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Steal this Book:
Reflections on the Future of Print Publishing


Antoine Wiertz (1806–1865), “The Reader of Novels,” 1853

1,059 words

Counter-Currents Publishing was not intended to be a non-profit enterprise, but like many media ventures in the digital and internet age, it is turning out that way.

The internet has forever altered book buying habits and has thus transformed the publishing industry. Before the internet, I carried a list of out-of-print books in my wallet. It was a long list, printed in tiny letters. Whenever I went to a new city, I would haunt the local used book stores, searching for items on my list. When I went online in 2000, I went to Bookfinder.com [2] and found every book on my list within an hour, from used booksellers as far away as Cyprus and Australia.

In the pre-internet age, when I saw a book that I might like to read some day at a good price, I would snap it up, just in case I might never find it again, or find it at such a good price. Because of scarcity—a scarcity of information more than of the books themselves—I bought now and hoarded for future use. With the internet, however, I know that I will almost always be able to find a book, so I only buy books that I want to read right now. Thus in the last 12 years, the number of books I have purchased per year has dropped considerably, even as the number of books I have read has gone up.

Digital technology has also transformed publishing. In the past, books were printed from physical plates that had to be prepared and stored at some expense. Thus corrections were expensive and there was a strong pressure to make print runs large, which entailed large shipping and warehousing costs and also posed significant financial risks if a book did not sell. This also discouraged publishers from taking chances on new authors and books on esoteric topics. Furthermore, because second print runs were large and expensive as well, books would eventually go out of print if publishers did not feel they were worth the risk.

Printing from digital files reduces typesetting costs and makes corrections easier and cheaper. It makes possible printing books in small batches, which lowers the costs of printing, shipping, and storage. It also allows publishers to bring out riskier or more esoteric titles and to keep them in print indefinitely.

The invention of eBooks and eBook readers is also making the printed book obsolete. EBooks are cheaper to buy than printed books, and the marginal cost of producing new ones is virtually nil, meaning that the profit margin is extremely high. They can be purchased virtually instantaneously and delivered virtually instantaneously and free of charge. Furthermore, your eBooks do not take up shelf space, collect dust, or require back-breaking labor to move.


Antoine Weirtz, “The Reader of Novels,” detail

Unfortunately, the combination of digital media and the internet also makes it a lot easier to steal books. In the olden days, I imagine that some people were arrested with books stuffed under their sweaters just for following Abbie Hoffman’s advice to Steal this Book. But today, with online file-sharing websites, one can steal eBooks with virtual impunity.

The only people who will not steal digital books are those who have a strong moral commitment to capitalism and private property (in all candor, such people are not our preferred audience) or people who want more than just the information in the book: they crave the physical book itself because they are wedded to the particular physical medium or because it is rare, beautiful, personalized, or otherwise unique.

At Counter-Currents, however, we are not too concerned with people reading our books for free. There is a very simple reason for this. We want to save the world, and we publish materials that we think will contribute to that end. And if we really believe that’s what we are doing, then we should not try to create artificial scarcity just to make a buck. Nor should we delay the release of a text for months until it can come out in print. If something is worth publishing, it is worth publishing right away. That is why we have our webzine: to make world-transforming ideas available immediately, for free.

There are some of exceptions to this rule. First, free online publication was not part of our agreements with the authors of our existing fiction titles. However, it will be for any future fiction works. Second, in the interests of readability, I sometimes serialize longer works. Third, I also try not to publish too many things in the same day, which entails some delays. Finally, I hold on to some works to commemorate particular dates, which I think enhances their impact. (There were also a couple of pieces in North American New Right vol. 1 that I just overlooked: I thought I had published them online, but I hadn’t.)

Because Counter-Currents is committed to making world-altering ideas available immediately for free online, we have to depend on the generosity of donors to keep us going. That is why we are having our current Summer Fundraiser. If you have not made a donation yet, please consider doing so now. We are trying to raise 25,000 by August 11th, and we have a long way to go.

You can make two different types of donations:

Recurring donations are particularly helpful, since they allow us better to predict and plan for the future. We have added several new levels for recurring donations. Please visit our Donations [4] page for more information.

We can also customize the amount of a monthly donation. There are, moreover, other ways to make monthly donations than Paypal, although it is the most convenient. For more details, contact Mike Polignano at: [email protected] [5]

There are several ways to make one-time donations:

Please give generously!

Note: Donations to Counter-Currents and North American New Right are not tax deductible. Real change never is!

Thank you for your readership and support.

Greg Johnson
Counter-Currents Publishing, Ltd.
& North American New Right