Cory Doctorow's new novel released and free to download
February 4, 2004 5:55 AM   Subscribe

Cory Doctorow's new novel, Eastern Standard Tribe, has been released. You can buy the book through traditional means, or, as with his last novel, you can download the entire book for free with no obligation to purchase. Doctorow is a fine novelist and living the principles he espouses with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. He has also written a short essay explaining the rationale behind the free distribution.
posted by stevengarrity (26 comments total)
Thanks for the links, stevengarrity. Seanyboy posted an answer to one of my AskMe questions that included a link to "Code Complete" by Steve McConnell. This book will soon be published in traditional, bookstore format, but the author's rough draft is online and you can read it for free. He's asking people to post comments and suggestions.

I think this is a brilliant idea. Some people will just read the free version, but as a trade-off the author gets a huge amount of free peer-review, copyediting, etc., and his eventual print edition will be much better for it.

And most of his readers will probably buy the print edition -- even many of those who read the free online version and commented on it. They will want to see their suggestions used in print.
posted by grumblebee at 7:00 AM on February 4, 2004

I think this is sweet, no doubt. When I was working on my English Ph. D., many in the Humanities were "waging war" against the possible loss of printed text to the world of e-publishing.

But honestly, I can't imagine reading a text of this size online. Sure, I can print the PDF or some such, but I'd still like to see some examples of very usable e-books. I want to be able to "turn" pages; to quickly flip back a few chapters and remind myself of who a character is; to stick a "bookmark" in my text and come back to it in a few days . . .

Is there anything like this, enabled by software or HTML? Any sites that offer cool capabilities like this?

I'll never be willing to give up the printed page, but I'm more than willing to supplement my bookshelves with some e-books sitting on my hard drive. It just doesn't seem that the usability is there yet.

Or is it?
posted by tr33hggr at 7:19 AM on February 4, 2004

Print on paper is still a great technology -- portable, readable, etc. And I've never had a book vanish because
of a system crash or wrong keystroke. New media technologies enhance old ones, they don't completely replace.
Radio took some but not all of print's functions, TV changed but did not kill radio, and the Internet is offering a multimedia experience that is richer than any of the ones that came before. You'll choose the medium that you need, whether it's a book on tape, on a screen, or bound into a book. I will still prefer my long fiction in book form, where it has more lasting value. I've yet to find a store that will pay me for used e-books.
posted by Slagman at 7:28 AM on February 4, 2004

I'll do the same thing I did with his last one: read a chunk of it online, and if I like it, I'll buy the book because it's got a better user interface than on screen, and I want to support Cory in what he's doing.

The content itself is free, and serves to promote the author. The author makes money from delivering the content to me in a format that gives me something extra compared with the free version, something I can't get on a computer. Down the road, electronic distribution will force publishers to enhance the value of the book-as-object, but it will help them to promote books, rather than destroying them. The music industry should take notice.
posted by fuzz at 7:39 AM on February 4, 2004

I'd still like to see some examples of very usable e-books.

When there is enough free (or at least convenient) text out there, good ebooks will come. It's not very hard, in theory, to make a very usable ebook. The problem, I believe, is that the publishing industry continues to cripple them, diminishing their value, and therefore the energy devoted to development.
posted by callmejay at 8:41 AM on February 4, 2004

Err, what the hell's the book about? All he has on the site is how you can get his autograph.
posted by xmutex at 8:43 AM on February 4, 2004

All he has on the site is how you can get his autograph.

never mind xmutex, if you didn't read the page linked to, what makes you think you'll bother reading the novel?
posted by quonsar at 9:00 AM on February 4, 2004 can download the entire book for free with no obligation to purchase.

Yeah, I always think of Doctorow when I think of a common piece of writers' advice:

"Don't give it away for free."

...unless you're Cory Doctorow, I guess. He can get away with it. And 0wnz0red is still a favorite of mine.
posted by Shane at 9:19 AM on February 4, 2004

Gotta love Cory: "Here's the deal: I don't believe that there's any market-demand for teasers or for "Digital Rights Management" technology: none of you woke up this morning and said, "Damn, I wish there was a way I could get less of the books I enjoy and a way I could do less with them once I have them."
posted by nkyad at 9:40 AM on February 4, 2004

Thanks for the links - 0wnz0red was a great short story, and his first novel "Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom" was a great read. Since I could d/l these for free, I've found I really like his voice/storytelling. Can't wait to buy the new book!

And the few times I've seen him speak on behalf of the EFF he's really changed my perception of copyrights, fair use, etc. His business strategy/model is right on and he's going to do quite well for himself...
posted by skechada at 9:51 AM on February 4, 2004

I ran into Cory at a convention in May of last year, and he was cool enough to give me an advanced release copy of Eastern Standard Tribe which he had with him. Several hundred pages, printed, and held together by a big metal clip. I was floored and very appreciative, and of course I had him sign it. It's definitely not for sale.

And yes, I'm going to buy a copy of EST anyway, if only so I have something to lend out to friends. It's a damn good read that's idea-rich, just the way I like such novels.

Really, if I have any complaint about Cory's writing, it's that his ideas are often so strong, they overwhelm character development. This is especially true with his female characters, who tend to be pretty cold and ruthless at times.

Maybe he should stretch his reportoire and write about the potential ramifications of technology to bring about dangerously perfect love. (Or perhaps he should consider the positive advantages of getting a little somethin'-somethin' himself. Intentional communities are where the *REAL* action is...)

