I first heard about Cory Doctorow last year, when I was seeing reviews of his young adult novel Little Brother all over the book blogs. The Guardian had an interview with him this past weekend wherein he discusses why he gives his books away for free:
I give away all of my books. [The publisher] Tim O’Reilly once said that the problem for artists isn’t piracy – it’s obscurity. I think that’s true. A lot of people have commented: “You can’t eat page views, so how does being well-known help you earn a living as a writer?” It’s true; however, it’s very hard to monetise fame, but impossible to monetise obscurity. It doesn’t really matter how great your work is; if no one’s ever heard of it, you’ll never make any money from it. That’s not to say that if everyone’s heard of it, you’ll make a fortune, but it is a necessary precursor that your work be well-known to earn you a living. As far as I can tell, these themes apply very widely, across all media.
He also discusses the mixed messages we send kids about privacy:
Kids’ relationship with privacy is really confused; they’re told by teachers and adults that their privacy is paramount, that they should stop disclosing so much information on Facebook and so on. And then they go to schools where everything they do is monitored; there’s mandatory spyware that takes every click they make, every word they utter and sends it back to teachers and headmasters for disciplinary purposes.
Hallelujah! I haven’t read Little Brother yet, but I went immediately to his site today and downloaded the free PDF. Even though it was already on my TBR because I had seen so many good reviews, this short, thoughtful interview impressed me a great deal and made me more determined to read his work. I love to read interviews like this one, that make me want to read an author’s work because of how they come across as people, as opposed to how they come across as writers. You can download Cory Doctorow’s work, including his latest novel, For the Win, at craphound.com.
What do you think about authors who give away their work for free?