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Friday, February 25, 2022


Anti-vaccination poster from the late 1800s
Historical Medicine Library, Phila.

My blog post on the History of Vaccination proved so popular, and the Covid pandemic is still so immediate, that a good look at the history of anti-vaccination is warranted.  And a paper in the London Review of Books for 20 January 2022 provides lots to think about. 

In the cute way of LBR, the headline is an attention-grabber -- Whack-a-Mole! - and the paper was penned by Rivka Galchen.

It begans with an evocative anecdote. One hundred and eighty years ago, a Hungarian obstetrician by the name of Ignaz Semmelweis oversaw a couple of free maternity clinics in Vienna. One was the training ground for midwives, and there the maternal mortality rate was very low. Despite the generally high rate of puerperal (childbed) fever, only about four percent of the patients died.  The other clinic was a school for medical students, and there the mortality rate was high -- about 10%.

Naturally, the word got around.  Expectant mothers went to great pains to be delivered at the midwives' clinic, even to the extent of giving birth on the road outside. But what was it that made the difference? As Herr Ignaz found, it was very simple.  The midwives washed their hands.  The medical students did not.

But when Semmelweis reported this logical conclusion, he was dismissed as a madman.  He was fired, and returned to his native Budapest. He wrote a book about it, which got bad reviews.  He was known as the crazy fellow with an obsession with dying women.  He took to drink, and died in nasty circumstances at the age of forty-seven.

The book where this story is told is Heidi Larson's Stuck: How Vaccine Rumours Start, and Why they Don't Go Away.  

When Larson was Unicef's strategy and communications director for new vaccines, polio vaccine was boycotted in northern Nigeria.  Someone with a political agenda had started off a rumor that the vaccine caused sterility in children, and all the scientific persuasion in the world could not stall the spread of this misinformation. The boycott surged through Africa and as far as Indonesia, causing the loss of an unknown number of lives, and the crippling of many others.

Because of this, Larson has devoted her career to the "ecology" of anti-science propaganda.  And it is surprising how much of this is focused on girls. In a province in Columbia the HPV vaccine that prevents cervical cancer came under attack, leading to a great deal of teenaged hysteria. In 2014 the same happened in Japan, meaning that vaccination among girls fell from 70% to 0.3%. The Bandim Health Project, founded in 1978 by Peter Aaby in the very poor Guinea-Bisseau region of Africa, claimed that measles vaccine was causing an increase in the mortality of girls, but not, mysteriously, in boys. This has led to a rethink of the issuing of vaccines in very poor countries. 

And so it goes on. In 1998 the French temporarily suspended a vaccine for hepatitis B, because of false rumors that it was linked to multiple schlerosis. Rightwing governments have become notorious for tagging onto populist anti-science claims. In 2018, with a new government in Italy, the health minister fired all thirty members of the scientific advisory board. Since then the current government has reversed this, imposing some of the toughest vaccination mandates in the world.

The second book reviewed in this paper is Anti-Vaxxers: How to Challenge a Misinformed Movement, by Jonathan Berman. His focus is on the role of the internet, with predictable but shocking conclusions.  While both scientific evidence and anti-science messages appear on the web, the anti-science ones spread faster and further than the rest.

He also delves into the history of vaccination.  Interestingly, I learned that it was not Jenner who first took advantage of the milkmaid/cowpox story. Instead it was an English farmer by the name of Benjamin Jesty (not a joke) who in 1774 decided to test the cowpox theory by scratching himself, his wife, and his children with a needle polluted with lymph from a cowpox pustule. It could have led to the demise of a whole family, but instead they all survived the current smallpox epidemic with no illness at all.  There was just the temporary soreness about the scratch that we all associate with vaccination injections.

With Jenner, as we have seen, vaccination against smallpox became very popular.  The trouble started when vaccination against smallpox became compulsory in England, in 1853. All sorts of people rioted.  The unionists barked about freedom, and medical professionals (and non-professionals) were unhappy at the loss of the good income that had come from smallpox epidemics. 

Alternative -- and often very dangerous -- remedies were (and still are) touted.  In the US, as Berman demonstrates, dietary supplements -- which cover a lot of so-called folk remedies, and which in 1994 the US Congress exempted from the requirement to prove safety and efficacy -- has boomed from an industry worth four billion a year to one with an annual profit of just about two hundred billion. 

There is a lot of money there to fund anti-vax propaganda, and to support the right politicians.  And, interestingly enough, Berman reveals that the most fervent anti-vaxxers in the US are usually middle-class white women.  

Friday, February 18, 2022



There are lots of crazy theories and utter fabrications about vaccines these days, so it is probably a good time to have a look at the history of the medical process -- and the history of disinformation about it, too.

It began with inoculation and the horror story of smallpox, that terrible scourge of humans since the mists of time. Smallpox (called that in England to distinguish it from the 'great-pox', syphilis) was terribly contagious, very disfiguring, and often fatal. It was characterized by high fever, delirium, and a rash of little pustules, which left scars, if the patient survived.  

