/ / News, Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town

This is my third novel, and as with my first, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom and my second, Eastern Standard Tribe, I am releasing it for free download on the Internet the very same day that it ships to the stores. The books are governed by Creative Commons licenses that permit their unlimited noncommercial redistribution, which means that you’re welcome to share them with anyone you think will want to see them. In the words of Woody Guthrie:

“This song is Copyrighted in U.S., under Seal of Copyright #154085, for a period of 28 years, and anybody caught singin it without our permission, will be mighty good friends of ourn, cause we don’t give a dern. Publish it. Write it. Sing it. Swing to it. Yodel it. We wrote it, that’s all we wanted to do.”

Why do I do this? There are three reasons:

* Short Term

In the short term, I’m generating more sales of my printed books. Sure, giving away ebooks displaces the occasional sale, when a downloader reads the book and decides not to buy it. But it’s far more common for a reader to download the book, read some or all of it, and decide to buy the print edition. Like I said in my essay, Ebooks Neither E Nor Books, digital and print editions are intensely complimentary, so acquiring one increases your need for the other. I’ve given away more than half a million digital copies of my award-winning first novel, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, and that sucker has blown through five print editions (yee-HAW!), so I’m not worried that giving away books is hurting my sales.

* Long Term

Some day, though, paper books will all but go away. We’re already reading more words off of more screens every day and fewer words off of fewer pages every day. You don’t need to be a science fiction writer to see the writing on the wall (or screen, as the case may be).

Now, if you’ve got a poor imagination, you might think that we’ll enter that era with special purpose “ebook readers” that simulate the experience of carrying around “real” books, only digital. That’s like believing that your mobile phone will be the same thing as the phone attached to your wall, except in your pocket. If you believe this sort of thing, you have no business writing sf, and you probably shouldn’t be reading it either.

No, the business and social practice of ebooks will be way, way weirder than that. In fact, I believe that it’s probably too weird for us to even imagine today, as the idea of today’s radio marketplace was incomprehensible to the Vaudeville artists who accused the radio station owners of mass piracy for playing music on the air. Those people just could not imagine a future in which audiences and playlists were statistically sampled by a special “collection society” created by a Congressional anti-trust “consent decree,” said society to hand out money collected from radio stations (who collected from soap manufacturers and other advertisers), to compensate artists. It was inconceivably weird, and yet it made the artists who embraced it rich as hell. The artists who demanded that radio just stop went broke, ended up driving taxis, and were forgotten by history.

I know which example I intend to follow. Giving away books costs me nothing, and actually makes me money. But most importantly, it delivers the very best market-intelligence that I can get.

When you download my book, please: do weird and cool stuff with it. Imagine new things that books are for, and do them. Use it in unlikely and surprising ways. Then tell me about it. Email me with that precious market-intelligence about what electronic text is for, so that I can be the first writer to figure out what the next writerly business model is. I’m an entrepreneur and I live and die by market intel.

Some other writers have decided that their readers are thieves and pirates, and they devote countless hours to systematically alienating their customers. These writers will go broke. Not me — I love you people. Copy the hell out of this thing.

* Medium Term

There may well be a time between the sunset of printed text and the appearance of robust models for unfettered distribution of electronic text, an interregnum during which the fortunes of novelists follow those of poets and playwrights and other ink-stained scribblers whose industries have cratered beneath them.

When that happens, writerly income will come from incidental sources such as paid speaking engagements and commissioned articles. No, it’s not “fair” that novelists who are good speakers will have a better deal than novelists who aren’t, but neither was it fair that the era of radio gave a boost to the career of artists who played well in the studios, nor that the age of downloading is giving a boost to the careers of artists who play well live. Technology giveth and technology taketh away. I’m an sf writer: it’s my job to love the future.

My chances of landing speaking gigs, columns, paid assignments, and the rest of it are all contingent on my public profile. The more people there are that have read and enjoyed my work, the more of these gigs I’ll get. And giving away books increases your notoriety a whole lot more than clutching them to your breast and damning the pirates.

