There are a few reasons. The first is that it has grown fast and substantially, beyond our expectations. The original ten-year-old archive we inherited had just over 7000 stories, and this has now nearly quintupled in ten years to well over 34,000. The average rate of story submissions has increased from around 150 per month to consistently over 200 per month; they are also on the whole longer, more complex stories, and more often in a number of languages other than English, which therefore require more time for our volunteers to review.
Simply put, we are a victim of our own success! As we have made the site very easy to use, it requires more time spent in dedicated management keeping more and more authors happy and fixing submission problems. As it continues to grow more development will be needed to improve access, provide site translations and add new features, which require at the very least significant personal time if not resources. It has ceased to be something that can be managed simply as a hobby and that ongoing management and professional code development time should be remunerated in some way.
The growth of the archive also presents issues for hosting it online. While the current web-hosting is just about adequate, the larger it grows the more server resources are needed to perform searches and other site database functions, and this may well reach a critical point where we are not welcome any longer on the current servers. Some site search features have already had to be curtailed deliberately to prevent this, but the problem hasn't gone away. There is no contingency plan at present to host on more available/capable and therefore significantly more expensive servers, and there are definitely no funds available to make such a switch if it was required urgently. Again, it cannot be treated as a hobby and end users should not expect it be funded or run as one.
The final reason is that in an increasingly hostile climate for any material, especially on the Internet, even remotely concerning or discussing minors, it is possible that the site or its owners might be challenged legally under existing or future laws. Beginning to establish some sort of defence fund now against this eventuality seems prudent, and such defence against moral censorship would seem to be very much in the interest of all the site users.
Yes, we do. Extremely occasionally, however. The number of actual donors over the four to five years this site has been online can be counted on two hands. They have been generous, but why should less than ten people contribute to keep a site online that is used actively by many tens of thousands for free? That's actually pretty shameful. We all have a stake in keeping a community resource like this online and the burden should be shared more fairly.
Many people talk loudly about donating, but very few have actually made the effort to contribute, even a little. Good intentions and gratitude don't pay web-hosting bills! Asking for donations openly gets little response and the lack of donor anonymity with online payments probably prevents some who might like to help from doing so.
Yes, we could implement some form of advertising on the site. But that puts many people off, it is hard to add in a subtle way (that's not really the point after all!) that doesn't impact negatively on the site design and detract from the content, and if implemented responsibly (as you trust us to do) it's easy to block completely in a modern browser. Then we have to find relevant advertisers, presumably from within the commercial CP industry such as equipment makers and video studios, who are comfortable advertising on this site given our content – that's a very small potential pool to start with. Finally, there has to be a reasonable benefit to us to make the whole exercise worthwhile to offset the negative impact it would have on the site; in reality, the real rate of return on click-thrus to such small businesses would be minimal.
Of course, if you are a responsible advertiser with relevant products and wish to help us out, then do please get in touch and prove me wrong!
We gave a clear and unequivocal commitment that the stories would always be free to access, and that there would never be any entry fee or barrier to the archive itself. Let's reiterate this to make it clearer: we will NEVER charge for ACCESS to any authors' copyrighted stories. Any wider guarantee of totally free site usage forever would be naive given the changing circumstances and financial requirements of web publishing.
Remember that we are authors too, and we are very sensitive to these issues: some may recall that when the old archive owner proposed access charging for sections of the archive content many years ago, we were among the most vocal critics of the scheme in the fora of the time because it was both legally and morally unworkable. As you will see from the subscription details below, both the letter and spirit of our commitment to free access are unbroken.
Stories will always remain freely readable from both on-site and off-site links and all the main listings by author
newest story will still be freely accessible, so stories can still be found. The tagging icons will
remain visible in the main listings too, to help readers find the content they want to read. Active authors (with
at least one story approved and accessible in the archive) will be exempt from charge and will not need to take
out a new membership or subscription. ONLY the story search page will be member-restricted.
The search page link will now lead to a login page. Subscribed members and active authors will be able to log straight in and search, anyone else will have to complete a membership application with a small payment through the well-known and widely used web payment system P*yP*l. This will give immediate activation once confirmed. It is unfortunately impractical to accept cash payments through the post or any other form of completely anonymous donation.
The personal name details stored in your P*yP*l account (or those of a credit card used to make a P*yP*l payment) will unavoidably be shared with the recipient account owner. The email account linked to a P*yP*l account will also be known to us, which may not be an anonymous one. However, this information will not be used to track searches you make or content you view, or used for contacting you in any way beyond account verification. No attempt will ever be made by us to link personal details with site usage, or to match real names with other site aliases unless you willingly volunteer information. Your contact information will NEVER be shared and no other information will be stored beyond the subscription renewal date. Significantly, no personal information will be held by us in any online database.
Over two thousand authors already know that over the last eight years their privacy has been perfectly safe with us.
We are suggesting a subscription fee of £5 (sterling), US$10 (US only) or €10 (Euros) per year. Only payments in those currencies will be accepted, to avoid difficulties in exchange.
Advance subscriptions may be made for multiple years on a pro rata basis, with discounts applicable for longer periods: for instance, a payment of £20, US$40 or €40 would purchase a five-year subscription, at a discount of 20%. You will also be able to make one-off payments treated as a donation that do not count towards a subscription.
This site has been around for over eight years and is not going to disappear. There is no risk to pre-payment of a subscription beyond issues outside our control with the payment processor.
This site has always been very responsive to its users, adding and improving features on reasonable request to make it easier and better to use. While right now there are no plans to add features only for subscribed members, we are open to any and all good suggestions. The success of this subscription system will allow more time for considering and coding site developments, so we are confident that we can improve the value of this over time. Let us know your ideas!