Because of the spots, it looked a lot like measles, but the two diseases were identified separately over a thousand years ago.  And, while measles is nasty, and in one form can cause profound deafness in the embryo that an infected mother might be carrying, it did not carry quite the same horror as smallpox. And smallpox was indeed a scourge.  It has been estimated that it has killed over 300 million people since the year 1900.

So it was smallpox that was tackled when humankind started to think of immunizing people. The obvious way was to prick the skin of the subject with a needle that had already been inserted into one of the pustules of a smallpox patient.  The Chinese might have been the scientists to do it first, though this inoculation was also recorded in Africa and Turkey.  

This method was brought to England by a heroine of mine, Lady Mary Wortley Montague.

Born in 1689 to a wealthy and liberal family, Mary had access to a huge private library, and educated herself, learning Latin as well as much else.  As it was common in high society back then, she was supposed to enter an arranged marriage, but instead she eloped with a young diplomat. 

Her looks were ruined when she caught smallpox.  For days, she writhed in fever, and though she survived her beauty was ruined.  Even her eyelashes had gone. But her spirit remained, and when her husband was posted to Turkey she was determined to go with him, and even insisted on taking their little boy.  There, she wrote voluminous letters, which were published and are still worth reading.  But one, penned in 1717. is particularly important.

I am going to tell you a thing, that will make you wish yourself here. The small-pox, so fatal, and so general amongst us, is here entirely harmless. . . . There is a set of old women, who make it their business to perform the operation, every autumn, in the month of September, when the great heat is abated. People send to one another to know if any of their family has a mind to have the small-pox; they make parties for this purpose, and when they are met (commonly fifteen or sixteen together) the old woman comes with a nut-shell full of the matter of the best sort of small-pox, and asks what vein you please to have opened. She immediately rips open that you offer her, with a large needle (which gives you no more pain than a common scratch) and puts into the vein as much matter as can lie upon the head of her needle, and after that, binds up the little wound with a hollow bit of shell . . .

And that would have been that, just a curiosity, but then her husband was called back to London ... where there was a smallpox epidemic raging.  So Mary decided to have her son inoculated -- and he had no ill effects, and never got the disease.  He was the first Englishman to be inoculated. 

Mary tried to publicize the treatment, but was met with disdain.  First, she was a woman.  Second, physicians made a lot of money from so-called smallpox treatments.  And what could a Moslem country teach a land of Christians?  

But still she persisted, and when her daughter was born, and when another epidemic threatened, she had her inoculated, too.  The daughter survived and eventually married a prime minister, and so the procedure gained respectability.  All kinds of people demanded to have their children inoculated -- including Caroline, the daughter in law of George I, who applied to him to let her have her children (the heirs to the throne) inoculated.  Instead of agreeing at once, he set up what was probably the first clinical trial, experimenting with orphans and convicts. This was so successful that finally he agreed to allow his female grandchildren to be treated -- but not his grandsons.

Which brings us to Edward Jenner.

Inoculation was the introduction of a live virus into the bloodstream of the patient, which is, of course, very dangerous.  But Jenner introduced a much safer method, which is called 'vaccination' because it was based on the similar but much more mild form of the virus, cowpox.

It was because of a conversation he overheard, in 1762.  It was one dairymaid talking to another.  She said, “I shall never have smallpox for I have had cowpox. I shall never have an ugly pockmarked face.”  And, though he was only thirteen at the time, for him it had great significance.

As was typical with medical education at the time, young Edward was apprenticed to a surgeon. In a slightly earlier era, he would have served as a barber's apprentice, as the barbers were the recognized treaters of wounds, but a Company of Surgeons had been formed, and so doing an apprenticeship and becoming approved by the supervising surgeon was the route to a medical career. 

Thirty-four years later, fully qualified and a busy practitioner, Jenner remembered what he had overheard, and experimented on an 8-year-old boy, infecting him with the pus from a coxpox pustule, and then exposing him to smallpox a couple of months later.

Highly unethical, and actually not very nice, but it worked.  The boy escaped smallpox, and survived. Vaccines were born, and by 1980 smallpox had been eradicated from this earth.  Now, samples of the virus are only kept for research.

Which brings us to the history of anti-vaccination.

As we have seen with Mary Wortley Montague, opposition to immunization started right away, with her introduction of inoculation to England. With Jenner's vaccination, the uproar was equally loud, the process called 'anti-Christian' because the virus came from an animal. Others simply distrusted science, and had no faith in medicine, politicians, or the press. 

And, as vaccines for other diseases -- measles, diphtheria. rabies, yellow fever, tetanus, whooping cough, you name it -- were developed from the 1880s onwards, rage and suspicion increased.

In England it worsened when the Vaccination Act of 1853 was passed into law, making it mandatory for infants to be vaccinated.  People reckoned that it was an attack on personal liberty. The Anti-Vaccination League and Anti-Compulsory Vaccination League were formed.  There were marches in the street.  Effigies of Jenner were burned.

