Here in Tucson we are losing a second local yarn shop this year and it is only April. As with any small business, every sale makes a difference towards the bottom line. Even though the prices seem higher than the large craft retailer down the street, in actually your local yarn shops carry a wide selection and better quality of yarn. They also provide help to get you through the hard part of the patterns you are working on, just try to get that help at a big box store. They provide classes to teach you new techniques. They also carry a wide variety of books and patterns. Since they do not have 100's of stores, they can not get a volume discount.
I am going to be focusing on the books and patterns in this blog post. For the sake of speed, I am going to assume that you all know what a copyright is and how long it is good for. If not I will refer you to The Copyright Office in Washington D.C.. If you are not in the United States, your country should have the equivalent legal body. I would also like to state that this is not legal advice since I am not a lawyer. This is written from the point of view of a consumer and a pattern designer of which I am.
Your local yarn shop relays on knitwear designers and authors of knitting books and patterns that you use for your projects. They gladly carry all of these items for you to buy. No, it is not OK to ask that they photocopy the pattern from a book or that you copy the pattern down in your pattern note book. After all these patterns help to sell the yarn that they carry.
Now here is where we come in as a consumer. This is where a lot of knitters fail their local yarn shops and designers. They buy one copy of the pattern that they want to knit. After they knit the item their friends want to knit it too. So, instead of referring their friends to the yarn shop where they went, they go ahead and make photocopies and freely distribute the patterns. Technically you just broke the law, although copyright does let you make photocopies of the items you buy for personal use, giving the pattern away is not personal use.
To put it another way if you bought the pattern for lets say $5.00 ( I like easy math) and then gave that pattern to 10 friends. Your local yarn shop had $5.00 in sales and the pattern designer got money for the sale of 1 pattern. If you instead did the right thing and sent those friends to the yarn store and they each bought the pattern for $5.00, your local yarn store would have $55.00 in sales and the possibility of additional sales of supplies and the pattern designer would get their rightful share of the use of their pattern.
Depending on the location of the yarn shop, the monthly rent is upward of $1,000 or more per month. Add the cost of utilities, wages of employees and other business expenses, you can see that it takes a lot in sales to run a business. This is before the owner even draws a salary.
Depending on the pattern it can take upwards of 1 month to write, test and knit a sample of the pattern that you are using assuming 6 to 8 hour work days. It takes anywhere from 6 months to a year to get a pattern book out. If the pattern is from an indie designer they will get about 40% of the sale price of the pattern. If you buy a knitting book, the author will get between 4 and 10% of the wholesale price, with most authors getting 4 cents on the wholesale dollar for every book that they sell. So for a $25.00 book the author gets about $.50. unless they self publish.
So what I want to know is, if you want to have local yarn stores and designers in your communities and are willing to pay the price to keep those small business running? Are you willing to send your friends into your local yarn store to buy the pattern that they want to knit? Or can you say, that I personally help close another local yarn store by buying 1 copy of a pattern and making copies of that pattern to freely distribute? The choice is always yours.