Become an Online Publisher

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Maybe you
saw the "NBC Evening News" segment on Tuesday night
on the animated political
cartoon, "This Land."
It’s a spoof on Bush and Kerry.
The cartoon is a riot. It takes a long time to download if you
don’t have broadband. It’s worth it. Hook up your speakers or
earphones. Don’t miss Kerry’s use of a hand grenade.

My techie
son knew about jibjab. They are brothers who have been doing political
satire on-line for years. After segments on "The Today Show"
and Tom Brokaw (who ended the segment and the show by calling
himself "Tom Brokaw dot com"), jibjab’s traffic must
be immense.

This leads
me to today’s topic. . . .

The technological
breakthroughs on the Web keep coming. No one can keep up. It’s

Maybe you
aren’t interested in gaining a presence on the Web, but maybe
your teenage child or grandchild is. Maybe creating a Website
could be a high school project. It would not look bad on a college

What if you
could put up a site like one of these?

  • A
    history of your family
  • A
    history of your company
  • A
    history of your local church
  • A
    history of some event in your town
  • A
    history of some great discovery
  • A
    history of some misunderstood event
  • A
    collection of old cookbooks
  • A
    collection of old books in any field
  • A
    collection of old magazines, issue by issue
  • A
    collection of diaries of local VFW members

This is now
easy to do because of a new edition of a familiar product, Adobe
Acrobat Pro Version 6.0. It sells at discount at budget software
sites for about $150. It has a feature that I have been awaiting
for almost a decade. With it, you can convert a scanned-in page
to a PDF file. The PDF file looks exactly like the original page.
Now you can scan in a book or magazine and post it on-line.

roaming "spider" automatically converts PDF files into
HTML, which is then searchable by Google’s search engine. So,
your on-line PDF document will become searchable in a few weeks
after it is posted. People who are searching for a phrase in a
book or document that you have posted on-line will come across
it if the phrase appears in few other documents.

Your site
could make you an expert in whatever it is that the site deals
with. When looking for a promotion, you would be wise to have
public evidence that you are an expert.

You can rent
space for a site for as little as $5/month.


In some nations,
the cut-off date is later than 1923. So, if a Website’s hosting
company is located in such a country, and the site’s domain name
is registered to a person or institution in that country, then
the Webmaster of the site, no matter where he personally resides,
can legally post materials published later than 1923.

Which nations?
Be aware of the document, "USTR
Special 301 Review of Intellectual Property
." Here, we
read the following:

Barshefsky also announced placement of 16 trading partners on
the "Priority Watch List": Israel, Ukraine, Macau,
Argentina, Peru, Egypt, the European Union, Greece, India, Indonesia,
Russia, Turkey, Italy, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, and Kuwait.
She also placed 37 trading partners on the "Watch List."

But how can
you make money? Here is one way. There are magazine publishers
out there that would like a CD-ROM of all of their back issues.
If you have access to the complete files of a magazine like "The
Atlantic Monthly," you could scan in the complete set through
1922. You could either post these issues on-line or else put them
on a CD-ROM, which includes a copy of the free Acrobat Reader.
Then go to the present publisher of "Atlantic" and offer
to sell the CD-ROM to the subscribers for a 75-25 split (in favor
of "Atlantic") if they run an ad for your CD-ROM. Price
it at $79.95. Or sell them the CD-ROM master outright for (say)
$10,000. (Price your CD-creation time at whatever you think you’re
worth.) Offer to do the same thing for their issues published
after 1922 for another $10,000.

They could
do this themselves, but why? They would have to pay someone else
to do it. They can buy a finished product from you. This is easier,
safer, and faster.

produce a CD-ROM of your entire site and sell it to people who
find your site. People don’t like to spend hours downloading lots
of documents from a site. True believers want all of a site in
one place.

The next
step is to get your site searchable. This can be done with Google,
which allows sites to use its search program for site-only searches.
Take a look at how this works on Lew
Rockwell’s site
. Scroll to the bottom of the LRC home page.
Google offer this code for free:

There are
no doubt other convenient ways of making your CD-ROM searchable.
If there aren’t today, there will be soon.

