Copying Out-of-Print Go Books

    Keywords: Question, Books & Publications

I (okvonnegut) recently came across digital copies of some out-of-print go books, notably Strategic Concepts of Go, The Middle Game of Go, Enclosure Josekis and Killer Of Go. (A friend pasted me a link.)

I am wondering: what is the status of these books? I mean, am I right in guessing it's highly illegal to store and/or distribute these books in digital format? But is it unethical? (What part and why?) What would be the ethics involved if I made a digital copy of my out-of-print Sabaki book and gave it to a friend? What would be the ethics involved in borrowing an out-of-print book and then making a personal digital copy of it so I could re-read it at a later date?

I know the law is there to protect the author/publishing company from others stealing and/or capitalizing on their work, but if I were to download and read them that would be far from my intent.

It's not a matter of wanting to cheat someone of money, I'd be happy to pay for the books (that is: I'd be happy to pay the author/publishing company; not a private person demanding high prices for his used copies). Furthermore I think most people (me included) would infinitely prefer a nice published book copy than one of these homemade high-contrast scans (it's usually a nuisance reading them on the computer), but if nothing else is available...?

What happens when the publishing company seem uninterested in making any more money off the book, but people still want to buy and read it? Tough luck?

I think it's terrible that books go out of print. Surely the publishing companies would have digital copies of the books themselves? There is one thing I have never understood about the publishing business: how can it can be so hard to cheaply print up small amounts of books on demand -- why do books go out of print?? (Assuming that the books are of the same dimensions, why can't printing machines be made to just print any digital input?)

And if a book does go out of print and the publishing company knows that they will never again revive it, why not sell digital copies of the books?

It's just so frustrating!

Don't ask me for link(s), because I didn't start this page to distribute out-of-print books. And I certainly do not want to get mired in a flamewar about copyright infringement etc.

I would just like to hear people's own opinions and if they have had similar experiences with out-of-print books. If the collective feeling is "that's theft and you should hang for it," I'll take the hint and won't bring this frustrating subject up again. :)

Please comment below:

RiffRaff: I've contemplated a similar version of this question quite a bit in relation to a personal site I've done for Rocky Horror related music. In some cases, I've provided MP3s for various audio tracks that are highly out of print and near impossible to obtain. In the more extreme cases, the tracks were released on vinyl singles in small runs around 1973 and never reissued. I think that's a pretty similar situation.

In the end, I believe you have to make an educated guess as to the likelihood of a book ever being reprinted. Of the above, I think it's very likely that Strategic Concepts of Go will be reprinted at some point (it was in print for an awfully long time from both Ishi and Kiseido). I'm equally certain that The Middle Game of Go and Enclosure Josekis will not be reprinted, due to both the obviously limited interest in their content and the fact that Kiseido has never said a word about them (so far as I know). Killer Of Go I'm not entirely sure about, since it's in the odd position of being one of a very few books that Yutopian has published and later stopped printing (I think there are only a couple others). I don't know if it's because they had a deal with someone that expired, or for other reasons. *shrug*

okvonnegut: Thanks for the information, I didn't realize SCoG might get reprinted. And actually, Enclosure Josekis is a book that I have desired to read for a very long time...

Basically, the ideal position for us is that the publisher eventually decides to reprint the book, we're able to buy it, they make money, and everyone is happy. If a digital version of the out of print book is widely distributed though, that will be shrinking the target market for that publisher making a reprint more and more unlikely as the digital version is distributed more and more widely. It's then a losing situation for both sides.

okvonnegut: I agree that it would be ideal if the publisher decided to reprint (or better yet: that publishers rather set up on-demand printing). Not sure how much a widely distributed scan (or pictures taken with a digital camera) of a book would hurt sales though, since I suspect most people would be happy to fork some bread for the smell and feel of a new book in their hands. :)

jergarmar: Hmm... this brings up an interesting question. If I am considering which books are eligible for reprinting, and if I happen to be "internet-savvy", I will look for those books which have the highest used-book prices, and which are most-requested on file-sharing sites. "Widely distributed" would say to me "still popular and eligible for reprint". Books that are recognized as being high-quality will remain popular, and will come back into print. I can't believe that widely-distributed digital copies will hurt chances for a reprint.

I'm skipping lightly over the ethics of things here. I'm just speaking as a person with a deep love for such things (both Go books and [ext] Rocky Horror music), who wants to see as much as possible available. I do think it's good on the whole to share these with others, as long as there's no harm being done to the creators.

