Thursday, May 28, 2009

The world is changing, Grasshopper ...

The world of books and publishing is changing and we authors watch it all wondering what will happen to us.

Here is a link to an article on a new form of Print on Demand. The machine goes into bookstores and libraries. It automatically prints,binds and trims perfect bound paperbacks, at point of sale. Some major publishers are on board with it, Hachette, Macmillan and Simon & Schuster to name a few. The machine was named 'Invention of the Year" in 2007.

As a writer, I feel anything that brings books closer to people is good. (I also feel like I'm living in the future. When ever I flick open my mobile phone I think of Star Trek and Beam me up, Scotty).

Another interesting development is e-books and how different publishers react to them. Some try to control all sourcing of e-books and see pirating of books on the web as something to chase down. Others try to reach new readers through this medium. There's a link down in the Interesting Sites on the side bar of this page to Baen Books free e-book page. Like Cory Doctorow, they figure if you like the e-book, you're likely to go out and buy more books by that author.

How do you feel about e-books and point of sale, print on demand?


Flinthart said...

The technology is fine. It's the implementation that peeves me. The publication/distribution machine is supposed to serve two purposes. One is obvious: it supplies books. The other is less so: it acts as a gatekeeper, ideally upholding a quality or a standard.

I'm not a huge lit-snob. But I don't like badly written, badly structured, derivative, shallow, amateurish books. They're a waste of resources, and worse, they're a waste of readership.

Now, I can't reasonably claim the oldstyle pub/dist regime has been tremendously effective. There's a lot of shit on the shelves, as we all know. But as a slush reader and a reviewer, I can tell you this: there is a metric snotload more shit out there in self-publish land.

And that raises a question. When everyone's manuscript is equally accessible, how the blazes do the decent writers a) get noticed and b) get rewarded?

It would be nice to think that this New Tech, would increase the payment to the authors, what with stripping out middlemen and overheads of all sorts -- but I think we all know that won't happen. On the other hand, direct distribution of e-scripts has the potential to put a lot more into the writers' pockets while still saving the readers a fortune.

Three things needed: a reliable, cheap and effective e-reader without DRM bullshit; a trusted, accessible and easily used micropayment system -- and a new model of the 'gatekeeper' function of the paper pub/dist machine.

Of the three, it's possible that last may actually be the most important...

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

The Print on demand machine that goes into shops is supposed to make available those books which have been out of print and someone asks after.

I hadn't made the leap to this kind of technology making self published books more readily available but, even if it does, who would ask for them other than the person's relatives?

Payment to authors ... Hmmm, in theory authors do get more from e-sales, but they don't seem to sell enough this way for it to make any difference.

In the best of all possible worlds creative people would be rewarded as well as those who can run fast or drive cars in circles or kick a ball are rewarded.

And yes, I haven't heard of an e-reader yet, that would make me turn away from real books.

Mind you, the books are beginning to take over the house!