So there you have it: I’m giving these books away to sell more books, to find out more about the market and to increase my profile so that I can land speaking and columnist gigs. Not because I’m some patchouli-scented, fuzzy-headed, “information wants to be free” info-hippie. I’m at it because I want to fill my bathtub with money and rub my hands and laugh and laugh and laugh.

Developing nations

A large chunk of “ebook piracy” (downloading unauthorized ebooks from the net) is undertaken by people in the developing world, where the per-capita GDP can be less than a dollar a day. These people don’t represent any kind of commercial market for my books. No one in Burundi is going to pay a month’s wages for a copy of this book. A Ukranian film of this book isn’t going to compete with box-office receipts in the Ukraine for a Hollywood version, if one emerges. No one imports commercial editions of my books into most developing nations, and if they did. they’d be priced out of the local market.

So I’ve applied a new, and very cool kind of Creative Commons license to this book: the Creative Commons Developing Nations License What that means is that if you live in a country that’s not on the World Bank’s list of High-Income Countries, you get to do practically anything you want with this book.

While residents of the rich world are limited to making noncommercial copies of this book, residents of the developing world can do much more. Want to make a commercial edition of this book? Be my guest. A film? Sure thing. A translation into the local language? But of course.

The sole restriction is that you may not export your work with my book beyond the developing world. Your Ukranian film, Guyanese print edition, or Ghanian translation can be freely exported within the developing world, but can’t be sent back to the rich world, where my paying customers are.

It’s an honor to have the opportunity to help people who are living under circumstances that make mine seem like the lap of luxury. I’m especially hopeful that this will, in some small way, help developing nations bootstrap themselves into a better economic situation.


The worst technology idea since the electrified nipple-clamp is “Digital Rights Management,” a suite of voodoo products that are supposed to control what you do with information after you lawfully acquire it. When you buy a DVD abroad and can’t watch it at home because it’s from the wrong “region,” that’s DRM. When you buy a CD and it won’t rip on your computer, that’s DRM. When you buy an iTune and you can’t loan it to a friend, that’s DRM.

DRM doesn’t work. Every file ever released with DRM locks on it is currently available for free download on the Internet. You don’t need any special skills to break DRM these days: you just have to know how to search Google for the name of the work you’re seeking.

No customer wants DRM. No one woke up this morning and said, “Damn, I wish there was a way to do less with my books, movies and music.”

DRM can’t control copying, but it can control competition. Apple can threaten to sue Real for making Realmedia players for the iPod on the grounds that Real had to break Apple DRM to accomplish this. The cartel that runs licensing for DVDs can block every new feature in DVDs in order to preserve its cushy business model (why is it that all you can do with a DVD you bought ten years ago is watch it, exactly what you could do with it then — when you can take a CD you bought a decade ago and turn it into a ringtone, an MP3, karaoke, a mashup, or a file that you send to a friend?).

DRM is used to silence and even jail researchers who expose its flaws, thanks to laws like the US DMCA and Europe’s EUCD.

In case there’s any doubt: I hate DRM. There is no DRM on this book. None of the books you get from this site have DRM on them. If you get a DRMed ebook, I urge you to break the locks off it and convert it to something sensible like a text file.

If you want to read more about DRM, here’s a talk I gave to Microsoft on the subject, and here’s a paper I wrote for the International Telecommunications Union about DRM and the developing world.

28 Responses to “Welcome to the site”

  1. Paul Sonnenberg

    Dear Cory,

    Thank you for allowing me to download a copy of your book! I don’t read science fiction. I read almost exclusively the biographies of 20th century weirdos. But thanks to your generosity and confidence I will read your book. I used to be a house painter, so the first paragraph’s got me hooked already!

    Thanks again, and congratulations on your accomplishments.

    Paul Sonnenberg
    Austin, TX

  2. Isaac B2

    Cory, you rock — you talk the talk, and walk the walk. I am buying your book, but can’t wait… and so I will be reading it for the first time (and not the last, I’m sure) via this download.