People can
legally use a free, downloadable program such as WinHTTrack Website
Copier to download your site to their hard disk drive, and then
use it legally as if it were a CD-ROM, but most people don’t know
this. Legally, they can’t sell your site, but of course people
do sell other people’s digital property, and it is almost impossible
to stop this.

Here is reality.
A law that cannot be enforced is merely a suggestion. If it costs
more to enforce a law than the returns generated by the law, authorities
are not interested in enforcing it unless pressured by the hierarchy
to do so. Think "lawsuits," "lawyers’ fees,"
"foreign jurisdiction," "foreign corporation,"
"tax haven," and "penalties." Also think "too
small to matter."

The point
at which this franchise was imposed was that moment when the
"word became flesh" by departing the mind of its originator
and entering some physical object, whether book or widget. The
subsequent arrival of other commercial media besides books didn’t
alter the legal importance of this moment. Law protected expression
and, with few (and recent) exceptions, to express was to make

conversion was even more central to patent. A patent, until
recently, was either a description of the form into which materials
were to be rendered in the service of some purpose, or a description
of the process by which rendition occurred. In either case,
the conceptual heart of patent was the material result. If no
purposeful object could be rendered because of some material
limitation, the patent was rejected. Neither a Klein bottle
nor a shovel made of silk could be patented. It had to be a
thing, and the thing had to work.

Thus, the
rights of invention and authorship adhered to activities in
the physical world. One didn’t get paid for ideas, but for the
ability to deliver them into reality. For all practical purposes,
the value was in the conveyance and not in the thought conveyed.

In other
words, the bottle was protected, not the wine.

has now seen the digital handwriting on the screen. A
recent Motion Picture Association of America survey
that 24% of everyone who has a broadband Web connection —
43% of Americans do — have downloaded a movie. Of those who
have yet to download a movie, 17% said they planned to do so in
the next 12 months.

The first
producer to accept this new reality is Michael Moore. His political
film "Fahrenheit 9/11" is the only documentary ever
to pull in $100 million at the box office. It is still filling
theaters. It is now on-line. Pirate copies are all over the Web.
Moore, a political version of Luther, has applauded this. On July
4, the Sunday Herald
ran this story
: "Moore: pirate my film, no problem."

film-maker Michael Moore has welcomed the appearance on the
internet of pirated copies of his anti-Bush documentary Fahrenheit
9/11 and claimed he is happy for anybody to download it free
of charge.

The activist
author and director told the Sunday Herald that, as long as
pirated copies of his film were not being sold, he had no problem
with it being downloaded.

do well enough already and I made this film because I want the
world to change. The more people who see it the better, so I’m
happy this is happening." . . .

via websites such as, which lays claim to having
served more than 17 million downloads, Moore’s documentary critique
of the Bush administration’s red, white and blue rush into war
with Iraq is among the web’s hottest properties.

of copies of Fahrenheit 9/11 have already been downloaded, each
taking about 3.5 hours over a broadband connection.

the burgeoning underground market for Moore’s much-debated documentary
has been championed by both sides of the political divide. While
left-wing sites promote the film’s message, opponents of the
high-profile polemicist are urging people to "steal"
their copy, thus denying its director his cut of the profits.
. . .

Moore said:
"Is it wrong for someone who’s bought a film on DVD to
let a friend watch it for free? Of course it’s not. It never
has been and never will be. I think information, art and ideas
should be shared."


publishers are sitting on top of gold mines. National Geographic
understood this early and put all of its old issues in a boxed
set of CD-ROMs. This set originally retailed for $350. I bought
a set at Sam’s Club for about $180 in 2000. The publisher made
millions of dollars. (The box’s photo of an Afghan teenage girl
with the huge eyes was worth a fortune as a sales device. A reporter
tracked her down a couple of years ago. He showed her the NG cover.
That was the only photo she ever had taken. She had not seen it.
I wonder if she knows about signed release forms and royalties.
Probably not.)

Right wing,
left wing, it doesn’t matter. A magazine publisher can now put
all of the back issues on-line or in a CD-ROM. Maybe he will hire
you to do this on a contract basis if you present him with a free
CD-ROM of one year of issues.

