Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Review of The Problem Isn’t Piracy, The Problem Is Obscurity by Cory Doctorow

Science fiction writer and entrepreneurial whiz kid Cory Doctorow has long been at the forefront of the wide swathe the digital era has been cutting through the literary world. In this (free, natch) pdf, Jon Bard of The Children’s Book Insider has compiled seven prefaces from Doctorow’s novels and two articles, explaining Doctorow’s revolutionary approach to copyright and e-books.

In them, Doctorow offers razor-sharp insights on his reasons for using a Creative Commons copyright on all his books. This liberal copyright allows readers to reproduce his work ad infinitum with only a few restrictions. Chief among his reasons for doing so is the spot-on point that copyright laws were created to protect writers and publishers from other publishers—not from their customers.

His second major point—that the best way to sell print books is to give away the e-versions—is important reading as well, although it’s lost a bit of its steam in the midst of the digital revolution. So many authors are now going completely digital with their writing that the applicability of giving away e-books will be of more interest to traditionally published authors, whose print books still account for the majority of their sales. Still, no matter which side of the digital fence you find yourself currently sitting on, Doctorow’s insights are worthwhile and, I would even go so far as to say, essential for any author facing down this brave new publishing frontier in which we find ourselves.
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  1. You scared me. Yesterday, while whizzing around the A to Z world, I came upon a spot that offered to tell me which author I am most like in my writing. That's right, Cory Doctorow. I've never read anything he has written. I thought your post here was saying his writing was obscure--horrors! But no, horror is just his genre. Thought you would get a laugh out of this. Your blog is superb.

  2. The publishing world is changing so rapidly! I agree with you, I wouldn't think that giving away e-books to sell print books would be such a good idea anymore. With the ability to record books on, now, perhaps the new frontier will be to give away audio books to encourage the purchase of e-books? If nothing else, this industry does keep us on our toes!

  3. @Pat: I did get a laugh! Cory Doctorow is a big man on campus, so we'd all do well to be compared to him.

    @Lynnette: There's definitely something to that. I know of several authors who gained traditional book contracts after they gained a huge following through their free audio books/podcasts.

  4. Doctorow is a sharp, smart thinker, an entertaining and thought-provoking SF writer, and a genuinely nice guy. He's also been a resource for DMCA issues online, as during the SFWA / Scribd flap of a few years ago.

    I've had occasion to meet him twice, once at a signing for his book Little Brother, and again with my son when we saw the play based on the book in Chicago. He was generous with his his time and completely authentic.

  5. Great to know that people we love in print are just as great in real life.