R&S Example page/Ebook inclusion standards

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I have noticed some recent discussions (User talk:Mhhutchins#JohnMarks submissions and User talk:JohnMarks#Your recent set of submissions ) that point out that our current Rules of Acquisition are not as clear as they should be on ebook issues. The RoA currently include "e-books with ISBNs" and "downloadable e-zines (periodicals in electronic format) which have been assigned an industry standard registration identifier (ISSN or ISBN) or have a history of containing reliably stable contents." and exclude "Web only publications such as webzines". The stories that User:JohnMarks wants to include are, it seems simple etexts made available on a fairly stable web site by their author for free. The don't have ISBNs, so they fail the first provision as written. They aren't part of any e-zine, with or without an ISSN, so they don't pass the second as written. They seem to be "downloadable" and at least arguably (accepting JohnMarks's statements) "stable", but as written neither "downloadable" nor "stable" applies to ebooks, only to e-zines . Indeed, as JohnMarks pointed out, by the letter of these rules all the PG ebooks should be OUT, as none have ISBNs, and none are part of any e-zine. Obviously any rule that mandates that PG editions of well-known SF stories by well-known authors should be excluded is incorrect, and should be changed. But if an ISBN is not to be the test, what is? Is it being "downloadable"? And if so, are simple html files that can be downloaded by no more than file/save on a browser "downloadable"? Is the fact that PG is a noted, multi-author site the criterion? Do we want to exclude amateur fiction published in electronic form? We already permit such if the person goes to LuLu or PublishAmerica and pays for a single print copy (both of those outlets generate both ebooks and PoD books for the same author-provided source text). Just where should we draw the line? I think we need to discuss the matter, and redraft the RoA in line with our decisions. -DES Talk 19:52, 21 July 2009 (UTC)

Actually, I'd dispute "Obviously any rule that mandates that PG editions of well-known SF stories by well-known authors should be excluded is incorrect, and should be changed." I'm pretty sure they'll remain available, I'm not so sure they'll be stable (as in, "Do they ever get adjusted"?). ISBNs are irrelevant - obviously, anything that originally had an ISBN is not yet in scope of PG. BLongley 21:27, 21 July 2009 (UTC)
I'm not proposing deleting them, I think links to such are valuable, but if they are reproductions of a particular edition or publication then I think that a link to PG at that level is appropriate instead. If it's gone through several revisions and there are multiple PG versions, linking to them all at Title level would be appropriate. If PG work at content-level at times, then a link from the shortfiction or essay title would be appropriate. I would argue that they don't deserve a separate publication if they are just faithful reproductions of something we should already have. BLongley 21:27, 21 July 2009 (UTC)
In many cases they are reproductions of specific editions -- not always. But often a PG edition is a reproduction of something we don't have or have only as a stub, and are not likely to get. (I'm thinking of older works in the horror sub-genre particularly.) Also, the reformatting that is done is at least as much as many physical reprint editions get. I might add that we index facsimile editions that make every possible effort to be "faithful reproductions" of earlier editions. By your logic those don't deserve separate publications, only mentions in notes. As ti stability, while no one can predict the future, PG has followed a consistent policy since its inception that when it issues a corrected, revised, or improved version of a work, the earlier version is kept available. When the revisions are large or a new source is used, a new etext number is often assigned. -DES Talk 23:55, 21 July 2009 (UTC)
(Yes, this is a suggestion that will require further development. Put in a Feature request if you think that PG don't produce "new editions", they just reproduce one. It's at best another "printing" of something we already have, IMO - and we need to start looking at hiding some of those anyway.) BLongley
It's a printing in another form... hc, tp, ebook. Not merely another printing/impression. Kevin 21:46, 21 July 2009 (UTC)
I think a PG text is, in general, a new edition, not merely another printing, and if we ever record editions as such, should probably be an edition of its own. -DES Talk 23:55, 21 July 2009 (UTC)
I started to work up some draft rules to propose a long time back... the key thing was to put the barrier for entry at the publisher level. Kevin 21:46, 21 July 2009 (UTC)
  • Ebook publishers have to cross a fuzzy line in order to warrant inclusion.
    • Must meet all conditions for inclusion
      • Downloadable work.
        • Stable Source. (2 Years in operation?) - No fly by night or brand new startups
          • Stability for startup web-publishing can be inherited from a parent name (e.g. A print Publisher beginning e-publishing)
          • Stability is also often indicated by a catalog number assignment (See gutenberg, feedbooks, fictionwise, webscription) which can accept permalinks
      • Actual Publishing, Not merely repackaging another source. (I wrote this half a year ago, but I don't completely agree with it anymore)
        • Excludes Manybooks.net which literally repackages gutenberg editions (Manybooks.net provides a valuable resource of almost 'any' format for PG and other Titles.)
