What’s this site?

Last year, in January 2003, my first novel came out. I was 31 years old, and I'd been calling myself a novelist since the age of 12. It was the storied dream-of-a-lifetime, come-true-at-last. I was and am proud as hell of that book, even though it is just one book among many released last year, better than some, poorer than others; and even though the print-run (which sold out very quickly!) though generous by science fiction standards, hardly qualifies it as a work of mass entertainment.

The thing that's extraordinary about that first novel is that it was released under terms governed by a Creative Commons license that allowed my readers to copy the book freely and distribute it far and wide. Hundreds of thousands of copies of the book were made and distributed this way. Hundreds of thousands.

Today, I release my second novel, and my third, a collaboration with Charlie Stross is due any day, and two more are under contract. My career as a novelist is now well underway -- in other words, I am firmly afoot on a long road that stretches into the future: my future, science fiction's future, publishing's future and the future of the world.

The future is my business, more or less. I'm a science fiction writer. One way to know the future is to look good and hard at the present. Here's a thing I've noticed about the present: more people are reading more words off of more screens than ever before. Here's another thing I've noticed about the present: fewer people are reading fewer words off of fewer pages than ever before. That doesn't mean that the book is dying -- no more than the advent of the printing press and the de-emphasis of Bible-copying monks meant that the book was dying -- but it does mean that the book is changing. I think that literature is alive and well: we're reading our brains out! I just think that the complex social practice of "book" -- of which a bunch of paper pages between two covers is the mere expression -- is transforming and will transform further.

I intend on figuring out what it's transforming into. I intend on figuring out the way that some writers -- that this writer, right here, wearing my underwear -- is going to get rich and famous from his craft. I intend on figuring out how this writer's words can become part of the social discourse, can be relevant in the way that literature at its best can be.

I don't know what the future of book looks like. To figure it out, I'm doing some pretty basic science. I'm peering into this opaque, inscrutable system of publishing as it sits in the year 2004, and I'm making a perturbation. I'm stirring the pot to see what surfaces, so that I can see if the system reveals itself to me any more thoroughly as it roils. Once that happens, maybe I'll be able to formulate an hypothesis and try an experiment or two and maybe -- just maybe -- I'll get to the bottom of book-in-2004 and beat the competition to making it work, and maybe I'll go home with all (or most) of the marbles.

It's a long shot, but I'm a pretty sharp guy, and I know as much about this stuff as anyone out there. More to the point, trying stuff and doing research yields a non-zero chance of success. The alternatives -- sitting pat, or worse, getting into a moral panic about "piracy" and accusing the readers who are blazing new trail of "the moral equivalent of shoplifting" -- have a zero percent chance of success.

Most artists never "succeed" in the sense of attaining fame and modest fortune. A career in the arts is a risky long-shot kind of business. I'm doing what I can to sweeten my odds.

So here we are, and here is novel number two, a book called Eastern Standard Tribe, which you can walk into shops all over the world and buy as a physical artifact -- a very nice physical artifact, designed by Chesley-award-winning art director Irene Gallo and her designer Shelley Eshkar, published by Tor Books, a huge, profit-making arm of an enormous, multinational publishing concern. Tor is watching what happens to this book nearly as keenly as I am, because we' re all very interested in what the book is turning into.

To that end, here is the book as a non-physical artifact. A file. A bunch of text, slithery bits that can cross the world in an instant, using the Internet, a tool designed to copy things very quickly from one place to another; and using personal computers, tools designed to slice, dice and rearrange collections of bits. These tools demand that their users copy and slice and dice -- rip, mix and burn! -- and that's what I'm hoping you will do with this.

Not (just) because I'm a swell guy, a big-hearted slob. Not because Tor is a run by addlepated dot-com refugees who have been sold some snake-oil about the e-book revolution. Because you -- the readers, the slicers, dicers and copiers -- hold in your collective action the secret of the future of publishing. Writers are a dime a dozen. Everybody's got a novel in her or him. Readers are a precious commodity. You've got all the money and all the attention and you run the word-of-mouth network that marks the difference between a little book, soon forgotten, and a book that becomes a lasting piece of posterity for its author, changing the world in some meaningful way.

I'm unashamedly exploiting your imagination. Imagine me a new practice of book, readers. Take this novel and pass it from inbox to inbox, through your IM clients, over P2P networks. Put it on webservers. Convert it to weird, obscure ebook formats. Show me -- and my colleagues, and my publisher -- what the future of book looks like.

I'll keep on writing them if you keep on reading them. But as cool and wonderful as writing is, it's not half so cool as inventing the future. Thanks for helping me do it.

171 Responses to “What’s this site?”

  1. Eastern Standard Tribe ships

    My second novel, Eastern Standard Tribe starts shipping today -- it should be showing up in bookstores any day now.

  2. Eastern Standard Tribe ships

    My second novel, Eastern Standard Tribe starts shipping today -- it should be showing up in bookstores any day now. As with Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, my first novel, I've made the whole text of the novel...

  3. Essay on the future of books by Cory Doctorow

    Cory Doctorow released his novel in stores as well as for free on the internet under a creative commons license....

  4. Murph says:

    Good news! I look forward to finding my (inscribed) copy in my mailbox sometime soon.


