Liberating the Written Word

AS YOU CAN SEE, I’m becoming a big fan of Scribd. I am totally in support of their vision of liberating the written word. Here’s how a traditional publisher sees the value of Scribd in relation to the printed word.

Word-of-mouth, recommendations and ‘hand-selling’ are tried and true ways to increase sales, and Scribd makes all those things possible in an extremely cost-effective, online environment. Scribd offers publishers an amazing new marketing platform that will surely generate book sales.

This morning whilst browsing through Scribd, I came across a book by Cory Doctorow. I liked his thoughts on the whole issue of e-books, publishing and authors which were beautifully encapsulated in a few brief but succinctly written paragraphs. I couldn’t have expressed them better myself. Below are extracts taken from the book in the spirit of what Cory would have been proud of, and posted here on my blog, of course.

(My excerpts from page 5 of Little Brother by Cory Doctorow)

I recently saw Neil Gaiman give a talk at which someone asked him how he felt about piracy of his books. He said, “Hands up in the audience if you discovered your favourite writer for free – because someone loaned you a copy, or because someonegave it to you? Now, hands up if you found your favourite writer by walking into a store and plunking down cash.” Overwhelmingly, the audience said that they’d discovered their favourite writers for free, on a loan or as a gift. When it comes to my favourite writers, there’s no boundaries: I’ll buy every book they pub lish, just to own it.

Neil went on to say he was part of the tribe of readers, the tiny minority of people in the world who read for pleasure, buying books because they love them. One thing he knows about everyone who downloads his books on the Internet without permission is that they are readers, they are people who love books. People who study the habits of music-buyers have discovered something curious: the biggest pirates are also the biggest spenders.

Giving away ebooks gives me artistic, moral and commercial satisfaction. For me –for pretty much every writer — the big problem isn’t piracy, it’s obscurity. Of all the people who failed to buy this book today, the majority did so because they never heard of it, not because someone gave them a free copy.

Ebooks are verbs, not nouns. You copy the, it’s in their nature. And many of those copies have a destination, a person they’re intended for, a hand-wrought transfer from one person to another, embodying a personal recommendation between two people who trust each other enough to share bits. That’s the kind of thing that authors (should) dream of, the proverbial sealing of the deal. By making my books available for free pass-along, I make it easy for people who love them to help other people love them.

Ebooks on computers are more likely to be an enticement to buy the printed book (which is, after all, cheap, easily had, and easy to use) than a substitute for it. You can probably read just enough of the book off the screen to realize you want to be reading it on paper.

So ebooks sell print books. Every writer I’ve heard of who’s giving away ebooks to promote paper books has come back to do it again. That’s the commercial case for doing free ebooks.

My publishers are really important to me. They contribute immeasurably to the book, improving it, introducing it to audience I could never reach, helping me do ore with my work. I have no desire to cut them out of the loop.

There are lots of teachers and librarians who’d love to get hard-copies of books into their kids hands, but don’t have the budget for it. You can sponsor a classroom or adopt a class yourself at If you are a teacher or librarian and you want a free copy of Little Brither, email with your name and address of your school. It’ll be posted to website so that potential donors can see it.

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