    Thanls for helping show the media world (and thes rest of us, too) that content is not what it used to be, and is somehow more than it ever was.

  3. Dal

    Screw DRM and limitations on the free flow of information… thank you for standing up against it.

  4. Thomas

    I appreciate your simple words and approach in a ridiculously complex world.
    I’ll hop over to Bakka later this week.

    Thank you for your work.

  5. Vamsee

    Dear Cory,
    It’s a really great thing you are doing and I pray more authors would start thinking like you. Keep up the good work and keep ‘em coming.

  6. Steve Szmidt

    This is a new experience! I’m talking about finding a format that suits my idea of reading a book.

    Well, I’m also looking forward to the new experience of reading an e-book. I do expect to tire and give in to a printed version, but we shall soon know…

    Thanks for this opportunity!

  7. Karaden

    You know, I haven’t even read the book yet and I like you already. You make some excellent points about copyrights, marketing and DRM; and for that alone, I wish you all the luck I can in this venture and rest of your writing career.

    Thankyou, and I look forward to reading your work.

  8. phppimp

    If only to add another “me-too”, you’ve done some great things with what you have said here. Perhaps more authors will grow beyond the sad world of legalities and encryption and all that nonsense. Everyone has a right to protect themselves and their works, this I agree with. But you eloquently state the truth: the current tactics and methods will only lead to their own demise.


  9. Ray Benjamin

    You’ve given me a lot to think about. I’m working on my own science fiction novel, trying to get a writing career started, and I love this idea. I don’t expect to get rich from my work. I just want people to read and enjoy what I’ve written. If I’m lucky enough to find a publisher, I hope they’ll be brave enough to let me follow your example.

  10. Earl Colby Pottinger

    Thank you for placing your latest book for free downloading.

    While I read a lot of SF (about 4-6 books a week now, more when I was younger) I have never read any of your books before and am presently backlogged for months on what I do plan to read.

    In the normal scheme of times it is highly possible that I would never read any of your books as each new author is a gamble that costs money (books are not cheap) and to be fair to an author I tend to buy two to three of thier books before giving up. You have to be really bad to make me quit on the first book.

    Baen has been giving away free books for years now and because of that I bought most of thier authors’ books because I know I would like thier writting. And yes there are a few authors who books I never bought because I could pre-read them. But David Weber, Eric Flint …. are laughing all the way to the bank based on the contents of my book shelves. So I know the idea works.

    If I like the book you can be sure that I will be looking out for everything else you have written to buy in paperback.

    Again thank for this chance to check out your work.

    Earl Colby Pottinger

  11. Mark

    Thank you for sharing your work, Cory. I work backshifts and your writing keeps my brain alive!

  12. battlegirl


    love your ideas, haven’t read any of your books before, but thanks to your PR (i found it on slashdot.org) you have reached a possible new customer!

    As for wanting to know what do people do with e-books, i’ve used some for illustration research. I love to be able to search words, change fonts to highlight characters’ descriptions, making it easier to skim and find what I need.

    My local library has also started loaning digital books, allowing for a quicker exploration of authors. They are swimming in DRM, unfortunately, but the idea has drawn me to try more authors. I have to admit, though, that the ADD level rises tenfold when i look at a computer, while i can get lost in a paperback for hours and not notice anything around me… perhaps dedicated book readers would help that.

  13. Peter Bennett

    Thank you thank you thank you! I think you are so right. I’m looking forward to reading some of your latest book.

    I fully expect to buy your whole back catalogue if I like it – my powerbook’s portable, but doesn’t meet the 3B reading location challenge (bog, beach, bath).



  14. Tom B

    Mr. Doctorow,

    Haven’t previously read any of your work. Someone posted (*gasp!*) the piece on DRM to slashdot, and for that alone I will buy at least one of your books. (Of course, if they’re half as worthwhile as your thoughts on DRM, I’m sure I’ll be buying more).

