — or works of nonfiction in a multimedia world will become ever more dull and disappointing.

The hope of nonfiction is to connect readers to something outside the book: the past, a discovery, a social issue. To do this, authors need to draw on pre-existing words and images.

Unless we nonfiction writers are lucky and hit a public-domain mother lode, we have to pay for the right to use just about anything — from a single line of a song to any part of a poem; from the vast archives of the world’s art (now managed by gimlet-eyed venture capitalists) to the historical images that serve as profit centers for museums and academic libraries. —Marc Aronson, NYTimes