In America, the situation was even more inflammatory. In 1905 the Supreme Court decided that the states had every right to make laws affecting the citizens' health, which part of the public found infuriating. The uproar increased when vaccination for whooping cough, tetanus, and diphtheria was introduced. Though officially confirmed as safe and effective, there was still vocal opposition.

And the same happened when the measles, mumps, rubella vaccine was promoted. British doctor Andrew Wakefield - who has since been struck off the register, after the discovery that he was paid by lawyers to 'find evidence' to support the claim by some parents that vaccination harmed their children - went to the media with his claim that it caused autism, and the media loved it.

We don't hear much about that controversy now, but anti-vaccination is as active as ever.  Vaccination has saved many millions of lives, but the rabid opposition of a vocal minority has remained unchanged since the year that Mary Wortley Montague introduced a method of preventing smallpox to eighteenth century England.

Saturday, February 12, 2022



For some years, I have been researching whaling wives on Norfolk Island, which is north and east of Australia in the south Pacific.  It was a strange port of call, as the inhabitants were descendants of the famous mutineers of the Bounty -- but a good one, too, as the Islanders were not just as religious as any New England wife, but also very hospitable.

And one of these women was Lucy Ann Roberts Gifford, who bore a little girl there, named Ella, the first of her children to survive.  She went on to have a little boy in Guam, but was returned to Norfolk -- and stranded there.

Her husband, Leonard Sanford Gifford, was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts, in 1821. 

He began his whaling career as a young man, as was usual in that port at that time,  and by 1851 he had advanced to become a captain. His first command was the Ship Hope of New Bedford for a voyage that lasted until 1857 -- unusually long.  Not only was he very unlucky in the grisly business of chasing whales, but the ship was old and leaky. 

When he returned from this voyage, he married Lucy Ann Roberts. Lucy, born in New Bedford in 1832, had lived with her widowed aunt, Sarah Crapo Roberts (1800-1860), and had become engaged just before Leonard had set off on that first, 1851, voyage.  Though he wanted to marry right away and carry her off to sea, Lucy had staunchly refused.  He resented this greatly.  His letters pleaded with her to take passage to Honolulu and marry him there, but she ignored them.

She should have stuck to her decision. But, after he came back, Leonard's wish prevailed.  In 1857 he again took command of the leaky Hope, and took her off on voyage. 

From then on, it was a very sad story indeed.  Lucy gave birth to two children, both of which died within months. The third birth was on Norfolk Island in 1861, and the little girl, named Ella, survived.  Baby and mother were carried off again, ultimately arriving at Guam.  There, being pregnant again, sick, unhappy, struggling with bringing up a toddler on board, Lucy apparently pleaded for help -- and her husband organized that help, in the shape of a Comorro girl, who was just eleven years old.  

According to the 1865 Massachusetts census, the girl's name was 'Gorza.'  Lucy's fourth baby, a little boy, was born in Guam, and then Leonard carried them all to Norfolk Island, where he left Lucy, Gorza, the baby and the toddler, to recuperate on shore, in the care of the Norfolk Islanders. 

And it was lucky that they were caring, because while he was away the Hope was wrecked on Bampton's Shoal off Australia. 

The family finally arrived back in New Bedford at the end of 1864, with Gorza still in tow.  The 1865 Massachusetts census lists her with the parents and the two little children, still working as their nurse and servant. 

Two more children were born to the couple, in 1865 and 1866, so the girl's work was onerous. Leonard returned to the sea in 1867 but not in the whaling industry,. He became the captain of the s freighting schooner J. S. Wainwright and sailed for South Africa with a cargo of petroleum. After disposing of this, Gifford entered the coastwise trade in South Africa with cargo of sugar and fruits. And, in February 1868, he died and was buried at Cape Town. So -- presumably with Gorza to help -- Lucy was left with four children to raise. She died a few years later, on 20 July 1873, aged 41 years, 4 months, 3 days.


What happened to the girl who grew up so far away from her homeland?

I found out through a fascinating Guam-based blog, 'Paleric.' 

Thursday, August 3, 2017



Today we say "Adiós," "Farewell" to Leocadia, a Chamorro girl, who left Guam at age 11 and never came back. In her own words before she died many years later, she became a woman without a country.

The American and British whalers who stopped on Guam in the 1800s often found many young Chamorro men very willing to join the crew. But, in one case, it was a young Chamorro girl that an American captain wanted.

Leonard Gifford was the captain of the whaling ship Hope. In 1862, the Hope sailed into Apra Harbor and stayed for some length of time. Gifford was accompanied by his wife Lucy Ann, who had given birth twice while on the voyage, sadly losing both children in infancy. By the time Gifford came to Guam in 1862, there was a young daughter Ella in tow.