        • Does not exclude feedbooks which adds coverart, author bios, other works available, and removes the gutenberg headers
    • Must meet one or more conditions for inclusion
      • Known Work (Work has been previously published and is already considered 'in' in one of its publications)
      • Known Author (previously published in the field - Work has 'merit')
      • Known Publisher (Publisher has 'standing' in the field as an acceptable bar to entry to prevent generic fan fic and similar cruft from getting indexed)
      • ISBN Assigned (Someone spent money on an ISBN to publish the work)
Comment away (And PLEASE offer up other 'One of' and 'All of' required suggestions.) Kevin 21:46, 21 July 2009 (UTC)
My view is that if you are going to impose this level of exclusion on ebooks, in particular if you are going to require a known work, author, or publisher, then similar rulse should be imposed on PoD and othe forms of self-publishing. i don't see any valid reason to allow in "cruft" that is printed on paper (we have a fair amount of it indexed already) while attempting to exclude "cruft" that is published as an ebook. Anyone can go to LuLu or PublishAmerica and get a paper copy of a text printed up as a "book" for about the cost of a large Pizza, with no editorial gatekeeper whatsoever. For about $100, you can get an ISBN and have your "book" listed on Amazon, even if it never sells a single copy, and no one else has ever assesed it for "merit". If printed "books" like that are acceptable to us (and by our current rules they are) then i see no reason whatsoever to impose such "gatekeeper rules" on ebooks. -DES Talk 23:55, 21 July 2009 (UTC)
A VERY Valid argument. But the devil's advocate response is "If you have no restriction on printed works, then are any restrictions on electronic works valid". Kevin 01:49, 22 July 2009 (UTC)
Also, I object to your "repackaging" restriction. Many publishers of physical reprints have done a good deal of "repackaging", in the early days of paperpacks most such books were repackaged, and some publishers never printed originals. Again, i see no valid reason to impose on ebook publishers rules we don't impose on print publications. We index books from one-book-wonder publishers, and magazines that fold after 2 issues. If we exclude ebooks that are "unstable", then perhaps we should include startup physical publishers.
I objected to this one myself, but I felt it appropriate to let it fail on its merits, not through lack of mentioning it. Kevin 01:49, 22 July 2009 (UTC)
About the PG books, by the way: some of them are exact transcriptions of specific, known editions. This is true for much of the PG transcriptions of magazine SF, for instance. Many of the earlier books in PG, including many of their pre-20th C. works of horror and fantasy, are not derived from a single, known edition. For a number of years PG made a point of stating that its texts were nor representative of any specific earlier edition, and should be considered a new edition, and of not preserving records of what edition or editions were used to create PG texts, and in at least some cases, PG texts were created from multiple editions. They don't generally do that any more, but that is a matter of current policy, not immutable law. -DES Talk 23:55, 21 July 2009 (UTC)
I also note that in the case that set this off, the web site involved appears to have "Stability" and "Downloadability", although not perhaps "standing" whatever that means -- who are the audience in whose eyes "standing" should be measured. -DES Talk 23:45, 21 July 2009 (UTC)
The restriction I made for ezines, "Copying live webzine pages from the internet to a local computer does not qualify an ezine as downloadable", would seem to me to apply to using File-Save to save an individual webpage and should be expanded to apply to all epubs. ISBN and ISSN numbers for epubs are so chaotically applied that they should only be considered as a moderately important factor concerning inclusion of a given epub.--swfritter 00:46, 22 July 2009 (UTC)


I'm not quite clear, do you mean that if you can simply use file-save an ebook/etext is downloadable, or that it is not. If that does not make an etext downloadable, what does? Do you consider Project Gutenberg etexts "Downloadable"? Baen Books webscription ebooks? If not, can you give an example of an ebook that IS downloadable? -DES Talk 00:53, 22 July 2009 (UTC)
The operative word is obviously "not".--swfritter 13:32, 22 July 2009 (UTC)
To me, the main objections to allowing "source copies" of webzines were that they tended to be full of links from one file to another which would be broken in the downloaded form, and that copying multiple files in this way tended to be complex and tedious, so that in practice almost no one did it. But particularly the link issue, it meant that what you downloaded was not really a copy of the web-based version. But a simple HTML or TXT file with no links doesn't have that problem -- the local copy is effectively and functionally identical to the online copy. -DES Talk 00:57, 22 July 2009 (UTC)
The primary problem with the site that brought this issue up, is that the files are not provided in a downloadable 'click here' or 'right click here' to save this file, in any format. The files are presented only within the browser. If they were provided in a 'file format' not through a instant generated format I would consider them in. I did a rough word count and the SF section appears to have enough content to fill an average to small collection, so if the editor wants to call them a single static collection, I could even go with that, (If they could be downloaded as a group). (shrug). I personally don't have problem 1 with putting this material in. Kevin 01:49, 22 July 2009 (UTC)
I agree with Kevin. To me, "downloadable" doesn't mean "copy and paste" or "print source page" or right mouse click "save page as...". It means "click on this link and a file will be downloaded to your pc". And there must be standards other than for "format". Shouldn't there also be standards for "content"? And I know how subjective that can be. So we should consider using the SFWA's standards for what they consider a "professional sale" either in print, or electronic publication. There have been professional writers who posted unsold stories to their websites. Not that I believe those should be considered IN under the ROA, but they're a helluva lot more closer to being eligible than an amateur's scribblings on his personal website. Dropping the standards for content will open the flood gates. I like those standards which Kevin has set out above, and if DES doesn't want to be a "gatekeeper' I think they are more than a few of us who are willing to take up the banner. MHHutchins 02:28, 22 July 2009 (UTC)