With Adobe
Acrobat Pro, magazine publishers now have a bonanza available.
They can convert long-dead inventory into money. They can offer
a CD-ROM set of a complete 60-year set of the magazine for, say,
$149.95, or for only $19.95 if someone subscribes or renews his
subscription for three years.

I told my
friend Arthur Robinson about Adobe Acrobat Pro. He is the publisher
of Access to Energy, a highly readable scientific newsletter
that exposes myths and lies of anti-growth, anti-free market ecology
activists regarding the nuclear energy industry, global warming,
and related themes. The newsletter used to be published by the
late Petr Beckman. Robinson’s organization owns the publishing
rights to all of the back issues.

I told him
to post all of the back issues on-line, one by one, as separate
documents. On each issue’s front page, he should have a Web page
address listed where the reader can buy a CD-ROM set of all of
the issues through last year. So, anyone surfing the Web who comes
across an issue, reads it, and likes it can go to a Web page where
he can read about the entire set and then order it.

This way,
the information in each newsletter can get out to thousands of
Web surfers, and a few of them will buy the CD-ROM. There are
no inventory costs for the CD-ROM, meaning no state inventory
taxes to pay — a major reason why publishers take books out
of print.

When publishers
figure this out and respond to the market, historians will be
able to follow the development of any magazine’s ideas. Consider
the little-known two-volume book by James J. Martin, American
Liberalism and World Politics, 1931-1941 (Devin Adair, 1964).
It is a study of the shift in opinion by American liberals regarding
foreign policy. In 1931, The Nation and The New Republic
were revisionist and anti-war. They regarded America’s entry into
World War I as a colossal mistake. By 1941, they were calling
for America’s intervention into the European war on the side of
Great Britain. This kind of study would be so much easier to write
if magazine publishers made available CD-ROMs of their back issues.


ever written for the public for which there is an existing copy
can and should be put on the Internet at some point.

Every back
issue of every magazine and newspaper should eventually be on-line.

Every collection
of private papers in every research library should be posted on-line.
Historians should not have to fly to distant cities, pay $100+
a day for lodging and food, in order to spend months going through

The problem
has been labor time. Scanning is usually labor intensive: one
page at a time, 15—30 seconds/page. But new technologies
are speeding up the scanning process. Costs per scanned page are
coming down. This will continue.

With Adobe
Acrobat Pro and Google, it is now possible to create a searchable
on-line library of the world’s total output. This library can
be accessed in seconds by anyone with access to the Web. Item
by item, collection by collection, this decentralized library
can be created. The so-called technological imperative will continue
to assert itself on the Internet. "If it can be done, it
will be done."

Lots of hidden
facts will come to light. Lots of official lies will be exposed.
Lots of revisionist histories will be written. The time period
of Establishment historians’ familiar three-part declaration will

  1. It
    isn’t true.
  2. It’s
    true, but so what?
  3. We
    always knew it was true.


What is your
main interest? What out-of-print books do you wish were available
to everyone, free of charge? What government documents (automatically
public domain) should be on-line?

I created
a site,
, where readers can download 90 books and hundreds of newsletters
free of charge. The site used an old version of Acrobat, which
did not reproduce documents faithfully. The site’s PDF and HTML
files have many errors. The site used an expensive propprietary
program, DjVu, to create perfect image files for the books. Today,
Adobe does what DjVu does, and at a fraction of the cost.

My goal for
the site is to get wider distribution, which is why I have opened
to any electronic publisher or Web site builder the right to reprint
digitally, royalty-free, all of the books on the Freebooks site
that I wrote.

a Website like my
site is a labor of love. You must scan in lots of pages. But if
a book is long out of print, and the author is dead, who is hurt
if you post his book on-line?

Because authors
write books in order to be read, and because out-of-print books
are not widely read, and because publishers lose their legal control
over any book 12 months after they allow it to go out of print,
who is being harmed by posting on-line a PDF file of a book?

Start thinking
about that collection of forgotten documents which ought to be
remembered. Start thinking about how you can get them on-line,
available for free or for a fee. Start thinking about where the
domain name should be registered and where the Web host should
be located.

I will write
more on this later. I’m just trying to get you thinking about
this. There are opportunities out there that you may have overlooked.
Start looking over what you have overlooked.

27, 2004

North [send him mail]
is the author of Mises
on Money
. Visit
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