I quite want to read Charles Stross and Cory Doctorow’s new book, The Rapture Of The Nerds.
I’m not hugely interested — I like some of Stross’ work a lot (basically the Laundry series and the near-future-Edinburgh police procedurals, all of which I adore), but other than Glasshouse his singularity-based stuff (Accelerando, Singularity Sky, that kind of stuff) does little for me, and I have no interest at all in Doctorow’s work. So I’m guessing there’s a sixty-forty chance I’ll enjoy the book — but if I enjoy it I’ll enjoy it a lot.
I had a quick look at it in Waterstone’s today, and it also looks like a short book — I’m guessing 40-60,000 words. Long novella/short novel length.
It’s currently available as a twenty pound hardback, which is much more than I’d pay for a shortish novel that there’s a decent chance I won’t like. It’s available on various US ebook sites for a more reasonable price, but not available on any UK ebook sites, because all of them insist on imposing regional restrictions — even though Tor own the rights to it throughout the English-speaking world.
However, because Stross and Doctorow are also good sorts, it’s *also* soon to be available (within a day or so), as a *free* ebook download from Doctorow’s site. Stross and Doctorow believe — rightly, in my opinion — that making books available as free creative commons works doesn’t stop people paying for them. Certainly, in my case, I actively sought out ways to purchase the ebook and give money to the authors and publisher even though I knew it was going to be available for free.
But I’m not going to pay twenty quid for it in a format I don’t want to buy it in, either (I reserve buying paper books now for books I either believe I’ll want to keep and reread many times, or books that aren’t available as non-DRM’d ebooks). So I’m going to get it for free, this time.
(Note that I would not download the book for free illegally. I have occasionally torrented books, in order to check a particular author’s work out, but always buy legitimate copies afterwards if those are available to me).
Note that this isn’t the fault of this particular publisher — Tor are publishing the book in multiple countries simultaneously, they’ve allowed the release of the free CC-licensed download, and they make all their books available DRM-free now, they’re doing The Right Thing here — but of the whole system of regional restrictions in copyright licensing, and ebook sellers being overly-restrictive as a result.
I understand exactly why this system exists, and it benefits the authors in many ways, as well as the publishers, but it’s becoming ever more clear that the system no longer works the way it should. Actively preventing customers from giving you money is never going to be a good long-term business strategy.
The question is, as with so much to do with ‘intellectual property’ these days, what do we replace it with? If I could figure that one out, I’d probably have a lot more money to spend on books afterwards…