I haven't digested the arguments yet (hm, that last one at the bottom of the bowl was quite tasty!), but keep in mind that the ISBN requirement for e-books was a hurdle that we consciously erected to limit the influx of Web published fiction. There is a tremendous amount of Web based fan fiction, erotica, pornography and all kinds of other speculative material that we were trying to exclude. As a general rule, I support lowering "barriers to entry" when it becomes clear that some e-venues (like online semiprozines) have become integral parts of the genre, but -- with the exception of PG, Webscription and perhaps a few other places -- I haven't seen much evidence to suggest that eliminating the ISBN requirement for e-books is needed. Perhaps we could craft a set of exceptions that would let the likes of PG/Webscription in without opening the floodgates? Ahasuerus 04:22, 22 July 2009 (UTC)
If I understand Kevin and Mike's views above, they would support including this set of stories if the webmaster (who in this case seems also to be the author) changed his site to provide a click-here-to-download link. I think this distinction is pointless, although i will admit it is at least clear. The content on the site would be exactly the same. The downloaded content would be exactly the same. A little bit of the presentational HTML would be different. Such a link might indicate that the author expects readers to download and keep his works, or it might indicate that he expects his readers to be non-technical. Given that the author states that all the stories were originally posted to Usenet, he quite probably expects most of his readers to be technical enough to do right-ckick|save-as or file|save-as and so doesn't bother doing this for them in the link. Why do you feel that this tiny difference in the html on the index page makes such a difference in result? I can't see the point. -DES Talk 12:40, 22 July 2009 (UTC)
I can't speak for Kevin, but you did misunderstand my view, which is less about "format" than it is about "content". Read my comment again. I was just stating my definition of "downloadable", not whether this should be a determining factor for inclusion in the db. MHHutchins 16:28, 22 July 2009 (UTC)
Kevin said above "If they were provided in a 'file format' not through a instant generated format I would consider them in." I take it you disagree? -DES Talk 21:13, 22 July 2009 (UTC)
My edit window was open too long and I missed the above query. Instantly generated is not a valid criteria either. Many system instantly generate the 'ebook' to the required format. The problem with that site from my perspective is that it's provided straight to the browser to 'render' and not to 'save'. Kevin 22:04, 22 July 2009 (UTC)
And since I can't speak for Mike (chuckle), you did not misunderstand me. I will not judge another man's entertainment, after confirming it is SpecFic. We cannot use the SFWA standards for all works because the SFWA ia a higher standard than the true barrier to entry into SpecFic-dom. Even excluding semi-prozines there have been and will continue to be publishers who pay 'something' for a work, but that something does not meet the SFWA Standards. We also cannot police this as a standard, since the payment criteria is not public information in many cases (for closed and retired markets). Kevin 22:00, 22 July 2009 (UTC)
As to "this tiny difference", I admit it is small, but it was the rule when I got here, and it seems to serves as a reasonable line to define... is this person or publisher providing 'entertainment' as in broadcast TV or is this person or publisher providing an item (a file) that they expect me to take with me and call my own. To (in the bugs bunny vernacular) Hug him and squeeze him and call him George!. If the publisher is explicitly providing a file, then they are agreeing with the understanding, "Here is something you can take with you..." to your grandmothers, on vacation, to the Moon, to Mars, or that you can burn on a CD, and 20 years from now, find the file and want more information about the file/item/ebook. Kevin 22:00, 22 July 2009 (UTC)
I don;t thaing "that was the rule" until this discussion. Until now "downloadable" was only in the rules for ezines, not ebooks, and was not clearly defined. I really think that when someone posts a simple html or text file to a web site he expects readers to make local copies, the difference in the framing html is really not significant, IMO. -DES Talk 22:29, 22 July 2009 (UTC)
Ahasuerus's view I think I understand. Many people will publish to the web who won't bother to pay for an ISBN (although any of them could obtain one, for about $100, last time i looked), and such a requirement will exclude the ravening and unindexable hordes. You have a point. Of course, taken literally, it excludes a number of the Baen webscription books (only some of those have ISBNs, and those are usually (always as far as i have checked) ISBNs belonging to a physically printed edition.It also excludes PG, but they at least have catalog numbers. Perhaps we could craft some rule allowing large stable organizations not to use ISBNs, but requiring them of author-published ebooks.
However, if we do that, it seems to me that we should equally exclude self-published physical printed (modern) books whose authors don't acquire ISBNs, for much the same reasons. We have some books on file now that IMO fit the kinds of things that Ahasuerus seemed to want to keep out.
I think that Mike has misunderstood how I used "Gatekeeper" above -- I was applying it not to us, but to a publisher. I was syaing that it was not fair to require that e-book authors must be published through a professional publisher like Fictionwise or Baen (who would serve as a "gatekeeper") when we allow anyone to have a self-published printed book indexed. -DES Talk 12:40, 22 July 2009 (UTC)
Perhaps I misunderstood, and if so, I apologize. But I'll quote your statement: "[if printed publishers don't have them] i see no reason whatsoever to impose such "gatekeeper rules" on ebooks." I took that to mean that we shouldn't impose stricter rules on ebooks than we do for printed books. I see no reason whatsoever why we have to apply the same rules to different formats. MHHutchins 16:28, 22 July 2009 (UTC)
That you have not misunderstood. In my view any restrictions on ebooks, such as requiring them to be issued through a professional or "established" publisher, disallowing self-publications, requiring ISBNs, or the like, should be absolutely identical for ebooks and for printed works. If we are going to require an established publisher for ebooks (and I can see some reasons for doing so), then IMO we should require the same of printed books (at least modern ones, I don't want to delete Alice in Wonderland because the first ed was self-published), should change the RoA to say so, and should delete records for self-published printed books now on file, perhaps with an exception for established authors. -DES Talk 21:13, 22 July 2009 (UTC)
Applying the SFWA rules for what constitutes a "professional sale" would avoid the above problem, but it might set the bar too high. It would, of course, exclude all fanzines. It would exclude Helix and most other webzines. It would exclude books published by Wildside press -- there is a specific exclusion for Wildside on the SFWA site, I suppose because their advances are too small. It would exclude most semi-pro-zines -- for example, it would exclude Whispers Magazine, and any modern counterpart. The main thing that makes something a "professional market" to the SFWA is rate of payment. I'm not sure we want to use that as our primary criterion.
