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A beautiful hardcover book chronicling the Commodore Amiga years. First hand interviews, inspiring stories, and lots of laughs.
A beautiful hardcover book chronicling the Commodore Amiga years. First hand interviews, inspiring stories, and lots of laughs.
A beautiful hardcover book chronicling the Commodore Amiga years. First hand interviews, inspiring stories, and lots of laughs.
1,523 backers pledged CA$ 109,827 to help bring this project to life.

Shipping!

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As you may have seen from the comments section and pictures on Twitter, some people are already receiving their books. This feels great to have the finished book out there but I do want to temper expectations that there are still a lot more books to ship. Given the travel times, it could be a while before you receive yours in the mail. My gratitude to everyone who backed this project and waited patiently. The end is near!

I will write a bit more about shipping for those who are interested in behind-the-scenes information, but first...  

Project Hubbard

Another Kickstarter has launched celebrating the music of legendary video game composer Rob Hubbard. If you know that name there is no need to say anything more; for those unfamiliar, the man is a musical genius. The Kickstarter project will take some of his most popular hits and rework them using more traditional instruments. Plus, there is a video game and some great swag. Check out Project Hubbard!

(That's Rob on the left.)
(That's Rob on the left.)

 

A Mess of Data

Ever notice that sometimes people use the word humbled in a strange way? Like when they are given an award or have reached a new career pinnacle they say they are humbled. That's not how I understand the word. Humbled is when life shows you you aren’t Mr. awesome super great guy. Well, this month I’ve been humbled. 

My estimate/goal for shipping was to take two weeks and ship everything out by mid-October. And now here we are and, despite working non-stop with other people, there are still more books to ship. Like a lot of things in life, it gets easier once you’ve done it once. Next time I will have all the tools, contacts, and knowledge to do it a lot faster--probably half the time.

One of the biggest tasks was organizing all the data from Kickstarter and Paypal in a usable form. Basically Kickstarter gives you all the addresses in a spreadsheet, with all the destinations jumbled together. To mail these efficiently required grouping the countries together for shipping and also for packaging. This meant I had to write quite a few scripts to handle all the data and sort it out into a format that different shipping options could then use. (Thank you Javascript.) Next time I will look harder at Backerkit as a possible solution to some of these difficulties.

But even more interesting is what the data reveals about all of you, the backers!

Shipping Stats

I have always been curious which countries my book was popular in because it also sheds light on the countries where Commodore was popular. And the results are mostly on par with anecdotal evidence we’ve all heard through the years but also pretty surprising in some cases.

The country with the most orders is the United States, unsurprising given the huge population. Also, the lower shipping rates probably helped spur more US orders. Not far behind are orders from the UK. This fits with what Commodore UK's marketing manage David Pleasance indicated in interviews.

As expected, Germany comes in 3rd place but it was a surprisingly close race with Australia, a comparatively small population, coming in fourth. This is probably attributable to the book being in English.

And not far behind is Sweden! I shouldn’t have been surprised by Sweden punching above its weight so much given the high English literacy there. When you add together all the Nordic countries, they handily beat out Germany. Sweden is mind blowing! Almost same population as Switzerland but 10x more sales.

As books like Generation 64 and Generation 500 attest to, there was something special happening in Sweden that stood it apart from other countries.

I can figure out why English speaking countries like Canada, UK, Australia do better but other parts of the world are a mystery. Why did Sweden outpace others such as Switzerland? What are the factors that made Commodore such a hit in the Northern European countries? As a North American, these reasons are a mystery to me. If you have some insights, please leave your comments.

Packing Parties

Once the data was sorted out, it was possible to start making lists of backers and print out shipping labels. From the start of this Kickstarter I have been dreading this stage, not because of the work, but because there were so many unknowns. 

Getting to this stage took a little longer than I thought it would. Some of it had to do with getting the right type of printer to use with the Post Office for printing labels, setup, and then finding out I needed some pretty specialized supplies for the printer (a wax/resin roll of thermal transfer ribbon and rolls of 4" x 6" labels, for example). 

Figuring out how to use the online mailing system was also a bit of a challenge, as was navigating the usual problems with unreliability of their systems (e.g. outages with "Stamps.com Connect", their method for allowing a thermal printer to work with the browser interface). 

With these lists we could begin assembling the correct number of packages with the correct books and backer rewards. I called in some favors from friends, bought some fine imported beer, and soon had a chain gang ready for work. With 4 people per “shift” we figured out how to divide the tasks in an assembly-line packing style. 

The sleds are used to haul these packages to your door. You have snow where you live, right?
The sleds are used to haul these packages to your door. You have snow where you live, right?

