John Perry Barlow

Cory Doctorow Releases “Content: Selected Essays on Technology, Creativity, Copyright, and the Future of the Future”

Cameron Parkins, September 9th, 2008

CC evangelist and acclaimed author Cory Doctorow announced today the release of his new book, Content: Selected Essays on Technology, Creativity, Copyright, and the Future of the Future. Content is exactly what it claims to be – 28 essays on “everything from copyright and DRM to the layout of phone-keypads, the fallacy of the semantic web, the nature of futurism, the necessity of privacy in a digital world, the reason to love Wikipedia, the miracle of fanfic, and many other subjects”. If that wasn’t inciting enough, Content also boasts an introduction from EFF co-founder John Perry Barlow and book design by acclaimed typographer John D Berry.

Like his other novels, Doctorow has chosen to release Content both as a print book for sale and as a free-to-download CC BY-NC-SA licensed PDF. In his essay, “Giving it Away” (originally published in Forbes, December 2006 – republished in Content), Doctorow describes his decision to use CC licences and the benefit he has seen as a result:

When my first novel, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, was published by Tor Books in January 2003, I also put the entire electronic text of the novel on the Internet under a Creative Commons license that encouraged my readers to copy it far and wide. Within a day, there were 30,000 downloads from my site (and those downloaders were in turn free to make more copies). Three years and six printings later, more than 700,000 copies of the book have been downloaded from my site. The book’s been translated into more languages than I can keep track of, key concepts from it have been adopted for software projects, and there are two competing fan audio adaptations online.

Most people who download the book don’t end up buying it, but they wouldn’t have bought it in any event, so I haven’t lost any sales, I’ve just won an audience. A tiny minority of downloaders treat the free ebook as a substitute for the printed book — those are the lost sales. But a much larger minority treat the ebook as an enticement to buy the printed book. They’re gained sales. As long as gained sales outnumber lost sales, I’m ahead of the game. After all, distributing nearly a million copies of my book has cost me nothing.

1 Comment »