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About this book/FAQ

What's Little Brother about?
Why do you give away your books?
How do I donate to you?


What's Little Brother about?
Marcus, a.k.a “w1n5t0n,” is only seventeen years old, but he figures he already knows how the system works–and how to work the system. Smart, fast, and wise to the ways of the networked world, he has no trouble outwitting his high school’s intrusive but clumsy surveillance systems.

But his whole world changes when he and his friends find themselves caught in the aftermath of a major terrorist attack on San Francisco. In the wrong place at the wrong time, Marcus and his crew are apprehended by the Department of Homeland Security and whisked away to a secret prison where they’re mercilessly interrogated for days.

When the DHS finally releases them, Marcus discovers that his city has become a police state where every citizen is treated like a potential terrorist. He knows that no one will believe his story, which leaves him only one option: to take down the DHS himself.



Why do you give away your books?
Giving away ebooks gives me artistic, moral and commercial satisfaction. The commercial question is the one that comes up most often: how can you give away free ebooks and still make money?

For me -- for pretty much every writer -- the big problem isn't piracy, it's obscurity (thanks to Tim O'Reilly for this great aphorism). Of all the people who failed to buy this book today, the majority did so because they never heard of it, not because someone gave them a free copy. Mega-hit best-sellers in science fiction sell half a million copies -- in a world where 175,000 attend the San Diego Comic Con alone, you've got to figure that most of the people who "like science fiction" (and related geeky stuff like comics, games, Linux, and so on) just don't really buy books. I'm more interested in getting more of that wider audience into the tent than making sure that everyone who's in the tent bought a ticket to be there.

Ebooks are verbs, not nouns. You copy them, it's in their nature. And many of those copies have a destination, a person they're intended for, a hand-wrought transfer from one person to another, embodying a personal recommendation between two people who trust each other enough to share bits. That's the kind of thing that authors (should) dream of, the proverbial sealing of the deal. By making my books available for free pass-along, I make it easy for people who love them to help other people love them.

What's more, I don't see ebooks as substitute for paper books for most people. It's not that the screens aren't good enough, either: if you're anything like me, you already spend every hour you can get in front of the screen, reading text. But the more computer-literate you are, the less likely you are to be reading long-form works on those screens -- that's because computer-literate people do more things with their computers. We run IM and email and we use the browser in a million diverse ways. We have games running in the background, and endless opportunities to tinker with our music libraries. The more you do with your computer, the more likely it is that you'll be interrupted after five to seven minutes to do something else. That makes the computer extremely poorly suited to reading long-form works off of, unless you have the iron self-discipline of a monk.

The good news (for writers) is that this means that ebooks on computers are more likely to be an enticement to buy the printed book (which is, after all, cheap, easily had, and easy to use) than a substitute for it. You can probably read just enough of the book off the screen to realize you want to be reading it on paper.

So ebooks sell print books. Every writer I've heard of who's tried giving away ebooks to promote paper books has come back to do it again. That's the commercial case for doing free ebooks.

Now, onto the artistic case. It's the twenty-first century. Copying stuff is never, ever going to get any harder than it is today (or if it does, it'll be because civilization has collapsed, at which point we'll have other problems). Hard drives aren't going to get bulkier, more expensive, or less capacious. Networks won't get slower or harder to access. If you're not making art with the intention of having it copied, you're not really making art for the twenty-first century. There's something charming about making work you don't want to be copied, in the same way that it's nice to go to a Pioneer Village and see the olde-timey blacksmith shoeing a horse at his traditional forge. But it's hardly, you know, contemporary. I'm a science fiction writer. It's my job to write about the future (on a good day) or at least the present. Art that's not supposed to be copied is from the past.

Finally, let's look at the moral case. Copying stuff is natural. It's how we learn (copying our parents and the people around us). My first story, written when I was six, was an excited re-telling of Star Wars, which I'd just seen in the theater. Now that the Internet -- the world's most efficient copying machine -- is pretty much everywhere, our copying instinct is just going to play out more and more. There's no way I can stop my readers, and if I tried, I'd be a hypocrite: when I was 17, I was making mix-tapes, photocopying stories, and generally copying in every way I could imagine. If the Internet had been around then, I'd have been using it to copy as much as I possibly could.

There's no way to stop it, and the people who try end up doing more harm than piracy ever did. The record industry's ridiculous holy war against file-sharers (more than 20,000 music fans sued and counting!) exemplifies the absurdity of trying to get the food-coloring out of the swimming pool. If the choice is between allowing copying or being a frothing bully lashing out at anything he can reach, I choose the former.



How do I donate to you?
Due to popular demand, I've set up a system to accept donations --
see here for more


136 Responses to “About this book/FAQ”

  1. [...] Cory Doctorow 14/08/2009 @ 13:17 (0) Segnalazioni » [ citazioni | copyright | libri ] [...]

  2. [...] I don’t really have much to say on this front other than that he might want to try talking to Cory Doctorow. [...]

