Dorothea Salo: HTML wizard

Dorothea Salo, of, did the conversion of my first novel to html, converting an ASCII text file into something well-formed, with great typography and easy-to-hack semantics in the stylesheet.

Dorothea graced me with her skills again, producing the stupendous HTML verion of the book, producing something that is, again, standards-compliant, pretty to look at, and easy to mod.

Thank you, Dorothea.

Contest to design in-game edition of my book

I'm going to do an in-game signing and talk this July in Second Life, the massively mutiplayer online world (I did this before, for Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, and it was really fun!).

To commemorate the event, Second Life's Wagner James Au is coordinating an in-game contest to design a virtual book based on the text of the novel, a digital 3D object wiht turn-able pages, etc. I really hope that what they end up building is more than a simple 3D version of a meatspace book, though: electronic text is so much more protean than printed words, so it would be a shame to constrain it to behaving the way that dumb matter does.

...[F]or the next couple months, in preparation for Cory's appearance, Residents will be creating book prototypes, and submitting them to me for an in-world expo, so the community can choose which one provides the best in-world reading experience. Within 48 hours of the announcement, one Resident had already submitted a screenshot of his own prototype (bottom screenshot), which sharp-eyed readers will recognize as the opening page to Doctorow's Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, the novel he discussed with Residents at the first Book Club. The one to win the most votes at the Expo will get the honor of publishing Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town in Second Life. (Though of course, my personal hope is that this also helps launch a mini-explosion of virtual book technology in-world.)

How to report bugs in my novel

Have you found a typo, continuity problem or factual error in my book? Good! Here's a wiki (a community-editable webpage) where we're keeping track of errata. I'll fix any errors I can in the electronic editions (though just in the canonical PDF, text and html versions, I have no way of editing the user-submitted versions). When the next edition of the treeware version of the book comes out, I'll see to it that all the errata are collected there, too!


Beneath all the tech, cultural references, and imaginative indulgence, Wired correspondent Doctorow's geek fantasy portrays a misfit's struggle to connect with the people around him. An ex-shopkeeper courts a reluctant-angel babe next door and helps deploy a grassroots Wi-Fi network, all while he struggles with his impossible family (his mom is a washing machine, and his little brother, Davey, is a murderous corpse).
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Creative Commons: huh?
Creative Commons is a system for licensing copyrighted works to allow for their reuse and redistribution without the author's further permission. It's a way for artists to collaborate with each other and their fans without hiring lawyers to draw up complicated contracts to mediate their relationships. I was the first novelist to apply CC licenses to my works. I've experimented with many different kinds of licenses and so far, so good. Very good, in fact. The CC license on this book allows you to redistribute it, provided you don't make any money off of it, and provided you don't remove the license and don't remove my name from it. Please -- share this book!

I want to send you some money in exchange for downloading your book, how do I do that?
Basically, you don't. I don't work for tips. I have a source of income from my writing: royalties from the sale of my books. It's a good source of income, and keeping it that way has some real advantages, namely keeping my interests aligned with my publisher's. If you want to "tip" me, buy a copy of my book. If you don't want a treeware edition, don't buy it, or buy it and give it to a library or a shelter or a school. That gets me the royalty, boosts my sales-numbers, and makes everyone happy. But hey, it's no skin off my nose if you read this without buying it; that's just how it goes. I've given away more than half a million copies of my first book, and only a tiny fraction of those downloaders have bought the treeware books, but it was enough to push my book through five printings in eighteen months. So I'm not gonna come after you and call you nasty names if you download without buying.

I want to download your book in $SOME_OTHER_FORMAT, how do I do that?
Help yourself! Literally. The book's up for download in three open, standards-defined formats: ASCII, PDF, and well-formed XHTML. Those formats are easy to convert to your format of choice, and I encourage you to do so. I'll host and link to any converted formats I receive, on the downloads page. Here are the ground-rules for DIY file-conversions:

  1. Only use my text in your conversion. The beautiful artwork on this site isn't mine to give away; the rights belong to the genius artist Dave McKean, and goddamn I'm a lucky man to have a cover painted by the likes of him.
  2. If it's already been converted to your format of choice but the conversion doesn't suit you, go ahead and re-convert it for your own use and distribution. But don't send it to me: I'm a strictly first-come-first-served kinda guy. Once someone's converted the book to format $foo, that's it. Otherwise I have to either mediate disputes over appropriate layout choices in formats I'm not familiar with, or I have to try to come up with pithy, info-civilian-readable descriptions of differences between formats for my download page.
  3. Send me a link to the reader for your conversion so I can include it on the downloads page.
  4. No DRM. If your format of choice has a means of restricting copying, use or playback, you must not use it. DRM is anti-user technology. I am pro-user, and while I'll tolerate just about any re-use of my books, the one perversion I won't stomach is the use of bullshit DRM in connection with it, if I can help it. (Yes, my publisher authorizes a commercial ebook edition that has DRM on it. It's not my idea. Judging from my royalty statements, not a lot of you are interested in buying 'em either).

Hey, I found a typo, factual error, or have some other species of bug to report
Good work! Here's the errata wiki, a community-editable web-page where you can post your correction. Thanks!

Are you making money by giving away books?
Hell ya. My writing income has doubled year on year for some five years now. Giving away books displaces some sales -- that is, some people who get the book for free in etext don't buy it -- but it generates more sales. My books sell well. Here's how to buy this one. Now, I'm the first to admit that this isn't science. I can't go back in time and re-release my books without Creative Commons licenses and compare sales. But they're selling better than my publishers expect them to, and better than my colleagues' books are selling, and that's good enough for me.

How'd you talk Tor (my publisher) into letting you do this?
I asked. My editor, Patrick Nielsen Hayden (the senior editor at Tor, the largest sf publishing house in the world) is an awesome geek. He and I met on a BBS in the late eighties. He has his own blogs and servers, and he tweaks his own code. He wants to figure out what the future of electronic text is going to be as badly as I do, because his job depends on it. This kind of experiment was welcomed with open arms at Tor.

I'm a beginning writer, which publisher should I send my Creative Commons licensed book to?
Lots of publishers are experimenting with CC releasing, but that shouldn't be what you're worrying about just now. First, finish your book. Then sell it. I started submitting short fiction to the magazines when I was 16. I had my first pro sale when I was 26. I had my first novel published when I was 32. It is a long, long way from deciding to write to becoming a published novelist. Once you get a publisher, then worry about CC licensing.

What's all this stuff about the "developing world?"
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 Ukrainian 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.

Are you doing a signing or appearance in my home town?
Man, I hope so! My day-job is European Affairs Coordinator for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. I spend three weeks a month on the road, mostly traveling in Europe, though sometimes I come to the US and Canada too. When I get the chance, I try to sort out an appearance, a speech or a signing, and when that happens, I put notice on my mailing list, and on my home page, and on my RSS feed. That's the best way to find out if I'm headed anywhere towards you.

Creative Commons License

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