  5. Tribeless says:

    Hmmmm. I'm dubious Cory; about the free download aspect. Isn't that just encouraging the file sharers, who are in my opinion looters?

    You may very well be having hundreds of thousands of your books read, but are you making a living from it? How are you making money?

    If you are not making a living from your writing, then aren't you helping put another nail in the coffin of every wannabe writer today. The book/ebook market, and hence books, will be destroyed.

    I am confused.

  6. First of all, to call file-sharers looters is, IMO, a non-starter. There are 70 million Americans engaged in file-sharing today, violating a copyright law that hasn't kept pace with technology (which is the norm -- people had to pirate sheet music to make piano rolls, phonographs to make radio broadcasts, braodcasts to make cable TV, and cable TV to make VHS recording -- each an activity that was eventually legalized by changing copyright instead of outlawing a popular new technology). No author is going to turn those downloaders into customers by calling them thieves. By contrast, the author who figures out how to capitalize on that activity will find himself sitting pretty: some Vaudeville artists sued Marconi for inventing the infringing radio, they ended up flipping burgers; other performers embraced radio and ended up rich and famous.

    There's every reason to believe that distributing ebooks for free boosts sales. It sure did for me. My first novel sold out its print run PDQ, as did my short story collection (six weeks!). They are selling well in their second printings. This is an experience borne out by other writers and publishers, especially and famously by Baen Books, which has been making a lot of money giving away previous installments in ongoing series (and selling not just the new installment, but also previous volumes, despite them being available gratis online).

    Every single advance in the history of mass media technology, from the Gutenberg Press to the musical recording, from the radio to the VCR, from the Xerox machine to the PC, has been characterized as certain to destroy the existing entertainment industry. The sky hasn't fallen yet (even the Catholic Church survived the printing-press-inspired Reformation). Indeed, at every turn, technologies that enable broader distribution end up paying more artists more money for making more art that is enjoyed by more people. If book publishing is dead, what is the largest science fiction publisher in the world (my publisher, Tor) doing investing in my career by buying book after book that will be distributed online alongside of their print artifacts?

  7. Tribeless says:

    How did you type that quick :)

    Firstly, I hope you do well. I have downloaded your book, and I 'may' pay for a copy. But I think, personally, this is the start of the death of art (indeed, the death of production full stop). As a struggling writer myself with a boring day job, that worries me.

    Also, think of the other 'arts' that the file sharers are looting, for example, movies. Unlike writing a book, movies have massive production costs: unless they can make a profit they won't be made. When that happens, another important part of my life will disappear. And no, I'm not overly interested in watching amatuer low budget movies made by co-ops.

    I think it is naive to believe that an author is going to turn the file sharers into a 'long term'market, they are by nature free loaders and thieves. They have no morals or scruples. Yes, you will get some sales, but minscule compared to what you might get using traditional channels, again, over the long term.

    What I particularly hate is the argument promulgated by the black flag anarchists, which you are buying into, that technological change can be used as an excuse to by-pass basic, essential, morality. That is, 'we can't stop the file sharers, so lets just turn a moral blind eye to the fact that when done without consent, (thus you aside) file sharing is theft, and its denying artists a living". We should be prosecuting file sharers, not pandering to them, surely.

    I too will be interested in how you individually go, but I remain unmoved in my opinion that over the longer term what you are doing is insanity, and actually strikes at the heart of a capitalist system (which is the bedrock of freedom). Just my opinion, but I've been arguing with file sharers regarding intellectual property issues on a particular forum (email me if you'd like and address) and believe me they are a scary, immoral bunch of people. As such, they should not be encouraged, and they will cite your approach as legitimacy for their actions.

    But keep up the writing ... just rethink the politics.

  8. "Unlike writing a book, movies have massive production costs: unless they can make a profit they won't be made."

    Monkish Bibles required the entire infrastructure of the Papacy. The Gutenberg Bible struck at its very core (and brought about the Reformation). Did Bibles, books, or the Church go away? Printing sheet music required the pinnacle of industrial culture circa 1908. Did the pirate piano roll kill music? Broadcast television was the most expensive for of entertainment ever built, the first medium with a truly post-industrial infrastructure, and yet, the wholesale piracy of broadcast signals by cable operators built a bigger, better broadcast industry than ever dreamt of.

    "I think it is naive to believe that an author is going to turn the file sharers into a 'long term'market, they are by nature free loaders and thieves. They have no morals or scruples. Yes, you will get some sales, but minscule compared to what you might get using traditional channels, again, over the long term."

    This rhetoric could be coming out of the mouth of a Vaudevilleian in the era of the anti-Marconi suits. If you want to call your audience unscrupled crooks, I imagine that you'll find that you get damned few sales out of them. Meanwhile, my books are selling stupendously well. So on the one hand, we have your moral indignation at the idea of copyright infringement (and activity that is downright traditional in every new medium) and your concomittant certainty that you can't sell books to infringers; on the other, we have my actual, no fooling, field experience in which I am selling books, hand over fist, to infringers. I suppose you can go on believing what you want, but I hope you don't mind if I eschew your advice to "rethink the politics."

    "'we can't stop the file sharers, so lets just turn a moral blind eye to the fact that when done without consent, (thus you aside) file sharing is theft, and its denying artists a living"."

