Cory Doctorow and Free eBooks

I woke up early this morning and while I was eating breakfast, I ruminated on reading and writing, and the effect eBooks have had on both. This got me thinking about one of the first free eBooks I downloaded, way before I had a Kindle.

I purchased a hardcover copy of Cory Doctorow’s “Little Brother” after hearing him interviewed on the radio. Read it. Loved it. Wanted to know more. I then read an interview where Doctorow spoke passionately about Creative Commons licensing and why he was offering “Little Brother” as a free download. I got a copy of the PDF more out of curiosity than anything.

It turns out that Doctorow, an activist as well as an author, offers many of his books and stories as free downloads. On his website, Doctorow answers the question, 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.

What I particularly love is that Doctorow provides plain text, HTML and PDF copies of his work and then hosts other eReader formats sent to him by his fans. “Little Brother,” for example, has been formatted for a wide variety of eReaders.

I highly recommend getting into the tent and picking up one or more of his books for free. After having done so, I also highly recommend buying one or more of his books to show love and support for a creative, talented and generous author.

Cory Doctorow’s novels can be found here. Click on a novel to be taken to its page. Then look in the top navigation bar for “Download for Free” and click on that.

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