By now many of you who are interested in classic Transformers box art have probably heard that Jim Sorenson, who has released a couple of books of Transformers cartoon animation models, is planning on putting out a book of G1 box art. Some have asked me how I feel about the whole thing. So here's my thoughts!
First, Jim is an extremely nice guy and without question a big Transformers fan. He contributed more than a dozen pieces to this Archive back in 2005 and 2006, and I'm sure he would have contributed a lot more artwork since then had he not been trying since 2007 to get IDW to do this book. (Makes sense -- why put out on the web for mass consumption the exact thing you plan on trying to sell to people?)
When he first mentioned the book, my first concern was whether this would lead to the Archive getting shut down via a "cease and desist" letter from Hasbro. This site has always been for "educational and entertainment" purposes rather commercial gain, and so long as I'm not selling or otherwise making money off this site, Hasbro seemed content to occasionally use the artwork from here for official or promotional purposes. However, I always feared that if Hasbro decided to somehow monetize the artwork (through a book, for instance) that the Archive would be viewed as a competing resource and their lawyers would finally turn their formerly blind eye my way. Based on the feedback I get from fans, I think the loss off this Archive (which has been online for 14 years) would be very disappointing.
Now, Jim thinks this isn't a concern. First, he believes that web-quality images do not really compete with the higher resolution of a book. Secondly, the book will be produced by IDW who has apparently already licensed it from Hasbro. In other words, Hasbro has their money and is content. IDW would be the ones with possible incentive to shut this site down, and he doesn't believe they will do so.
I really hope Jim is right.
Where Jim and I differ is in motivation and the audience we seek to serve. See, Jim wants to produce a book. Producing books is what he does. It's the format he wants, and the audience he wants to serve. That's valid, and there are certainly TF fans who would be delighted to have such a book.
By contrast, I make websites and I want to make the art available as a resource to the vast masses online. I'm talking about the larger superset of fans who don't need a 300dpi version of the art of Soundwave on the printed page; they want a good-size web version to immediately view and download and use.
So when I get a new piece of art, I spend time cropping, cleaning, fixing, color-correcting and optimizing each piece to get it out there for everyone. By contrast, Jim holds onto it for inclusion in the book.
Now, don't get me wrong, Jim is an archivist like me, and he also wants to see this art archived for posterity. He feels the best way to do so is via a book. (He may be right... but I feel that if posterity or preservation was the real issue, putting print-quality scans online would be just as effective.) He has also stated that the fact that he is producing a book -- rather than simply a website -- is a motivating factor for many people who actually possess original TF package art to scan their material when they otherwise wouldn't.
He's apparently got a point there, but, truthfully, that's the aspect of this book vs website thing that makes me really irate. In the comments of Jim's blog post, someone named "Freight Train" states that he is a collector of original TF box art and is offering to scan stuff for him. Freight Train is obviously web-literate if he's following Jim's site. I can't imagine he doesn't also know about this site here. Why have I never been contacted by this person? Why is he willing to scan for Jim but not for us?
Who are these people that are covetously holding onto their original TF art and are purposefully refusing to scan it for the internet at large? Do they feel that sharing a digital image of their piece diminishes its value or specialness? Are they only willing to share if they get attribution in print? Why are they hoarding? It's like closed source versus open source software: some people struggle to retain control of what they feel is "theirs" while others (like me) share to foster the spirit of sharing and cooperation. This site is a collaboration between everyone who has ever scanned or edited an image for submission. Without that spirit of community, this Archive would be nowhere near the resource that it is today.
I wish Jim well with his book! I've pointed him toward contributors and even scanned my Bugly print for him the other day. I'll continue to help him out if I can (and hope it doesn't backfire on me).
And Jim wishes this site well. He fully expects me to dissect and scan the hell out of his book when it comes out. (Hell, yes!)
So let's hope the book happens, that it's a success, that neither Hasbro nor IDW tries to shutter this site, and that the Archive eventually benefits from whatever superior scans that Jim is able to acquire!
Just one minor correction. I stopped uploading to the archive because I ran out of good pieces to share. It wasn't until November of 2011 that I got the green light for this book and began tracking down archives of originals, transparencies, and photo negatives. Even those, I'd happily share if I was contractually able to do so, but sadly I am not. (95% of what I have so far comes from corporations, not individuals, though I hope that ratio starts to shift now that I'm allowed to talk about the book openly.)
