Cory Doctorow just launched a Kickstarter campaign to create a self-produced audiobook of his new book, Red Team Blues. It's a high-tech heist novel — the first in a new trilogy — about a Marty Hench, a middle-aged forensic accountant on the hunt to find his buddy's missing cryptography key before any number of crime syndicates, shady Silicon Valley financiers, or Intelligence Community Alphabet Boys catch on. There's a definite Little Brother vibe here, except Marty is five times older than Marcus / m1k3y from those books (which itself is a pretty fresh concept).
Cory has been producing his own audiobooks for a decade now — despite the fact that the print book is being published by the largest sci-fi publisher in the world, Tor. Certainly an imprint of one of the largest overall publishing houses in the world could afford to finance an audiobook for a novel by a beloved author that's already garnered tremendous positive hype? The problem here isn't Tor; it's Amazon. As Cory explains:
Amazon's Audible division is the monopoly that controls more than 90 percent of the audiobook market. If that wasn't bad enough, they have a no-exceptions requirement that every audiobook sold on Audible be wrapped in Amazon's Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology, which is a felony for you to remove, even if the copyright holder asks you to. It's punishable by a five-year prison sentence and a $500,000 fine! For a first offense! That's a much steeper penalty than you'd ever pay for merely infringing copyright.
That means that every book sold on Audible is permanently locked to Amazon: if a reader breaks up with Amazon, they have to kiss all their audiobooks goodbye. If a writer breaks up with Amazon, their readers can't follow them to a fairer alternative without kissing all their books goodbye.
I won't let my audiobooks be sold with DRM, so Amazon won't carry them. My agent tells me that I've forfeited enough money to pay off my mortgage and put my kid through college. I'm fine with that. It's a small price to pay for not allowing my work to serve as bait for a monopolist's sticky-trap.
Cory's most recent fiction audiobook — for 2020's Attack Surface, the most recent book in the Little Brother series — was one of (if not the?) biggest Kickstarter audiobook campaigns in history. Not to be outdone, the Red Team Blues audiobook will be narrated by the inimitable Wil Wheaton, with production by Skyboat Media, which has done a ton of work with Cory in the past (director Gabrielle de Cuir directed the multi-narrated Walkaway audiobook, which Cory gave me an early copy of on a thumb drive at the Cambridge library, and remains one of my favorite overall audiobook experiences).
A $20 pledge will get you the full audiobook of Red Team Blues, but there are plenty of other awesome reward tiers as well if you're feeling fancy — from signed hardcover copies of the book, to naming rights or personally commissioned short stories set in the Red Team Blues world.
Red Team Blues: Another audiobook that Amazon won't sell [Cory Doctorow / Kickstarter]