Book proposal: A potted history of Acorn Computers

From little Acorns grow great oaks dead tree publications.

David Bradforth has set up a crowd-funding campaign to publish a new book, to be called A Potted History of Acorn Computers.

The proposed book will be a 132 page, perfect-bound, full-colour, A4 publication and, according to the Indiegogo page David has set up, his plan is for “a loose deadline of October for the books to ship to the purchasers; this will be the latest date for the final production giving approximately ten weeks [from the date the Indiegogo campaign closes – 15th August] to produce the book before it goes off to print.”

David says that the book “will cover the history of Acorn, from its beginnings through to its demise; the key products over that time; the companies that supported the Acorn computers and the magazines that were within the market. Companies, coders and contributors will be interviewed about their time within the Acorn market; and the end product will be something to admire.”

The aim is to raise £2,000 via Indiegogo, which should cover the costs of a print-run of 100 books and the associated production costs, though a printed version isn’t the only option for those interested in having a copy. The main ‘perks’ – what people will receive, depending on how much they contribute – are:

  • £5: The book in PDF form.
  • £10: the book in mobi form, for use with Amazon’s Kindle or similar eReaders.
  • £10 (UK), £13 (EU/Rest of World): This option is for the book supplied on disc, and will include additional imagery, a selection of software, and more. Note that David does add this will require a genuine RISC OS computer or VirtualAcorn to be usable – and a quick email to David reveals this requirement is (unsurprisingly) for the software, rather than the version of the book itself that will be on the disc, which will be in HTML and PDF formats.
  • £20 (UK), £25 (EU), £30 (Rest of World): The printed version of the book.
  • £30: A full page, full colour advertisement within the book.
  • £40: An advertisement on the inside front or inside back cover.
  • £2,500: The Publisher’s Deal, which David describes this as “the ‘I’ve got the money and I’d like to guarantee this book is produced’ deal”, explaining that this contribution will get you 100 copies of the book, plus a non-exclusive license to publish the PDF version.

There was, for a brief period, a £10 perk that would get supporters a download copy of Repton 1 for the PC, courtesy of Superior Interactive. Repton 1 is priced at $19.95, which looks to be about £11.71 at the moment, so £10 would have represented a small saving on a purchase of the game, but David explained to me that, in hindsight, this was not a practical offer because the cost to him of each copy of the game, plus Indiegogo’s and the payment processor’s fees, meant there was very little left out of the £10. He did suggest that he could consider an option to include Desktop Repton, which he can price as he sees fit, but I’d counter-suggest that since there’s already an option that includes a selection of software, an option for a single piece of software might not seem all that attractive for punters.

According to David’s updates Sophie Wilson, responsible for the original ARM instruction set amongst many other things, has agreed to be interviewed, as has Mark Webb, a former editor of Archimedes World (who will be also assisting with print production). Former editors of Acorn User and The Micro User have also been asked if they would care to be interviewed, and the book will feature a top 100 BBC/Electron games, and a top 100 Archimedes/RiscPC games.

I believe this may be the first time something Acorn/RISC OS related has featured on one of the major crowd-funding websites such as Indiegogo or Kickstarter (though feel free to let me know if there is something I’ve forgotten) – but it’s certainly not the first time anyone has attempted to raise money in advance for a project, and many RISC OS users will remember the times people have been let down when the projects haven’t come to fruition, or when the end result hasn’t lived up to expectations.

With that in mind, and noting that the Indiegogo campaign is “flexible funding” – which means that all funds will be collected and paid to David (minus Indiegogo’s fees) even if the £2,000 target is not reached – I asked David what would happen if the target was not met, and he reassured me that he has already found a printer/publisher who can produce the book on-demand, so everybody who buys the book (or funds it using an appropriate perk) will receive a copy. The price he has settled on is set with that in mind.

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