    This is profoundly ahistorical. Every single new medium has ushered in a new copyright regime. Why should the Internet be the only medium that bends to fit copyright instead of vice versa? The rights of authors you're referring to didn't come down off a mountain on two stone tablets -- they were created in living memory, to accomodate the last round of technological change. There's no morality here, only the policy goal of shaping the contours of copyright to allow authors to earn their living while granting the public the freedom to exploit new technology.
    "they will cite your approach as legitimacy for their actions."

    I hope they do. America -- and the world -- need a new deal in copyright, one that protects authors without ushering in a regime where innovation, privacy, speech, and the open Internet are threatened by an out-of-control spiral of ever-tightening copyright laws with ever-stiffer penalties. I'm a delegate at the UN's World Intellectual Property Organization in Geneva, and I have to tell you, the things that are being considered today in the name of protecting authors from "pirates" (here I'm talking about the 70 million Americans running file-sharing apps, not the trolls you've managed to find yourself in a flamewar with) strike at the very core of democratic values and have no nexus with protecting authors from actual attacks on their income (such as organized criminals who mass-counterfeit CDs, books and DVDs; or even trust-like accounting and contracting practices at publishers that have them withholding royalties in non-interest accounts for years as a "reserve against returns" and producing nearly identical non-negotiable contracts across supposedly competitive firms).

    I am in the business of writing to earn money. I have turned my largest cost-center -- turning people onto my work -- into a profit-center, selling books. This isn't a theoretical proposition, it's not a superstition, it's not grounded on indignation at the idea of theft: it's based on actual facts, as reflected by regular checks from my publisher. This has nothing to do with destroying publishing or capitalism, and everything to do with adapting to the new marketplace realities. The only unforgivable sin in a market economy is to fail to offer a product that your customers demand. I don't intend on commiting it.

  9. Kevin Burton says:

    Go Go Cory! Congrats...

    I'm going to stop hacking on code and read this now.... give you feedback at ETech.

    Damn it! This is going to push back our release schedule ;)


  10. Murph says:

    People who don't buy are people who likely wouldn't have bought in the first place. Me, I bought Cory's first book. It helped that I have a policy of buying the first book of any friend, but even if I thought he was a jerk, the word on the street was good enough for me to go and drop the money to do so. I'm also not as keen on reading on the screen. Charlie Stross gave me several of his novels (most still in the pipeline at the time) by beaming them to my Palm in a bar in Edinburgh, but I'm still happier reading them by killing a few trees.

    One fact that shouldn't be ignored, though, is that Cory has enormous Whuffie. BoingBoing gets way more hits (several orders of magnitude more, I imagine) than my blog, and this can help with the advertising and word of mouth. He's worked hard to build a base, and not been obnoxious about it, which means that many of these folks are willing to fork over. Would it work with me? Not yet, I suspect, but I am rooting for the guy blazing the trail.


  11. Tribeless says:

    "There's no morality here, only the policy goal of shaping the contours of copyright to allow authors to earn their living while granting the public the freedom to exploit new technology."

    You make some very good points, but for me the above strikes at the heart of the issue. There must always be a place for morality. Why not look at ways that 'give the public the freedom to exploit new technology', while not sanctioning the theft which is file sharing. For example, DRM and encryption. I realise that DRM has a pretty botched history to date, but I would argue it behoves the publishing industry to look in this direction, rather than legitimising theft, which will have long term negative consequences (systems approach).

    Also, your opening 'bible' argument is not relevant. Movies are produced for profit and then entertainment. The bible's you speak of were produced for religious reasons (indeed, the self sacrificing Christian mind would relish, some might say, the chance of going bankrupt to produce something that might save souls). But, no profit, ergo, due to file sharing no way for big budget movies to 'sell' their product, then no movies.

    "...we have my actual, no fooling, field experience in which I am selling books, hand over fist, to infringers."

    You are not selling your books to infringers, as you are 'allowing' your book to go out on the Net, (therefore, I have to say at this point I'm growing uneasy here that we may be talking at cross purposes). This aside, what of the authors who are having their books traded without such sanction? Plus you have no control for this experiment: ie, how can we guage if your sales wouldn't be higher if you were selling through traditional channels.

    But its great you are selling books hand over fist regardless. I accept its a fascinating experiment, I'm not comfortable with it, indeed, think that all the baggage that goes along with it will be harmful long term, but my comfort is not your concern. At least you're doing it, and testing the water. Gotta respect that.

    Now unfortunately, my lot being what it is, I've got to get some work done. Thank you for your points ... do you want to give me a progress report in about fifteen years? :)

  12. koala says:

    Tribeless, you say you are a struggling writer.
    If you're only in it for the money, I can't say I feel for you.

    What's happening with the Creative Commons seems more like a maturing of art than its death. Art has always been with us, but its ties to money have never been as enormous as now. You say this is a sign of freedom, but where's the freedom if distributing your own work for nothing can kill the system?

    By the way, 'theft' is a horrible way to describe file sharing.

