In just a couple days, we’ll unveil our newest round of projects—some of our most ambitious in several years. But first, we’d like to offer a glimpse into our internal discussions. We’ve been trying to figure out how to handle our current financial difficulties while rendering our materials more widely accessible; we think we’ve hit upon a solution, but we’ll need your support to make it work.
Five years have passed since our last report. Since then, we’ve distributed another 50,000 books, published seven more issues of Rolling Thunder, and done our part to support uprisings from Pittsburgh and Toronto to Athens and Moscow.
All this is well and good, but we live in a constantly changing world, and what worked well yesterday is bound to deliver diminishing returns tomorrow.
On one hand, our insistence on selling almost everything at cost means that—like our foes—we’re always on the verge of complete economic collapse. At the same time, and more importantly, the channels through which information circulates have shifted a lot over the past decade—and it’s important for us to keep up with these changes. For a long time, we’ve resisted the pressure to shift to digital formats, convinced that offline media have more power to move people than online ephemera. But as revolutionary anarchists, our task is not to fight a rearguard battle against technological progress; it is to engage capitalism and the state in a struggle to the death, utilizing every opportunity to spread subversion.
The initial funds for our projects came from us pooling the money we’d made working minimum-wage jobs in the service industry. Back in the 1990s, it was also possible to obtain resources by hook or by crook, as they say; however, after one attracts a certain amount of the wrong kind of attention, this becomes a bad idea. As a result, for the past decade, CrimethInc. Far East has operated according to a very simple program. We sell some of our books at a slight profit, counting on the high volume of sales to generate enough money to pay all our overhead costs and fund our other projects. Some of the other projects are priced to break even, such as the posters and stickers, while others are priced below cost, such as Fighting for Our Lives and Rolling Thunder.
It’s actually a miracle that we have been able to make this work. Unlike most other major anarchist publishing projects, we’ve almost never had to beg for money. We find it distasteful to seek resources from those who don’t share our political commitments, and we don’t trust those who depend on such funding; at the same time, we don’t want to drain the resources of the anarchist community, which should go to projects like prisoner support that cannot pay for themselves. Because we’ve been willing to work full time for free and plenty of people want our books, it’s been possible for us to accomplish things few organizations could.
Over the past few years, however, the proportions of what we sell have shifted significantly. We sold more posters and stickers in 2010 than ever before, and traffic to crimethinc.com continues to increase dramatically; yet book sales have declined from their previous levels. This isn’t surprising: book publishers and periodicals are going out of business by the dozen as the shift to free digital media takes its toll on both the publishing world and the attention spans of readers. We’ve also noticed that ever more people are downloading sub-par versions of the books on torrent websites—the same number by which book sales would probably have increased, in a world without internet or recession.
Consequently, the costs of keeping everything in print, maintaining the website, and distributing free material have begun to exceed the funds brought in by book sales. This means that, at the very moment we should be taking advantage of new attention and new opportunities to up the ante, we’re hamstrung by a lack of resources.
We could probably plateau at this point and coast forward a few more years, but that’s not what we’re here to do. We need to work out a new model that will enable us to be even more effective in the coming decade than we were in the last one. This will involve changes and new risks, and we’re hoping you’ll support us through these.
The internet has fostered a culture in which people take free access to information for granted, while the economic recession has made it difficult for poor people to buy any more than they absolutely need. At the same time, the global spread of the World Wide Web offers new opportunities to cross-pollinate with resistance movements in parts of the world where no one can afford to order books internationally. While we’ve long resisted the pressure to digitize our books, hoping instead to emphasize the value of real printed matter, we are now considering ways to go about this tastefully and effectively. Nonetheless, we remain convinced that one physical copy of a book has more power to change the world than a hundred digital downloads, and we will to continue to give real-world projects priority over virtual ones.
In the future, we expect to derive less revenue from projects that have downloadable equivalents; therefore we’ll have to raise money from materials that can’t be downloaded. We’re still brainstorming what that might look like. For now, we’re simply raising the prices of our posters and stickers slightly (guides will remain as currently priced); we’re also about to introduce larger posters as a fundraiser to pay for our other projects. Soon we’ll be announcing new book printings and minor price increases for those as well. If this is successful, we hope to initiate a new round of free projects; but first we have to stabilize ourselves financially.
Our core values remain the same; we’re still committed to the same types of outreach we have always been. We just reprinted Fighting for Our Lives for the fifth time and will continue to distribute them for free, all 50,000 of them. Ideally, we will come out of this able to make all of our materials more widely and freely available, while increasing our capacity to take on new projects. If you aren’t on the verge of bankruptcy and you want to help us with this, feel free to order one of the benefit posters that will appear on this site next week.
Thank you all for everything you’ve done to enable us to do what we do. May it someday be enough.
For the abolition of business and business plans, by any means necessary— A few overworked underlings at CrimethInc. Far East