This free e-book, compiled without need for prior authorization from the author, deserves to be traditionally published in print . . . which just goesThis free e-book, compiled without need for prior authorization from the author, deserves to be traditionally published in print . . . which just goes to prove one of the points that Cory Doctorow makes in his essays: authors who allow their writings to be passed around (and remixed) end up selling more books.
Throughout this collection, Mr. Doctorow is concerned with the bottom line: how to make money from writing and publishing. Often contentious, he is occasionally off the mark. (His 2007 assertion that only a minority of readers with a "cognitive quirk" would want to read long-form works on the screen was made before e-book sales shot up 500% in the space of three years.) But he is invariably thought-provoking. In these essays, he tackles various publishing truisms - "Piracy results in low sales," "The best way to protect the publisher's profits is to wrap electronic items in layers of copy protection," "We are in an unprecedented copyright crisis" - and proceeds to trample those truisms gleefully in the dust.
I thought to myself . . . What if I gave my readers clean, canonical electronic editions of my works, saving them the bother of ripping them, and so freed them up to promote my work to their friends?
After all, it's not like there's any conceivable way to stop people from putting books on scanners if they really want to. Scanners aren't going to get more expensive or slower. The Internet isn't going to get harder to use. Better to confront this challenge head on, turn it into an opportunity, than to rail against the future (I'm a science fiction writer -- tuning into the future is supposed to be my metier). . . .
I've had literally thousands of people approach me by e-mail and at signings and cons to say, "I found your work online for free, got hooked, and started buying it." By contrast, I've had all of five e-mails from people saying, "Hey, idiot, thanks for the free book, now I don't have to buy the print edition, ha ha!"
If there's any major fault to this collection of previously published essays, it's that we see that Mr. Doctorow repeats himself a lot. His analogy between e-books and Luther bibles is brilliant, as are his analogies between the current copyright crisis and prior crises caused by the advent of piano rolls, radio, and VCRs . . . but after I'd heard some of those analogies over and over, I began to long, perversely, to hear of a case where an artistic industry that deserved to survive actually was crushed by illegal use of its wares by customers. Surely customers aren't always the good guys?
This isn't to say that I dispute Mr. Doctorow's central thesis, which is that the publishing industry must adapt radically if it's to survive.
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*.
Cory Doctorow frankly admits that he doesn't know how writers are going to make money in the future - which is just as well, for his gamble of giving away free e-books to sell print books is looking increasingly risky in a world in which bookstore empires are collapsing. As Mr. Doctorow himself puts it at one point: "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."
What is most fascinating about Cory Doctorow is that he has not remained content with theorizing, but has continued to experiment with ways to make money in the new world of publishing that is emerging. Anyone interested in this e-book should hop over to his blog, craphound.com, and check out his latest experiments. His successes and failures tell us as much as his essays do about the future of publishing....more
Well written and very comprensive, covering a number of topics, such as fandom, that other books on SF/F authorship barely mention. I'd love to see aWell written and very comprensive, covering a number of topics, such as fandom, that other books on SF/F authorship barely mention. I'd love to see a new edition of this guide, because the 2000 edition is out of date on certain matters. This is particularly obvious in the chapters on new trends in publishing, where Cory Doctorow has played an important role in recent years. However, even those chapters are interesting to read, because they provide a look back at the state of SF/F publishing at the turn of the millennium....more
An old favorite of mine, this is one of the most detailed books I've encountered over the years that describes Christian holidays: both religious celeAn old favorite of mine, this is one of the most detailed books I've encountered over the years that describes Christian holidays: both religious celebrations and folk customs. ...more