I’m sure we’ve all done it. Printed out a fave fic because there’s just something about holding it in your hands, leafing through it, touching it. There’s something so much more visceral about having something physical to hold, I suppose; or maybe it’s just the hard-wired human compulsion to collect, to hoard.
It was only much later in my fannish life that I discovered that print fic does exist. And I’m not talking about fanzines or doujinshis here. I’m talking about books. Novels. Paperbacks. I found out they exist when I got the urge to print my own fanfics as books – as a librarian and a dedicated bibliophile, I just wanted to have my stories in print, even if only for myself. It turned out that once I’d done that, other fans who’d already read the fic on FF.net wanted copies too, so I made the prints public on Lulu.com. I guess I wasn’t the only one who wanted to have fics in hard, physical form.
So why aren’t there more print fics out there? Well, it takes time and effort to put fic into a printable format for one thing. But more obviously, printing fic and putting it out there for sale straddles the ominous border of legality. Making money off of an existing IP is certainly in that legal grey area, and with examples such as Lori Jareo’s Another Hope, we know cease and desist letters have been sent out (in this case by LucasFilm).
I have to stress – I don’t make any money off the tiny sales I get. All the buyer pays for is the price of printing and shipping. But there are more than a few people put there who are printing their fics for profit. My question, as someone with a doctorate in Library & Information Science and who has an interest in grey literature as well as fandom, is why fans take the risk – especially when the Lori Jareo affair left such a bad taste in fandom’s collective mouth.
Once I’d found this little hidden niche of printed fic, I decided to build my own library. First, I wanted to collect printed fic as objects of beauty; secondly, as relatively rare and taboo objects of fandom. Thirdly, from an academic perspective, I wanted to build the library as a resource for fans and acafans who might one day be interested in a section of fandom that challenges fan relationships with concepts such as copyright and intellectual property, gives new insight into the idea of fan-as-collector, and shines a light on a hitherto dark and neglected corner of fandom’s material culture. It ain’t a cheap hobby guys, but I dunno… I’m enjoying looking at my currently tiny collection and the insane amount of fan creativity and dedication it encapsulates.
The holy grail of my collection? That’d be Lori Jareo’s Another Hope, which is currently completely unavailable on all online bookstores. I’ve opened up my collection to donations, so hopefully one day someone will be kind enough to donate this embarrassing testament to fandom fail. ?