|Date(s):||May 2007 - August 2008|
|Country based in:||United States|
|Focus:||multifandom fanfiction archive|
|External Links:||www.fanlib.com (archived version)|
|Click here for related articles on Fanlore.|
FanLib was a commercially-owned, for-profit multifandom fanfic archive, run by Chris and David Williams, which was open between May 18, 2007 and August 4, 2008. It began with 3 million USD of starting capital, and was heavily criticized until its buyout by Disney. Like Fandom, Inc., it was widely perceived as an attempt by outsiders to profit from the work of fans. FanLib was part of the original inspiration behind the OTW, notably Astolat's "We Need an Archive of Our Own" post.
However, unlike some failed startups, FanLib did attract a number of fans, many of whom considered it their internet "home". This group of fans was not only alienated and left homeless by the site's closure but also felt unwelcome in many other fandom spaces that were hostile to FanLib.
In March and April 2007, a woman named Naomi  emailed the following form letter to numerous authors, including Icarus and Susan, a moderator of lotrfanfiction.com. The email read as follows (brackets denote the differences between Icarus and Susan's version):
I saw some of your [FANDOM] fan fiction online and really enjoyed your writing. I work for a brand-new fan fiction website called FanLib.com and my colleagues and I want it to be the ultimate place for talented writers like you. In case you're wondering, FanLib's not new to fan fiction. Since 2001, we've been producing web events with people like CBS, Showtime and HarperCollins to bring fan creativity into the big leagues.
We're impressed by your writing and impact in the fan fiction community, and we value your opinion. That's why we're inviting you to be among the first to experience FanLib.com.
Feel free to take a look around, upload some fics, maybe read and comment on a few. Do as much or as little as you like. On FanLib.com, you'll be able to connect with other first-rate writers like yourself and exchange ideas with the site creators. Also, stay tuned for our sweepstakes, which will give fanfic writers and reviewers a chance to win prizes.
Don't worry, you won't get spammed. We're not selling anything. We just want you to try the site and hopefully give us some feedback.
[Beta information for Icarus, who was invited in March instead of April]
We look forward to having you as a founding member. Together, we can create the greatest fan fiction site the web's ever seen!
Best, Naomi FanLib Launch Coordinator FanLib.com"
Despite this, FanLib did not seem to get the attention of the fanfiction community (and fandom at large) until mid to late May 2007, after the mass publication of news articles and press releases relating to the company. The LiveJournal community fanthropology discussed it critically in mid-May, which prompted FanLib user and employee jdsampson to join in the discussion.
What FanLib Was
FanLib partnered with different TV and book copyright owners to provide fanfiction contests and events for fandoms such as The L Word and Star Trek. However, submitting fic to the contest forfeited the fan writer's rights to the fic, allowing it to be used for commercial purposes. Additionally, to qualify for some contests, the fics had to be of a specific type, and for a designated scene. The winner would then have their scene written into canon.
Reactions from the Fan Community
The fan community reacted with extreme prejudice, mockery, and fannish rage. It is generally considered taboo to use fanworks for commercial gain (which might violate copyright law and annoys the original rights holders), so many fans were uncomfortable with the very idea of FanLib, which was clearly a for-profit company.
Additionally, quite a few fans, especially the large amount of whom are women in their 20s and 30s, felt condescended to by the founders and employees of Fanlib, which did not make them especially eager to jump into their fic archive (when they already had many archives) and make money for them (when they wouldn't see a cent of it for themselves, and would then be going against the non-commercial "spirit" of fanfiction).
Interestingly, when (in Icarus' words), "their current ad campaign, featuring a 98-lb weakling (who doesn't read fanfiction) alongside a muscleman who reads fanfiction on FanLib.com, left fans mystified and vaguely insulted," fans reacted by writing pink guy/blue guy slash. When FanLib followed up with an ad involving a pinata, there was discussion of bestiality!fic.
Several fans made protest icons, mocking both the "color inside the lines" part of their sales brochures, and their attempts to emulate fanfiction.net's popularity. Some of these were featured in mainstream media blogs.
Specific Criticisms of Fanlib
Making a Profit by Exploiting Fan Labor:
From day one, the FanLib guys have been operating on the assumption that their world view and economic model are inherently superior to ours and that we'd be absolutely overjoyed to be granted the privilege of "moving up" into their version of the world. It's like they're doing us a favor by letting us into their club and assuming that we'll feel happy and privileged to leave behind our own ways of doing things and switch over to theirs. 