  13. Ken says:

    Tribeless - there was this horrible pirating outfit operating a block away from where I lived in Boston. I could walk in there, grab a book, and sit at a nice table and read it, all without paying a penny. I must have sat there dozens of times for hours on length, reading books and magazines alike, surrounded fellow infringers engaging in similar unscruplous activities, the police turning a blind eye to our theft. I believe the name of the place was Barnes and Noble. And they serve Starbucks coffee too! Horrid.

    But you know what? After awhile, I would get tired of sitting, or need to get to class, and I would get up, take the items that had engaged me too much to part with them, and pay for them.

    Mr. Doctorow's distribution is brilliant; it dares me to read it, become attached, and desire a printed copy that I could carry with me (yes, I did buy Down and Out...). Free online distribution brings the bookstore experience into your home, and it provides the author an amazingly low marginal cost for a broad audience. Isn't that good for an author of limited means?

  14. Philip says:

    1 - no one will read a whole book on the screen
    2 - a print out simply does not have the feel of a book

    These two basic facts are why it is possible to allow downloads/sharing and not suffer for it.

    Charge ahead Cory!

  15. Philip says:

    ...and until the day the material composition of the book (of long fiction) changes to allow electronic downloads into it, downloading/sharing will be a rather unfulfilling enterprise except for those prepared to foot the cost of printing it nicely or reading off an awkward pile of papers

  16. Tribeless says:

    What about when everybody only reads ebooks on hand devices. I've only been reading on my PocketPC for over three years now - probably read three or four books a month, but not one dead tree book. I already view dead tree books as archaic and inconvenient.

    What need to buy Cory's dead tree book then? Given this what happens to the model being tried here ??

    Koala wrote: "By the way, 'theft' is a horrible way to describe file sharing"

    Well if the book is under copyright (unlike Cory's), then morally, and legally, that is exactly what it is. What do you want me to call it?

  17. David Moore says:

    > Well if the book is under copyright (unlike
    > Cory's), then morally, and legally, that is
    > exactly what it is. What do you want me to call
    > it?

    It's not theft if you choose to give it away. I'm sure Cory can explain this, but I'd guess that the print publishers have the rights to the book publication side of things, and Cory (as copyright holder) retained the rights to electronic distribution.

  18. Tribeless, all my books are "under copyright." You write as though copyright was a property right, which it isn't. Copyright is a "bundle of rights" -- a bunch of pseudo-property rights set out to achieve the objective of promoting the useful arts and sciences as set out in the Copyright Clause of the Constitution. The extent and duration of copyright changes according to local fashion and custom, like skirt-lengths.

    The Supremes found that commercial digitizing and resale of sheet music by turning it into a piano roll was not infringing, but paid off the music publishers by creating the compulsory license in music. 75 years later, the Supremes said that copying 100 percent of a TV show with a VCR wasn't infringing (a complete reversal of existing wisdom about copyright in that day) and *didn't* buy anyone off with any kind of compulsory. But Congress *did* buy off the broadcasters with a compulsory that allowed the competing cable operators to go on pirating TV signals for retransmission on the wire, provided that they paid a fixed fee to the broadcasters.

    Copyright changes every single time we get a new technology, because new technology changes the way to get to the goal set out in the Constitution. You can promote the useful arts differently in a world with an Internet than in a world with just a cable network.

    BTW, as befits your film example, know this:

    1. The film industry set up shop in Hollywood so that it could rip off Edison's film patents 3000 miles from Edison's New Jersey patent agents. The Hollywood film industry thrived, and so did Edison, even though he was being ripped off.

    2. The film industry boycotted television as certain to napsterize the movie-houses, and only got dragged into TV licensing when Walt Disney had a falling out with his brother Roy that led to his Wonderful World of Color licensing deal with ABC, which broke the cartel.

    3. 20 years ago, Jack Valenti, the mouthpiece for the Motion Picture Association of America, told Congress that the VCR was the "Boston Strangler of the American film industry." Today, the VCR and its successor technology account for 40 percent of Hollywood's bottom line (box office receipts are 26 percent).

    4. But the VCR is NEW revenue for the studios, not a cannibalization of the box office: the studios just had their best box office year since 1959.

    So tell me again: how is it that changing the nature of Hollywood's IP rights against its wishes is certain to kill the film industry because they'll be too poor to make movies?

    The role of technologists has traditionally been to drag the entertainment industry kicking and screaming to the money tree. The role of the entertainment industry has traditionally been to seek injunctive relief from all that lovely money.

    My book is under copyright. My book has been licensed, according to my own preferences, as the rights-holder, under a "some rights reserved" regime. I have created the tiniest of easements in the pseudo-property rights that copyright grants me.

    As to DRM: DRM is a failure in the market and a disaster in the policy sphere. There is no market demand signal for DRM. None of my readers woke up this morning and said, "Damn, I wish there was a way that I could do less with the books in my library." If you are sincere in you professed belief in capitalism, then you must surely agree that the only unforgivable sin in the market is to offer a product your customers don't want.