  3. [...] Little Brother » About this book/FAQ craphound.com/littlebrother/about – view page – cached Marcus, a.k.a “w1n5t0n,” is only seventeen years old, but he figures he already knows how the system works–and how to work the system. Smart, fast, and wise to the ways of the networked world, he has no trouble outwitting his high school’s intrusive but clumsy surveillance systems. — From the page [...]

  4. Clifton Hill says:

    Fascinating rationale with many valid points. One thing I would note though is that I presume your intent is not to encourage people to copy and pass the work off as their own. It is not mentioned, but probably should be as some people out of ignorance do not understand that despite having the ability to copy and then sell something does not make it appropriate or legal. Some recent examples I have seen were centered on art being taken from a website and then uploaded to one of those sites that sell t-shirts, coffee mugs, posters, etc. created from your uploads. This was done for profit and was thankfully caught by an observant fan of the artist's. The individual subsequently pulled it down.

    In my travels to hopefully becoming a published author and trying to increase my visual art presence I certainly don't want to have to deal with something so low and underhanded as this.

    Granted that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I would still not be flattered if someone outright stole my work. If they were a fan and loved it so much they made their own work after being inspired by mine that is entirely different and absolutely acceptable.

    I certainly find this article intriguing and will ponder it for my own journey.

  5. [...] Book The Seventy-Seventh Jump to Comments Little Brother by Cory Doctorow [...]

  6. [...] The Next Generation, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K Dick, The film The Matrix, and Little Brother by Cory Doctorow (which some might argue isn’t all that cyberpunk but I think is firmly [...]

  7. [...] European director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, for a look at his recently released book Little Brother - what could happen in a world where security trumps individual freedom - and how one tech-savvy [...]

  8. [...] Cory Doctorow legger ut boka gratis på nett begrunner han blant annet med følgende, hentet fra bloggen til [...]

  9. [...] Asher has been publishing his memoir, which may or may not become a book, online in serial format. Corey Doctorow says that making his novels available free online  doesn’t hurt sales of his [...]

  10. [...] Little Brother vs. Big Brother, a campaign to translate Cory Doctorow’s compelling book Little Brother into four Burmese languages. By translating and distributing electronic versions of the book to [...]

  11. [...] amount of brainpower available in the world to feed it.  As Cory Doctorow puts it, in explaining why he gives all his books away for free in electronic form, “If you’re not making art with the intention of having it copied, you’re not [...]

  12. Tom.L says:

    "...Giving away ebooks gives me artistic, moral and commercial satisfaction..."

    LEGEND!!

    What a legend! Some of the more impoverished of us cannot afford to buy every novel we would like to read and my local library dosn't carry this title so I am VERY GRATEFUL for this. And if I enjoy it enough I will certainly be making a space on my bookshelf for this caragious author.

    Cheers Mate :)

  13. [...] to 44 backers, we’ve raised 75% of the money we need to translate Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother into four Burmese languages. Help us reach our goal by Dec. 15 at 8pm [...]

  14. [...] vs. Big Brother campaign. Thanks to their support, we’ll be translating Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother into four Burmese [...]

  15. [...] Doctorow es im letzten Jahr sogar bis auf Platz acht der NYT-Bestsellerliste. Ging es bei “Little Brother” um das Thema Terrorismus und Einschränkung der Bürgerrechte, so steht im aktuellen Roman [...]

  16. [...] the Gospel, and today writers like Cory Doctorow share their books online, entirely for free, in the fight for publicity -- I myself participate in a  blend of these approaches to a certain extent with my own Christmas [...]

  17. [...] libraries and book stores is not because the screens aren’t good enough, it’s because computers aren’t suited to the act of reading. When I read, I am 100% focused on the task. I don’t listen to music or talk to people, I [...]

  18. [...] to 44 46 backers, we’ve raised 75% of the money we need to translate Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother into four Burmese languages. It’s been amazing to see such [...]

  19. Mark Pipes says:

    I downloaded the book. Then I went out and bought a copy. I *STILL* like physical books, and the chance to support my indie bookstore.

    This book should be required reading in all the schools!!

  20. [...] book is available as a free download based on the author’s own philosophy you can read about here.  That’s right: free.  As in you can download it right now.  For free.  And read it at [...]

  21. [...] is that “giving away ebooks gives [him] artistic, moral and commercial satisfaction” [5] It’s easy to understand why anyone would get artistic and moral satisfaction from having [...]

  22. [...] es una novela de ciencia ficción que puede descargarse gratuitamente desde su propia página web. En la página de descarga, Cory explica las razones por las cuales ha elegido editar y publicar su libro bajo [...]

  23. [...] Para explicar el porqué de esta decisión, el porqué de dar libros gratis, nada mejor que sus propias palabras, traducidas del inglés sin su permiso pues ante tanta liberalidad lo damos por [...]

