Walter Jon Williams uses pirate ebooks to rescue his backlist

Krid sez, "To save time and money in getting his out of print back catalog books into ebook format science fiction author Walter Jon Williams is asking his readers for help in proofreading pirated copies of the books he downloaded with Bittorrent."

Some of Walter Jon's books haven't been scanned by anyone -- not even dedicated bookwarez folks. So he's offering a reward to anyone who can produce a scan of these rare titles.

I discovered that my work had been pirated, and was available for free on BitTorrent sites located in the many outlaw server dens of former Marxist countries. So I downloaded my own work from thence with the intention of saving the work of scanning my books-- I figured I'd let the pirates do the work, and steal from them. While this seemed karmically sound, there proved a couple problems...

Should any of you volunteer to provide scans of Days of Atonement, Angel Station, and Knight Moves, that lucky individual will get a signed, personalized copy of the WJW book of his or her choice (assuming I actually have a copy, of course). Plus, whatever book you scan will spend digital eternity with your name in it, along with my eternal thanks. Sound good?

Crowdsource, Please (Thanks, Krid!)


  1. “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need!”

    Think about it; He’d end up scalped (or have to go to dozens of used bookstores and scalped in time) to find his books again, then he’d either spend hours crouched over a computer, drive himself batty with scanning or pay out the A– for someone else to do it.

    BUT, a big enough net someone who liked his work spent the time to do it and it’s up there. And, yes, SHARING does work both ways! He should thank the “Thieves” and just ask them to promote his work for a while, sold at a sane price and in a nice to read format since they removed the tedious part of the work for him and also NOT sue them.

    Myself, getting a Nook recently I sometimes convert old Pulp stories into a good e-reader format. I make long “Scroll” pages so you don’t have to re-load after a few words at a comfortable magnification. In part it’s practice for an epublication I’m working on, but I’m converting stuff I like. Too much out there is “Dumped” or “Crude Scanned” but sold at the same price.

  2. I don’t know who he is – should I download his books and read it to find out? Is it any good? Don’t worry about the morals of it or anything I’m a marxist in a country who may not ever have been marxist… well ok it has, it is. We still use Keynes don’t we? We still use his system as an alternative system of history studies. We still refer to social classes. But then again, so does the US :)
    (oh well according to that authors logic its probably not capitalist but “post-feudal” or something)

    1. He’s good–he’s probably touched on just about any flavor of SF that you prefer, at one time or another. I’m reading Deep State right now, and have another one of his books cued up.

    1. His middle name is really Jon.

      I’ve read Hardwired, Voice of the Whirlwind, Metropolitan and City on Fire. I thought they were all really good, and when I think about cyberpunk, I equally envision William Gibson’s Neuromancer and Walter Jon Williams’ Hardwired.

      @travtastic Lazy is probably not an apt description. He is a writer, and assuming that his time has value he probably doesn’t feel that the value of buying the books and scanning them is equal to the value of writing new ones (because presumably sales of the back catalog wouldn’t equal new works). Whereas if he has someone else do the work for free, he reaps all the benefits with no cost to himself in either time (which is money) or money. I think that’s the definition of hard work in a capitalist society.

  3. I LOVED his Dread Empire’s Fall series, with the Praxis. Interesting worlds, believable tech, good alien races, lots of fun IMHO.

  4. I like the idea.
    I, myself was happy to find flac rips of my music on soulseek, of records I’ve made years ago and lost any master or find my cdr copies not working anymore. So filesharing save my work.

  5. What are his views on people ‘stealing’ his books in general, though, not just when he wants free help?

  6. The reason I’m curious is that twenty seconds on Amazon shows me that I could pick up all three of those books in hardcopy for $12.67, shipping included. Add in a scanner and free OCR software for another $30, and it seems sort of like he’s just too lazy to do the work necessary for him to make money off of the ebook versions.

    1. Sometimes Amazon dealers don’t actually have a book, even if they have it listed. They figure they can pick it up dirt cheap somewhere else and resell it to you on the rare day someone actually wants a copy.

    2. Scanned + OCRd != text.proofread

      The time investment in proofreading is not minimal.

    3. All the clear explanation up front (RTFA) and you need to make it about your perception of someone else’s laziness. How many novels have you written that need to be scanned?

      1. None. I also don’t receive income from them.

        If he has some hardcore fans willing to do it, more power to him. But he clearly states that he’s going to be selling these. I’m pretty sure that his time is not so valuable that he can’t spare a few days to a week to proof-read three books. Or hell, two weeks. Maybe three. It’s an investment.

  7. Cf. Frank Zappa’s ‘Beat The Boots’ initiative: FZ obtained bootleg recordings of his gigs, repackaged and then released them officially on his own label, thus diverting the income back to its source.

  8. I love “Days of atonement” I’ve read that a few times at least. It stayed in my don’t sell back to bookstore pile more than a few times.

    My take on this is that a writer makes money by writing or pimping. This call for help gets free publicity, saves him money and exposes some people to his work that haven’t heard of it before.

    There is probably a venn diagram intersection between fans of his work and book pirates so why not use that to his advantage?

    Pirates gonna pirate.


  9. F Paul Wilson did the same thing a while ago to get all his old novels onto e-readers

  10. Gah. I have all three of these as *ahem* ‘scans’, but that particular goddamn drive is dead.

  11. All three are available in the WorldCat system for interlibrary loan, if anyone has a scanner and some spare time. (see, but U Washington is a member).

  12. I can’t believe you guys. WJW’s Hardwired, Voice of the Whirlwind, Metropolitan, City on Fire, and Aristoi should be required reading before you’re allowed to call yourself a Science Fiction fan.

    Of these three, Days of Atonement and Knight Moves are extremely good, and Angel Station is only the weak link here because the rest of his work is so strong.

  13. Meh, I appreciated some of the New Mexico and NM Tech cultural references in Days of Atonement, because i live there, but the Rambo-esque ending just made me roll my eyes.

    “I yam the sword and arm of the lord…” Oh puh-lea-uzz.

  14. Kinda liked Hardwired, as it seems more in tune with my own feel of cyberpunk then what Gibson wrote.

  15. I have “a couple problems” (in fact, I can probably find more than two of them, including the omission of “of”) with a professional writer who in all apparent sincerity can condemn anybody who would “steal” from somebody capable of “So I downloaded my own work from thence”.

    I’m going to stick with proofreading scans of “Wide Open Beavers” for Kilgore Trout.

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