FanLib

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Name: FanLib
Date(s): May 2007 - August 2008
Profit/Nonprofit: Profit
Country based in: United States
Focus: multifandom fanfiction archive
External Links: www.fanlib.com (archived version)
an anti-Fanlib banner created by angelofsnow that fans could post to their journals or websites
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

Contents

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[1].

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.

What Happened

In March and April of 2007, a woman named Naomi [2] emailed the following form letter to numerous authors, including Icarus[3] and Susan, a moderator of lotrfanfiction.com[4]. The email read as follows (brackets denote the differences between Icarus and Susan's version):

"Hi [NAME],

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 [5].

The CEO of FanLib, user mimbo on LiveJournal, posted publicly in the comments to discussion about FanLib as well, without managing to garner much sympathy[6].

What FanLib Was

one of the many reaction icons produced by fans. Icon by angelofsnow

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.

FanLib also hosted a panfandom fanfiction archive that accepted all fics of all qualities.

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.

This anti-FanLib icon by bookshop draws on Star Wars parallels

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[7], which did not make them especially eager to jump into their fic archive (when they already had a fic archive) 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).

Fanlib: We make FF.net look good.

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 [8]. When FanLib followed up with an ad involving a pinata, there was discussion of bestiality!fic.[9]

Several fans made protest icons[10], 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. [11]

Criticisms

The Buyout

Disney bought FanLib's parent company for the coding software it had on its backend, not for its fanfiction-related work.

FanLib Fans

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.

Marphlets made a vid, Last Call, in honor of the site's passing, and other fans wrote obituaries.

Fandom 411

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 Buyout

A 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. [12]

Fan Reaction

References

  1. http://astolat.livejournal.com/150556.html
  2. oh, how ironic
  3. FanLib Invitation. One of the select few. Like hell. (2007), by Icarus, accessed March 4, 2011. WebCite.
  4. (On) FanLib.com (2007), by Susan, accessed March 4, 2011. Webcite.
  5. http://community.livejournal.com/fanthropology/341159.html?thread=6633383&format=light#t6633383
  6. http://telesilla.livejournal.com/553920.html?thread=4406464#t4406464
  7. http://icarusancalion.livejournal.com/626928.html
  8. In Just Seven Fics, I Can Make You A Man,by LizBee, accessed March 4, 2011.
  9. http://community.livejournal.com/life_wo_fanlib/23617.html
  10. FanLib Icons & Badges (2007), by angelsnow, accessed March 4, 2011. Webcite.
  11. Internet Goes Nova Over Showtime, Starz, Moonves Partnered FanLib.com, May 2007; icons featured on 2nd page of article
  12. FanLib Rehashed, by Niles Flores, posted September 19, 2009
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