I'll bet someone will suggest applying the SFWA professional sale rules to ebooks and ezines but not to printed works. That will still exclude Helix and any similar webzine, which i know some want included strongly. I also think that the rules for e-publications and print publications ought to be reasonably similar. My earlier objections to webzines were because i felt that they were essential single-copy editions, with a single point-of-failure -- unlike most ebooks that anyone could preserve locally. -DES Talk 12:40, 22 July 2009 (UTC)
Well, this is already too long, let someone else speak. -DES Talk 12:40, 22 July 2009 (UTC)
Most ebooks, even those from major publishers, do not have a valid ebook ISBN number. Quite often the print ISBN number is used or there is none at all. Most multi-format ebooks do not have a separate ISBN for each format. My standard is whether or not the ebook is available from a retail site like Fictionwise or from an established publisher or it is also available in physical format. As for stories found on a website: A story found on a website is not an ebook. A printout of that story is not a book. Using file-save, edit-copy, or converting the web content to another format does not make it an ebook.--swfritter 13:42, 22 July 2009 (UTC)
So in your view, the test for inclusion should be that an ebook is offered via an "established publisher" or a retail site. The same identical file, displayed in the identical fashion, would be includable if the page on which it is displayed belongs to an established publisaher or is part of a "retail site". This would exclude Lawerence Watt-Evans's online publications of his recent Ethshar books? (On his own personal site.) This would exclude Stephen King's The Plant? (Which i see we don't have indexed). Very well, i could live with that ,if and ONLY if we also exclude printed books that are self-published, published via vanity presses, or otherwise not through an "established publisher" and that we define "established publisher" for print works in the exact same way that we define it for ebooks -- if we say "Pieces of paper with words printed on them are not a book -- a book is something published by an established publisher or available from a retail store". I might add that you say above that a printout of a story "found on a web site" is not a book. How does that comport with our current RoA, which say that works published via "print on demand (POD) publications" and "vanity publishers" are IN? -DES Talk 14:36, 22 July 2009 (UTC)
A printout on a local printer, which is the meaning I intended, is not quite the same as a book from a printing press.--swfritter 15:58, 22 July 2009 (UTC)
Given the existence of services like LuLu, the difference is not nearly as big as it once was. -DES Talk 21:13, 22 July 2009 (UTC)

[unindent]Hello. I am the editor whose submissions seem to have caused this discussion. I do believe that the Science Fiction and Fantasy stories of John Benson are of a quality comparable to many that are published in SF magazines. However, because they are also erotica, and indeed fetish erotica, no mainstream magazine is at all likely to publish them. My submissions for several of his stories as published on his web site have been rejected, although a collection of his stories published on paper by CF Publications (An exclusively spanking-oriented publisher of original fiction, both on paper and in ebook form) has been accepted. I don't quite see why the same stories should be included here if printed on paper, but not electronically, but if those are your rules, I must accept them. I do think your current rules aren't as clear as they might be, and that your current practice doesn't really match your rules. It was after noting the various Project Gutenberg ebooks you list that I thought listing John Benson's electronically published free stories would be acceptable and desirable. I am myself a long-time fan of SF, and an author of spanking erotica, for which i have been paid by CF Publications. None of mine, however, have been SF. (They were all distributed in print, before CF went into ebooks). If you are seriously discussing what your rules should be, I am a bit unhappy that my submissions were rejected before the discussion came to a conclusion. Do I correctly understand from the comments of Mhhutchins above that if John Benson changed his site to make a "download here" link for each story, you would consider them "downloadable" and thus includable here? If so, i will write to him and suggest such a change, but i don't want to do so, only to learn that they would still be rejected on other grounds. I have made use of the ISFDB on many occasions, and i am glad that you created and maintain it, even if you don't include these John Benson stories. JohnMarks 15:25, 22 July 2009 (UTC)

Again, I was misunderstood so it must be my inability to articulate my opinion. Let me try again. Even if the John Benson stories were "downloadable" (as Kevin and I defined it), I would not have accepted the submissions. Even if the stories were of higher quality than "All You Zombies" or "Vintage Season" or "Love is the Plan the Plan is Death", I would not have accepted them. These stories have not been published. There must be thousands of stories by highly reputable authors that were never published because they couldn't find the right market. Posting a story on a website is not publishing, it's making it available for another person to read, just as an author might submit a story to an editor. The bar has been lowered enough about the acceptance of web-based publication when it comes to webzines. If the John Benson stories had been accepted there would be no reason to deny any other story posted on the internet from entering the database. No reason whatsoever. It would be hard for me to believe that any moderator would have accepted these submissions. I'm just the one who accepted the responsibility of doing so, and would do it again without reservations. MHHutchins 16:27, 22 July 2009 (UTC)
Here I disagee. The US copyright law says: "“Publication” is the distribution of copies or phonorecords of a work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending. The offering to distribute copies or phonorecords to a group of persons for purposes of further distribution, public performance, or public display, constitutes publication. A public performance or display of a work does not of itself constitute publication." Something posted on the web has pretty clearly been "distributed to the public". Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary defines publish as "1. To make public; to make known to mankind, or to people in general;..." and more specifically "3. 3. To send forth, as a book, newspaper, musical piece, or other printed work, either for sale or for general distribution;to print, and issue from the press." Other dictionaries have similar definitions. And several current publishers in their instructions to authors indicate that they want "previously unpublished" work, which they define as including not having been posted to the web. So I think you are simply incorrect to say these stories have not been published. That said, I see some value in closing the floodgates by making our rules say that only works published by an established publisher, independent of the author will be included (with an exception for established authors so we don't exclude web-publication by Stephen King, Lawerence Watt-Evans, or others of their ilk). But if we do this, i think we should impose an identical rule on printed books, and i think we'd be all the better for it. -DES Talk 21:13, 22 July 2009 (UTC)
Another point that has been overlooked in this discussion: by no stretching of the definition can the John Benson stories be considered ebooks. So their inclusion in the database shouldn't be discussed in this context. MHHutchins 16:34, 22 July 2009 (UTC)
I don't know how you are defining ebook, but I see no significant difference between the etexts by Benson that User:JohnMarks submitted and, for example The PG Ebook of "Anchorite". Both are distributed free, each consists of a single digital file that the user must use file|Save to copy to a local computer, neither includes links to other files, both include the text of a work of fiction, and pretty much nothing else. If the Benson stories are not ebooks, then neither is the PG work, and i don't see much difference between either and the ebooks sold by Fictionwise, except that the price is non-zero. Granted, the Benson works are self-published. But we don't say that self-published books are not books. If we want to exclude self-published works, we can, but I think the rule on self publication should not be different for paper and electronic self-publication.
