Doctorow's Creative Commons licensed book enters fifth week on NY Times Bestsellers list

littlebrother3.jpgCory Doctorow's latest novel, Little Brother, is available to download for free from his website, as well as remix, share and distribute to your friends. The book has just had its fifth week on the New York Times Bestsellers list under Children's literature, and entered Publishers Weekly chart - the first Creative Commons licensed book to do so. The book is set in a near-future dystopian 'database state' where civil liberties have been destroyed.

Doctorow has long argued against current media industry sales and distribution practices. I first came across his ideas after from a now legendary speech he had given at Microsoft encouraging them to drop DRM from their music players - an idea now largely accepted across the music industry. Using Tim O'Reilly's maxim that obscurity is a greater threat for an indpendent artist than piracy (and that piracy is progressive taxation), Doctorow has long encouraged fans of his fiction to download copies, translate it, make their own covers (see pictured), and even reprint and distribute copies - provided it is not for profit. As one of BoingBoing's editors - one of the web's most popular blogs - such derivative works are guaranteed further exposure and most significantly the practice has not hurt his book sales, as the NY Times positioning demonstrates.

The main question for filmmakers is whether the model is transferable. A purchased book offers signficant advantages over a downloaded version: curling up with a laptop or ream of A4 sheets stapled together will never quite be the same. There is little visible difference on the other hand between a purchased DVD on a TV screen, against a downloaded copy, except for the convenience and time involved - and the packaging of a special edition.

But perhaps the reason so many people are buying Doctorow's book is less that they prefer it to the downloaded version they could blag for free, but because of the relationship he has built up with his core audience, nurtured diligently through BoingBoing. That engagement and communication also seems central to the approach of the few early web film distribution success stories; m.dot.strange, Four Eyed Monsters and Brave New Films.

For those wanting to learn more from the man, it's just been announced that Sheffield's B.Tween Festival - which I can thoroughly recommend -  have him as opening keynote speaker .

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