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Context [Paperback]

Tim O'Reilly , Cory Doctorow

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Book Description

Oct 2011
One of the internets most celebrated hi-tech culture mavens returns with this second collection of essays and polemics. Discussing complex topics in an accessible manner, Cory Doctorow shares visions of a future where artists control their own destinies and where freedom of expression is tempered with the view that creators need to benefit from their own creations. From extolling the Etsy marketverse to excoriating Apple for dumbing-down technology while creating an information monopoly, each unique piece is brief, witty, and at the cutting edge of tech. Now a stay-at-home dad as well as an international activist, Doctorow writes as eloquently about creating internet real-time theater with his daughter as he does in lambasting the corporations that want to limit and profit from inherent intellectual freedoms.
--This text refers to the Unknown Binding edition.

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More About the Author

Canadian-born Cory Doctorow is the author of the New York Times bestselling novel Little Brother. He has won the Locus Award for his fiction three times, been nominated for both the Hugo and the Nebula, and is the only author to have won both the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer and the Campbell Award for best SF Novel of the Year. He is the co-editor of, writes columns for Make, Information Week, the Guardian online and Locus and has been named one of the internet's top 25 influencers by Forbes magazine and a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum. Cory Doctorow lives in London with his wife and daughter.

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"If all those Generation Z and proto-Singularity kids reading Doctorow's Little Brother also find their way to Content, this book may well become a classic." "Doctorow here proves he's smart, funny, and good at accessibly boiling down issues he's passionate about ... a pleasure to read, not to mention thought-provoking." Booklist --This text refers to the Unknown Binding edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.3 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fun Essays... and delicious irony! 18 Feb 2012
By Savvy Patron - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition
Cory Doctorows essays are more fun to read than a weekend of caffiene-fueled gaming. I first read the essays on my PC, then loaded 'er on my Kindle for a road trip and have reread them at least 30 times.

Ironically, his archnemesis, DRM, is the gatekeeper to a treasure trove of essays. That means ya can't take it with ya- no Nook or Kobo for you! Save your sanity and get a copy from Doctorow's website.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The vertiginous hilarity of our age of wonders 27 Oct 2011
By Stefan - Published on
When you consider the entirety of Cory Doctorow's creative output, it's actually a bit surprising that the first title in his bio (on his own site) is "science fiction novelist." After all, if you add up the amazing amount of blog posts, magazine articles, newspaper columns, speeches and various other non-fiction he produces, I'm pretty sure that they would add up to more words per calendar year than his fiction, and in terms of visibility it's quite possible that more people have seen his name connected to a blog post or newspaper column than on the cover of a novel.

Adding some balance to Cory's bibliography, Tachyon Publications just released Context, Cory's second collection of essays after 2008's Content. Fans of the author will know what to expect, and for readers who are only familiar with Cory's novels, this book is a great place to start and get to know one of the 21st century's most interesting and prolific minds.

Context collects over forty of Cory Doctorow's non-fiction pieces released since 2008. These were originally published in a number of other publications, including UK newspaper The Guardian, magazines such as Locus and Make, and blogs like Boing Boing (which Cory co-edits). Most of these essays are just a few pages long, making this one of those books that's great to nibble at, reading one or two selections at a time rather than tearing through the whole thing in one sitting.

As for subject matter, the book's subtitle is "Further Selected Essays on Productivity, Creativity, Parenting and Politics," and those four categories sum up the book's topics fairly well, as long as you're okay with filing "copyright" and "privacy" under one of them. Many of these short essays read like expanded versions of Cory's blog posts, chronicling what (in one of these essays) he calls "the vertiginous hilarity of our age of wonders."

The common thread running through these essays is the point where technology, information and humanity intersect. Cory lovingly describes his writing process and the hardware and software he uses, talks about the way the various ebook outlets affect book distribution and the publishing industry in general, discusses why he won't buy an iPad, relates how he became the victim of a phishing scam, and generally covers a wide range of topics that are relevant to anyone living in the information age, all in his usual direct, no-nonsense style. Given that all of these essays have individually been published in various outlets before, there's a good chance that there won't be a lot of new material here for people who follow Cory's writing closely, but they draw from enough sources that there should be a few new things here even for the dedicated fans, and even if not, it's still nice to have them all together in one cover.

Tor's blog published a generous excerpt of Context over the weekend, and reading those five selections is a great way to find out if this book is for you. (Note: this review was originally written for that site.) One of my favorites is the very first essay in the book, "Jack and the Interstalk: Why the Computer is Not a Scary Monster," about how Cory and his toddler daughter Posey use the computer together. It's insanely cute--she sits on his lap watching videos in a corner of the screen while he answers his morning email--but at the same time it's informative and funny and highly relevant to any parent who is trying to figure out how to handle a toddler's inevitable fascination with that shiny screen mommy and daddy spend so much time looking at. A few essays later, he fast-forwards to the usage of computers in the classroom and proposes a "Web Literacy" curriculum that suggests "censorware"--commonly used to limit web access in schools--as a starting point. Context is full of this type of fascinating and insightful material, coming from someone who's given a lot of thought to how information and technology affect our lives in various ways.

Of course there's also a good amount of material here about copyright (sample title: "Intellectual Property Is a Silly Euphemism") and the "information wars" in general. I'm sure not everyone will agree with Doctorow when it comes to these issues, but even if you don't, his long involvement with this topic at least goes a long way towards outlining the boundaries of the debate, which is sure to continue for many years to come. And again whether you agree with him or not, it's refreshing to see someone who practices what he preaches with such enthusiasm. (As most people probably know by now, Cory offers all his books as free downloads under a Creative Commons license on his site. For people who want to show their appreciation for all those free books, he offers the opportunity to buy a copy for a classroom or public library in need -- e.g. here's the page to do so for Content, his first essay collection.

There aren't a lot of authors out there that I consider myself a fan of. There are many writers whose books I love, but to me being a "fan" implies more than just having an appreciation for a writer's creative output. It includes a few less tangible qualities, like the author being an interesting person and having a relevant blog and maybe even occasionally "doing the right thing." Your definition of what constitutes interesting, relevant and right will obviously affect all of this, but for me Cory Doctorow is one of those people, and Context is a great example of why he's more than just a great novelist. If you've enjoyed one or more of his novels in the past, Context is a good way to sample some of the other consistently entertaining information Cory Doctorow emits on a regular basis.
5.0 out of 5 stars Drinking from the Information Fire Hose? Stop & Sip Doctorow's "Context" 16 Dec 2011
By David H. Rosen - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Doctorow's "Context" is a collection of learned love notes to technology and the creativity it fires. Most readers will walk away saying the copyright essays are the most interesting, but if you happen to be a new dad like me, it's Cory's thoughts on how to raise kids in a screen-lit world that make the biggest impression.

The unifying theory behind most of the essay topics is economics. Why over-investment in the dot-com bubble brought us closer to the future faster than normal. Why failure is now cheap enough to embrace. Why big piles of `good enough' content is squeezing out small piles of high quality content. I personally groove on economic explanations of human behavior and found these answers to be very satisfying. It was also a pleasant jolt to be reminded that...(snip):

"There's plenty in our world that lives outside of the marketplace: it's a rare family that uses spot-auctions to determine the dinner menu or where to go for holidays. Who gets which chair and desk at your office is more likely to be determined on the lines of "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need" than on the basis of the infallible wisdom of the marketplace." (Context, p.130, Kindle edition)

If you enjoy information overload but want to stop it for a moment to get your bearings, Doctorow keeps his promise to deliver context.
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