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

138 Responses to “About this book/FAQ”

  1. [...] 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 [...]

  2. Charly says:

    I tried the donation system but it didn't work?

  3. Cory Doctorow says:

    Can you provide more details?

  4. [...] authors such as Cory Doctorow and Paulo Coelho have been giving away electronic editions of their books for years, but ever since [...]

  5. [...] Cory Doctorow: Originally Posted by Cory For me -- for pretty much every writer -- the big problem isn't [...]

  6. G33kX says:

    If You have a unix system (linux/MacOS X) You can find good iMail Jamming words by typing
    ESC X
    it will give you some words to "spook" the DHS

    global Lon Horiuchi Operation Iraqi Freedom Serbian cryptanalysis
    covert video Blowfish oil pre-emptive Belknap interception JUWTF
    industrial espionage INSCOM ISEC

    Keep on jamming

  7. [...] The book is released under a creative commons license. You can still by a physical copy but if you want the digital version you can download it and pass it around as much you like. The foreword of the book explains the reasoning behind it is thought provoking in itself. You can read about the reasons for giving the book away for free here. [...]

  8. [...] away for free. Why? One reason is publicity. As quasi-libertarian sci-fi author Cory Doctorow notes http://craphound.com/littlebrother/about/#freedownload , “for pretty much every writer—the big problem isn’t piracy, it’s obscurity.” For [...]

  9. WhitePine says:

    It doesn't make any sense, if somebody already read the book, Why would they by a physical copy anyway?

  10. [...] Cory Doctorow quotes Tim O’Reilly: “The big problem isn’t piracy, it’s obscurity.” Most people simply don’t know about your terrific tool. Doctorow’s approach is to allow [...]

  11. [...] as multi-media platform and social network. At the other end, Cory Doctorow argues that people still buy his books on paper even though he gives the e-files away for free because reading the old-fashioned way [...]

  12. [...] away ideas if I can charge people for them? What if someone else copies my work? As Cory Doctorow often points out (apparently quoting Tim O’Reilly), the biggest issue with most authors isn’t piracy, it’s [...]

  13. [...] and foremost, Little Brother by Cory Doctorow is fantastic story about a young adult growing up in a post 9/11 world full of [...]

  14. alon Adler says:

    You're my hero! This book only and the best I've read in my life!

  15. Jessica says:

    I'm researching a presentation on why trainers should use Creative Commons, which brought me here. But I had to leave a comment, because I also saw Star Wars when I was six, when it first came out in Memphis, on a school field trip. And the next thing I did was rewrite it as a play. Kleebits and ... I can't remember the other character's name. Brings me right back.

  16. [...] to adapt a quote by Cory Doctorow on copying, machine-created content will never be worse, or more expensive to produce, than it is [...]

  17. [...] to copyleft and information liberation, publishing his books under Creative Commons licenses and giving them away.  Lucky us, he’s appearing in and around Philly this [...]

  18. Nicolle says:

    I completely agree with you. I have a Nook and don't exactly "buy" books on it. In fact, I've never purchased an actual/eBook in my life (unless it was a gift card, of course) It's not that I don't believe in buying books. I'm 17 and jobless - I just don't have the money. I love books with real paper, though I don't think eReaders could ever replace real books. See, ever since I was 4 or 5, I've been going to the library. I check out books and read them. Once I finish, I return them. If I like them, I'll check them out again. But I usually never bother. There's something... odd to me about reading a book more than once or twice. I don't have time to re-read. Even if it's good - there's other books to read, and so little time!

    I guess my point is that I never had the intent on purchasing the books anyways, so why deprive myself of the opportunity to read them when given the chance? It's not that I would go to a store and steal stuff, but I'm a teenager - I'm naturally inclined to steal stuff if I'm not going to get caught! :) Anyways, I read this book (the eBook, that is) and absolutely loved it. I really applaud you for what you're doing - having, most of all, the courage to keep up with the times. The future is now, and I think people are still living in the past, with old ideas. The future, as well as the present... are always changing, and that's what I love about science fiction!

