Saturday, 7 January 2012

With a Little Help by Cory Doctorow

Look what arrived today (apologies for the poor quality pictures you're about to see).

Yes, something wrapped in a coffee burlap bag.

Which contains a rectangular hexahedron wrapped in rice paper sealed with stickers.

It's a book! A quality-looking hardback book emblazoned with a shiny faceless figure donning a cape and glasses, and there's a strip of bright orange extending from the spine of the book. There's also a 4GB SDHC memory card stuck to the front.

As you can see it's the special edition of With a Little Help by Cory Doctorow. This book is number 76 of 250. Let's have a look inside...

We appear to have a letter addressed to "Bear" from Melissa Frain from Tor (no, not the Tor project, Tor the sci-fi folk). Bear? Anyway, it's a request for the review of a manuscript. And at the back we have...

A sketch of what appears to be either a woman with a birthday cake stuck to her head, or a fairytale princess or some such variety of character.

And lastly, we have...

A personal inscription from Doctorow himself. Naturally his message alludes to the fact that he would be nothing without my help, and he's eternally grateful. (or something slightly less insane)

If you don't already know, Cory Doctorow (a Torontonian resident in the UK), amongst many other things, is a science fiction writer. This book is available for free in audio book format, on CD (MP3 or Ogg Vorbis) for a nominal fee, in several ebook formats (with a suggested donation) in paperback through on-demand publishing, or this gorgeous, unique limited edition hand-bound book. There's even the option to offer to give a book/books to institutions such as schools, prisons, hospitals etc.

So if you can get it for free, why the hell would you fork out money for it? Well for a start, it's directly re-numerating the author for the hard work they put in to make the publication you've enjoyed. That support means they'll go on to write more in future, and also affords them luxuries such as paying their energy bill and buying food to stave off death. But then the hardback book costs a fair amount. What are you getting for your money? Well, by its very nature, a limited edition item is... limited. And this one is particularly limited. The book I'm looking at is one of only 250. A personal inscription from the author isn't something you'll get with the vast majority of books (and he even spelled my name correctly). And then there's the end-papers. No-one else will have the same book as the one I have here as it has unique pieces of Cory's paper hoard that he didn't want to just throw away, so he has immortalised them forever at both ends of the book. I'm intrigued as to what this sketch is about though.

But not only that, the SD card on the front contains all the audio book files (Ogg Vorbis and MP3) every format of the ebook, and all the covers. Incidentally, the SDHC card is merely stuck into a recess in the book with some Blu-Tack, so can be easily removed and replaced.

As for the actual book itself, it says on Cory's site that these are hand-bound at the Wyvern Bindery in Clerkenwell, London, and the printing of the book is done by a family-run company called Oldacres in Hatton Garden who have been around since 1897.

The book costs the same (including P&P) regardless of where you live, except being in the UK gave me the benefit of getting it next day.

Now that the book is in my hands, I'm very pleased with my purchase and would recommend it to anyone who appreciates both good sci-fi, and beautiful, high-quality, unique well-made books. Plus the money goes directly back to the writer instead of mostly eaten away through a complicated chain of publishers, distributors and third-party sellers.

One last thing: Cory added a "feature" you don't get with most books; the opportunity to submit typo corrections with the advantage being that the typo will be fixed with a credit to yourself in the next printing of the book.

If you would like your very own copy, go get it.

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