    I have made it my minor mission in life to punish DRM-users (I can sort of live with PDFs with watermarks, but that’s about as far as I’ll go) by NOT buying their product once DRM is affixed. Treat me like a thief and I’m no longer interested in your product. This is similar to my policy on advertising by stealth, as SWAT4 from Sierra/Irrational has recently put in place too. Start trying to slip me ads and monitor how long I look at them and which ones and then who knows what else and I won’t be buying your game, even if I liked the demo of it I had otherwise. The only way to hit back is to hit these guys in the wallets AND make lots of noise. You’ve figured out the moronic nature of DRM – I wish more authors could do the same. If you produce good work, people will support you. And word of mouth *is* good advertising. (Or ‘word of web’ as it probably is nowadays – or blog, or e-mail or whatever).

    Anyway, I’ll be buying your first book, recommending it to others to look into and wishing you all the best success.

    The only people worried about having their ideas out there in the public marketplace without the support of odious techno-shackles are the needlessly fearful and the needfully fearful. To the former, a few success stories should show them the way and their work should stand on its own. To the latter, their work was probably not terribly worthile and therefore they should justly fear…

    Keep up the good work and the good attitude.

    Tom B
    Ottawa, Ontario

  15. Mara

    Thanks for publishing your books. I’m downloading them now, may write reviews when I finish.

    It was nice to read your opinions about ebooks, DRM and all the stuff. Good to see that not only IT people think this way.

  16. jurgen

    Just a simple thank-you. This will be the first book of yours I’ve read, and I’m looking forward to it. Best regards, and thanks again.

  17. Rodney Peters

    As a broke college student, I really appreciate the free download. When I can afford to move out of this box and have room for chunks of dead tree I’d like to buy a copy. I still like visitors to my home to see how well read I am.

  18. Realbooks Forever

    I think you’re doing a great thing by offering your book for free online. I disagree with your ideas that eventually real books will be displaced by some form of electronic storage and viewing – books are different to music and video, and I simply don’t believe real books will EVER be replaced by electronic ones. You can already store thousands of books on a DVD, but reading them on a screen, even a portable one, is just not the same as having a real book, putting a bookmark in, putting post it notes in, reading it in the bath, while you’re brushing your teeth, etc.
    I do believe that electronic publishing will carry on increasing, but only in conjuction with the publication of real versions of those books. If I really like a book, I’ll want a real version of it (which is good news for you authors!).

    I particularly admire your attitude towards the developing world – a great policy.

  19. Source

    I bought the book, because I heard about it somewhere. (Honestly, I dont remember where, but to say the least, it was a good reccomendation.)Now I’m here just seeing what this little site is about, and I think it’s an awesome concept. Although, I’m beginning to think.. why do I have all these books lying around, if I’ve already read them?

  20. meili

    Hi! I have bought copies of Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom. I mean a real paper-type book. Nice to see we can download it and other books online.

  21. Hasan Sherzad

    Dear Cory,
    although this is late but I just foun your book on line and down loaded it very happy for people like you are helping us find the desire of our minds and hearts without having to wait the smell of old books to eat us then find novels that have been there for ages.
    Sincerely yours.

  22. Hasan Sherzad

    Dear Cory,
    although this is late but I just found your book on-line and downloaded it is very relieving, for people like you are helping us find the desire of our minds and hearts without having to wait the smell of old books to eat us then find novels that have been there for ages.
    Sincerely yours.

  23. starlyte

    I really enjoy your books, and listen to or read them all. You’ve got cool ideas, & Creative Commons is the future! Thanks for letting the more skint 3/4 of the world (or more, I don’t have the stats!) have access. I live in France, but luckily speak English (I am Eng. actually), & I’d really like to translate some of your works into Fr, if it doesn’t break any rules. Here there’s not a lot of Creative Commons books (or none?), even though the musics OK, like site: Dogmazics, En & Fr ‘ziks, great! Thanks, Cory, & for BB, too!

  24. Bill Lublin

    Corey: I really wanted to kiss up here because I am so impressed with your intellect and your positions on creativity and sharing.
    Then I thought – screw that, let me just say I’m a fan of your literature, your work in the physical space, and your position on the miracle of parenting –
    You rock!

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