Behind the Sofa, a limited-edition charity book full of celebrities' reminiscences about Doctor Who, may not now be published following the decision of online payments service PayPal to freeze the account of the project's organiser.Ooh, how very mean!
All profits from the 200-page book were to be given to Alzheimer's Research UK. But payments for pre-orders – which were to be used by editor Steve Berry to fund the manufacture and distribution of the book – have today been frozen by PayPal.
PayPal had been taking payments directly by credit and debit card, as well as from customers with PayPal accounts. Berry may now have to fund the book himself.
The book was to feature contributions from, among many others: Paul Whitehouse, Michael Grade, Rufus Hound, Stephen Merchant, Charlie Brooker, Hugh Bonneville, Al Murray, Bill Oddie, Chris Chibnall, Jeremy Dyson, Jonathan Ross, Josie Long, Terrance Dicks, Martina Cole, Mitch Benn, Neil Gaiman, Nicholas Parsons, Paul Cornell, Toyah Willcox and Tracy Ann Oberman.In fact, according to the author's blog, these just scratch the surface.
Over 100 celebrities have given their time and contributed memories to the bookNow, as the boy and myself are both Doctor Who fans, that is a book I/we would most definitely like to read.
I'm absolutely sure the author has the very best of intentions too, and will feel rather pissed off right now ... BUT.
Why is he resorting to using pre-orders as a way of funding the book? The profits are going to Alzheimer's Research UK, and they're certainly not short of a few bob. Their last submitted accounts show income of £6.5m and they employ 22 full time staff running an 'advertising and fundraising' budget of nearly £300k. A book like this will sell extremely well, surely, and any employee of the charity who refused to fund its production would have to be certifiably insane, especially considering the slebs listed above.
The author says he was forced to go the PayPal route for funding the book's publication because ...
"I set up this site as an experiment in 'crowdfunding' after I couldn't find a satisfactory solution elsewhere."Now, there are two options to consider here. Why didn't he go to Alzheimer's Research UK? Or, if he did, why did they refuse?
"Had the book failed to generate enough money to fund the book, I was prepared to do so out of my own pocket. It seems that I will now have to do that."Personally, I don't think there was any chance that such a book would fail to make a profit and the author had offered a guarantee that he would make up the shortfall if need be.
Again, that would be a fairly safe gamble for Alzheimer's Research UK to take if they were asked.
Of course, such a verbal guarantee would not be as easily accepted by an organisation like PayPal which, to all extents and purposes, must act like a bank handling other people's money.
There is obviously no suggestion whatsoever that Berry was going to run off with the money if he couldn't finance the book, but if PayPal had already released it prior to any book being produced and something like that did happen, it was going to be PayPal getting it in the neck from angry 'investors'. It probably explains why they are still keeping the money until certain guarantees are met. They do, after all, have an obligation to consider their assurances to those who send payment via PayPal.
The Radio Times continues.
No monies paid by Doctor Who fans thus far have been lost – PayPal is retaining the project's funds until the situation is resolved. Berry is currently deciding whether to seek alternative means of taking payments for the book.Or - forgive me for keep saying it - he could go to Alzheimer's Research UK to help him out. They're getting the profit, for crying out loud, what's the problem? There is even the weight of BBC publicity behind it, how can they possibly lose?
So, before a knee should jerk on this, we need to ask some questions. Were Alzheimer's Research UK approached? If not, it would seem to be a silly error. If they were, and refused, they are as much to 'blame' for the possibility of the book not being published as PayPal.
And, if Alzheimer's Research UK did refuse, then surely PayPal are entitled to hold the same reservations. In fact, even more so since they are dealing with other people's money, whereas Alzheimer's Research UK's cash - they being a charity, and all - is donated without the requirement of anything in return.
Of course, in modern discourse, banks are staffed by Cybermen and charities by Adipose so I can understand the over-reaction.