While on Guam, Gifford made acquaintance with a Joaquín Iglesias of Hågat. Joaquín had a daughter aged 11 years by the name of Leocadia. We don't know if Iglesias made the offer first, or if Gifford made the request first, but the result was that Iglesias agreed to let Leocadia take up residence with Gifford wherever he may be, whether on Guam or elsewhere, to serve the Gifford family.  This isn't a surprise, since Gifford had a wife who was either pregnant or having just given birth. She needed help. The legal contract between Iglesias and Gifford stipulated four years of service, after which time Gifford was responsible for bringing Leocadia back to Guam.

Gifford was obliged to feed and clothe Leocadia, to treat her well and not prevent her from fulfilling the duties of her Catholic religion.

Leonard Gifford (left) 
Joaquín Iglesias (right)

It seems that Gifford went off for a while, leaving Lucy Ann and Ella on Guam in the meantime. A Sydney newspaper reports that Gifford brought 1000 coconuts to sell in Australia. A son was born to him on Guam in November of 1863, and he was named Leonard Stanhope Gifford. His place of birth is indicated in this 1865 Massachusetts State Census. He is the 2nd name from the bottom.

1865 Massachusetts State Census

What happened to Leocadia?

When Gifford and family left Guam after his son was born, it seems Gifford took Leocadia with him.

The same 1865 Massachusetts Census which lists Gifford, his wife Lucy, daughter Ella and son Leonard includes a 13-year-old girl from Guam. Her name is listed as Gorza, which isn't Leocadia. But Gorza could be what Gifford called Leocadia. Nicknames were often used, especially when two cultures and two languages were involved. Gorza's age matches Leocadia's, and, as the story unfolds, you will see that indeed Gorza was Leocadia.

Imagine. A Chamorro teenage girl living in Massachusetts at the end of the American Civil War.

Gifford died and Leocadia left the company of the family. What she did next remains a mystery, and she herself was a mystery to herself and to many. She left Guam at such a young age, and became a woman in a foreign land. Her mental ties to Guam grew thin and fragile. She even claimed she had been born on the high seas, rather than on Guam.

According to Leocadia, her father wanted her to be born on Guam under the Spanish flag. Her mother wanted her to be born in Japan. The claim is incredible for more than one reason. First, what Chamorro mother in 1852, when Leocadia was born, wanted to give birth in Japan? Would she all of a sudden be able to converse with a Japanese midwife? Assuming Leocadia's mother was not Chamorro, how did a non-Chamorro woman become Joaquín's wife? How would a Chamorro mother get to Japan, to a country closed to foreigners until 1854? The story creates all sorts of problems to solve, and I haven't spelled out all of them. But, to allow Leocadia's story to continue, we tolerate it for the moment.

The disappointment felt by the mother that her daughter was not born in Japan proved to be the breaking point between mother and father, according to Leocadia. No wonder Leocadia stated at times that she was born in Japan, and at other times born on Guam (besides the high seas, her story changes). And if mother and father did separate (divorce was impossible in those days), one can begin to see why her father Joaquín might have sent her off to work for the Giffords. Had the mother disappeared, leaving Joaquín with a daughter to raise by himself? What happened to aunties and godmothers? Again, a story that leads to more questions.

But, if any of this be true, one can only wonder if Leocadia felt abandoned by her mother and then her father. No wonder, perhaps, she never returned to Guam, besides the difficulty of doing so in those days.

In Massachusetts, Leocadia often went by the nickname Leo. She never married, but her life continued to be one of service, just as she began at age 11 to work for the Giffords, assisting the pregnant Lucy. She worked over the many years as a housekeeper and nurse, and was actually a registered nurse in Springfield, Massachusetts as early as 1891.

Later on in life she met an older man named Edward Hamilton Young from Springfield, Massachusetts who was childless and whose wife had passed away. Young was a successful and well-known traveling salesman, so he was often away. Leocadia became his housekeeper.

Young had no children of his own but he and his late wife raised nieces and nephews as their own and, even late in life, Young adopted a teenage boy. The boy was sickly and died a young man. I wouldn't be surprised if Young hired Leocadia not only to keep house but to attend to the adopted son's welfare.

Young died in 1907 and in his will left Leocadia quite a fortune. In addition to $2000, which today is worth more than $55,000, Young bequeathed to Leocadia his household furniture and clothes.

But Leocadia was to follow her patron Edward Young to the grave not long after. She passed away three years later, in 1910, in Hartford, Connecticut of kidney disease.  


Leocadia's last wishes were to be cremated, an indication that she had long lost her Catholic identity, since cremation was not allowed by the Church in those days. She wanted her ashes scattered by the winds, and her undertaker did just that on a bridge in Springfield over the Connecticut River. 

There was great symbolism in this final act.

She considered herself a woman without a country. And, as she had, in her mind, come from the waters, in death her ashes would return to the waters, albeit of the Connecticut River, to flow where they will. A woman without past roots nor a single trajectory forward. Her ashes, like her life, were to be blown here and there as the winds were to decide.