    And on the policy sphere, protecting the technical impossibility of DRM (securing a computer against its own user is an idea that is properly ridiculed by any technologist who isn't in the employ of a studio or DRM vendor -- I sit on standards committees for DRM on the local and international level, BTW) means the anti-circumvention regimes in the DMCA, the EUCD, and the bilateral trade negotiations with Singapore, Chile and the Andean nations. These are the provisions that have produced the humiliating spectacles of an ivy league engineering professor being threatened with prison for proposing to discuss mathematics at an academic conference; with the *Russian* state department advising its researchers not to make presentations in America after we imprisoned a Russian research who described the wrong math at a conference in Vegas; of a Norweigan teenager being hauled into court for writing software to let him watch his own, lawfully acquired DVDs on his own, lawfully acquired DVD player; of 10 years of innovation stagnation in DVD devices; of the anticompetitive actions of companies like Lexmark, which misuse copyright law to lock competitors out of remanufacturing its printer cartridges, and so on.

    The market economy you love springs from due process and the rule of law. The DRM world can only succeed when we set those principles aside in favor of self-help measures, technology mandates, turning a blind eye to antitrust, the creation of cruel-and-unusual superpenalties for violation.

  19. Le futur de l'édition, en direct

    Le deuxième roman de Cory Doctorow, Eastern Standard Tribe, est publié aujourd'hui à la fois en version livre et en version téléchargeable gratuite. Cory propose aussi un essai expliquant pourquoi et comment il publie ainsi les deux versions et comment...

  20. bren : blog says:


    I read Cory Doctorow's first book, "Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom" entirely on my Palm, thanks to his...

  21. Josh says:

    Arguments about the moral righteousness of what he's doing aside, I'd like to know more about *how* Cory's done it. Given that he's actually making money, it seems that proponents both for and against this sort of publishing would be interested in a) whether Cory's likely to be successful, and b) if (and how) others can be successful the same way.

    Cory, Murph mentioned above that your site, BoingBoing, has had a lot to do with your success - and I'm sure that it has. As a steadfast reader of that site, and as a struggling writer myself, I'd be curious to hear what you fel the impact and importance of that marketing avenue is. Withouth maintaining a site like that myself, can I still approach the "commons" with any hope of success? And, further, what other factors have played a part in your success?

  22. It's a good question, and I don't have a good answer. Every writer is different -- books aren't interchangeable commodities -- and has different natural constiuencies for her or his work. Boing Boing helps me sell books, sure, but so do all my other activities... I don't think everyone needs to edit a site like BB, but I think that everyone needs something....

  23. Hi there,

    Great to see the new book out, reading it ATM. Of course I'll go buy a copy that involved hacking a tree apart :)

    Also, of course, it's time to remix it once again!

    Click here to go to what seems like the slowest server in the world and choose which books you'd like to cut, scratch and mix.

    Remix a single book and see what comes out, or a bit of sampling from both books together for something new and unsual. "The Alice Tribe down in Wonderland".

    I'm currently thinking about adding in the RSS Technology news feed from the BBC, just to see what happens.


  24. Anonymous says:

    Here's a nice (true) anecdote that might explain why Cory here definitely isn't doomed, and why all the DRM fanatics are. It's anonymous for obvious reasons.

    I used to pirate everything. EVERYTHING. Music. Movies. Anime. Games. You name it, if it could be stored in a digital format I didn't pay for it. This lasted several years while I was going through college. Take a wild guess as to how much money I had to spend. That's right - zero. I couldn't have bought this stuff if I wanted to.

    Eventually I got out of college and got a real job. I was listening to music at work on a netradio station, and said to myself "You know, this artist is really good. I want to hear more."

    I considered installing Kazaa. But I didn't really *want* to. I'd have to spend quite some time finding all the tracks on their CDs. And organizing them. And a few might be fake, and half of them would be different qualities, and the volume would change randomly between them. It somehow didn't seem worth it.

    So I got up, went to the used CD store a block away, and bought a CD. While I was there, I bought a few more. A year later I had 80 CDs, almost all bought used, *literally* all bought because I heard their music for free somewhere (pirated music or netradio) and said "Hey, this is pretty good!"

    I bought games also. It was easier than downloading, and I didn't have to worry about finding programs to break the copy-protection, and I didn't have to worry about viruses or anything. (As much, at least.)

    I bought anime. Better quality, since it wasn't re-encoded from DVD into something small enough to download. Anyway, it was good stuff, and there's something really cool-looking about all six Cowboy Bebop DVDs next to each other. (They're rainbow-colored. Pretty.)

    I bought movies - mostly used. Not many, but a few things I've always wanted. Again, better quality, plus this way I got all the extras and the credits and so forth.

    It's worth pointing out, however, that I'm rather obsessive about being able to *use my own data*. Every single one of those 80 CDs is dumped on my hard drive, so I don't have to fiddle with CDs when I want to play what I want. All my single-player games are, in fact, cracked, because I don't want to fiddle with CDs for those either. Wait, not all - a few of the games don't *have* copy protection that requires me to swap CDs around constantly. Those, I don't crack, and I thank the makers. The movies and anime are too large to store on my hard drive easily, so those I have to carry around with me, at least until 1tb hard drives are common (which will be about two years, at this rate.)

    I never ran into a CD I couldn't dump - a few that were recalcitrant, but I was fully planning to take it back to the shop and make a stink about how it "doesn't work in my player" if I couldn't dump one. It's my data. I paid good money for it. If I can't do what I want with it, it's not worth it to me.

