Book Experiment #1: Intellectual Property Strategy as an iPad App (or, reply to Cody Brown)

With big thanks to MIT Press and a terrific group of colleagues, I’m delighted to report that the iPad app version of my new book, Intellectual Property Strategy, is now approved and available in the App Store.  (To find it, click here or search on “Intellectual Property Strategy” within the App Store on your iPad.)

The book is now available in multiple formats, several of which are conventional and one of which is experimental.  First, Intellectual Property Strategy is available as an ordinary, printed text which can be read without a computing device or electricity.  I would guess that this traditional form of the book may well be the primary way that most readers will interact with it.  The printed book is a wonderful technology, which still works extremely well for most people in most instances.  Second, the book can be read in its Kindle edition, which is little more — at this stage — than a digital form of the printed book.  (As an aside: I’ve been having a great time reading on the Kindle app on my iPad and then sharing little phrases on Twitter, Facebook, and Amazon.com.  These social features are a lot of fun — and represent the best Kindle development to date, in my view.)  Third, on the MIT Press web page for the book, a reader can find a few chapters freely available plus additional resources, which can be accessed for free.  These additional resources take the form of a series of in-depth case studies and videos of Intellectual Property experts, who comment on issues that I address in the book.  There is nothing all that experimental about these first three versions of the book.

The iPad app is the experimental form.   When I was about half-way through the book-writing process (with help from my great editor Marguerite Avery and library colleague June Casey), 21-year-old Cody Brown published a post in TechCrunch.  “Dear Authors,” Cody began, by way of the title, “your next book should be an app, not an iBook.”  I’d had a similar thought: what if we thought about this book as an application, rather than a traditional book.  What could be different?  Around this same time, I also bought NONOBJECT, another iPad app published by MIT Press, and it got me thinking about the possibilities.

Well, a fair amount is different.  In the iPad app version, a reader can use a series of cool navigation features that Aaron Zinman, the creative app developer who built it, dreamed up and coded into the app.  The book has many more links than a first-generation iBook/eBook.  The links take you to three types of places: 1) within the book itself, to the glossary and back, for instance; 2) with the extended-play version of the book, such as the case studies, which don’t appear in the printed book; and 3) out to the open web, where I link out to web sites and other resources.  If a reader follows a link out to the open web, then they are free to keep going, much as a web surfer would.  I hope they’d return to my primary text, but even if they don’t, this is a risk worth running, in my view.

What’s most “different” about the iPad app version of the book is that it has embedded in it a series of videos.  I interviewed a group of scholars who know a great deal about IP — much more than me, in the aggregate, and individually, too — and recorded the interviews on video.  With the help of colleagues, I’ve included snippets of these videos into the text of the book.  That way, a reader can hear from scholars other than me about the issues I’m taking up in the text as they are reading through it.  These video snippets can also lead the reader to the longer forms of the interviews, as long as 30 minutes, if they’d like.

Back to Cody Brown’s TechCrunch piece.  This iPad app takes the book form from A -> C, not A -> M, much less A -> Z.  There’s much more that one could do, with non-linear pathways through the text, the gamelike qualities that Cody suggests, the ability to edit the primary text.  These are still possible, left on the table for another experiment.  I look forward to working on some of these next-stage experiments in future projects.

A special note to libraries, and especially those interested in digital preservation: this iPad app version of the book leads to a curious question about preservation.  Libraries are great at preserving the physical forms of books.  Libraries are beginning to get smart about preserving simple digital formats — flat html files, for instance, and audio and video files.  But an iPad app?  In its integrated form, the iPad app is a tricky thing to preserve, I’d guess.  If Cody Brown’s challenge (and other similar thinking) leads to more experimentation, our preservation activities will have to get creative very quickly or we will lose the record of these early efforts.  Puts me in mind of the challenge to librarians posed by Nicholson Baker in his controversial book, Doublefold, along similar lines — only more than a decade ago.  How might we, as libraries, partner with Apple, for instance, to ensure that there’s a preservation process for these books?  Or with Internet Archive, which has done such an amazing job with the open web itself?