I think we are headed towards the exclusion of self-published e-books which I think would apply in this case. As for Project Gutenberg. The special case status was recognized and there is actually a page devoted to the standards for data entry. An odd coincidence. The first thing I read yesterday after this discussion started was a story from a 1953 issue of Science Fiction Plus which had a classic spanking fetish paragraph. Apparently a much larger sub-theme than I realized.--swfritter 15:58, 22 July 2009 (UTC)
Are you? I think that is possibly a mistake, but you may set what rules you choose. As to spanking fetish fiction, it is indeed more common than you might think. There is a significant mention in Fritz Leiber's autobiographical essay in his collection The Ghost Light. Look for the sub section on "Spicy Stories". JohnMarks 16:32, 22 July 2009 (UTC)
If you are going to exclude "self-published" ebooks, are you also going to exclude "amateur publications" where an editor collects and publishes on the web stories from a variety of authors? I am thinking particularly of this page of this site. The editor assembled a huge collection of spanking fetish e-stories, selecting only those she felt were of above-average quality, and carefully securing reprint permission from the original authors. A significant number are SF, and the ones on the lurkingdragon page constitute a series of stories -- basically a novel in serial form -- set in an SF future universe which some significant thought and care has obviously gone into, and which a number of other authors have set stories in. The original stories were posted over a period of 18 months, with the author posting each story almost exactly 750 years before the date where it was set (the stories take place from 25 December 2747 to 6 June 2749, and were posted from January 1998 to June 1999). Does the assembly and selection of such stories by an "editor", even though they were distributed without charge, make a difference to you? I note that a few of John Benson's stories are also included on the site, see this page. (The editor's policy is expressed on the "feedback" page as "I often get letters from people who have written a spanking story and would like me to include it on this web site. My answer is always a polite no. I don't accept stories for the web site via email unless they're from an an author who is already included on the site. If you are not represented on the site now, please do not send your stories to me. Instead, post them on soc.sexuality.spanking where a large audience will see them. If I like your story I'll archive it, and I'll eventually ask you for permission to put it on the Web.") JohnMarks 16:32, 22 July 2009 (UTC)
That's nice. A fetishist with literary standards. (Sounds snarky, but that's not my intention.) Still doesn't make it a published work. MHHutchins 17:42, 22 July 2009 (UTC)
It does sound snarky to me. It also seems to fail to address the point. Does a person performing an editorial function, and gathering selected works while excluding others perform a function essentially similar to a traditional publisher? If not, where does the difference lie? If this site charged a fee for access, but was otherwise identical, would that make it a publisher? If not, what else must a site do to be a "publisher of ebooks" if we grant that, say fiction wise is a publisher? You aren't thinking this through, or if you are, it doesn't come through to me. I would like to see clear criteria, with principled justifications, please. -DES Talk 21:13, 22 July 2009 (UTC)
DES, you've made it clear that you want there to be no differences between the standards for electronic and printed materials, but you go on to point out exceptions ("...except for Alice in Wonderland" "...except for established authors", "...rules for e-publications and print publications ought to be reasonably similar"). All I'm simply saying is that there will be exceptions, and the codification should take into account the difference in formats. It's like the feminist who want laws to be identical for the sexes, but will agree that certain laws apply more to one gender than to the other. And, again, Kevin, I brought up the SFWA requirements for electronic publication. I just can't seem to make that point clear. MHHutchins 22:51, 22 July 2009 (UTC)
I think there would need to be exceptions from a "must have an established publisher" rule, but I think those exceptions should apply equally to print and electronic publication. If an "established author" could self-publish an ebook, he would also self-publish a printed book. If a novice authors amateur ebook wouldn't be indexed, neither would his self-published paper book. You get the idea. If there is a good reason for different treatment, please explain it, because i don't see it. -DES Talk 23:04, 22 July 2009 (UTC)
As for "clear criteria with principled justifications", perhaps neither of us have been able to convince the other, but asking for justification for an opinion??? This is the ISFDB, not a court of reason. :) Let me ask you one last question: "Would you have accepted the submissions for the John Benson stories?" That's what brought up the topic to begin with. If we can't agree upon that point, there's no need for further discussion. MHHutchins 23:02, 22 July 2009 (UTC)
I am asking for justification not for an opinion, but for a criterion. That is "Ther ruel should be X, bacaue that will have effect Y and avoid problem Z" and am willing to offer the same, or try to. -DES Talk 23:11, 22 July 2009 (UTC)
Consider the ease in which any piece of fiction can be posted on a website and gain entry into the ISFDB based upon your identical rules for print and electronic publication. Consider the effort that goes into working with an agent, editor and/or publisher for a work to be published in print. Then tell me one should be treated the same as the other. Allowing in the John Benson stories would have been the start of the flood. Justification enough? MHHutchins 23:32, 22 July 2009 (UTC)
But there is no need to work with an agent, editor, and/or publisher to get a book "Into Print". I'm pretty sure that 172989 never had to deal with such, as iUniverse didn't require them. 877346 is pretty clearly self-published. LuLu.com offers a printing/publishing service which imposes no upfront costs at all, and creates printed books. Currently they'll even provide an ISBN free of change ("for a limited time" it says here). See this page. This is almost as easy as creating a web site, and cheaper than paid hosting for even a small web site. Publish America offers a similar service. If we are excluding "ebooks" simpl;y posted, not published via an established publisher, why not also exclude such self-published physical books, where the cost of entry is also pretty nearly zero. -DES Talk 00:16, 23 July 2009 (UTC)
I would have held and brought them up for discussion, because they were outside our previous practice, but not rejected until the discussion was over. 23:11, 22 July 2009 (UTC)
Our "previous practice" has always been to reject web-based publications, other than certain webzines and e-books. If you're of that strong opinion that more time should have been taken to consider the submissions, then please contact the original submitter and ask to have them re-submitted. And shortly after they're accepted into the database, I'll gladly walk away from the ISFDB and never look back. MHHutchins 23:32, 22 July 2009 (UTC)