    I have about fifty novels on my PDA at this moment. I have all of Discworld, for one thing. I own them all in book form also, but some of them are in different places across the country, and this is just easier. I have the entire Callahan series (for the same reasons.) Naturally, whenever a new one comes out - of either series - I buy it in book form, then illegally download it from the 'net and put it on my PDA. (So it goes.)

    And yes, I have some books I don't own legally. I'll probably read them, then go to the store and buy them.

    I can't even attempt to count how much money I've spent on things I got for free. Thousands. More. Why are they trying to eliminate this incredible free form of advertisement? I just don't get it.

    I've sent myself an email linking to this site. When I get home, I'll download these books and put them on my PDA also. I'll probably end up buying them. This is why Cory isn't doomed.

    Meanwhile, I hear rumors that some of the new CDs by groups I like have copy protection that my CD drive can't crack. I guess I'll just end up downloading those illegally - there's no advantage to buying them, I won't be able to play them and I'll feel stupid for paying money for useless products. Ironic, eh?

  25. Cyberf says:

    Eastern Standard Tribe

    Eastern Standard Tribe es la nueva novela de Cory Doctorow que ha lanzado apenas ayer. William Gibson dice sobre la novela: "Enteramente contemporánea y profundamente particular -- una combinación difícil de vencer (o, en estos días, de encontrar)." Ig...

  26. mikepop says:

    I clicked the cover image to get a good look at the excellent art, and noticed the image proclaims:

    "From the uthor of Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom"

    "uthor" ? I hope someone caught that before the actual physical cover went to print :)

  27. TimZilla.net says:

    Cory on copyright

    If you were looking for a concise and erudite explanation of why conventional notions of copyright aren't keeping up with technology, and what can done about it, you could do a lot worse than read the comments on this posting...

  28. TimZilla.net says:

    Cory on copyright

    If you were looking for a concise and erudite explanation of why conventional notions of copyright aren't keeping up with technology, and what can done about it, you could do a lot worse than read the comments on this posting...

  29. Questions:

    1. What would you imagine would be different (if anything) if you did things in reverse...that is, distributed the book for free through the internet, THEN tried to receive a contract for it?

    2. It seems to me that this is an exercise in branding. Give away free product, increase the value of the brand through increasing knowledge ABOUT the brand. What are the strengths of branding yourself in this instance?

    I ask both questions because I've been thinking about doing something very similar. I'd think that you'd be able to increase future revenue by (perhaps) shorting yourself in the short term.

  30. Giving it away online

    Cory Doctorow, one of the co-editors at the blog Boing Boing, has released his second sci-fi novel Eastern Standard Tribe online at the same time it goes into bookstores. It began shipping yesterday. He explains why at his Craphound site....

  31. SpeedRacr says:

    One thing seems to be pointedly ignored by the nay-sayers, as it were.

    How many of them, or any of you for that matter, have ever had a friend lend you a book? How many of you have read a book and thought it was so well written, so perfect, that you had to recommend it to anyone and everyone you met?

    I suppose a quick example would be nice:
    Henry Rollins has several books available for purchase from his site, as well as bookstores. I own 3 books currently (one a collection of excerpts from 90% of his other books) and the only reason I own these is because a friend was willing to lend me one to read. After being completely blown away by it, I decided I needed my own copy to re-read, highlight, notate, etc... and hence my current love for anything written/spoken word from Mr. Rollins.

    According to Tribeless, I am a theif for having read the first book... Yet through that book I now own 3 books, 3 CD's, Autographed Poster and have paid to see the man Live.

    Somehow that doesn't equal the end of a medium to me. I think it boils down to the fact that these people will never bend in their strict black andw white views of legality.

    What a shame it is.

  32. The "e" in "Eastern Standard Tribe"

    I am really happy to see Cory's success spanning both printed book sales and free online distribution. I once chatted with Cory about his attitude with regards to his position as a copyright holder and came away very inspired by his committment to free

  33. A Place So Foreign and Eight More by Cory Doctorow

    Back when I was still swimming through Quicksilver, I would occasionally take a break from it and read some other things--my own version of short attention span, I suppose. One of the books I ambled through was Cory Doctorow's short story collection, A...

  34. After the C-Break!

    Feeling a bit better, still congested, a little slimy, but I'm making my way back uphill, so... Justin on Donnie Darko, The Graduate, and James Joyce. Don't miss his recent love letter to Secret of Mana, either. Got a couple...

  35. koala says:

    Tribeless wrote: "Well if the book is under copyright (unlike Cory's), then morally, and legally, that is exactly what it is. What do you want me to call it?"

    How about copyright infringement?
    Legally, that's exactly what it is, theft is a different offense altogether.
    Morally, there's a gray area. If (yes, *if*, this is not a given) you think ideas and thoughts can be owned, then yeah, it's kinda sorta theft. Even this is stretching it, though - the ideas, thoughts or the art doesn't exchange hands, it's copied. If the infringer would have paid there's a possible loss of profit, sure, but that's not what theft is about.

    Oh, and in response to your other comment...I read Doctorow's first novel online. Yes, all of it. When I found it in a local bookstore, I bought it anyway.
    There's a huge number of people out there who enjoy paying for the art they like, whether or not its available for free. And it's not because they all prefer books to computer screens or CDs to mp3s.

