Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee

WSFS Business: Decoupling Publications

One of the significant problems I have with a proposal on the agenda for the LoneStarCon 3 WSFS Business Meeting entitled "No Cheap Voting" is that it effectively keeps the price of a Worldcon supporting membership from being much less than $40 (that's where it is now), because the current WSFS Constitution requires that all supporting and attending members receive "generally-distributed publications," which is usually interpreted as the progress reports and program/souvenir book unless the members explicitly opt out of doing so. In other words, paper publications, which are not cheap, are at least half the cost of a $40 supporting membership. The purpose of a Supporting membership is to support the Worldcon, so it's not reasonable to expect a Worldcon to sell a membership that costs more to service than it takes in revenue.

Now personally I think the best way to handle my objection would be to modify No Cheap Voting to also strike out the existing section of the Constitution (1.5.3) that requires paper publications by default. However, not everyone shares my strongly held feeling that the issue of paper publications and the minimum membership price are tightly tied together. The lead proponent of No Cheap Voting has, however, said that she would support a motion to repeal 1.5.3 and to have it voted upon before her proposal. (This would require the agenda to be rearranged, but the Business Meeting staff can do this.)

Meanwhile, Lisa has expressed a concern about the (now possibly minority) of members who want paper publications and would be willing to pay reasonable costs to get them. She is concerned that without some restriction, Worldcons would simply drop all paper publications, and possibly even do something as silly and require platform-specific e-readers or something like that. (She was a member of a club that dropped paper publications and wouldn't even quote a price for producing them even when she offered to pay extra for them.)

Putting on my WSFS Consultant's Hat, I talked with her about what she wanted to accomplish and drafted a constitutional amendment that I think does so. Here it is below the cut.

Short Title: Worldcon Publications

Moved, To amend Article 1, Subsection 1.5.3, by striking out and adding words to allow committees to not include paper versions of their generally-distributed publications (progress reports and program/souvenir book) in their memberships, but to provide them at a reasonable cost (in addition to the basic non-paper-publications membership) to those members who request them:

1.5.3: Electronic distribution of publications, if offered, shall be opt-in. Memberships need not include paper copies of any generally distributed publications; however, the convention must make paper copies of such publications available to members at a reasonable price not to significantly exceed the production and shipping cost of such publications.

Proposed by: Lisa Hayes, Kevin Standlee, Susan de Guardiola, Thomas Stidman, R-Laurraine Tutihasi, Tero Ykspetäjä, Jo Rhett, Kevin Roche, Adrienne Foster, Andy Trembley, Ron Oakes

Commentary: “Generally distributed publications” (see WSFS Constitution section 1.5.2) are not directly defined, but have been generally accepted to mean the convention’s progress reports and program/souvenir book, but not more limited items such as Guest of Honor books, tote bags, or other merchandise. Such publications have traditionally been printed on paper and either mailed or given to members. There are other non-print objects (for example, CD-ROMs) that conventions have given to their members, and also conventions have to a greater or lesser extent attempted to accommodate members with disabilities; however, as these subjects are not addressed by the current WSFS Constitution, this amendment also does not address them.

Currently, Worldcons must include the cost of printing and distributing paper publications in their membership prices, because the existing wording of section 1.5.3 requires that paper publications be provided unless the member opts out of receiving them. An increasingly large number of members have been opting out of such publications in recent years, to the point where it is now possible that we have reached a “tipping point” where requiring paper publications in a membership is adding unnecessary and unwanted costs to such memberships.

This proposal would repeal the requirement that paper versions of publications such as progress reports and the program/souvenir book(s) be factored into the cost of a supporting or attending membership. Committees may choose to continue to include such publications in their memberships, but would not be required to do so. In other words, this proposal would not force committees to remove paper publications from their basic memberships, but would allow them to do so.

Recognizing that the paper versions of publications continue to be an important element of a membership to a significant number of members, this proposal would require that conventions provide paper copies of their generally-distributed publications to those members who request them. However, this proposal would also require that the amounts charged for such publications are reasonable and do not significantly exceed the cost of producing and distributing those publications.

The intent of this motion is not to require that an exact amount be charged (for example, $2.18 plus $1.16 postage for a single progress report), but that the convention could charge a simple round amount (in this example, $4) that was not significantly more than the cost attributable to producing and distributing the item. Conventions are not expected to have to price their publications below their production cost, nor to engage in complex cost-accounting to determine variable costs, but are also not expected to make a significant profit or surplus on the sale of such publications. This proposal further recognizes that such costs vary from member to member due to shipping costs.

I have posted this to the SMOFS mailing list, but I have not yet submitted it to the Business Meeting. This is officially Lisa's proposal; I'm just the first co-sponsor. If there is any other member of this year's Worldcon (attending or supporting) who is interested in being listed as a co-sponsor, let me know.
Tags: business meeting, worldcon, wsfs
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