This Artist Is Burning Books That Kickstarter Backers Paid For…

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Artist John Campbell has been burning books that Kickstarter backers funded and were supposed to receive.

Back in 2012, John Campbell put up a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for a book called Sad Pictures for Children.  He hoped to raise $8,000, but quickly raised $51,615.

Sounds like the beginning of a smashing success story.  But John’s Kickstarter updates soon became pretty confusing.   Eventually, the project went from a campaign to help an artist publish his work to something entirely different.

Over time, the completion date of the book was pushed back further and further.  Some books were eventually sent out to those that contributed the least amounts of money.  Those who contributed $75 never received a book and probably never will.

John recently posted a video montage of 127 burning books and posted it on the project’s Kickstarter page.  He burnt one book for every inquiring email he received from backers.  Every time he gets a new message he says he will burn one more book.

The reason for all this?  Part of it is that Campbell cannot afford to ship the remaining books.  The other reason is that John has decided to renounce capitalism, saying he doesn’t want to put more meaningless objects into the world (nevermind the fact that the books were already made):

“I am making the loudest sound I know how to make. I know that some people will be personally offended that I am doing this, but I am doing this in large part because our culture has developed in such a way that some of the intelligent, empathetic people who follow me will believe they feel more psychological pain because of books being burnt, their money and my attitude about them than because of the destruction of the natural world, the continuation of classist, racist, abusive patterns of behavior and representation, etc.”

Another artist, Paul Jenkins, has stepped up, posting a message on his own Kickstarter page:

“While I understand what John did was wrong, I don’t think he deserves animosity. I feel he deserves compassion and understanding. In my opinion, the stress of doing Kickstarter got to him – he made a bad decision or two and it got worse.  John has admitted issues with depression – I hardly think it’s appropriate to attack a guy who is clearly showing signs of a breakdown.”

Paul Jenkins will send a free PDF of his own book to those who backed Sad Pictures for Children and didn’t receive their copy.  He can be contacted at


*John mentions issues with sexuality and wrote “I’m not a “man” I think” in the latest Kickstarter update. I’m not sure what that means, but I used male pronouns to avoid confusion. I’ll edit / update if I find out those pronouns are incorrect.

14 Responses

  1. Anonymous

    “I am making the loudest sound”

    …and that’s the music angle, or…?

    • FarePlay

      Here’s why DMN ran the story.

      Kickstarter has been a major news story for bands and in some cases money, lots of money.

      Forget John Campbell, although anyone who would write a book titled “Sad Pictures for Children” would send up a red flag, not make me take out my credit card.

      The real story is Kickstarter. The last thing they want are rogue fund raisers, who don’t deliver.

  2. Londonmusicmapp

    What a complete knob… flawed logic, confusing argument and more fool Digital Music News for giving him even this publicity.

  3. Big Boy

    Oh dear, someone gave him $1,000 dollars….for a book

  4. hippydog

    nut job!
    I am now considering starting my own kickstarter campaign.. if people are willing to give THIS GUY money, then.. you know.. I have to basically assume there are enough people who are stupid enough to give me money..

    From an artistic & narcissistic standpoint THIS IS AWESOME!
    Guy is showing the pure ups and downs of a crazy person who started a kickstarter campaign.. Kinda like watching a slow train wreck.. You know its gonna end badly but you have to watch..

    Some should give this guy a reality TV show 😉

  5. Erik P

    People like this ruin trust in the crowdfunding concept. Funny how he renounces capitalism AFTER he got everyone’s money. If he truly wanted to renounce capitalism he would have sent everyone’s money back.

    • Bernd Jendrissek

      This. I bet he pines for a kind of society that can only exist where there is trust in other people’s word, then goes and breaks his word.

  6. stuff

    I don’t think he’s “renouncing capitalism”, just that he fucked up and lost the money. clearly the guy needs support, no matter how much money he can squander. people are people.

  7. bookworm

    Couldn’t Mr. Campbell’s actions border on “fraud”?