Botch, I love your site and respect the work that you've put into it. I wish you all the best, and genuinely believe that when the book comes out it will lead to a resurgence of interest in the site. I think that readers of my book will naturally be interested in this archive, just as readers of your site will naturally be interested in the book. I thank you for all you've done to help the book be as complete as possible, despite the misgivings that you feel. You are a true class act.
While I share your (Botch's) frustration with hoarders, if Jim's endeavor coaxes a few of them to stop hoarding and share what they've got, and further assuming that your site is not injured in any way, then I'm all for it. Whatever it takes to get these resources out there. I've been pleased to direct people to this site for years now, and I'll likewise be pleased to encourage people to get Jim's book (are pre-orders available yet?).
I've been visiting this site continuously since I discovered it in 1999. I have saved on my computer several images I got from here. (probably about half of the archive)
I think it would certainly be a shame for this book to cause this site to be shut down.
It would be nice if there could be some assurance that IDW and/or Hasbro will not shut down the site.
I'd be definitely interested in owning this book but it causing Botch's Boxart Archive to be taken down would be very disappointing to me indeed.
I think at the end of the day, it's our right as fans to contribute to make the artwork public, whether that be by book or by this site. The difference between Jim's book and this site is that this site is free, while the book will not be. Anyways, I love both of you guys and I'm always willing to help whenever I can. You're both class acts!
Given the amount of time I spend giving people my unsolicited opinions on 1980s toy franchises, I think it's a safe bet that I'll be represented in Mr. Sorenson's royalties. If I don't by the book myself, someone is bound to purchase it for me.
As for the relationship to the book and this site, it seems to me that Hasbro and IDW have to be wise enough to realize that Botch is doing them a service with continuous, 24-hour, free advertising. I don't think the ol' Metal Crab has a legal right to keep the site, per se...but the industry must realize that sites like this one are a main factor in preserving not only the art but also the fan base. Without sites like Botch's to keep whetting our appetites for years on end, there would probably be much less demand for a book like Sorenson's.
I think there's room for both print and website material. I really would like this stuff in a book. As much as I love pouring over the images on here and love the breadth of stuff covered (and will continue to visit!, I would like to see this stuff collected in a book. Why? Probably because I'm of a generation that is used to handling and having physical things. The internet is marvellous and all as a tool and a resource, but there are some things, that for me personally that digital formats cannot replicate. This goes for music too. There's something a bit more magical and real about having a record or a book (or even a toy!aside: I saw something on the TV in a technology show about infants using iPads, rather than toys...which made me a bit sad) that digital formats just cannot capture. I recently bought a Garbage Pail Kids book for the same reasons - despite having a stack of the cards, a disc with digital versions on and visited sites with repro images of the cards on :)
I like what your website brings to the table though. It's great to see all this stuff tweaked and retuned and tidied up. It will be interesting to see how IDWs efforts compare (particularly given the odd choices they've made with their recent reprints of the UK & US comics, so I hope this thing will be as good as promised...).
I hope Hasbro don't send you a cease and desist notice - it'd seem a bit disingenuous of them when they themselves have lifted scans from this very site (!). I understand that they own the artwork etc etc, but its not like they've been doing much with it previously - or seemingly understood that there is some value and interest in the stuff.
In some ways, I'm surprised Hasbro have given Jim's project the goahead. Hasbro don't seem too keen on looking backwards with the Transformers brand (hence the resistance to ReGeneration One). Maybe the success of Vault and Jim's excellent Animated Almanac books have convinced them otherwise, I don't know. Either way, I am excited about this project - I'd been waiting on this since Dreamwave originally announced this to be the basis of their Genesis book.
I tend to think that it would be against their (Hasbro's) own interests to shut down your site. They are a company that is primarily out to sell toys. Attacking one of there own loyal customers, a fan, would be imprudent and detrimental to there own reputation. It would make them look bad and fans would likely have a cow about it. I know I would.
Keep doing your thing Botch.
i think hardcore fans like me would like to help you if somehting happens
Nearly two years since Jim got the green light to start the book, and still no book. I'm pretty sure he mentioned on a podcast in the Spring of 2012 that he had most of the material he needed.
I'm starting to think this book isn't going to happen since we seem to have had other books such as the Prime Art book and the 30th Anniversary book come to fruition in this time period.
Maybe Adam can benefit from the newly flushed out box art collectors now lol.