Are there any examples of novels that are "open source"?

Anytime I run a search of open-source novels, I keep getting results for open source writing software. That's not what I'm after.

What I mean is, much like open-source software, an author might come up with a novel and release it on a site like Github, other authors can contribute by adding, removing, and changing whatever they want. Only when the group decides that the novel is written the way to want, it gets released for free.

Even afterward, readers, can fork it, and come up with there own endings if the original wasn't satisfying.

Obviously, it's a lot of work, with no pay, and there is no guarantee the novel will be successful unless you spend time and effort to promote the work, and even then, it's still risky.

I'm aware this link talks about open-source publishing, but that's for peer reviews, I'm talking about a complete open-source novel.

  • Role-playing MUDs are sort of in the area, though they don't fully fit what you're looking for. Dec 1, 2018 at 17:12
  • 2
    Do you mean Creative Commons instead of "open source"? Creative Commons or CC is a group of licences for creative works. (It does not replace open-source licences, which were developed for software. CC isn't intended for software, as the Creative Commons FAQ points out.)
    – user28941
    Dec 1, 2018 at 17:24
  • @ChristopheStrobbe - I don't know the official terms, but does it describe what I asked in my question? I'm interesting in finding novels that were written this way.
    – user34320
    Dec 1, 2018 at 17:26
  • 2
    Taken literally, "open source" means that you can read the "code"; when you apply that to texts, it means that you can read the text. For a more geneal term, check copyleft.
    – user28941
    Dec 1, 2018 at 17:39
  • I've never heard of this but it's a pretty cool idea. You might need to be the one who starts it. Good luck!
    – Cyn
    Dec 2, 2018 at 0:52

1 Answer 1


Yes, there are some open source novels. Some of the projects are being sold for money, so I guess they're not truly open source for this reason. Some of these projects aren't looking to be published formally at all. Some of them aren't finished.

I'll let you judge the quality of the writing yourself.

A million penguins

It's no longer available on the web (I can't find a good copy of it, but I did my best) nor was it ever formally published to my knowledge, but it was created like a wiki with hundreds of contributors. For more information, read this research paper written about it: A million penguins research report.


(No longer hosted online and also was deleted from Github)

Avilu is an open source novel licensed under the Creative Commons BY-SA 4.0 License. Feel free to share, edit, translate and adapt this novel.

Moses und Aron: An Open Source Novel

My plan as of now is to gather as many pull requests as possible and, when it's done, publish it, prominently naming the contributors. It will be made available as an ebook or a print-on-demand paperback using a pay what you will model. The rationale for this is that, in my experience, people place a higher value on things that they pay for.


This book is also being sold on Amazon for $1.

  • You can interact with the text and the rest directly from the web: you can comment on text and changes in it (called commits).
  • You can also request changes on the text using issues. If you find an error of any kind, just raise an issue and I’ll fix it (or try to).
  • Create your own version: once forked, you can use git (check out this manual http://wiki.freegeek.org/index.php/Git_for_dummies ) to branch and evolve the story in whichever way you want.
  • You can keep that copy (hey, it’s free as in free speech) or, if you think it’s a worthwhile addition to Hoborg, do a Pull Request.
  • Check out the TODO list in case you find something that you could do yourself.

Books that aren't novels

It looks to me like there's more out there in the way of open source technical writing.

For example, there are many different projects that are code related because it's usually programmers that know Github. An example is Codewriting:

Codewriting is an open, hopefully collaborative writing project to document current best practices and forward thinking in the field of technical communications, specifically documentation for software projects.

I also found HoTT, which is a "textbook on informal homotopy type theory" (i.e. math).

  • 1
    It appears that Avilu may no longer exist (at least, through that link).
    – BenjaminF
    Dec 4, 2018 at 11:20
  • @B.fox I see what you mean but you can still read the English version here. There’s a much longer German version here. Someone should really fix that or open an issue though.
    – Laurel
    Dec 4, 2018 at 15:41

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.