Mar 312004

A bunch of people have recently drawn my attention to the product placement
of Ford cars in Carole Matthews’s novel The Sweetest Taboo. My Past Due letters were a response to a similar situation, Faye Weldon getting paid by Bulgari to mention their brand — I proactively invoiced the companies whose brands I mentioned in my novel of a hyper-marketed future, Everyone In Silico.

The cover of The Sweetest Taboo has the tagline, “The best things in life are never free.” I’ve decided to retaliate against this smug sentiment by releasing a free e-book version of Everyone In Silico. I’ve distributed thousands of copies of my previous novels in free e-book form since the 2000 release of Angry Young Spaceman, but not for EIS — I was curious to see if it would impact my sales significantly.

It hasn’t.

Plus, I’ve seen benefits on various levels for giving away e-books. For instance, a woman in Lancaster, England, recently hosted a launch, and it went really well — the bar was full of excited people, and I sold close to twenty books. It wasn’t until after the show that I realized that she didn’t own any of my books — she’d gotten to know my work via e-book. So, for being willing to lose one sale, I gained twenty sales.

This e-book is released under a Creative Commons licence. My friend Cory Doctorow turned me on to this project, which is all about Some Rights Reserved. It’s a great option for artists who are interested in facilitating the circulation of their work while not exposing themselves to the possiblity of commercial exploitation. The flavour I’ve chosen grants permission for people to not only distribute the book, but also to make stuff based on the book — short movies, spinoff stories with the same characters or in the same world, videogames — so long as they’re distributed for free. You don’t even have to ask me, though I’d love to hear about it once it’s done!

So if you like the book, send pals this link, e-mail it to friends, fileshare it on illegal networks — you’ll be helping me out. I know from experience that I’ll reap dividends. They won’t just be financial — when people build on my stuff creatively I’ll also see an inspirational return.

Carole Matthews might use the Ford money for her car payments, but personally I find karma payments a better investment.

Download the E-book: .rtf | .txt | .pdb | .pdf | Plucker .pdb

(Note: The .txt and Palm .pdb are missing their italics and other formatting.) If you convert the file into another format feel free to add an URL to the comments, where you can also let me know how you’re using the text.

UPDATE: Some of the fun stuff that’s happened:
~Julie Emerson used it for teaching international students English at the University of British Columbia. Her teaching unit, now also licenced under the same Creative Commons conditions as EIS, is here. made EIS their Featured Content of the Week.
~Trevor Smith made a purple numbered version plus used the dialogue for this instant messenger chat.
~Paul Robinson sent me Word Perfect and HTML versions.
~J. David Eisenberg sent me an 2.0 version

Thanks everyone!

You can read the back of the book and buy it direct from me here.


  5 Responses to “Free E-book Released”

  1. Hi Jim,

    Over the past 8 years I’ve written a trilogy of speculative fiction novels based on themes of environmental sustainability. I am in the midst of editing them and a year or three ago, before the birth of my daughter, I had my first initial encounters with the publishing world. My initial assetment of that business is that it pushes all the risk onto authors, who provide the creative resources, while maximizing profit for shareholders and a network of middlemen and gatekeepers.

    I am an owner of a small (but quickly growing) business providing scientific programming and online environmental reporting. This success, together with not wanting to sacrifice relationships with my family, leaves me little room to jump through the standard hoops required by publishers.

    I have been indulging a fantasy lately of setting up a wikitikki site and publishing my books in serial as an online event. I was thinking of something like the open content license you had mentioned and running off donations from readers/collaborators who wanted to help reader finance the work. I could then work on a milestone basis so I could write without sacrificing cash flow. At the end of the cycle the world could have the book. I just want to be paid for my hobby as I go.

    The event would work by engaging blogs and zines with a similar content focus to that of the book (environmental sustainability). They could publish exerpts or derivative works as they liked in return for linking back to my site.

    Do you think something like this could work? Any ideas?

    Joondanna, Western Australia

  2. Hi Sam,

    I think the “pay-as-you-go” model can work sometimes: I met Catherynne M. Valente at Wiscon and she told me she made the equivalent of a small press advance on one of her online books.

    That said, I think a defining factor is that authors the succeed with this model are natives to the internet, with a good web presence and manage to develop a personally involved audience who want to help her/him out: didn’t work for Stephen King, however.

    You’re more likely to find an audience and get some attention than any kind of substantial income, but that’s better than having your manuscripts gather dust.

  3. i want free novels

  4. Hi,
    I’ve converted your novel into a fictionbook (.fb2) format and added to website I administer.

    Bratislava, Slovakia

  5. I’m quite happy to find that CC is making its way around the vast “interwebs,” and gaining popularity.

    The idea of your novel intrigues me, and I definitely will be downloading the ebook… I may even purchase it so that I may help you out. Either way, thanks for spreading the word and the love!


    From a sweltering city in Florida

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