In their current form, eBooks are ill-adapted to the world of scientific publishing, a world which could benefit greatly from the Internet's potential. We propose a new model for electronic publication in the fields of science (and, to some degree, art): the f-book, or "free book". Free in form, and free to all readers.
From a technological point of view, we find the eBook's standards premature. It was 60 years after Gutenberg's invention of printing that books first appeared in their current form. A similar delay might be expected for electronic books, should they ever find a definitive form. The standards currently being imposed by publishers and software developers represent a dangerous threat to experimentation in the medium of online text. More efficient ways of information transmission may be yet achieved if we are allowed to explore its potential. The f-book is "free"-free and open to further development-because its standards have not been frozen like those of the eBook.
The eBook's norms were fixed prematurely to give electronic publishers control over download (and, of course, sale) of their product. But for scientific works, such control is not generally necessary. Nor is commercialisation, since in most countries the financing of scientific research has not relied on income from sale of research publications. There appears to be a growing number of scientific e-publishers who have direct ties to non-commercially financed scientific organizations, and who could offer their publications as "free books." It is our belief that eBooks will not be competitive in the scientific community.
While we realise that these considerations may also apply to certain artistic works (including visual and musical works), we do not wish to advocate the free availability of all works of art, nor do we care to enter into the dubious process of separating "high art" and "mass culture." We cannot propose the same model for the financing of artistic production and publication as that of scientific research. But we would encourage you, should you wish to offer your work for free on the Internet, to consider calling it an f-book, an f-film, f-music, etc.
If you agree with our aims and have an f-book to propose, we invite you to join the campaign. In any case, your comments on this site and the f-book movement are greatly appreciated.
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