Monday, August 1, 2011

Big problem: not piracy, but obscurity

This weekend's light reading was Cory Doctorow's Little Brother. You can download it free of charge.

It's an interesting book which Doctorow summarizes:
Marcus, a.k.a “w1n5t0n,” is only seventeen years old, but he figures he already knows how the system works–and how to work the system. Smart, fast, and wise to the ways of the networked world, he has no trouble outwitting his high school’s intrusive but clumsy surveillance systems.

But his whole world changes when he and his friends find themselves caught in the aftermath of a major terrorist attack on San Francisco. In the wrong place at the wrong time, Marcus and his crew are apprehended by the Department of Homeland Security and whisked away to a secret prison where they’re mercilessly interrogated for days.

When the DHS finally releases them, Marcus discovers that his city has become a police state where every citizen is treated like a potential terrorist. He knows that no one will believe his story, which leaves him only one option: to take down the DHS himself.

But something else captured my attention beyond just the excellent storyline: his comment that he enjoys giving away his books for free because, in part, he fears obscurity more than the loss of revenue. After all, if people don't even know about his books they can't possibly buy them and he's lost the money anyway. At least by giving stuff away he draws attention to his ideas, builds his reputation, gets called upon to speak at conferences, or write articles and more ... all of which can generate income.

These are powerful insights and part of the formation of the new economy that's unfolding around us.
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