That said, I don't know where he'd find the time. If Cory were any more wired, he'd have subdermal WiFi, with a navel-mounted Ethernet port, just in case.
posted by insomnia_lj at 9:56 AM on February 4, 2004

I like reading books on my PDA... it's actually one of the main reasons I purchased a PDA. I especially enjoy trawling through the Baen Free Library, which puts out quite a large collection of Baen work. Their hook is to give you the first one or two books of a series as a taster, convincing you to go and buy the rest.

My point of view is, I like downloading books and reading them on the bus. If I like it enough, I'll go to the bookstore and pick up a copy. If I really like it, I'll get the hardcover edition.

I'm far more likely to transport the books via electronic format when traveling, but when at home, the physical library's a great place for me to browse, pick a book up, and read before going to bed.
posted by linux at 9:59 AM on February 4, 2004

It's definitely better than the first book, in my opinion, which had a bit too much of an off the wall cartoonish feel for my liking. His dialogue is still a little clunky, the beginning was a little confusing and the use of multiple narrative perspectives seems a bit muddled. At times I'm not sure if he's speaking as the author, or if he's speaking as his main character. Maybe the book would've benefitted from a Conrad-esque running open quotation to give the reader a foothold.

Still seems like a draft. Admittedly, I'm only half-way through, but it could use a little more polish. Nothing that another couple of novels won't fix, but for the time being it's a mixed bag. He has some sort of early William Gibson thing going on (i.e., Virtual Light, Count Zero) which is hard to dislike, but his plot doesn't pop out the way Gibson's tend to, with their ultra-sharp definition of a world which is familiar but fundamentally different.

I'm looking forward to the next one.
posted by mmcg at 10:02 AM on February 4, 2004

few more years, tr33hggr, few more years ...
posted by MzB at 10:03 AM on February 4, 2004

a short essay explaining the rationale behind the free distribution.

Because no one other than web nerds would read it?
posted by the fire you left me at 10:49 AM on February 4, 2004

Chapter 15:
"Vigorous sex ensued."

I'm only halfway through, also, and it's pretty good so far. I think that the "multiple narrative perspectives" that were mentioned in an earlier comment are mostly due to the fact that the book is written by the fictional character who is central to the book, and toggles between his current situation and the history that led him there.

The technology mentioned in the book is pretty cool, too. I like the idea of short-range networked cars trading music on the highways, and the "comm", seemingly a kind of super PDA. I'd buy that for a dollar.
posted by ringmaster at 11:37 AM on February 4, 2004

Hey quonsar: where on that linked page does it mention what the book is about? how about NOWHERE? There is info about the e-copy, a FAQ about the e-copy, and reviews that just praise it. So like WTF?
posted by xmutex at 11:46 AM on February 4, 2004

I wish Cory would do audio versions of his books. Speaking to him one-on-one, he gets emotional about these futuristic topics sometimes and can (to use the parlance of my 1984 6th grade life) become a total spazz. I would *love* to hear that kind of thing on an audiobook track, where he'd get really into it and be super energetic.

When I read his books, I hear his voice telling it with the energy he speaks with and I'd love to see him share that with others.
posted by mathowie at 12:12 PM on February 4, 2004

EST is a pretty good read, but it's so short!

OT: 0wnz0red has a an unforgivable error:
If you could factor out the products of large primes, you wouldn't depend on them for your own security.

Maybe no one else cares, but it made me decide he was full of crap and not read anything else he wrote (until EST, just now.)
posted by sonofsamiam at 12:37 PM on February 4, 2004

There are a lot of writers whose books I read with their voice in mind, making it much more enjoyable. David Sedaris comes to mind.
posted by xmutex at 12:42 PM on February 4, 2004

Care to elaborate, sonofsamiam? I mean, for those of us who are big idiot morons.
posted by owen at 2:06 PM on February 4, 2004

No, I would not care to elaborate because I just realized I had misparsed that sentence.

I'm a big idiot moron.
posted by sonofsamiam at 3:04 PM on February 4, 2004

The book was a very enjoyable read... some of the connections were a bit Indiana Jones-y in terms of "and then suddenly, out of nowhere, we discovered this way to get out of a squeeze," but apart from that, good!

The idea of using vehicles as ad-hoc networks was suggested by one of my former bosses at an advertising agency... I don't think the "very large car company" was particularly interested, but this guy had something of a habit of being ahead of the curve.

The "big idea number one" that's in the book is very clever, and would probably work in today's world with a little more infrastructure (and a content industry that didn't have it's head so far up it's backside it could watch itself eating lunch).
posted by lowlife at 5:38 PM on February 4, 2004

I read Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, The Hacker Crackdown and The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect on-screen, legally, free of charge.

My enjoyment of each seemed exactly proportional to the quality of the work, not the publishing medium.

The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect was definitely my favorite. Electric, disturbing and very very good.
posted by NortonDC at 7:27 PM on February 4, 2004

I like me some Doctorow books. I hadn't realized his new one was out, so thanks for the headsup. I do literally all my reading (other than the few paper books I have left in my possession that I've been hauling around the planet with me for years and reread occasionally) for pleasure on my laptop, and have done so for almost 4 years. If I ever do settle down in one place long enough to think about accumulating paper books again, you can be damn sure all of Corey's will be top on my buy-list, as some small thanks for his just givin' it away now. What I got you gotta give it to your mama...
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:56 PM on February 4, 2004

localroger just put up another story in the Passages series, too!
posted by sonofsamiam at 9:12 AM on February 5, 2004

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