While I wasn’t looking, a quartet of Cory Doctorow‘s audiobooks showed up at Downpour.com — they aren’t available on Audible.com due to Audible’s DRM-only format and Doctorow’s anti-DRM stance. I don’t know when they arrived, but it’s a welcome sight and one I’ve been asking for since Downpour’s launch as a DRM-free multi-vendor alternative to Audible.com. So, as promised in a quick update on this week’s Release Week write-up, here’s some more links and pictures and verbiage about Doctorow’s audiobooks, all from Random House Audio.
First up, Doctorow’s 2008 novel Little Brother, which I very much enjoyed in audio, read by Kirby Heyborne (Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, Stephen King’s The Long Walk, Brom’s Krampus, Nick Harkaway’s The Gone-Away World, Gail Z. Martin’s The Sworn, and Brian Jay Jones’ Jim Henson: The Biography).
“Marcus, aka “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.” I had a chance to catch Doctorow on tour for the follow-up novel, 2013’s Homeland, and hear him speak passionately about the themes of privacy and technological freedom in these books, and — most of all, probably, about this development of his books now being available at Downpour — seeing this one here gives me hope that the second book will come to audio. Doctorow’s anti-DRM stance has hurt him financially on this front, as without Audible.com as a market, publishers are hesitant to pick up the licensing and production tabs; again, hopefully this is a sign of good things to come.
Next up, Doctorow’s 2009 novel Makers, read by Bernadette Dunne (Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam, Lois McMaster Bujold’s The Sharing Knife).
“Perry and Lester invent things—seashell robots that make toast, Boogie Woogie Elmo dolls that drive cars. They also invent entirely new economic systems, like the “New Work,” a New Deal for the technological era. Barefoot bankers cross the nation, microinvesting in high-tech communal mini-startups like Perry and Lester’s. Together, they transform the country, and Andrea Fleeks, a journo-turned-blogger, is there to document it. Then it slides into collapse. The New Work bust puts the dot.combomb to shame. Perry and Lester build a network of interactive rides in abandoned Wal-Marts across the land. As their rides, which commemorate the New Work’s glory days, gain in popularity, a rogue Disney executive grows jealous, and convinces the police that Perry and Lester’s 3D printers are being used to run off AK-47s. Hordes of goths descend on the shantytown built by the New Workers, joining the cult. Lawsuits multiply as venture capitalists take on a new investment strategy: backing litigation against companies like Disney. Lester and Perry’s friendship falls to pieces when Lester gets the ‘fatkins’ treatment, turning him into a sybaritic gigolo. Then things get really interesting.”
Next up, Doctorow’s 2010 novel For the Win, read by George Newbern (who I’ve quite recently enjoyed on Tad Williams’ Bobby Dollar series).
“In the virtual future, you must organize to survive. At any hour of the day or night, millions of people around the globe are engrossed in multiplayer online games, questing and battling to win virtual “gold,” jewels, and precious artifacts. Meanwhile, others seek to exploit this vast shadow economy, running electronic sweatshops in the world’s poorest countries, where countless “gold farmers,” bound to their work by abusive contracts and physical threats, harvest virtual treasure for their employers to sell to First World gamers who are willing to spend real money to skip straight to higher-level gameplay. Mala is a brilliant 15-year-old from rural India whose leadership skills in virtual combat have earned her the title of “General Robotwalla.” In Shenzen, heart of China’s industrial boom, Matthew is defying his former bosses to build his own successful gold-farming team. Leonard, who calls himself Wei-Dong, lives in Southern California, but spends his nights fighting virtual battles alongside his buddies in Asia, a world away. All of these young people, and more, will become entangled with the mysterious young woman called Big Sister Nor, who will use her experience, her knowledge of history, and her connections with real-world organizers to build them into a movement that can challenge the status quo. The ruthless forces arrayed against them are willing to use any means to protect their power—including blackmail, extortion, infiltration, violence, and even murder. To survive, Big Sister’s people must out-think the system. This will lead them to devise a plan to crash the economy of every virtual world at once—a Ponzi scheme combined with a brilliant hack that ends up being the biggest, funnest game of all.”
Lastly — though who knows, perhaps Doctorow’s collaboration with Charles Stross, The Rapture of the Nerds, or some of his earlier work such as Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom and Some Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town, or some of his novella-length work like The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow, or heck even his essay collections Content and Context, might be on the way? — Doctorow’s 2012 novel Pirate Cinema, read by Bruce Mann (China Mieville’s Looking for Jake: Stories).
“Trent McCauley is sixteen, brilliant, and obsessed with one thing: making movies on his computer by reassembling footage from popular films he downloads from the net. In the dystopian near-future Britain where Trent is growing up, this is more illegal than ever; the punishment for being caught three times is that your entire household’s access to the Internet is cut off for a year, with no appeal. Trent’s too clever for that too happen—except it does, and it nearly destroys his family. Shamed and shattered, Trent runs away to London, where he slowly he learns the ways of staying alive on the streets. This brings him in touch with a demimonde of artists and activists who are trying to fight a new bill that will criminalize even more harmless Internet creativity, making felons of millions of British citizens at a stroke. Things look bad. Parliament is in power of a few wealthy media conglomerates. But the powers that be haven’t entirely reckoned with the power of a gripping movie to change people’s minds.”
Whew! Again, this is a big deal for those who care about DRM, and also those who have been hoping for easy access to the digital audio editions of Doctorow’s work. Check them out and support a DRM-free future and one of our generation’s leading creators of that future through his stories and advocacy.
UPDATE: Wow! I did not anticipate such a fantastic response to this article. I just wanted to come in and remind people that 1. Downpour has a ANY695 code going on to get a $6.95 download; and 2. there’s also a $12.99 first month membership offer, which gets you two credits to start. So, basically for $21 you can get 3 of the 4 Doctorow audiobooks. Not bad.