I'm not trying to drive anyone away. The original submitting editor has commented here -- he can see what is beign said. And I would never accept a submisison that I knew to be against the consensus of the working editors here. Nor would I encourage submissions likely to be rejected in the end. I must say i do think of these stores as "ebooks" so i wouldn't have assumed an automatic rejection as you say you did. I do see your point about the floodgates, but i think we are already getting at least a trickle with print-based self-pubs, and will get more. And i think some "amateur" ebooks may be worth including, but it is hard to know how and where to draw the line. if we draw the line at "must be from an established publisher, or else an established author" that would exclude cruft, but I see no reason not to draw the same line for printed books. -DES Talk 00:16, 23 July 2009 (UTC)
Re: "Does a person performing an editorial function, and gathering selected works while excluding others perform a function essentially similar to a traditional publisher?" - we are already biased against editors of single-author collections, who get relegated to notes. That's a sidetrack though. BLongley 23:10, 22 July 2009 (UTC)
I think the point was that such a person might serve a filtering function, just as a traditional publisher does. -DES Talk 00:16, 23 July 2009 (UTC)
My big problem with ebooks is their immutability, or lack of it - has anyone noticed that "kindle" publications may suddenly disappear? See here for instance. For once, DRM rules might be important - it sometimes makes it clear that this IS a publication that will stay stable, for as long as you're allowed to "own" it. I personally think an e-book is as valuable as the paper it isn't written on. BLongley 23:10, 22 July 2009 (UTC)
If the submitting editor has made a local copy of a non-DRM file, that is actually IMO more stable than a DRM-equipped copy. Many DRM suites give the publisher the power to simply erase the file at a time of their choosing. An unprotected file sitting on my personal hard drive is as safe as a book sitting on my shelf. Either could be damaged or destroyed, but most likely will not be. Either could be given away or discarded, but won't if I care about it. The e-texts in question here are simple html files, that anyone with a single click (well two clicks) can save a local copy of. That makes them, IMO at least as immutable as a pb that may be printed on acid-based paper and slowly falling apart. Most ebook publishers do NOT use DRM -- Baen doesn't, fictionwise doesn't on most of their products, PG of course doesn't. Amazon does, and they are big. -DES Talk 00:16, 23 July 2009 (UTC)

(unindent) Folks, keep in mind that our inclusion criteria in this area are liable to be fluid since the technology is changing so fast. Just 20 years ago there was no Web, no Amazon, PG, lulu.com or Webscription -- or ISFDB, for that matter -- and look where we are now! When the landscape is changing as rapidly as this one is, differences of opinion and conflicting (proposed) standards are inevitable, so there is no need to take it personally.

We have been struggling with these issues for a long time and I expect we will continue struggling with them for a while -- at the rate the technology is changing, someone will propose blog inclusion 5-10 years from now -- but it's important to go slow to make sure that we don't commit ourselves to something that turns out to be unsustainable in the long run. For example, the decision to allow self-published and vanity press-published paper books in was made a few years ago when they became much more widely available due to Amazon.com and the Web in general and because of the proliferation of small publishers which made it hard to tell who was or was not self-publishing. But that decision was made only once it became abundantly clear where the field was going. Similarly, (some) e-books and (some) webzines were allowed when they became so dominant that we could no longer ignore them.

At this time I am not convinced that we need to relax our inclusion criteria for Web published fiction any further, but we may want to take a step back, examine our current practices and codify them in a way that clearly explains why PG is "in" and a geocities page with self-published erotica is "out". This is unlikely to be a trivial proposition -- just like coming up with a universally acceptable definition of "a speculative fiction writer over a certain threshold" has proved to be harder than expected -- but please be patient while we are working through the process. Borderline issues are always hard to formalize, especially when the border is constantly moving. Ahasuerus 00:14, 23 July 2009 (UTC)

Fair enough. I do suggest that as we codify and perhaps change to some extent our practices, we should reconsider the decision to include "self-published and vanity press-published paper books" most of the reasons which seem to weigh against "a geocities page with self-published erotica" seem to weigh equally against paper self-publications, IMO. -DES Talk 00:22, 23 July 2009 (UTC)
I had a quick look at the words "Publish" "Publisher" and "Publication" in the dictionary and calling an "ebook" a publication is a bit of a stretch. Something (includes short stories) sitting on a hard drive be it SF by a noted author or the deranged fantasies of millions people who think their authors is not a book. Don't open the flood gates to everyone with a computer, Lulu and the other vanity press's are out there for budding authors. I'm with Michael on this "keep them out" & I also would have rejected the submissions.Kraang 01:08, 23 July 2009 (UTC)
If we start adding links to these authors in notes we knows what's there now if we look but what if its changed later to something much nastier? Is there a risk to us in linking to non traditional sites?Kraang 02:34, 23 July 2009 (UTC)
If you mean a legal risk, no there isn't. Case law has established this pretty clearly and I can cite cases -- inded I have cited them in previous discussions here. I cited both the legal (copyright law) and a calssic dictionary def of "publish" above. It seems clear to me that any web posting fulfills both, and the law treats text posted to the web as being "published" for purposes of copyright and other situations (such as libel vs slader) where "publication" is legally significant. Most publishers will not consider text that has been posted to the web as being "unpublished". Frankly comments like the above tempt me to find and delete all our vanity publications. However, i won't do that. But perhaps if I am so out of step here I should go back to spending this time at PG/DP instead. -DES Talk 03:27, 23 July 2009 (UTC)
My definition of ebook assumes that a file is provided that is specifically designed to be read on a portable device such as a Palm Pilot or Kindle using a program designed specifically for that device. That would mean ereader, mobipocket, etc. About half of my own reading is done via a PDA using ereader or mobipocket. Such devices can also be used to access websites but that is a universal access method. As far as inclusion in the ISFDB: I would suggest that any title that has appeared in print format and follows the above definition of an ebook is in. --swfritter 14:31, 23 July 2009 (UTC)
That definition would exclude most Project Gutenberg items, many of which are available in ASCII format only, and most of the rest in ASCII and HTML. I'm not sure if it would also exclude the Baen webscription books, as i always read these in HTML format. It would also exclude those books from fictionwise that are provided in PDF format only.
