As he has in the past, Boing Boing co-editor Cory Doctorow yesterday posted his new novel – co-written with British sci-fi author Charlie Stross – online for free download under a Creative Commons License. In a post on Boing Boing Doctorow provided a link to his own site, Craphound, which is hosting HTML and PDF files of The Rapture of the Nerds, and asked that those who enjoy the novel ‘buy a personal hardcopy at your local bookseller, or from your favorite online seller, or donate a copy to a library or school’, adding ‘if you’d like to reward us for our use of Creative Commons licenses, and reward Tor Books for its decision to drop DRM on all its ebooks, we hope you’ll buy an ebook at your favorite ebook retailer.’ The link was accompanied by further links to both physical and digital retailers.
The free downloads are provided under a slightly different Creative Commons license than Doctorow’s previous books, which, alongside non-commercial, properly attributed distribution, have allowed for what he calls ‘remixes’ – essentially fan fiction, incorporating elements of the original text as required, without the need for the author’s prior consent. In a lengthy post accompanying the free downloads of Rapture of the Nerds, Doctorow explains why the terms of the license have changed to mean that anyone seeking to perform a remix of the book now needs to get in touch with Doctorow and Stross before making it available.
The reasons for the change essentially boil down to foreign publishers – i.e., publishers that Doctorow hasn’t known since he was 17 – needing to be coaxed more gently into a post-Creative Commons world. There is one paragraph in particular, however, that should resonate with anyone who works in publishing:
Free/open culture is something publishers need to be led to, not forced into. It’s a long conversation that often runs contrary to their intuition and received wisdom. But no one gets into publishing to get rich. Working in the publishing industry is virtually a vow of poverty. The only reason to get into publishing is because you flat-out love books and want to make them happen. People work in publishing for the same reason writers write: they can’t help themselves.