  36. Anonymous says:

    The "moral" argument is also weakened by the nature of property value itself, and this is sort of restatement of the very good arguments already stated.

    We give money for things because we think they have value. For many reasons, a lot of products are no longer as valuable to people as the various producers of those products would like.

    It looks like good old capitalism and adapting supply to the demand of consumers are not good enough for the entertainment business. The biz seems to believe that if the customers don't like the package it has for sale, forcing the customers to buy it anyway should is the answer - (echoes of "Coupon: the Movie" from Mr. Show)

    What is immoral is purchasing the Federal Government's ability to force the "free" market into protecting an obsolete property-rights structure.

  37. IMarvinTPA says:

    Somebody wrote "We give money for things because we think they have value."

    Tribeless, your books have no value to me because I haven't had a chance to sample it, anything else you may have written. It is an unknown quantity that I'd have to invest time into after spending money to acquire. I could go to the library and read it. But that doesn't really help you much either. It is also additional time I would need to spend to try it.

    Cory's books, likewise have an unknown value to me, but I can find the book right here, right now, at no up front cost to me. If I don't like it, all I have lost is the time to read enough to find out I don't like it and I move on. I was a chance at a customer that you haven't had. If I like it, I may get tired of reading my display and get the book and that's a customer that he has gained that you didn't get a chance at. Or I might just buy the book because I enjoyed the whole story on my computer. (I have read plenty of fanfiction online that has more bytes than the file for this book has.)

    So, do you want any self-propelled advertisement, or do you want to exist in anonymity?


  38. James Wetterau says:

    I read "Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom" and paypaled Cory $5. Why not? I'll hardly miss the $5, I enjoyed the book, I'm running out of room on my shelves anyway, it was a hell of a lot easier to loan the electronic book to friends than the physical book, I could carry it on my Pilot during my daily commute, and I had more fun for the $5 than I have at most movies.

    Sure I didn't have to pay the $5, but it seemed polite, like saying "please" and "thank you".

    If a writer got hundreds of thousands of readers who would not have otherwise read her book, entirely because of the ease of electronic publishing, and if only one in 20 did what I did to repay the writer, that writer could easily earn $50,000 from the electronic sales alone.

    Sounds like a way to earn a living to me.

  39. Tribeless says:

    Cory Wrote:

    "So tell me again: how is it that changing the nature of Hollywood's IP rights against its wishes is certain to kill the film industry because they'll be too poor to make movies?"

    Try this. Because every other type of property infringement in the film sector that you cited was essentially film maker/studio against film maker/studio, ie, despite probably being immoral :) regardless of this profits were still always being made from a 'paying' public and kept within the film industry?

    What we are looking at with file sharing films on the internet is something quite radically different. One person can now trade to potentially millions of others as easily as to one (which is why in the book industry the argument trotted out by someone above about how is file sharing an ebook any different to lending a real book to a friend, has never washed with me, its an insane comparison). Moreover, getting back to the film industry, it is no longer a film industry turning on itself against an always paying public, but a film industry now against a huge (sic above) and non paying public. It is a net potentially enormous cashflow out of the film industry itself. That is why I believe file sharing does endanger the existence of a professional film industry, and we will all be the poorer if that happens.

    I would hate to imagine my life without books or movies, thus, have always been happy to pay for them. The trouble with the internet is that for the first time (again given digitisation and the mass transfers which are available)the piper can be taken from the money route and not be paid.

    As for Anonymous's theory that he buys the real thing after he has read the pirated version, again, sorry and call me very cynical, but that doesn't wash with me either. I suspect the number of file sharers who would actually do that would be what? 1 in 100,000?

    For me this issue is devolving into two issues:

    1) moral. Nothing above has persuaded me that file sharing is not theft, and therefore, immoral. The way society is going, yes, but that should not be an excuse for sanctioning it.

    2) need to have a way for authors to make a living in our modern world. Don't ask me to prioritise between (1) and (2). As far as this goes then I admit, if Cory can make a good living from this, my argument breaks down completely. Although I would still say, what of the long term when no one buys dead tree books, which will surely come (it already is that way with me)? Doesn't Cory's model start breaking down then?

    (By the way, I started the book on my PPC last night when I went to bed, Cory, and am enjoying it :)

  40. robert says:

    Those who fight the future from the present by trying to keep society in the past are inevitably left behind.

  41. Virginia Warren says:

    Eric S. Raymond talked about this issue recently on his blog in a post entitled The Web and Identity Goods. I think he makes a good point that is relevent to this discussion. I did not realize that Corey put his books out on the web before I bought and read D&OitMK. In any case, I can't artfully lay a PDF file on my coffee table for visitors to see.

  42. Michele says:

    A few thoughts in response to Tribeless...
    - Are all laws moral by definition?
    - Many artistic works are in the public domain - does that diminish their value?
    - The human drive to create art is motivated by many things, but money is not one of the top 5, IMNSHO.

    Art is a conversation, and, at its best, the fullest expression of what it means to be human. Art in all forms has been created for thousands of years without any commercial backing. Some of humanity's greatest artists never made a penny off of their art. And some of the best art today is being distributed for free on the Net (certainly compared to much of the commercially available art.)