It is my view that a file in an open format, such as ASCII, RTF, or HTML, or a format with readily available reading programs such as PDF or MS-WORD, even if not specifically designed for an ebook reader, should be included as an "ebook". Personally I always read ebooks on a PC, never on a "specialized device", and generally avoid most of the formats for specialized devices, yet I pay for and read ebooks in some numbers. I think your definition is too narrow. -DES Talk 15:10, 23 July 2009 (UTC)
PG provides files in the Plucker format. Almost all of the files available as PDF ebooks from Fictionwise are also available in PDA formats. Webscription books are available in Kindle format.--swfritter 15:41, 23 July 2009 (UTC)
I think you will find that PG only provides Plucker where it also provides HTML and that the works in ASCII only (which includes many of the older classic ghost and horror works, although it does not include most of the works transcribed from 20th C SF magazines) do not have plucker versions. Since Webscriptions started well before the Kindle was issued, i rather doubt that their earlier books are available in kindle format, but they might be, I'll have to check, and i think at least some of them are available in mobi-pocket format. That weakens my argument somewhat, but I note that most of the specialized ebook readers also support reading general file formats such as PDF, HTML, and RTF. For example, Amazon's Kindle page says "Kindle supports wireless delivery of unprotected Microsoft Word, PDF, HTML, TXT, RTF, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, PRC and MOBI files." It seems to me that ebooks should include file formats generally supported by ebook readers, as well as formats explicitly designed for such use. It also seems to me that you are assuming that "ebooks == "texts read on specialized reader devices". That is true for some users but not for others. -DES Talk 16:15, 23 July 2009 (UTC)
As much as I would like to avoid it, I think we are going to need a list of specific formats including PDF, etc.. As far as portable devices: any serious publisher of ebooks is going to take them into account even if that is not their only target or even a primary target. PG may require a special dispensation. If we include HTML that cannot inlcude website only titles. Are there significant titles that are currently only being published as HTML? If not, I would exclude HTML from the list to avoid anyone trying to shoehorn web only titles.--swfritter 17:26, 23 July 2009 (UTC)
I don't really know, aside from PG, where I am sure that at least some are in only HTML and ASCII. I do know that when HTML is present I generally regard it as the primary format, and that is what I verify. A list of formats is going to require constant update, and in any case IMO must include ASCII, the most durable format because it needs the least support. I think we will need to decide first on what restrictions in the way of a publisher or "established publisher" or whatever we want to impose. That will probably take care of your "website only" restriction -- in a few cases it may include "website only" stories if the website is a publisher's site. Once we get that agreed, we may or may not still need a list of formats -- i hope not. I suspect there will have to be an alternative qualification criterion: "established author". If Stephen King, or Lawrence Watt-Evans (to name just two who have engaged in web-publishing in the past) puts a story up on his personal website, i think we should index it. -DES Talk 18:17, 23 July 2009 (UTC)
I agree that a commercial ebook publisher will not ignore the specialized devices (although note that Baen Books / webscriptions on principle refused to carry any encrypted formats, and also refused to carry PDF because Jim Baen disliked it. A serious ebook small-press might choose to carry only a small range of formats. In any case i think i would prefer to avoid our saying "if it is in this format it is an ebook, but not if it is in this other format, even though PCs and ebook readers can display the other format, and even though automated conversions are avaliable." This also begs the question of whether we wish to index only ebooks from "serious publisher[s] of ebooks" and if so, exactly what criteria mark out such publishers. -DES Talk 18:26, 23 July 2009 (UTC)

UNINDENT-I even care about ebooks and I'm not really of a mind to wade through everything above. I vaguely think I saw an actual discussion about the definition of 'publish', sheesh. Don't get lost in the weeds.... try to define the forests. Here is a reasonable two line benchmark that's high enough level to debate without pulling out a dictionary. Kevin 02:29, 24 July 2009 (UTC)

"Ebooks that have been sold for money, or that are digital reprints of something that was sold for money (to any party: a publisher, a retailer, a customer: such that an average user of the database who paid for a copy or wishes to pay for a new copy and might wish to learn more about the publication,) are In." "Ebooks are defined as any 'downloadable' file, that an average computer user could end up with saved to their computer or other reading device, without resorting to any 'Menu' command in a major web browser" Life goes on, and I've been a bit busy of late to keep up with this conversation. My apologies if I have restated something that has already been considered and discarded. Cheers Kevin 02:29, 24 July 2009 (UTC)

Yes, two different issues. What is an ebook? What ebooks are acceptable for inclusion? I would even shorten the ebook definition: "A distributed document file that is designed to be read on a local computing device" but your definition is ok. I would even shorten the in definition for what's in to: "Ebooks that have been sold for money or have contents that appeared in print format".--swfritter 13:47, 24 July 2009 (UTC)
I pretty strongly dislike the "without resorting to any 'Menu' command" bit. I would be willing to accept "Includable ebooks are distributed document files that a) can be stored and read with full functionality on a local computing device, without needing to be altered to function; b) whose distributor has not attempted to prevent or forbid download or local storage of the files; c) when read, display text, and possibly images; and d) have either been offered for sale (at a non-zero price) or consist primarily of text which has appeared in print, and was sold or offered for sale when in print." I think that lets in PG, lets in Baen and Fictionwise, does not depend on technical details too likely to change, excludes the flood of amateur fiction, while letting in amateurs or novice writers who are making serious efforts. It also avoids the can-of-worms that defining an "established publisher" would be. The "can be stored" bit avoids pure-web-based sites that depend on a complex of links which would need to be altered to work locally: a wiki, for example, is therefore not an includable ebook. What do people think of this? -DES Talk 14:53, 24 July 2009 (UTC)
