Monday, January 7, 2013

Is Indoor Dying?

The fear that Indoor will dry up and disappear has been part of Indoor since I can remember. This fear arises out of a subconscious comparison with other areas or types of model aviation. In fact indoor is probably growing but at slower rate than the RC or other parts of the hobby. Indoor has never been one of the larger pursuit of modelers and probably never will. I hope that what appears below might be an antidote to that fear.
When I wrote and illustrated my book I was motivated by the FAQs of visitors to indoor meets in which I participated. The publication of the book stimulated a surge in interest in indoor by people previously ignorant of its existence. In the small world I lived in I encountered people who had discovered my book and became enthusiasts. In a local bookstore a copy was hung from the cash register on a chain with a key ring through a hole punched through the book. It was worn ragged with rounded corners and edges. I came upon it and (not introducing myself) asked about the book. The bookstore manager said it was the most asked for book they ever had and they couldn’t get it. When I asked the publisher, Simon & Schuster about it, I was stonewalled. They did not believe it even though some of their staff had seen the “cash register copy”. I learned that this was S.O.P. for the publishing business; unless it was a book on the best seller lists and sold out almost immediately, they never reprinted.
I was burned out by the time I finished the book and was onto other interests and responsibilities. After a couple of years I was contacted by another publisher, Peregrine Smith, because the owner was being pestered by an acquaintance to “save this book”, telling him that he had to republish it. The second printing was on his list and sold well until he suffered a large loss due to a combination of family tragedy and weather related destruction to his warehouse. The original negatives for the book were lost. He left his business in the hands of professional remainderers for a recovery period and the book disappeared from his list.
The growing interest in indoor was certainly manifested in the meets we held at Columbia’s Low Library. There were more and more people showing up at our meets with the book in hand up until the university kicked us out.
After twenty years or so the book became a best seller for used book sellers, reaching and selling for prices as high as $300.00. I received a steady stream of mail and then email asking me where the book could be purchased. l finally decided that I would have to reprint the book myself since I did not have the contacts or energy to push it to publishers again. With the advent and development of high quality scanning, the third printing was readied about 5 years ago and has sold slowly but surely without the national publicity a large publisher might have made. The book was priced under that of a comparable publication to keep it down for hobbyists. The price would still allow me to eventually recover my costs and keep up with inflation. Making money was not part of the plan.
The book has continued to bring people into the hobby in spite of the informed indoorist’s criticism that it is out-dated. That criticism is misguided. The book still covers the basics and with research such as using INAV and now the web it is still well integrated into the process of learning indoor. There is nothing in it that, combined with keeping up to date with advances in the art, can’t be used. As far as using it to learn about F1D, it’s “shortcomings” are not the problem of the book but of a lack of imagination and a narrow approach to competition by the current crop of indoorists. The simple introduction of a S.A.M. type event based on the rules of the F1D type described in the book would integrate it into the competition scene and act as an introduction to current F1D building and flying techniques.
Why this concern? It is not because I want to sell my book so much as knowing that when it sells, it pulls people into indoor. I daresay there are lots of the current crop of active indoor flyers who were attracted to the hobby by this book. I have often wished that it would be emulated by other writer/illustrators in indoor and become part of a bookshelf that enabled one to explore indoor completely. A bound edition and/or ebook of all of INAV would be a marvelous addition to indoor’s literature; it would explain much of what has happened between this book and the present. The current interest in the history of indoor might fill in more space on an indoor bookshelf.
The task of publishing an ebook is approaching the “do” point. I hope it might have a similar affect on the world of indoor as the paper copy has had. I have offered free copies of the book for prizes to groups sponsoring contests and will continue to do so.

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