Muckraking around the Roots of Yoga

In August 2012, just over sixty people bought into the 'ebook' format of the Roots of Yoga scheduled to be delivered two years later. They all paid 25 dollars, and the cover price at the time of publication was just £3.99.

Roots of Yoga (Penguin Press Translated Texts) Paperback from £6.28

The paperback version was eventually released in 2017, about three years late1).

Screenshot from Kickstarter website, September 2017

One hundred and thirty eight people backed the Signed first edition of Roots of Yoga with the minimum of fifty dollars, a markup of about 1000 percent2) over a new copy on Amazon.

Originally touted as a labor of love on leading crowdfunding website Kickstarter, converting untranslated works of Asian origin into a private book deal was bound to be controversial for the three winners, (from left to right): authors James Mallinson and Mark Singleton and book publishers, Penguin.

Conventional financial wisdom dictates full and proper disclosure of estimated expenditure, profits and break-even point is required before an application for finance can proceed. The customary due diligence found in established financial markets was short-circuited by the 'the power of yoga', and some last minute actions of one or two close friends of the authors who saved the project with timely intervention, no doubt accelerated by whatever privileged social networks and cultural capital could be mustered, attracting many negative-yielding, high risk and non-guaranteed microloans to boost (and be boosted by) a eurocentric research clique.

At a casino, the chances of winning are at least calculable with reasonable certainty, and there is always some chance, however slight that unsophisticated punters will get more back than the money paid. Compared with the Roots project, there was only ever going to be three winners. Hundreds of people mistook lending money today for the possibility of receiving goods or services later as an act of public service.

The cover started out looking like this

People interested in research on yoga aren't renowned for moonlighting as loan officers and financial consultants. The rewards offered for the upfront payments hardly matched the amount of risk involved, with about two hundred people ending up wildly out of pocket on the deal.

Even the most cautious backers at the twenty five dollar level3), everyone ended up paying a huge premium over the cover price.

It was a fairy-tale opportunity to publish the work of two academics way too cool about beleaguering their friends and the public with emotionally contagious pleas to give them cash upfront.

The project was eventually funded with only a few days to go when a number of Spammy backers with odd pseudonyms - like Frederich Nietzsche started to appear. One eye-watering donation was from someone who was (presumably) either very foolish or very close to the projects founders who staked as much as $10,000 on the scheme.

The real, Frederich contemptible money economy4) Nietzsche may have had a good deal to say about the wisdom of investing in the Roots scheme, and about the Roots creators using well-meaning yoga enthusiasts just like human ATMs.

The idea of soliciting up-front payments and transforming starry-eyed yoga practitioners into small-time loan officers was bad enough, but when you take a look at the overall results, it must feel to some backers like more insult, to add to the injury.

[…]it might be an escape from the responsibility of convincing your peers within the Academia of the importance of your project (I am thinking especially of projects which may sound appealing but are not well-grounded)Dr. Elisa Freschi, Institute for the Cultural and Intellectual History of Asia, Austrian Academy of Sciences
2)
Assuming the signatures of two scholars from an academic field in the most part ignored by more mainstream humanities departments are worth next to nothing, compared to keeping the money in an average savings account over the same period by the time the book was released. Based on compound interest paid quarterly in arrears. Source: tradingeconomics.com
3)
The lowest entry point for anyone wanting a roughly equivalent product
4)
Untimely Meditations, 1876

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