Let’s start with a definition of Censorship:
Censorship is the suppression of speech or other public communication which may be considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or inconvenient as determined by a government, media outlet, or other controlling body.
As you might be aware if you follow this blog, I wrote a third book entitled Java EE 7. A technical book about Java EE which part of it managed to get censored by my editor. Here are the pages that got censored, and here is why I am not happy about it.
The Censored Pages
In the introduction pages of my Java EE 7 book I thanked people who helped me in the writing process, and added the following two pages :
Once upon a time, I wrote a book entitled “Beginning Java EE 6 Platform with GlassFish 3: From Novice to Professional” with Apress. The book got published in May 2009, just before the actual Java EE 6 specification was released. I spent the following months touring Java conferences, talking about Java EE 6, giving books away, showing my Portuguese passport to foreign customs and traveling from Paris to San Francisco, Prague, Krakow, London…. the joys of being a European and being able to travel the world, buy a flight ticket online and talk at any conference I fancy. Luxury? No, banality.
On October 27th 2009, while my Java EE 6 book was getting momentum, I received this funny email:
Thanks to your endeavor, though I did know nothing about JEE or J2EE development, I am learning JEE6 by now.
I am living in a country in which an international banking account, like Visa or MasterCard, is hard to obtain and as I know, the rule is not clarified by law yet. It shames me to say that I copied your book’s PDF illegally and I hope you forgive me for that. To cover what I have done, I tried to collect some typing problems and give opinions on some parts, hoping that they could be useful for future publications of this book.
Though it is less than a month that I have started the book, I felt it would be better to send what I have collected up to now (until chapter 9) and send the rest, if any, in future.
Antonio, some say we are like each other by face!
Truly Yours, Youness Teimoury, Software Engineer
(The most top score entrant in international entrance exam of “Azad University – Software Engineering (associate to bachelor degree)- 2003, IRAN)
I received many emails from people asking for questions, thanking me for the book or not agreeing with me… but it was the first time I read something like “It shames me to say that I copied your book’s PDF illegally and I hope you forgive me for that”. How would you react to an email like that? To be honest, I didn’t think a second “Bastard, he downloaded my book illegally” but “Gee, there are places on this planet where people can’t go to Amazon, enter their credit card details and receive a book”. The signature of the email was interesting of course: “Iran”. I first went “Hey, I should do a conference there” and then… “Hum… maybe not the right timing”. So this unknown smart developer in Iran called Youness downloaded a copy of my book illegally because it was nearly impossible to get a hard copy posted to him. He liked my book so much and felt so guilty that he decided to give me some feedback and corrections.
So for weeks Youness sent me pages and pages of reviews. Hundreds of items, from small typos to technical thoughts. All in a table format in a very structured way with page number, problem encountered and possible correction. I was amazed by this guy. Most of his comments were accurate. He had spent hours and hours reading every single page of my book, every code example, compiling it, analyzing it and giving me his opinion. Of course, a second edition of my Java EE 6 book got published and I thanked Youness for his help. The second edition got better thanks to the feedback of the entire Java community… but also thanks to Youness’ hard work of discovering every little tiny mistake.
And here I am now, in 2013 writing a Java EE 7 book, the one you have in front of you (legally I hope ;o). If you’ve never written a book you should know that it’s the most difficult and stressful thing you might do in your life (after raising a kid of course). As usual I was late, I was begging APress to give me a few extra weeks, I was sleeping 4 hours per night, writing during days, nights and weekends… and still running late. I only had two more chapters to go… and thought of multi-threading. “Who could help me writing the remaining pages?”. Four years after our email exchanges, I remembered Youness. I asked him if he could help me finishing the XML & JSon chapter… and he accepted. Thanks for helping me out Youness, thanks for taking the time to write most of the chapter. When you read Chapter 12, realize that most of it is from Youness, a smart guy with an infinite energy.
Having used Linx, Mosaic and Gopher at university a long long time ago, I can say that I have been using the Internet for a long time. I have many good things to say about it, but I’m afraid I have more bad things to say about the Internet. The Internet is still a chaotic civilization, with no rules, where the best and the worse live next to each other at a URL click. You can get a copy of a book illegally, watch free hard porn videos or read the best free encyclopedia, thanks to crowd sourcing. I don’t know how the Internet will evolve, I don’t know if it will get worse or better. I am not the one to judge what is good or bad anyway. I just want to thank the Internet for this magic communication channel it has become. I want to thank the Internet for introducing me to a smart, respectful and generous human being I would never have “met” in real life. So no matter how bad I think the Internet could go, I will always remember this virtual meeting I had with Youness four years ago.