  19. m1tch311 says:

    best book i have ever read. i have 5 1&1/2 story bookshelves filled with books. yours is the best by far. keep writing please!

  20. [...] + télécharger le livre (en anglais) au format souhaité (légal, offert par l’auteur qui s’explique ici) [...]

  21. Llanet says:

    I´ts one of the best books I´ve ever read. I started reading it at my cousins house, we were on vacation and I was bored. Only problem was even if I can read a book in a few hours, I couldn´t read it in 2 and this one book was from her school´s library. I live in Mexico and I´m 13, books over here cost about 400 pesos or $40 dollars, obviously I can´t afford them and even if I worked at my age all I would make would be about $10 dollars a day (if i´m lucky). I still love having my books at home and on paper, but if I can´t afford them I read them online. There are some russian sites I visit to get them for free (althought I don´t understand russian the titles are still in their original language), but they don´t always have the book I´m looking for so its a relief to find them to be free and in the internet with permission of the author. Thanks (sorry for long comment and bad english, It is not my native language)

  22. [...] hacker resistance is a central theme in Doctorow’s fiction. Little Brother and its upcoming sequel, Homeland, focus on teenagers in a near-future world who, as savvy tech [...]

  23. [...] hacker resistance is a central theme in Doctorow’s fiction. Little Brother and its upcoming sequel, Homeland, focus on teenagers in a near-future world who, as savvy tech [...]

  24. [...] Schneier wrote very similar sentiments when he was invited to write an Afterword for the novel Little Brother, by journalist/author/blogger/activist Cory Doctorow (founder of site Boing Boing). To snip [...]

  25. [...] Why Cory Doctorow Releases His Books Under the Creative Commons [...]

  26. [...] luckily, as Cory Doctorow release everything under the Creative Commons license, I was able to download a version for free on the author´s own website. While I was there I also [...]

  27. [...] Stock Exchange For Digital Media The Internet is "the world's most efficient copying machine" -- Cory [...]

  28. Ayesha says:

    This book is recommended reading as a part of an e-learning course i plan to take. Without the free ebook download (for this and other books) I would not be able to take the course or even read this book. While i love reading and feel that nothing can replace physical books, i live in a country where very rarely do science fiction and fantasy books make an appearance in bookshops. So i have to opt for e-books. And while i could purchase the e-books, the cost of buying all the recommended books in the course is just not feasible. Thank you so much for making this book available for free.

  29. [...] 4. Little Brother by Cory Doctorow:  Following a 9/11-like situation, citizens are under extreme surveillance and their information is mined by government.  Little Brother is an excellent discussion of the effects of a surveillance society.  Its sequel Homeland was just released in hardcover. [...]

  30. [...] 4. Little Brother, de Cory Doctorow : À la suite d’une situation semblable à celle du 11 septembre, les citoyens font l’objet d’une surveillance extrême et leurs renseignements sont scrutés par le gouvernement. Little Brother propose une excellente analyse des effets d’une société de surveillance. La suite, intitulée Homeland, vient d’être publiée en format relié. [...]

  31. [...] published article in editable form). We want our ideas read, spread, and copied. As Cory Doctorow notes, “for pretty much every writer—the big problem isn’t piracy, it’s obscurity.” We do not, [...]

  32. [...] your remixes, provided that you do so on a noncommercial basis. Why does Cory do this? On this excellent post, he gives his rationale and says, “Giving away ebooks gives me artistic, moral and commercial [...]

  33. [...] Cory Doctorow is an author who lets you download his books for free or buy them. He provides a great explanation on why he does this. [...]

  34. […] like Cory’s take on why he chooses to give away his books for free. In particular, I’m taken by a phrase he […]

  35. […] Best-selling author Cory Doctorow on “Why do you give away your books?” […]

  36. […] I stuck the stickers and talked to the librarian, who recommended this book. A lot of my clients write YA, and I live with some people who are or shortly will be reading books […]

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