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Canadian Reading Habits, Meta’s AI Controversy, And Ethically Sourced AI Training: The Self-Publishing News Podcast With Dan Holloway

Canadian Reading Habits, Meta’s AI Controversy, and Ethically Sourced AI Training: The Self-Publishing News Podcast with Dan Holloway

On this episode of the Self-Publishing News Podcast, Dan Holloway explores a study on Canadian reading habits, revealing a shift toward readers obtaining more printed books for free. Libraries are a major source, while “free internet sites” dominate for audiobooks. Dan also covers Meta's controversial AI training policy, which faces regulatory pushback in the UK and EU. Additionally, there's news on efforts to create an ethically sourced AI training dataset.

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About the Host

Dan Holloway is a novelist, poet, and spoken word artist. He is the MC of the performance arts show The New Libertines, He competed at the National Poetry Slam final at the Royal Albert Hall. His latest collection, The Transparency of Sutures, is available on Kindle.

Read the Transcripts to Self-Publishing News: Canadian Reading Habits

Dan Holloway: Hello and welcome to another edition of the Self-Publishing News from a sunny Oxford where all the students have now departed, and exams are now done, and we just sit and wait results. So, good luck to all of them.

Canadian Reading Habits Show Increase in “Free Books”

Really interesting thing that I came across in this week's news journey was a study of the reading habits of Canadian readers, and I just wanted to spend a little time looking through some of the results that I didn't necessarily get a chance to look at in the news column.

The big headline figure that did come out of it that I covered was around free books and paid books, and where people got their books from. For the first time last year, it seems that more people got their printed books from free sources than paid for them. So, that obviously is a big milestone, and it says a lot about financial circumstances.

It's also really interesting to look at what those free sources are. Yes, libraries obviously are a big source of where people get the books from. That was the top source for both print and eBooks this year.

Interestingly, it was the second most popular source of free books for audiobooks following on from, I love this, it's called “free internet sites”. Quite what that means, who knows? The examples are given of sites where you can get books legitimately, whether all of those free books were actually acquired legitimately, who knows? But anyway, free internet sites, the most popular source of free audio books, and this year, the second most popular source of free eBooks. Public libraries, far and away the most popular for print.

After that it's a slightly different set of sources. So, borrowing, and the thing that really struck me was how many of all of these are not royalty bearing, but of the ones that are not royalty bearing, there are those that are considered to be nonetheless acceptable and those that are considered to be not acceptable. So, it's really interesting that a lot of these things that we think about as being things that we don't necessarily discourage, so borrowing, or little free libraries is one that always strikes out to me. The way that writers love little free libraries, but they don't love internet sites that give books away for free, even if they call themselves libraries, but neither of them is royalty paying and it's a really interesting psychological thing.

So, the group. that is most likely still to pay for their books, however, are Gen Z and Millennials, which I found really interesting, and tied up possibly to the popularity of physical books as a thing you can share on social media.

But when it comes to how frequently people read, interestingly, the demographics are slightly different, and the younger people are less likely to read more often than people in an older group who are the most likely to read once a day or more than once a day.

Yes, younger people are more likely to buy their print books, but then they read fewer of them. So, make of that what you will.

Other really interesting things that come out of this survey, book discovery. This is a topic that's obviously something we think about all the time So, the most likely place we are to go for book discovery remains word of mouth. 28% of people get their books, or decide what books to buy because of word of mouth, followed by bookstores and public libraries, and interestingly, social media is down there in fourth place. Online retailers, Amazon, Kobo, Audible, and so on, are down in fifth place.

Interesting that book discovery is still driven by personal recommendation, and when it comes to what people are likely to read, far and away the most common thing that drives people's choice of books is what the book is about. Absolutely fascinating set of stats, I do encourage you to go and read them thoroughly. There are all sorts of things about how much time people spend on books as opposed to other letter activities, how much people are spending on books, whether people think books are good value or not, and people's preferences for format where print remains overwhelmingly the most popular.

I'm sure Howard will put a link in the description of this podcast, there is a link in the news column itself, of course. Fascinating study of people's reading habits.

Meta Told to Stop Using User Data to Train AI in UK and EU

The other big news this week, of course, was Facebook or Meta. So, Meta has been causing some problems by getting people to write essays to explain to them why they feel that they shouldn't have their posts used to train Meta's new AI platforms. Robin Phillips from ALLi has put up a great post on what to do, or what to say, to avoid having your work used in AI training.

Meta have said in official correspondence that everyone who has requested to have their content not used has had that request accepted. Nonetheless, it's not been made clear to everyone that's going to happen, and people are getting really anxious about this idea of having to write a mini essay if they can even find out where to go in order to do so.

The European Union and the UK, so the Data Protection Commission in the European Union and the UK's Information Commissioner's office have decided that this is not good policy, and in particular it is a breach of the General Data Protection Regulation, the GDPR, and so META has been asked to pause this practice in the UK and the EU.

They are very unhappy about this, they call this, as tech firms are loving to do at such regulatory injunction, a blight on the face of innovation. So, they think this is stifling innovation. We can't do what we want. So, they're throwing the toys out of the pram a bit. They're clearly going to come back with another proposal, but for now these things are paused in the UK and the EU only.

So, you no longer have to worry about writing an essay for them. They are not going to be using your data for now.

New Consented AI-Training Database Launched

Talking of consent to use your content for training AI, the other thing that has been happening this last week is the launch of another tool to try and create a fully consented AI training database.

This comes from a company called Source Plus. Basically, what they are doing is they're trying to scour the web for any images that have creative commons licenses attached to them that suggest they can be used for the purposes of training AI, and where attribution is not required.

So, obviously the requirement for attribution that is for someone to say, look, this is my work, whenever it's used, is something that is going to stop it being legitimately used for training AI models. So, what they're doing is they are searching for everyone who has said yes, you can use my work for AI, no, you don't have to say whose work it is, and they're pulling all this together into a training data set. The idea being that anyone can then come along and use that training data set and then claim that they have ethically sourced the training data for their platform.

UK Election Parties Face AI Scrutiny

Finally, AI has been in the news, obviously in the UK, because we have an election coming up, as you may have noticed. So, people are looking through party manifestos as they come out and seeing what they say about AI.

It feels like really sticky ground for me to say too much about this. I would say Publishing Perspectives have some great coverage of what's in what manifesto. If this is a matter that Is something of concern to you, do go and check it out. In particular, Dan Conway from the UK Publishers Association has been looking through the relative manifestos, seeing which appear to do right by creators, which appear to do nothing by creators, or seem to prioritize tech firms. So, do go and check that out if that's something that is of concern to you.

I will get back to enjoying some sunshine, helping our markers along the way to get our students their exam results so they can celebrate in style next week. I will, at that time next week, look forward to speaking to you again. Thank you.

Author: Howard Lovy

Howard Lovy is an author, book editor, and journalist. He is also the Content and Communications Manager for the Alliance of Independent Authors, where he hosts and produces podcasts and keeps the blog updated. You can find more of his work at https://howardlovy.com/


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