The noble thing about Leocadia is that, despite all the sorrow she faced in life, she was a giver to the end. Starting at the age of 11, she became the assistant of a young mother with more children on the way. She then became a nurse, housekeeper and was even called a healer. A lesson for all of us to follow.  U såga gi minahgongRest in peace.

Leocadia's conflicting stories of her birth are very interesting.  One was that she was born "on the high seas."  Was that possible?  Had Leonard Gifford been in Guam in 1852, when she was conceived?  The truth is lost to history, but it was by no means unknown for whaling captains on long voyages to take 'season wives' on board, and then keep an interest in any baby that was the result of that union. Leonard, in his letters to Lucy during that 1851-57 voyage, mentions this, as a veiled threat of what would happen if she did not sail to Hawaii to meet him.  And, let's face it, the name 'Leocardia' is a version of his name, Leonard.

So was Leocardia -- nicknamed Gorza -- Leonard's child? It seems very likely. And, if so, how did Lucy feel about it? 

Wednesday, February 9, 2022



Many indie authors began their self-publishing careers with Mark Coker's SMASHWORDS.  I know of two personally, who have done astoundingly well.  One is the wonderful SHAYNE PARKINSON, whose family sagas, set in early New Zealand, have been found compulsive reading by hundreds of thousands of readers.  But there are thousands of budding authors, too, who owe a great debt to Coker's enthusiasm and helpfulness.

A more recent publishing platform is Draft2Digital, which has made a great feature of making eBook design attractive.

Now, they have combined.  We start with a typically generous letter from Mark.

A letter from Mark Coker

Dear Friends of Smashwords,

This letter isn't a goodbye; it's a new hello.

Today we announced that Draft2Digital is acquiring Smashwords. We're joining together to do more for authors, publishers, and readers.

Fourteen years ago when I created Smashwords, I set out on a crazy mission to change the way books were published, marketed, and sold. I wanted to empower every writer in the world with free tools to self-publish ebooks with pride, professionalism, and success. I wanted to give readers the freedom to enjoy the wonderful diversity of indie-published titles that I knew our publishing platform could help unleash.

Thanks to your trust and partnership, today 150,000 authors and publishers around the world use Smashwords to publish almost 600,000 ebooks. Nearly $200 million worth of Smashwords ebooks have been purchased at retail, and over $110 million paid out to authors and publishers. These books enriched the lives of readers, indie authors, publishers, booksellers, and the broader culture of books.

The impact of our little startup reached far beyond the numbers. As a friend of Smashwords, you've been part of something really big.

Yet fourteen years later, I still feel like our mission is just beginning.

I'm super-excited about this combination with Draft2Digital, and I’m looking forward to broadening our mission in the service of authors, publishers, booksellers, readers, and books.

No, this acquisition doesn’t mean I’m running off to buy an island in the Caribbean. This will be an all-stock combination, meaning no money is changing hands. I’m investing our entire company into the new Draft2Digital, and together we’ll lead the next chapter of the indie publishing revolution.

Below you'll find our official press release and a detailed FAQ about the acquisition, which is expected to close on or about March 1.

If you have any questions about the acquisition, I invite you to attend a live online Q&A that I'm doing Wednesday with Kris Austin, Draft2Digital CEO. The live event will be recorded in case you miss it. You'll find details on how to attend in the press release below.

Thank you for your trust and partnership these last fourteen years. On behalf of the entire Smashwords team, we look forward to working with you in 2022 and beyond!

Best wishes,

Mark Coker

P.S. The press release and FAQ follow.

Press Release

Draft2Digital to Acquire Smashwords, Creating Self-Publishing Juggernaut

Combined Company will Publish and Distribute 800,000+ Titles from 250,000 Authors and Publishers

February 8, 2022 — OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. and PACIFIC GROVE, Calif. — Draft2Digital, LLC and Smashwords, Inc., two pioneers in ebook self-publishing, today announced that Draft2Digital will acquire Smashwords. The acquisition unites the industry’s two most innovative and author-friendly publishing platforms into one, enabling the new Draft2Digital to drive even greater success for authors, publishers, and sales partners.

Draft2Digital and Smashwords are key catalysts behind the dramatic rise of self-publishing over the last fourteen years. Their publishing platforms enable 250,000 authors and publishers around the world to publish, distribute, market, and manage over 800,000 ebooks and 11,000 print on demand paperback books.

The combined company will operate under the Draft2Digital name and will be headquartered in Oklahoma City. All Smashwords and Draft2Digital employees are expected to join the combination.

Kris Austin, co-founder and CEO of Draft2Digital, will lead the combined company as CEO. Mark Coker, founder and former CEO of Smashwords, will join the Draft2Digital management team as Chief Strategy Officer and board member.

Both companies are entering the acquisition profitable and debt-free.

“I’m pleased to welcome Smashwords authors, publishers, employees and partners to the D2D family,” said Kris Austin. “Early in our discussions with Smashwords, we each immediately realized we can accomplish so much more for the indie author community by working together than working as competitors. The resources we once expended creating duplicative systems can now be redeployed to ramp up our R&D investments in next generation tools to empower authors and publishers.”