Velobici: Copying books that you do not own is an illegal violation of the copyright. In print vs out of print does not matter. With regard to making a copy of a book that you own, one could argue that the person is making a personal backup act that is legal with regard to video tapes. I may then use the copy till it wears out or is damaged/destroyed, create a new personal backup copy from the original media and repeat the process. (Don't remember what has happened regarding CD's and DVD's.) Giving or selling copies to another is illegal, again a violation of copyright. For me, the more interesting matter is transcribing go problems, from books that I own, for use with GoGrinder. Haven't heard of any case law on this particular issue.

okvonnegut: I figured it's illegal, that's why I'm more concerned about the ethics of it rather than the legal issues involved. How does people actually feel about doing stuff like this? For example, if someone were to post links to out-of-print books in a forum, say, would people be thankful (so that they could download and read) or offended (they would report said person to the authorities / try to get him or her banned / etc.)? I suspect the general go community's issues with copyright are a bit on edge. If a friend lent you (not you Velobici, but speaking generally) an out-of-print book would you even think twice about making a copy? (If you had the ability to do so without harming the book of course.) Or distributing said copy to a second friend? Or third? Acquaintances on the internet? And so on...

A fundamental item that I do not understand is what exactly do I buy when I buy a book or CD or DVD, etc. Clearly I do not buy the right to use the content any way I want...I can't reproduce and sell the content. Clearly I am not buying the physical media only...I can create a backup copy of the content for my own personal use.

codyk?: Yes, you are only buying the physical media (a copy). The fact that copyright law permits the legal owner of a copy to take certain actions normally reserved to the copyright owner does not change this. (this is aside from any contracts that might be involved)

I may seem that I am buying a "right of use" the content and the physical media that facilitates that "right of use". If so, shouldn't I be able to break the physical item, surrender the pieces to the copyright owner, and purchase new phsyical media for the replacement cost of the media alone? Alternatively, surrender LP's and media cost to the copyright owner in exchange for CD's? If I am buying the physical media alone, then either I have no right to use the content in any way or I can do anything that I wish with the content. This is not the case because I can't legally copy and distribute the content.

The right to make personal backup copies is, to the best of my knowledge, the only place the law distinguishes between these two items: the physical media and the content.

okvonnegut: The problem is, if the publisher does not seem to be interesting in producing the physical media anymore, what (should / ought to) happen to the content? (Again from an ethical perspective, not legal.) In relation to the general go community, I mean. There are only so many English go books available so people are often left hungry for more, yet they might be denied the content of the rarer out-of-print books because of steep prices (a fiscal exchange that in no way benefits the publisher and/or original author), even though they in no way wish to cheat the copyright holder of his/her money.

Steve: I expect the ideal would be for the publisher to make a decision that they did not intend to reprint the book. In that case, placing the book in the public domain would allow anyone to copy it. On the other hand, making some old books on Go public domain will affect the market for new Go books, so it's a difficult decision to make. (More Go books available may spread Go and enlarge the market, but books on certain topics being available may hinder sales of new books on that topic.)

In principle, I'd say it's wrong for members of the public to make that decision on behalf of the publisher, though. Perhaps interacting with the publishers directly as a group (e.g. a collection of SL deshis) may be a fruitful avenue for something like this? Considerations in favour of releasing into the public domain may be image- and relationship-building, as well as (of course) the potential for increased future earnings.

pwaldron: If you want to see out of print books become available again, lobby the publisher(s) to get digital copies made. Kiseido appears to be in the process of digitizing its entire collection of Go World magazines (see [ext] Presumably if they see a demand, they can similarly scan other books as well. This would be particularly easy for recently published books, where the typesetting process would have been entirely digital.

Zengarden Kiseido Digital have started issuing books that are out of print either as individual downloads or on a DVD containing five books. More are planned, happily. So far, classics like Kato's Attack and Kill, Takemiya's Enclosure Josekis, Ishida's All about thickness and Naoki's Breakthrough to Shodan are now available from this source. I was informed by the owner of Schaak en Gowinkel het Paard in Amsterdam that the preparation of a DVD containing all the issues of Go News is well under way and should be available soon from Kiseido Digital.

Copying Out-of-Print Go Books last edited by on January 10, 2010 - 11:59
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