    Technology makes file sharing possible (some might say inevitable.) It also makes it possible for almost anyone to create art - even in forms previously considered prohibitively expensive, such as movies. As with anything, you can't throw out the bad (file sharing, if you consider it bad) without throwing out the good.

    Thanks for the book, and the site, and the willingness to take risks, Cory.

  43. Anonymous says:

    A question for Tribeless:

    You stated your two concerns as

    1) morality

    2) long term financial viability

    My 2 questions:

    1) Are libraries immoral?

    2) Do libraries prevent authors from making money?

    Should libraries therefore be banned?

  44. Cory Doctorow releases "Eastern Standard Tribe" with CC license

    Cory Doctorow has just released Eastern Standard Tribe, his second novel. His first, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom apparently sold very well and I seem to remember Entertainment Weekly naming it one of the best of 2003. The...

  45. Virginia Warren says:


    First of all, not everybody is convinced that works of authorship are in fact property--this idea is a relatively recent invention, and the overwhelming majority of art created during all of human history was created under conditions where no property rights of an author in his work were posited.

    The fact of the matter is that intellectual "property" does not have the essential characteristics of actual property, i.e. scarcity and rivalrousness.

    Intellectual "property" is not property--it is speech. Speech is not an object, it is a process, a relationship.

    Many "IP" proponents jump straight from this to whining that artists have a "right" to make money from their "intellectual property". Why? Does a shopkeeper have a "right" to make money from his actual property, i.e. his shop?

    Copyright and patent are not property rights, they are time-limited government-enforced monopolies, and they produce all of the same negative externalities of any other monopoly, especially rent-seeking.

    This is especially evident in the Hollywood movie industry, which is also heavily unionized, and with most of decisions about what art gets produced being made by non-artists, with a predictable effect on quality.

    The bottom line is, people will always be able to make money by producing works of authorship, because other people will always want them. This does not necessarily mean that the money will be made by selling the works of authorship themselves. I can download a MP3 from the Internet, but not a T-shirt. I can download a copy of Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings" but I can't download a Frodo action figure. I can download a book but I can't download the experience of meeting the author at a convention.

  46. Richie says:

    Tribeless wrote:
    "I would hate to imagine my life without books or movies, thus, have always been happy to pay for them."

    Why do you think you're alone in that view? Most people think the same way and thus would be perfectly happy to pay for a digital copy of Cory's book. This is why Cory's model won't break down when the sales of dead-tree books stop. The sale of dead-tree books is just a familiar way to get the money from the consumer to the author and if the consumers don't want to kill any more trees, it'll shift to Paypal instead. Or iTunes. Or iBooks, i Movies and iWhatever Jobs has up his sleeves.

    So what if just one in a hundred thousand * pays for the book if you can increase the volume by a million, at no cost for the author?

    * I believe it can be much, much more, but that's neither here nor there.

  47. Matthew says:

    I would just like to say cheers to cory for deciding to offer his works online. I would also like to point out that the music industry is now making truckloads of cash from the legal online music download system (iTunes ...). One of the main reasons that file swapping became so popular, in my opinion, is because it enabled people to do a couple of things. The first being the ability to aquire a single song instead of a whole album. Why should a consumer be forced to purchase a collection of works from a musician if all they want is one? Thats like saying in order to read one book by an author you need to buy them all. The second being the ability to search for a song without knowing all of the meta data about the song (artist, albumn, and sometimes track name). Most people don't want to rip off the artists and provided with a good (resonably priced and with comparible utility) legal alternative will usually choose it over the illegal variant. The DRM on these services is really just enough to keep the honest people honest. If someone is determined they can easily circumvent it.
    This is the first time I have ever come to this site. The reason I came here is because slashdot posted an article talking about Cory. I intend to check out his books and like so many others I much prefer reading a paper copy to an eCopy. Go cory! I havn't found the paypal link yet but if you have one and I find it I will give you five bucks just for being an innovater.

  48. Anonymous2 says:

    Back when Napster actually worked and stuff, I downloaded lots of songs, to try and find new (or old) music actually worth buying. In this fashion I more or less accidentally discovered what is now my favorite genre of music. Since that time I've bought literally 200+ CDs of music from said genre (along with related magazines and DVDs), most or all of which I never would have given a chance or a glance if I hadn't been able to try the music for free. Now, sadly, Napster is no more, and I have neither the time nor the patience to try "new, improved" versions of *GASP* illegal file sharing software, so...I just listen to the stuff I know I will like. I'm happy enough: though I don't find new things that I might like, I also don't waste money trying things I'll end up hating. The music industry is losing out on potential sales of hundreds of CDs and auxiliary gear, but that's no skin off my nose. Let them enjoy their "injunctive relief from all that lovely money."

  49. Philip says:

    David More writes: "What about when everybody only reads ebooks on hand devices?"

    Well yes read it that way if you like - despite the backlit eye-strain - but I don't see it catching on, do you? How about choice...do you have much choice in books? Anyway if it were the case that everyone was reading on hand held devices, without some sharing control, would not the writer lose his incentive to write?

    The fact is a book cannot be copied +conveniently+ by anyone, nor shared instantly on a mass scale and this is an advantage for the writer that cannot yet be competed with.

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