  24. Andrea Hoare says:

    I just translated this post into spanish for my students. Thanks for your enligthened thoughts! You can use my humble translation whenever you want: there are your words!
    You can check it at http://www.maspop.net/conversaciones

  25. Andrea Hoare says:

    Ah! If you need help to translate some of your novels into spanish I am in. Just let me know if there is somebody else already working at it

  26. [...] amount of information on how technology is used to track and spy on people. Blurb about the book: Little Brother Direct .PDF download link: http://craphound.com/littlebrother/C...le_Brother.pdf Although not WN [...]

  27. Daniel Swärd says:

    I got the paperback as a gift the day before yesterday, could not put it down and finished it yesterday evening. Entertaining, thrilling and has some extremely valid points about what goes on today. I'm going to send the link to the download version to all my friends, and also encourage them to buy the paperback.

    Btw, I loved your references to the pirate party. ;-)

    /Daniel, member of the Swedish pirate party

  28. [...] From Craphound.com at his Little Brother blog about that book of the same title: For me — for pretty much every writer — the big problem isn’t piracy, it’s obscurity (thanks to Tim O’Reilly for this great aphorism). [...]

  29. [...] radar. Another inspiration that helped to spark this project was Cory Doctorow’s book “Little Brother.” It was one of my favorite books of 2008 and while I won’t go into the book’s plot here, [...]

  30. [...] radar. Another inspiration that helped to spark this project was Cory Doctorow’s book “Little Brother.” It was one of my favorite books of 2008 and while I won’t go into the book’s plot here, [...]

  31. [...] radar. Another inspiration that helped to spark this project was Cory Doctorow’s book “Little Brother.” It was one of my favorite books of 2008 and while I won’t go into the book’s plot here, [...]

  32. [...] radar. Another inspiration that helped to spark this project was Cory Doctorow’s book “Little Brother.” It was one of my favorite books of 2008 and while I won’t go into the book’s plot here, [...]

  33. [...] radar. Another inspiration that helped to spark this project was Cory Doctorow’s book “Little Brother.” It was one of my favorite books of 2008 and while I won’t go into the book’s plot here, [...]

  34. [...] Waarom doe ik dat? Mijn angst is niet zozeer piraterij, maar obscuriteit. Met dank aan Cory Doctorow voor dit inzicht. Niets is vervelender voor een schrijver dan niet gelezen worden. Van de [...]

  35. [...] Google’s radar. Another inspiration that helped to spark this project was Cory Doctorow’s book “Little Brother.” It was one of my favorite books of 2008 and while I won’t go into the book’s plot here, it’s [...]

  36. [...] with the same lively, subversive spirit and thrilling storytelling that made LITTLE BROTHER an international sensation, FOR THE WIN is a prophetic and inspiring call-to-arms for a new [...]

  37. [...] with the same lively, subversive spirit and thrilling storytelling that made LITTLE BROTHER an international sensation, FOR THE WIN is a prophetic and inspiring call-to-arms for a new [...]

  38. [...] radar. Another inspiration that helped to spark this project was Cory Doctorow’s book “Little Brother.” It was one of my favorite books of 2008 and while I won’t go into the book’s plot here, [...]

  39. [...] radar. Another inspiration that helped to spark this project was Cory Doctorow’s book “Little Brother.” It was one of my favorite books of 2008 and while I won’t go into the book’s plot here, [...]

  40. [...] online and give it away for free, you can read pretty much any forward to a book by Cory Doctorow (here’s one now), but we can dispense with the bulk of them that have to do with helping the humans and focus on [...]

  41. [...] radar. Another inspiration that helped to spark this project was Cory Doctorow’s book “Little Brother.” It was one of my favorite books of 2008 and while I won’t go into the book’s plot here, [...]

  42. [...] radar. Another inspiration that helped to spark this project was Cory Doctorow’s book “Little Brother.” It was one of my favorite books of 2008 and while I won’t go into the book’s plot here, [...]

  43. [...] radar. Another inspiration that helped to spark this project was Cory Doctorow’s book “Little Brother.” It was one of my favorite books of 2008 and while I won’t go into the book’s plot here, [...]

  44. [...] radar. Another inspiration that helped to spark this project was Cory Doctorow’s book “Little Brother.” It was one of my favorite books of 2008 and while I won’t go into the book’s plot here, [...]

  45. [...] Google’s radar. Another inspiration that helped to spark this project was Cory Doctorow’s book “Little Brother.” It was one of my favorite books of 2008 and while I won’t go into the book’s plot here, it’s [...]

  46. [...] radar. Another inspiration that helped to spark this project was Cory Doctorow’s book “Little Brother.” It was one of my favorite books of 2008 and while I won’t go into the book’s plot here, [...]

  47. [...] helping to launch and edit BoingBoing (quickly becoming my favourite site), and for his YA books Little Brother and For the Win. He was a really cool guy! Not that I expected otherwise. He dropped by KP to do [...]

  48. [...] You can also read this for free from the author’s website which is found here: [...]

  49. [...] has long been a proponent of the business model of free, and he gives away his books. Why? Giving away ebooks gives me artistic, moral and commercial satisfaction. The commercial question is the one that comes up most [...]

  50. [...] vs. Big Brother campaign. Thanks to their support, we’ll be translating Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother into four Burmese [...]

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