Accentuating Gender Divisions:
FanLib's contests are quite a bit different than the archive. I could even see the contests as serving a reasonable purpose ---again, sort of like an American Idol for fanfic writers ---and I don't mind seeing an opportunity open up in which fan ideas might leach into the pro side. I'm already convinced that, despite all the sturm and drang, the two influence one another anyway. And y'know, I really don't have the time or inclination to contribute to a Trek contest, but if they were doing MFU, I'd be there. Why not? I'm not going to leave the field to the guy fans and I could really use a vacation :) On the other hand, I could see the guy fans going for the contests while the women fans end up ghettoized in the archive and that does disturb me. After all, most of the guys have nothing to contribute to an archive, while I would expect that the ideas contributed by the guys in the contest will fit better into the expectations of the pros. Rather than unite the gendered spaces of fandom, FanLib would be creating new ones. 
...the interface is clumsy and painful, doesn't allow user-controlled formatting, and inserts new pages for anything over about 800 words (I supposed that's a way of forcing you to see the ads change). 
Disney bought FanLib's parent company for the coding software it had on its backend, not for its fanfiction-related work.
FanLib had its own distinctive site culture. (The Person Above Me? The Person Below Me? No Hiatus? Action Threads?) Refugees from the site set up a number of communities, archives, and discussion forums to reconnect with their friends after the closure.
FanLib Forever describes its purpose as: To recreate and keep alive the pan-fandom spirit of FanLib and its forums. Users liked the appealing look of the site and the community in its forums, things that were hard to replicate elsewhere. Some users found that readers were more willing to read outside of their fandoms on FanLib than on other sites.
These are brief overviews of a fandom. (Did this terminology originate with FanLib? How far has it spread?) This practice of including newbiew guides or fandom overviews as part of the archive has been continued by Fan Nation (Fandom 411 on Fan Nation).
Reaction to the BuyoutA fan in 2009 posted at Fan History Wiki's blog:
First off, as a web developer and web designer who has sold websites, there are several factors in these type of transactions. If the buyer invokes a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) then the seller cannot say anything other than what the buyer permits. The website owner reserves the right to release or not to release what information they wish to the public.
There really should be no debate, nor banning people because they do not agree with the topic. (which happened to me. No idea as I was stating a fact. Unfortunate I stumbled in a loony bin of megalomaniacs.) In fact, the whole ordeal with FanLib it is OLD news. Time to move on.Websites are bought all the time. It is unfortunate when a popular site is closed and may be difficult to get over, but it is not to cry about. It is to get over it, learn from the experience, and create a better community. And EVEN if that community were to be bought too, there is nothing to say that another site like it either does not exist. There are plenty of communities that do exist.
Looking BackIn 2010, a fan wrote:
It is long and un-lamentably gone. I found the wake of the giant controversy that had accompanied this corporate sponsored attempt at fan-mining that was still rippling outward... This was almost THE BIG ONE that we've all been half-anticipating for so long -- the ultimate Pan-Fandom epidemic; the moment when Big Media finally figures out an insidious way to co-opt and shut us down not by stomping or starving us out as we have so long feared but rather by making us tame and docile as we eagerly lick at a drip-bottle of carefully rationed corporate approval.
Fan Reaction: Further Reading
- FanLib/Fandom: non-con, and not in a fun way, posted by Jane Carnall; WebCite, May 24, 2007
- Transforming Fan Culture into User-Generated Content: The Case of FanLib, blog post by Henry Jenkins; WebCite, May 22, 2007
- Chris Williams Responds to Our Questions about FanLib, Archived version, May 24, 2007
- Summary by Icarus, page one, Archived version, page two, Archived version; page three, Archived version; page four, Archived version; page five, Archived version, page six, Archived version, May 20, 2007
- Life Without FanLib, Archived version
- Fandom Wank Report, page one, Archived version, page two, Archived version, page three, Archived version, page four, Archived version, page five, Archived version, May 21, 2007
- 2007 FanLib brochure
- The corporatization of fanfic?, post to Fanthropology; WebCite, May 10, 2007
- FanLib wholly exploded, Archived version, post by Teresa Nielsen Hayden, May 23, 2007
- FanLib to Fanficcers: All Your Writing Are Belong To us, Archived version, blog post by John Scalzi, May 23, 2007
- Hey Fanlib – An open letter from a marketer watching yet another fan connected company self harm, Archived version, May 24, 2007
- oh, how ironic
- FanLib Invitation. One of the select few. Like hell. (2007), by Icarus, accessed March 4, 2011. WebCite.
- (On) FanLib.com (2007), by Susan, accessed March 4, 2011. Webcite.
- In Just Seven Fics, I Can Make You A Man,by LizBee, accessed March 4, 2011.
- FanLib Icons & Badges (2007), by angelsnow, accessed March 4, 2011. Webcite.
- Internet Goes Nova Over Showtime, Starz, Moonves Partnered FanLib.com, May 2007; icons featured on 2nd page of article
- comment by Angiepen, June 16, 2007
- comment by St. Crispins, June 15, 2007
- comment by Elfwreck, June 16, 2007
- FanLib Rehashed, by Niles Flores, posted September 19, 2009
- from Bill Hupe and FanLib: Why I'm Here in 1000 words or Less; reference link