For many years Worldcon supporting members received pre-con publications and the Souvenir Book (in addition to other rights of membership), a tradition that has recently been eroded by the finances of overseas Worldcons and a growing acceptance or even preference for digital publications.
But while a Worldcon may choose any publications policy it wants, unless the policy is stated clearly and up front a departure from tradition is likely to be met with controversy, as is the case with Worldcon 75, which had not informed members of its plan to fulfill its Souvenir Book obligations with digital copies, or printed copies if the member paid an additional charge.
Jo Van Ekeren, who put together this year’s Hugo Voter Packet, recently wrote a long post about her efforts to surface the issue and get Worldcon 75 to make this information public, an interaction that led to her being removed from the committee.
I wrote back to the Worldcon 75 exec pointing out that, as they knew, in past Worldcons, the paid paper publications have always been the Progress Reports, and that Supporting Members got the Souvenir Book without having to pay an additional fee for it. I said that if they were going to make such a sweeping change as removing the Souvenir Book from the Supporting Membership perks and requiring those members to pay to receive it, that they needed to be very clear with members up front about this, and that they had not done so.
I sent an email to the committee asking what their policy was and today received this answer from Worldcon 75 Chair Jukka Halme.
It seems that we need to clarify our intentions with Printed Publications and their distribution.
We had stated from the beginning, that our paper publications were part of the membership only with additional payment of €10/$12. Otherwise, everything would be available electronically, to everyone who had given us a valid email address.
The Souvenir Book will be given to all Attending members in Helsinki, as well as it will be posted to all Attending members unable to be on site, and to all of those Supporting members who had paid for the Paper Publications. All other Supporting members would receive the electronic version of the said Souvenir Book.
I, as the Chair of the convention, feel that I need to apologise for the less than clear way we have made this announcement. It was never our intention of not being upfront about this matter, but we have clearly not been informative enough of this matter.
I have taken in the feedback we’ve received, and have made a decision that we should find a way for every Supporting member who wants a paper copy of the Souvenir Book to receive one. I cannot promise that this will be done for free, but for a nominal sum.
We will send this information to all our members both before and after Worldcon 75.
Supporting memberships originally were created as a way for non-attending fans to be affiliated with a Worldcon and make a small financial contribution to its budget. In 1946 fans paid $1. For the 1963 Worldcon, the arrangement was $2 to join the con (and receive publications including the Program Book, now called the Souvenir Book) and another dollar to attend (so in today’s terms, $2 supporting, $3 attending.)
Online distribution of Worldcon progress reports (in PDF and other formats) has lately become the default, with a charge added for receiving paper copies. (And because PRs are another tool for publicizing the convention, Worldcons have been making them freely available for download by nonmembers.)
Earlier this week the Dublin in 2019 Worldcon bid explained what its publications policy will be. As concerns the Souvenir Book, they plan to offer printed copies to all members, full and supporting as part of the membership.