Also: I call this post “Book Experiment #1,” not because others haven’t experimented already in much more profound ways, but only because I’ve planned out two more posts to come — Book Experiments #2 and #3, to come shortly on this blog.

Intellectual Property Strategy: Book Launch

I’m excited to be launching a new book, Intellectual Property Strategy, tonight at Harvard Law School.  (If you’re in Cambridge, MA, USA, please feel free to come by Austin Hall East at HLS at 6:00 pm this evening for the event and a reception thereafter or tune into the webcast.)

The discussion tonight will cover two bases: first, the substance of the book and second, the format of this book, and possibly others, into the future.

On the substance of this book, I will make a few claims.  The basic claim is extremely simple: organizations should see intellectual property as a core asset class rather than as a sword and a shield, as the traditional mantra would have it.  I argue also that IP strategies should be flexible; geared toward creating freedom of action; and inclined toward openness where possible, at least in the information technology field.  These basic claims are geared both toward for-profit and non-profit firms.  There’s a chapter in the book devoted to the special case of the non-profit, which often needs an IP strategy just as much as for-profit firms do.  The flexible use of IP can support the missions of non-profits in important, distinct ways.

- The smartphone OS wars are the most obvious example of how IP matters.  It’s big business for huge firms.  The acquisition by Google of Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion (thanks, SJ, for the typo-catching) in cash in August, 2012.  The hundreds of millions of dollars paid to Intellectual Ventures as licenses stand for another example of the growing importance in commerce of this field of law.  The multi-billion-dollar markets for the licensing of trademarks and patents in a broad range of fields is yet another.  These examples make the case for treating IP as an asset class.  And the work on IP strategy should be seen as core to the work of the organization, not something to be left only to lawyers outside the firm.

- There is a strong connection between our work in youth and media and the matter of intellectual property strategy.  We know that youth attitudes toward intellectual property are shifting rapidly over time.  The recent passage of the America Invents Act of 2011 points to the dynamism of the space.  These changes demonstrate the need for flexibility in IP strategy over time.

- The use of IP in libraries and museums is a third important case.  I’ve been working actively in the field of libraries, including service as director of the HLS Library and chairing the work to develop a Digital Public Library of America, over the past several years.  In the case of libraries, the question of how much to digitize of our collections is an important problem.  My view is that the digitization, contextualization, and free distribution of our library holdings is a way to use IP as a way to fulfill the specific mission of a non-profit that is devoted to access to knowledge.

I especially am grateful to colleagues Terry Fisher, Eric von Hippel, Lawrence Lessig, Phil Malone, Jonathan Zittrain, who will respond to the book and presentation.  Also, the book project would be nowhere near as much fun, or as good, without the partnership of June Casey, my colleague in the Harvard Law School Library, who has been nothing short of extraordinary.  And Michelle Pearse, Amar Ashar, and their teams have been wonderful in setting up this event.  It’s an amazing group of colleagues!

On the topic of the format, I am excited to talk about multiple versions of the book.  1) There is, of course, the traditional form of the book that someone can touch, pick up, and read in the ordinary way.  There’s also the digital form of that same book, which can be rendered on a Kindle or an iPad, which gives more or less the same experience.  2) There’s a form of the book that is like an Extended Play album, or a DVD that has “extras” at the end.  On the MIT Press web site, one can access video interviews and a series of case studies, for instance, which expand on the argument of the book.  See, for instance, the videos here on the MIT Press web site.

And 3), most experimentally, I have been working with a great team on a distinct version of the book that functions as an iPad application.  The idea is to embed these case studies and videos directly into the text of the main form of the book.  The iPad app version allows for many different ways through the text; connections to the open web; and loads of fun and interesting embedded links.  The idea is to rethink the format of the eBook from the ground up, to add in born-digital elements by design rather than the equivalent of putting up a PDF into an e-reader format.  It’s still in beta mode, but we will demo it tonight.

This short book is part of the MIT Press Essential Knowledge series.  It’s been fun to work with Margy Avery and her team at MIT Press on this experimental project.

Please join us if you are free!