Who is Youness? In these dark times of “getting a definition right”, I could not say he is a friend, a colleague or an acquaintance. In which Google Circle should I add him? I’ve never seen him in real life but spent hundred of emails and hours “talking” to him virtually.
Now I know I have a special “friend” living in Iran, an important country for our civilizations. This is where everything started, and today it looks like we’ve forgotten about it. I hope one day I’ll be able to travel to Iran, talk about Java EE 7 at local conferences, have a drink with Youness, understand a bit more about his life, his culture and walk with him in the streets of Tehran.
Because no matter how virtual this world will get, “Some say we are like each other by face!”
Why this text got censored ?
When my editor read this text, he just deleted it without informing me. Weeks later, when I was reviewing the final chapters, I noticed that a couple of pages were missing. I asked my editor what had happened and received the following :
The main problem with the anecdote, though well-intentioned, was that it seemed to condone piracy which we spend a lot of money trying to combat. (…) and we’re not permitted to sell our books in Iran at the moment
So the text was censored because books are not accessible throughout the planet in an even manner and because the financial model on the Internet is completely chaotic and broken.
Not publishing books in Iran
IANAL (I am not a lawyer) but I’ve spent years reading software licences and other disclaimers about embargoes and products not being allowed in Cuba, Iran or any country trying to get the nuclear bomb and not being approved by countries who already have it. I would never have thought that my Java book could be part of such censorship. History has shown that censorship is the best way to alienate people. Giving access to knowledge is, on the opposite, the best way to educate them… and education is frightening because it can lead to revolutions or mass strikes (like what we have been seeing lately in some countries) . So the work of an editor should be to give access to knowledge to the entire Humanity, not to censor it to a group of “not respected humans”.
Another issue about this text was piracy. It is a very difficult topic. I am an author, I spent months of very hard work writing a book, taking literally months off work, with no incomes and putting myself into a difficult financial situation. As an author I would like to be paid for the work I’ve done. Piracy is, indeed, something to blame. But how do we address that ? Editors spend a lot of money “chasing piracy” throughout the world. The world is getting more complex, with more connected people… meaning editors will have to spend even more money chasing piracy. So, the model is not right. Chasing piracy is a very short term view on edition, in particular, but also on the financial model of the internet. All this wasted money decreases the revenue of the author. I’m sure you’ve all heard “you don’t write books to make a living”, and it is true. Authors do not earn a lot. So yes, maybe the entire model is broken.
And BTW, isn’t it weird to not publish books in Iran and then talk about piracy in a country that you censor ?
The “Connected Man” at the center of the universe
The Renaissance was a very important period in Man’s history : it considered Man the centre of the universe (putting god aside). Today we are living a new Renaissance : connected Men are the center of the universe. Connected people use social medias to go on strikes, make revolution…. Journalists don’t go to hot places anymore, editors censor texts…. Well, guess what, we might not need you in the near future. Why read a journalist article when you know that he was not allowed to go near the hotspots and just re-uses other people information ? Just read people’s blog, Tweets and make up your mind, cross reference information so you know it’s accurate. Why read a book when you know the editor had to censor parts of it ? Just read the source and make up your mind.
I am a Java developer and it happens that, once in a while, I write a book about it. I am not a philosopher, a trouble maker (well…) or a new revolutionary Che Guevara. I am a technical guy who writes technical books. When I wrote this text it was to thank Youness for his hard work and tell a story. In 2013, an editor felt he had to censor it so he would not create any trouble with international laws and financial issues. On the other hand, I am a free individual who can today avoid such censor.
Update (November 2019)
Youness sent me his very first email on October 27th 2009. Here is a photo of us on November 2019.
10 years have passed. 10 years in which I’ve exchanged hundreds of emails with Youness about reviewing my books. Since my Java EE 6 book, Youness has been part of my reviewer teams on all my books and fascicle. Each time I start writing a new book I always ask Youness if he would like to be part of it. And he always answers “yes“, even when his time is scarce. Youness has an eagle eye: he sees all the typos, compiles all the Java code, makes sure all the examples are correct, the titles are good… and does not hesitate to tell me “you should reorganize this entire chapter”. He is so accurate, it is amazing.
I still haven’t figure out if the Internet is good or bad. Who am I to judge? I just know that, thanks to this tool, I managed to create a virtual relationship with a great developer and a great man. I am happy now that our virtual relationship finally got real in San Francisco where Youness lives today. We spent the evening talking about everything… but books or Java. It was like we knew each other for long time and wanted to share some of our personal lives’ stories.
San Francisco is a fantastic place, and I hope Youness will make a wonderful career there. But I still dream of strolling the streets of Teheran with him one day (because that would mean that the world had changed).