THE ONCE WAS PAPER DIFFERENCE
The small old bookstore on the street was facing closure. People were coming in and browsing the shelves with one hand glued to their e-book reader, finding the book they wanted, and then downloading it straight onto their phone or tablet. So why the heck were readers still using the paper book store down the road, if they were reading ebooks? Because the staff in the paper book shop had selected titles they know their reader would love… the same works that the staff loved, too. Readers couldn't use the giant online stores to discover decent books – with every single title ever published sitting on the same digital shelves, it was like trying to sift for a small handful of gold dust scattered across a continent-wide beach.
So the people decided if they couldn't beat MegaCorp™, they'd join them. They'd set up an online store for e-books, but one that would be just like the comfy old bookstore their readers grew up with – not the faceless MegaCorp™ where the latest TV-tie-in novel is cross-advertising the barbeque set also being sold online by the same crew of suits.
They decided to call the store Once Was Paper – and it would be different in every way…
- Fair to readers
o You won't find nasty software embedded in your e-books. The books we sell come without DRM (digital rights management) software. This technology locks you into a proprietary format that means you never really own your book, you're just pseudo-renting it under terms which can change or be revoked at any time at the whim of whichever MegaCorp™ took your money.
o Your book collection is future-proofed. If a new must-have e-book device comes out which uses a different format, your book collection isn't left looking like a shelf of Betamax tapes in a Blu-ray world. Convert your books for free, rather than buying them all again.
o Your book collection won't suddenly vanish. We don't lock you into accessing your books through a proprietary online service. Your books are downloaded to your own computer for safe-keeping. So if our bookstore disappears (or is sold to a MegaCorp™ with different ethics to us), your book collection won't suddenly vanish in a puff of smoke too.
o No annoying geo-locking. Can't access your ebook collection because you're on holiday in a foreign country and MegaCorp™ doesn't like it? Can't buy an ebook because you're in France rather than the USA? Yes, this annoys the hell out of us too. So we don't do it!
o Don't waste your precious time browsing through a sea of mediocrity. Are you reading a hundred sample chapters to find the single one that wasn't scraped from Wikipedia or written by someone whose punctuation skills and self-awareness of such ground to a halt when they were aged seven? Or maybe you're sighing as you face a sea of celebrity biographies of C-listers who appeared in last year's mindless talent show, merely because they're selling incredibly fast in one of the heavily-corporate-manipulated mainstream book charts? We don't sell everything under the sun. Just like the days of yore, we solely stock works that we are passionate about ourselves. Algorithms that recommend picture books for children just because your last purchase was for nephew Timmy's birthday are a lousy substitute for a fellow reader who lives, sleeps and breathes the genre you're interested in.
- Fair to creators
o Saying no to exploitation. With the death of the paper publishing industry, things have got unbelievably ugly for the creators of books. They're being abused by MegaCorp™ publishers who, increasingly desperate to survive in the new media world, are treating their writers more like slaves in an episode of Spartacus Blood and Sand, than valued artists. We always look to give authors and creators a fair shake of the tree.
o No exclusive lock-ins. We don't require that writers selling through us give us exclusive rights to become the monopoly seller of their works in return for favours that become less useful when everyone signs up for them.
o Equal treatment. We don't cut side-deals to give preferential rates to certain super-star authors. Everyone gets the same, fair, share of the cover price.
o Set your prices without coercion. If you want to offer some of your work free to help build an audience, do it for as long as you like – not one week every five months in return for washing down some billionaire's dusty Learjet.
- Fair to staff
o Your staff have dreams: treat them well. Workers deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. Not forced to jog across aircraft carrier-sized warehouses on minimum wage, and tossed on the scrap heap when productivity monitoring algorithms indicate their average on-the-job sprinting speed has dropped below that of the next desperate worker MegaCorp™ has just hired.
o Humanity trumps A.I. We haven't yet got to the point where Skynet is sending indestructible androids out to terminate the last quivering human refugees. Happy humans can still build a better bookstore – even an online one – than something run mainly by algorithms and a MegaCorp™ with a miserable sweat-equity ethos.
o Work should be fun. Life's far too short and precious to be sad on a job you'll have to spend most of your life beavering away in. Make it joyous, or walk away and do something else. Nobody is ever lying in their death bed with their family gathered around them thinking, 'If only I had attended an extra meeting with marketing to discuss brand segmentation, I would be so much happier now.' Actually, we're kind of guessing that's the case, not having died ourselves, but someone who runs a séance told us it might be true.