“I’m thrilled to join forces with Draft2Digital,” said Mark Coker. “Over the last decade, I’ve come to deeply admire Draft2Digital’s team, technology, and commitment to authors. Our shared business model is a key to our two companies’ success. We put authors first. By design, we only make money when our authors make money. This aligns our interests with the interests of our authors. Together we will lead the next chapter of the indie author revolution.”

The combination is expected to yield significant benefits for authors, publishers, retail and library partners, and readers.

  • Draft2Digital authors will gain access to the Smashwords Store and its myriad exclusive book marketing tools, including Smashwords Coupons, self-serve merchandising, Author Interviews, and the patent pending Smashwords Presales tool for book launches. Sales at the Smashwords Store have grown consecutively each of the last five years, with December 2021 sales up 20% over December 2020. Draft2Digital’s erotica authors can look forward to expanded distribution enabled by Smashwords’ proprietary erotica certification system, which allows retailers to carry erotic romance and mainstream erotica with greater confidence.
  • Smashwords authors will gain access to new tools that simplify print and digital publishing and drive greater success. Among these tools are D2D Print, the company’s Print on Demand service for paperbacks (currently in beta, which authors can join at; improved metadata management tools for better book discoverability at retailers; automated end-matter for series books; payment splitting for co-authors and collaborations; and more payment options, including direct bank deposits.
  • Retailers and libraries served by the companies can expect greater title selection and unmatched merchandising recommendations. The new, merged company will offer retailers, subscription services, and libraries unprecedented data-driven insights into the world’s largest dedicated catalog of independently published books. This represents a unique and first-of-its-kind offering that Draft2Digital believes will improve the publishing industry.
  • Customers of the Smashwords Store can look forward to an improved store experience and an increased selection of books from the many great authors and publishers distributed by Draft2Digital.

“This acquisition is great news for indie authors,” said Joanna Penn, host of the Creative Penn podcast and bestselling author who has followed each company since its founding. “Two of the industry’s strongest advocates for indie authors are combining their unique toolsets, technologies, and energy to do more for the indie community. There are exciting years ahead!”

What’s Coming Next

The acquisition is expected to close on March 1, 2022.

To minimize workflow disruption for authors, publishers, and sales partners, the two platforms will combine their systems in gradual and incremental steps.

Authors and publishers of both companies can continue utilizing their current platform of choice with the understanding that over time the authors and publishers of both companies will gain access to a common dashboard, common distribution outlets (including distribution to the Smashwords Store for current D2D authors), and an expanded suite of new and improved tools for book publishing, distribution, and marketing.

Draft2Digital will broadcast a live Q&A session for authors and publishers on Wednesday, February 9th, at Noon Central, with Kris Austin and Mark Coker, moderated by Kevin Tumlinson, Draft2Digital’s VP of Marketing & PR. Kris and Mark will share additional insight about their plans to support the indie publishing community and welcome questions from the audience.

Visit for links and launch time, and to attend live on either Facebook or YouTube. Live questions about the acquisition are encouraged. The live broadcast will be recorded for future inclusion in the Draft2Digital podcast, Self Publishing Insiders, and will be available as a blog post at

Additional FAQs about the acquisition can be found at:

About Draft2Digital

Founded in 2012 and headquartered in Oklahoma City, Draft2Digital is the world’s leading publishing platform for self-published authors and independent presses. The company offers a broad suite of free and powerful automated and self-serve tools that authors and publishers can use to build and grow their publishing businesses. This includes tools to simplify ebook and print publishing, distribution, metadata management, and marketing. Following its acquisition of Smashwords, Draft2Digital will serve more than 250,000 authors and publishers that collectively publish over 800,000 books worldwide. Visit Draft2Digital at or follow on Twitter @Draft2Digital.

About Smashwords, Inc.

Founded in 2008 by Mark Coker, Smashwords was an early pioneer in ebook self-publishing. The company’s platform made it possible for writers to professionally produce, publish, and distribute ebooks at no cost. As a distributor, Smashwords was the first to open multiple major retailers and library ebook services to self-published authors, and worked in partnership with sales partners and payment processors to establish systems, standards, and professional best practices to foster a thriving ecosystem of indie-friendly booksellers and libraries. As of December 31, 2021, Smashwords was publishing 590,000 ebooks supplied by 150,000 authors, publishers and literary agents. The company was originally headquartered in Los Gatos, Calif, and most recently based in Pacific Grove, Calif. Visit Smashwords at, or follow the store at @Smashwords.


FAQ Regarding D2D/Smashwords Acquisition

General questions

Who is Draft2Digital?

Draft2Digital is known for being “self-publishing with support,” and since 2012, the company has established a positive, glowing reputation in the author community. D2D is known for building tools and resources that answer indie author and publisher needs, with beautiful and functional design and responsive customer service.

Draft2Digital and Smashwords are so similar, it’s almost as if we sprouted from the same seed. And in many ways, we did.

