While I am a voracious reader, and I read a fair amount of YA and Adult science fiction and fantasy, I had not read anything by Cory Doctorow until I read "Little Brother" in one furious sitting yesterday.
It is a near-future cautionary tale of how fear of terrorism destroys us far more than the terrorism itself and I found it compelling, chilling, and all too plausible. I plan on passing the story on to my teenage sons.
But the story is not the reason for my blog post.
"Little Brother" is a 2009 Locus Award finalist, published in 2008 by TOR. And Cory Doctorow released it as a free (free to buy, free of DRM) ebook under a creative commons license. Clearly he and his publisher are not afraid that allowing this novel to be read online with no strings attached will destroy Doctorow's career or decimate TOR's profits. Rather, Doctorow believes that obscurity, not piracy, is the writer's and artist's biggest enemy.
And you know what? That works for me. Because I did not need to jump through hoops to find, download, and read this novel, and because it was well written, engaging, and relevant, I now will buy Doctorow's work when I see it on a shelf in a bookstore. I will take a risk with my hard earned money on this author even though I could probably read most of his backlist for free in ebook form on my kindle.
I will do this because I still prefer the feel and experience of a book in my hand, the ability to shove said book in a friend's hand with a 'you must read this', and the "social networking" of seeing what other people are reading; all elements missing in the ebook experience.
As a fledgling author, I am both intrigued and comforted by Doctorow's model. His example shows me that developing an open relationship between reader and writer is an essential element in sustaining a successful career. You don't do that by treating potential readers as presumed criminals. You treat them as partners in a creative process and trust that they will understand and support that process.
Fear is never a good model--not for business, not for living. I found Doctorow's lack of fear a much needed antidote to the gloom and doom about electronic piracy. It gives this aspiring novelist hope.
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