Free Online, Because You Won’t Find It in Stores!

By Neal Comment

BoingBoing reports that science fiction writer Peter Watts has put a Creative Commons license on his new novel, Blindsight, and made it available for free download on his website (as he’d previously done with his first two books). Why put a novel out for free when it’s only been in bookstores less than two months? Well, Watts says, the problem is that the book never actually made it out to very many shelves:

“Oh, the Amazon numbers seem pretty respectable so far—but lurking on various blogs, I note an ongoing theme to the effect that nobody can find Blindsight in brick-and-mortar stores. It’s not too early to be expecting it there… so the obvious explanation is that most retailers just didn’t bother preordering it.”

“The bad news is, it’s worse than even I had thought. One of the two major book chains in the US (either Barnes & Noble or Borders, don’t know which) didn’t order any copies of Blindsight at all. Nada. Not one fucking copy.”

Watts says Tor Books ordered an initial print run of 3,700 copies, and thought about doing a second printing, but then decided they’d wait until they received more orders. Describing this as “some inexplicable business model based on promoting not demand, but shortage,” Watts has decided that what matters to him is that people read this book. “My sales figures may be forever in the toilet,” he says of the decision to post the PDF and HTML versions online, “but my hit count is about to go through the roof.”