There have been 3.5 packing parties so far in the garage. The 0.5 is for small test run using Canadian books to learn how best to divide the jobs. It’s amazing how much work you can get done with some extra help. With 4 guys packing it took us about 7 hours (including a nice long lunch) for around 400 packages. 

Thanks goes out to Rick, John, Chris, Wil, Axel and my brother Kevin for volunteering at least one tour of duty. We were operating like a well oiled machine and so far it has been a lot of fun. There’s something about doing physical work that helps everyone feel like an integral part of the team. Maybe it was the beer leading to lots of fun conversation while we toiled away. In the end, everyone said they would gladly come to another packing party. For the next Kickstarter, rather than dreading this stage, I will probably look forward to it. Probably. 

Follow me on Twitter @BrianBagnall1 or my Facebook Commodore book page.

Guenter Bartsch, Dianne Noto, and 17 more people like this update.

Comments

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    1. Brian Bagnall 2-time creator on

      @Obraxis The eBooks are being worked on right now and should be ready soon. I will post an update soon regarding both eBooks and shipping.

    2. Obraxis on

      Hi. Backer number, 24 still no eBooks. Any idea when these will be sent out?

    3. Brian Bagnall 2-time creator on

      Here are some insightful comments regarding Sweden from Jimmy Wilhelmsson, author of Generation 64 and Generation 500:

      Well, the relationship between Sweden and Commodore was the main reason I decided to write my two books in the first place. I worked a lot with tech startups and after a few beers most discussions ended up with Commodore in one way or another. Most Swedish engineers born in the 70s have had a C64 or Amiga or both. A few went into the Atari universe, but quickly realized how lonely it was. Very few had Spectrum or other brands.

      The reason behind it? Well, Commodore had no representation of their own in Sweden at the time, they did not enter our domains until 1985 - right before the Amiga came out. The main distributors of Commodore product was called Handic - and they started out as a distributor of surfing equipment and radios, so they had access to other channels than most computer companies. Remember, computers were not appliances at the time - few wanted one, and even fewer had one.

      The reason the Commodore 64 gained such large popularity was due to its specs, its pricing by Handic, and the amount of games without copy protection. Sweden has (or at least had) a large population of engineers and their kids often got a computer. The first real prank they learned was to crack games - and this behavior was cheered among others once the demo- and cracking scene emerged around 1985-86. When the Amiga came out, the C64 had a few years left of its heydays - so the switch was slow. Amiga was popular in Sweden, but it got nowhere close to the C64 - but today Amiga and C64 belong to the same "family", so people who bought your first book about the Commodore years will most probably by the second also, that was the case for me.

      Another thing was a computer magazine called DatorMagazin. It started out in May 1987 and was unique in that it only wrote about Commodore computers. Most other magazines tried to write about all brands, which stretched them out - both contentwise and readerwise. DatorMagazin quickly became the largest computer magazine in Scandinavia and was read by Danes and Norwegians alike. It lasted until 1995 when Commodore also left the scene - it was born and died with Commodore, even though Commodore itself never liked the idea about a magazine about their tech that they could not control. Still, the owners of DatorMagazin publish retro issues that are widely popular here: https://www.datormagazin.se/retro/

      So ... in Sweden, Commodore is a myth that people like to talk about still. Sure, Nintendo is the largest retro brand there is - but mainly for lamers, i.e. computer illiterate people kids who couldn't differ assembler code from a cake recipe. Commodore is seen as the stupid company who always did their best to go against its user base, but who made the most awesome technology. It was open, free to meddle with - and had no limits. Which is, ironically, also one of the reasons it's not around anymore.

      I know this is not a definite answer - but history's hard to analyze :)

    4. Brian Bagnall 2-time creator on

      @Chris Foulds My sincere apologies for the shipping delay. Figuring out the logistics has taken more time than I imagined but it will go much smoother and quicker next time.

    5. Chris Foulds on

      So the other week at Amiga32 I could actually buy the book yet I am still waiting for my ebook, total joke.

    6. Brian Bagnall 2-time creator on

      @Remco Komduur Glad to hear you are looking forward to the book! It all depends on your country and what the post office offers. Most of them seem to offer that service and I've been filling in email addresses if it asked for it.

    7. Missing avatar

      Remco Komduur on

      Hi,

      Does one get an email when the book has been shipped to you?

      Can't wait for mine!

      Regards,
      Remco

    8. Brian Bagnall 2-time creator on

      @Tero Mäyränen Viva Finland! I didn't know the C64 in particular had resonance there. Another backer, David Almer, sent some interesting stats about the Commodore Scene as of 2017 that he gathered from CSDB.dk. The top 5 countries making new releases broke down as follows:
      1 Germany 4491 17.7
      2 Sweden 2008 7.9
      3 Poland 1789 7.1
      4 Netherlands 1687 6.7
      5 United States 1654 6.5

      So when it comes to people still active in the C64 scene, Germany takes the cake by far. Sweden is no surprise. Poland sort of surprises me! I always thought they were more into the Plus/4 than the C64.

