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Wed, 23 Jul 1997 21:10:03 -0500
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Dear Amelia, Cindy and others:

Your discussions about co-ops really took me back to long ago and far away
in Madison with the co-op movement.  There used to be co-ops in Madison for
everything and some of the businesses there started out that way, as well as
the co-op stores that are still there.  There used to be a co-op
organization in town that most of the co-ops were registered with and if I
remember correctly they kept information on which co-ops made it and which
didn't and what sort of problems they had.  Though some of the problems
you've both mentioned are specific to publishing, most of them are part of
human nature and have been part of every group of people who tried to work
together in this way.  Perhaps they are still in Madison and could give some
good information on these matters.

My own experience with both successful and unsuccessful efforts of this type
is that someone has to be designated and rewarded to take responsibility for
these things to hold together over time, though some co-ops lose some of
their best qualities when a paid staff starts to think of it as their co-op
and the membership as clients, charges and pawns instead of full
participants.  It is important to keep that option open to members who can
bring in new cycles of energy without the whole thing falling apart if they
can't do it all the time.  Also, there has to be a way to limit damage from
people who are either not too serious, not too competent or are looking for
a free ride on other people's effort.  Another very important aspect is
total honesty with all members, nothing kills a group faster than to have
some information appear that was originally withheld from them "for the sake
of the organization", even if it turns out that silence does avoid problems
for awhile.  Co-ops are wonderful when they work well and terrible when they
don't.  This could be a great idea.  I'm glad there is conversation on
self-publishing generally, I have hope of marketing some materials also.