When Cory Doctorow wrote his book, Down And Out in the Magic Kingdom, he had a great idea - make it publicly available on The Internet. Let anyone who wants read it. What better way to garner publicity? The book was downloaded 10,000 times within 24 hours and 50,000 times the first week. Now, one year later, he's been reviewed on Wired News and The O'Reilly Network, The Guardian, and NASA, had interviews with Creative Commons, NPR, and SFGate.com and his book is number five in Entertainment Weekly's 10 Best Novels of 2003. Oh, and the book is a Nebula finalist. Not bad.
Why'd he give the book away?
... first-time novelists have a tough row to hoe. Our publishers don't have a lot of promotional budget to throw at unknown factors like us. Mostly, we rise and fall based on word-of-mouth. I'm not bad at word-of-mouth. I have a blog, Boing Boing, where I do a lot of word-of-mouthing. I compulsively tell friends and strangers about things that I like. And telling people about stuff I like is way, way easier if I can just send it to 'em. Way easier.
The story takes place in Disney's Magic Kingdom in the distant future. Spiffy new technologies abound, such as web-surfing in your head, subvocalizing for communication (no more loud cell phone talkers!) and transmitted experience. Oh. And death has been essentially cured.
But the most drastic and interesting development is Whuffie. Whuffie is a reputation currency. Physical money has been done away with - your social standing essentially is your wealth. If you contribute to society, you become respected, and thus your whuffie count goes up. There has been endless debate on the net about the practicality and plausibility of whuffie.
You can read Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom here, buy a copy here, or read his other works online: Jury Service, Eastern Standard Tribe, 0wnz0red, and his short story collection, A Place So Foreign.