Both companies, from the start, have been dedicated to building tools and services that make publishing fast, easy, and best of all, free. We only make money when our authors make money—a business model that puts authors first. The best business model we know.

Like Smashwords, Draft2Digital is one of the world’s largest distributors serving self-published authors and independent presses, with a global reach for ebook distribution. But D2D is about more than just ebooks.

Draft2Digital has an exciting Print on Demand solution for indie authors called D2D Print, now in beta (visit to be included in the beta). Smashwords founder Mark Coker thinks D2D Print will prove to be just as disruptive to print publishing over the next few years as Smashwords was to ebook publishing 14 years ago.

By combining the two companies into one, the new Draft2Digital can invest more into research and development (R&D) to innovate more next-generation tools services and offerings for authors.

The combination of Smashwords and Draft2Digital is a historic step toward our shared mission to drive greater success for self-published authors, independent publishers, and our distribution partners.

Q: What’s the name of the merged company?

A: The two companies will operate under the name of Draft2Digital. In the near term, Smashwords will continue to operate under its current name. Over time, Draft2Digital will become the name of the publishing platform, and Smashwords will remain as the brand for the Smashwords Store.

Q: When will the acquisition complete?

The close of the acquisition is expected to happen on March 1, 2022, after which the work of integrating the two companies begins.

Q: What will the combined company look like?

Following the acquisition, Draft2Digital will represent a combined 250,000 authors and publishers that use the company’s tools to publish, distribute, and manage over 880,000 ebooks and 11,000 print books (and growing). The combined company will employ over thirty people across the United States and Canada, and will maintain its corporate headquarters in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Q: Why are the companies merging?

A: The decision to merge came down to a simple question: Can we drive greater success for our authors, publishers and sales channels by working together, or by working apart as competitors?

To answer this question, we considered:

  • Both companies share common roots, missions, and values
  • Both companies were founded by writers to empower writers to become professional publishers
  • Both companies are expert at building free and powerful self-serve tools for authors
  • We’ve both built sophisticated distribution systems that help booksellers and libraries efficiently stock, merchandise and sell indie books
  • Both companies have built profitable businesses
  • We each built our successful businesses not by selling services to authors, but by helping authors and publishers publish, distribute, and market with greater efficiency and success

All of this led to our decision to merge both companies. The resources we once invested in building duplicative systems can now be redeployed to do more for all authors.

Q: What happens next for the authors and publishers of both companies?

A: As of March 1, 2022, if you’re an author or publisher with either Draft2Digital or Smashwords, there’s nothing you need to do; it will be business as usual. Over time, publishing and distribution systems for both Smashwords and Draft2Digital will be integrated onto the Draft2Digital website.

As a result, authors with either service will gain big benefits:

  • New sales partners will become available to authors
  • D2D authors and publishers will be able to list and sell their books in the Smashwords Store.
  • D2D authors will also gain access to exclusive book marketing tools from Smashwords, including Smashwords Coupons, the patent-pending Smashwords Presales tool, Author Interviews, and self-serve merchandising in the Smashwords Store.
  • The Smashwords publishing platform operations and publisher Dashboard will be merged into Draft2Digital’s, with the goal of preserving the best capabilities of each.

At each stage of the integration, we’ll aim to make the transition as smooth and effortless as possible for our combined authors, publishers, store and library partners, and readers.

Q: What happens to the staff at both companies?

A: This is an acquisition of opportunity, not necessity. Because we are two successful companies coming together, all Smashwords employees, including founder Mark Coker, are joining the D2D team, and the D2D team will remain intact.

Kris Austin, co-founder of Draft2Digital, will serve as CEO of the combined company, and Mark Coker will join the senior management team as Chief Strategy Officer and board member.

Q: Is the new Draft2Digital Hiring?

A. Yes! New growth means new opportunities!

Know any great software developers or customer support professionals who want to join our growing company? Visit to learn more.

Authors & Publishers

Q: How will the acquisition affect my books in distribution?

A: We will work with our sales partners to minimize any impact on book listings, listing web addresses, and reviews.

Q: Each company distributes to sales outlets not reached by the other. Will I have access to all sales channels?

A: Yes! Once our distribution systems are merged, authors will be able to opt-in to any and all sales and library partners currently offered by either Draft2Digital or Smashwords.

Q: Each company’s ebook publishing process is slightly different. How will the process change for me if I prefer one or the other?

A: We’re combining approaches to give you more options and flexibility!

Both companies allow authors and publishers to upload a professionally designed .epub file. However, the way each company handles conversion from Word or RTF files is a bit different.

We will be preserving both the granular flexibility of custom manuscript styling from Smashwords and the streamlined, automated professional layout and templates from Draft2Digital. This means that authors and publishers get the best of both worlds, with options to use either method.

Q: Can you summarize the unique tool sets of each company that you anticipate making available to all authors?