    9. Matthew Mather on

      Got mine yesterday, thanks!

    10. Missing avatar

      Daniele Beorchia on

      My husband is a huge retrocomputing fan and I know for sure that there's a community in sweden about that.
      So maybe it's the reason for your order from there :-)
      (We are italian and I suspect italy is in the bottom of your shipping list :-))

    11. Missing avatar

      Tero Mäyränen on

      > What are the factors that made Commodore such a hit in the Northern European countries?

      There's a book that just came out in Finland, "Commodore 64: Tasavallan tietokone" (Finnish only) by Juho Kuorikoski that focuses on that. Or just Finland, really. Apparently the C64 sold more here per capita than anywhere else. Some of the factors:

      The history with the calculator business. The Finnish importer had been started to bring Commodore calculators into the country, so it was logical to take computers too. They named themselves PCI-Data (after "Pet Computers I-*something*"). They didn't deal with UK or Germany (at least in the beginning), but had connections with Jack Tramiel directly and met him a couple of times.

      Feedback loop: They got a lot of money from selling computers, they had a seasoned marketing veteran on board, so they spent a lot of money on advertising in the largest magazines and TV, coming up with legendary campaings and slogans (People in togas building Rome saying "Veni, Vidi, Vic-20", and Finnish flags proclaiming the C64 as "Tasavallan tietokone" = "Computer of the republic"). I don't think any other brands had TV adverts.

      (And we were a couple of years late, we never saw The legendary Macintosh ad, in 1984 the C64 was state-of-the-art for us.)

      We were relatively poor in the 70s and early 80s and couldn't afford a lot of the late-70s computers. The earliest games consoles were never really a thing here. Things were starting to look up in the 80s and the C64 was the first actual gaming and computing device that everyone "had" to have and could afford. We had very few TRS-80s, Apple IIs or TI-99/4As. Spectrum and Spectravideo (and maybe Sharp at the beginning?) were the biggest competitors, and they were absolutely squashed.

      I think the success of the C64 here carried some of us most enthusiastic ones over to the Amiga, but was also bad in some ways -- the C64 probably always outsold the Amiga here, until the PCs caught up... MSX-2ses, Atari STs and Macintoshes had some users, but they remained quite marginal.

    12. Missing avatar

      Brian Barry on

      Classy attitude.

    13. Chris Foulds on

      your kidding right ? , you shipped the physical books before the ebooks - what a joke !

    14. Missing avatar

      Brian Barry on

      Haha no worries Brian, I was just worried I'd missed an email with the links. Loved the first book, I keep re-reading it. Really looking forward to this one. You're doing amazing work, take all the time you need :D

    15. Brian Bagnall 2-time creator on

      @Brandon Staggs @Brian Barry The eBooks will be coming soon, after the physical shipments are complete. Kickstarter backers will get access to those before they go on sale to the general public.

      Sorry for the lack of updates, Brian. I have been in full shipping mode for a while. Not a word of a lie, I keep having a dream where I'm packing books. This morning there was an urgent problem I needed to correct with someone's package... and then I woke up. It's all really strange.

    16. Brian Bagnall 2-time creator on

      @Guenter Bartsch Glad to hear you are looking forward to it. I'm hoping to put a Kickstarter campaign together soon that will launch in November. First things first of course.

    17. Brian Bagnall 2-time creator on

      @Francesco I just checked your pledge. So you will be getting "The Amiga Years" and "A Company on the Edge" in a shipment soon, with the third book, "The Early Years" shipping separately when that book is done.

    18. Missing avatar

      Brian Barry on

      People are receiving their physical books? I don't remember getting any email about a download link for the finished book, only updates talking about layouts, photos and cover art on 25th August, surveys and a to-do list on 14th of September, an advert for something else a few days ago, and today's update about physical books shipping.

      Did I miss something?

    19. Brandon Staggs on

      Congrats! Looking forward to my dead tree shipment! But it's not clear to me -- are the eBooks ready yet and did I just miss the download? Of course I have a draft from before, but I do want the eBooks for reading on my Kindle... If they are not ready yet, that's fine with me. You have your hands full!

    20. Missing avatar

      Guenter Bartsch on

      _so_ looking forward to receiving the physical book - and once again thanks for all the great work you have done here!

      ...so, when is that new kickstarter coming for the final years book? :-D

    21. Francesco on

      Am i getting all three books i pledged for?