I note that the above excludes the stories that User:JohnMarks wanted to submit, which started this discussion, and which most here though should be excluded, but that it would include them if the author started to sell them for money. -DES Talk 14:55, 24 July 2009 (UTC)
We can't enter this discussion as a work of fiction? I think it is approaching novelette length. Perhaps "a)" could explicitly state that the document can be read without concurrent internet access. Purpose of "b)"? It would seem odd that someone would sell a story and not allow you to read it. Do we need "c)"? Possibly redundant in that documents are meant to be read; would we be stating the obvious? "d)" I like. It incorporates Kevin's and my concepts and does not require a special dispensation for PG. Although their text files wouldn't be acceptable when read directly, those same files are available in zip files which can be downloaded.--swfritter 18:47, 24 July 2009 (UTC)
About a) you have a point. Thew purpose of b is to exclude works where the distribute has tried to keep them web-only, and an elaborate technical hack is required to download them. This is the "you may take it home and call it George" provision. The purpose of c) was to exclude files that did not include text, such as movie files, or some sort of program code. Note that under d) files would not require being contained in a zip, nor would a "download-load here link be required -- any file which a user could reasonably easily copy to a computer, ebook reader, or other local device, including by being loaded into a browser and then saved, would qualify. -DES Talk 21:12, 24 July 2009 (UTC)
Slightly revised proposal, in light of Keven's comments: "Includable ebooks are distributed document files that a) can be stored and read with full functionality on a local computing device, without needing to be altered to function, and without requiring a connection to the internet or other network when being read; b) whose distributor has not attempted to require online reading only, or prevent or forbid download or local storage of the files; c) which when read, display text, and possibly images accompanying the text, as opposed to only including images, sounds, or computer code; and d) have either been offered for sale (at a non-zero price) or consist primarily of text which has appeared in print, and was sold or offered for sale when in print." How does that sound? -DES Talk 21:12, 24 July 2009 (UTC)

UNINDENT, one of the big reasons IMHO to limit what we index is to keep to a doable level. If you look at fictionpress.com which is a spinoff of fanfiction.net for original stories. Fantasy (64,267), Horror (17,528), Sci-Fi (14,321), Supernatural (15,090). If I filter so I get only completed stories the SF shrinks to about a tenth of that but thats still more than we can deal with I think. And if you look under the other genras there the Action one has 30 pages of stuff that is subcatagorized as SF. We can't keep up with that much to record so we should come up with definition of what we will other than totally subjective. Exactly what that is I'm not sure. Reprints of published stuff and unpublished stuff by established authors are a IN for me. Stuff from an established commercial site, IN. Stuff from fictionpress or some random personal site/blog, OUT. Where the line between goes I'm not sure. Excluding print stuff from Lulu that meets those same criteria wouldn't bother me but the upfront effort there is enough to apparently keep the volume low enough that we can record all of it for now. Dana Carson 23:04, 24 July 2009 (UTC)

That makes some sense, although I'm inclined to think that if we exclude self-published e-fiction, there is no particular reason ti include self-published fiction in printed form. I note that fictionpress, and pretty much all personal sites or blogs, do not attempt to charge for access or stories. My above proposed four-part rule, which requires that texts be offered for sale or copies of print text once offered for sale, would exclude all such. Do you think it would do the job? -DES Talk 23:45, 24 July 2009 (UTC)
Two points. The fiction submitted that began this discussion, is now 'in' in a collection that was sold in print form, so those works are in, it's just the free web site that's out. Second point, my previous suggestion should also have included a 'not sold for money works' that are given away by 'Known Author, Known Publisher, etc'. This solves the 'What about a free Stephen King Novella ebook situation and similar. I still feel that all of this is solvable by just using the 'known/recognized' publisher technique for everything except freebies from 'known/recognized authors'. Kevin 01:06, 25 July 2009 (UTC)
As I understood it, the printed collection was only a small sample of what ins on the web site. I think that trying to set standards for who is a "known publisher" will be a bigger can of works than "sold for money" will. You accepted the printed collection, as you mention above. Would you accept as includable eboosk e-texts sold for money by the same publisher? JohnMarks said that they also sell ebooks. I agree with your known-author exception.How about:
"Includable ebooks are distributed document files that a) can be stored and read with full functionality on a local computing device, without needing to be altered to function, and without requiring a connection to the internet or other network when being read; b) whose distributor has not attempted to require online reading only, or prevent or forbid download or local storage of the files; c) which when read, display text, and possibly images accompanying the text, as opposed to only including images, sounds, or computer code; and d) have either been offered for sale (at a non-zero price), or consist primarily of text which has appeared in print, and was sold or offered for sale when in print, or are offered free of charge by an author who has written and sold or by a publisher that has sold several other works of SF considered includable in the ISFDB."
Will that cover it? -DES Talk 01:34, 25 July 2009 (UTC)
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