A: Yes! Both companies offer robust tools for:

  • Distribution
  • Marketing
  • Sales reporting
  • Tax reporting
  • Metadata management

When these tools are integrated, Draft2Digital will seek to combine the best elements of each.

Both companies also offer unique tools not offered by the other:

Smashwords authors and publishers can expect to gain access to:

  • Simpler publishing tools; tools for automated end-matter
  • Books2Read Universal Book Links (UBLs), Author Pages, Book Tabs, and Reading Lists
  • D2D Print for POD paperbacks (visit to be included in the beta)
  • D2D Payment Splitting for co-authors and collaborations
  • New payment options, including direct bank deposits

D2D authors and publishers can expect to gain access to:

  • The Smashwords Store
  • Smashwords Coupons
  • Smashwords Presales
  • Self-serve merchandising
  • Author Interviews
  • The Smashwords erotica certification system (see next item)

Q: What are the erotic fiction policies of the new company?

A: Each retailer, subscription service, or library platform has its own content policies. Draft2Digital will adopt the existing Smashwords erotic fiction policies for these platforms.

A few years ago, Smashwords introduced a certification system that allows erotic fiction publishers to self-certify the presence (or lack thereof) of various facets of erotica that are generally recognized as “taboo.” This accurate, more granular categorization provides retailers and libraries with the confidence they need to know that the erotic literature they’re selling doesn’t violate their policies.

The Smashwords Erotic Fiction Certification System will be made available to all Draft2Digital authors.

Q: Will the erotica policies change in the Smashwords Store?

A: Smashwords has a long history of supporting the erotic fiction community. No changes are anticipated to the policies documented at, nor have there been any changes in the last four years.

The policies on permitted, discouraged, and forbidden erotica categories remain in effect. The Smashwords Store has a more permissive approach to taboo erotica than most ebook stores. The store gives customers unprecedented control over the types of erotica, if any, that appear in their search results.

Q: What does the acquisition mean for existing store and library partners?

As the leading distributors of independently published ebooks, both companies have always worked in close partnership with major ebook retailers and library platforms to help them list, promote, and profit from the amazing diversity of indie ebooks.. We help our authors succeed by helping our sales partners succeed!

Q: Is the new Draft2Digital looking to expand its distribution network to new sales partners?

Absolutely! As a distributor, we’re always looking to support promising new booksellers and bookselling models. Given the size of our catalog, we can give new sales channels the critical mass they need to build businesses around our authors’ books. Draft2Digital and Smashwords have rigorous qualification procedures to ensure that new sales partners meet our high standards and requirements.

Potential sales channels can ask to be connected to the Draft2Digital Operations team at

More Questions? We Want to Hear from You!
Contact us!


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Saturday, February 5, 2022

Chatham's botanical garden


What was utterly beyond my expectations was that we would find a garden oasis on windswept, low-lying Chatham Island.  But a drive north parallel to Long Beach led us past Airport Road to a notice that said, "Admiral Gardens."

Back in the 1950s, Val and Lois Croon, married with four children under the age of five in Auckland, New Zealand, decided there was something more to life, and went to Chatham Island to see the land Lois had inherited from her mother, Molly, of Ngati Mutunga descent.  They loved it, so why not resettle?  So they built a small house -- which they called 'the little house in the prairie' - and started a long mission to turn the land into an amazing botanical garden.

Windbreaks were essential, and so that was the first job. Macrocrapas and other pines grew fast, and did an excellent job, creating a tranquil oasis, where surprisingly sub-tropical plants flourish.

Food is another essential, so raised plots flourish with vegetables -- silverbeet, corn, beans, tomatoes, lettuce, cauliflowers, cabbages, onions.  They grow a LOT of these, as the house extended into a cafe-restaurant, where groups of tourists are fed home-cooked meals.  There is a barbeque pit, an outside bar, and, of course, outdoor toilets and handwashing facilities.  The water is pure, coming from an aquafer in the limestone deep beneath.

But the flowers!  Perhaps because the soil is so peaty, or perhaps by magic, hydrangeas are an amazing brilliant wine color -- claret, cardinal.

 The Buddleia are equally brilliant in hue -- and grown deliberately, to attract butterflies.  The Admiral butterfly (Vanessa gonerilla), with its brilliant red cape, is a native of New Zealand, but there is a sub-species that is endemic to the Chatham Islands.  And, like all butterflies, Admirals love the so-called 'butterfly bush.'

There is an Admiral on this flower cluster, but I was not patient enough to wait for it to open its wings.

I was particularly fascinated by the French-style parterre, a kind of decorative hay field, which takes the eye gently from the gardens to the natural tussock and the sea.  Typically of the Croons, it is given a big jot of humor.  Not only are there scarecrows, but they have been given masks.

Want to know more?  There was great gardening coverage in New Zealand newspapers in December 2020.  And there are great reviews on Air Chatham's facebook page.

If you get to Chatham Island, make sure you visit these wonderful gardens.  It is guaranteed to be a highlight.  

It certainly was for us.