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46709 Posts in 5588 Topics by 13297 Members Latest Member: - Shane786 Most online today: 38 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: An Article About Print-on-Demand, Publishing, and the Future  (Read 2026 times)
Christopher Kubasik
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Posts: 1159


« on: February 01, 2009, 07:46:22 AM »

Everyone's trying to guess how all this is going to shake out.  I think it says many of the things that have been argued here about RPG publishing.... and extends it to publishing in general.  It also adds a few points about what will be needed to succeed as a writer in the future.  If my observations about the art world market are of any value, I'd agree with the author.

Here's an article about the subject at thebigmoney.com

"Paradoxically, the proliferation of digital media that is arguably the biggest threat to traditional publishing also offers authors more opportunities than ever to distribute and promote their work. The catch: In order to do that effectively, authors increasingly must transcend their words and become brands."


And Andrew Sullivan, my favorite blogger, comments:

"My own view is that the publishing industry deserves to die in its current state. It never made economic sense to me; there are no real editors of books any more; the distribution network is archaic; the technology of publishing pathetic; and the rewards to authors largely impenetrable. I still have no idea what my occasional royalty statements mean: they are designed to be incomprehensible, to keep the authors in the dark, to maintain an Oz-like mystery where none is required.

The future is obviously print-on-demand, and writers in the future will make their names first on the web. With e-distribution and e-books, writers will soon be able to put this incompetent and often philistine racket behind us. It couldn't happen too soon."

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"Can't we for once just do what we're supposed to do -- and then stop?
Lemonhead, The Shield
Lance D. Allen
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« Reply #1 on: February 01, 2009, 11:36:31 AM »

I think Andrew's got it wrong, at least in part.

This is based entirely on my observations looking into publishing POD for my own purposes, rather than any real research.

I think the common perception is still that the only way of doing things is the traditional way. You go to the bookstore to buy books. The bookstores pretty much only carry books from the main distributors. When people go to Amazon, they're not looking for new books. They're looking for books by authors they already know, or popular books that have been recommended to them. They don't just browse the titles, and if they do, they probably don't browse down through the obscure new net-based authors.

I think it would take a well-known author to cross the divide, and publish one of their books POD, to really open the public eye to POD as a valid way of doing things. Those who've even heard of it tend to dismiss it as a vanity endeavor. If you want to gain any serious recognition and readership, you've got to go through traditional channels.

Now, sure.. Grassroots movements do eventually cause change.. But often, the rate of change is slow enough that the ponderous traditional beasts are able to adapt and exploit the new things. Unless something happens to bring the change quicker, "the man" will own POD the same way he owns the current dinosaur of a publishing model.
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~Lance Allen
Wolves Den Publishing
Eternally Incipient Publisher of Mage Blade, ReCoil and Rats in the Walls
greyorm
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My name is Raven.


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« Reply #2 on: February 01, 2009, 01:22:50 PM »

Lance, I wouldn't make predictions or observations based on feeling: mostly they end up being wrong. Look at what Ron has done with the Forge, with promoting the use of critical/observational theory in design, and with the independent publishing scene based on where the scene was at eight-to-ten years ago and what everyone was saying about those things at the time (OH the whingeing! The derision! The 'no one does that!' and 'No one CAN do that!').
Quote
They don't just browse the titles, and if they do, they probably don't browse down through the obscure new net-based authors.
So when you say that, and my own experience and that of my friends whose observed behavior when ordering on Amazon differs completely from what you think happens there--we all browse down into the unknown, POD authors* and order their stuff if it sounds good--I think perhaps you might step back and take a moment to wonder why you're being quick to offer up the possibility that this isn't true based on a feeling rather than hard data?

* Assuming we even know. POD is invisible to the consumer. They're just looking for a book and hardly care how it is published. It isn't as though someone publishes a book and stamps all over the cover THIS BOOK IS POD! JOIN THE REVOLUTION! It's more "Hey, look, a book with words in it that I like reading!"
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio
Christopher Kubasik
Member

Posts: 1159


« Reply #3 on: February 02, 2009, 10:02:32 AM »

Hi Lance,

As the article from thebigmoney.com points out, publishers are freezing their purchasing this year.  So, let me be clear: right now, this year, there are several major publishing houses that are buying no new manuscripts at least until 2010.  For all we know, in the next 10 to 15 years publishing houses might transform completely, becoming more like marketing agencies that simply promote 20 to 100 top selling authors who have already broken out in the POD market.

20 years ago record industry execs insisted that the consumers liked buying albums and that they could control how songs reached consumers.  The thought of single song purchases through some crazy system called iTunes -- even if laid out in clear detail -- would have been impossible for their brains to grasp.  Because, you know, people would hear a song on the radio, go to a record store, and pay $17.99 for an album.  That's the way things worked.

If you look at what happened to the music/recording industries collapse, if you look at one-after-another shuttering of newspapers across the country, if you look at the shake up occurring in TV (where David Zucker at NBC has simply cancelled 5 hours of prime time production across the week), I think one can safely say, "Something is up."

For all we know, in the next ten years the publishing houses will collapse.  There may not be ship loads of books sent to book stores.  There may not end up being book stores as we know them.  I expect there will brick and mortar somethings, but what will those something's be?  An electronic reading device that is as comfortable in the hand as a book and with a price point that is reasonable might finally be produced rendering books themselves an archaic artifact of communication history.  A new generation will grow up thinking that simply grabbing text from off line is normal, just as today's unruly youngsters ignorant of tradition really, really just want songs, not albums, and go online to shop for music first. 

You are right that there will be -- let's call it "authority" -- that allows work of any kind to immediately have weight in the market. This can come form critical acclaim, marketing, or word of mouth, brand recognition and so on.  But that doesn't mean publishing houses and/or bookstores need to be part of that.

But as I tend to say these days, "Right now, if one isn't thinking out of the box, one is wrong."

That's only my view, of course.  But sitting in the maelstrom of media creation and distribution, I'm pretty sure I'm right.
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"Can't we for once just do what we're supposed to do -- and then stop?
Lemonhead, The Shield
guildofblades
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« Reply #4 on: February 02, 2009, 11:26:27 AM »

>>* Assuming we even know. POD is invisible to the consumer. They're just looking for a book and hardly care how it is published. It isn't as though someone publishes a book and stamps all over the cover THIS BOOK IS POD! JOIN THE REVOLUTION! It's more "Hey, look, a book with words in it that I like reading!"<<

Right now POD is largely invisible. It wasn't 10 years ago because the quality of a POD book was clearly different enough that an educated consumer could easily tell it was POD. These days POD printing has caught up so that its nearly impossible to tell the difference if they are done right.

But in the future, I think POD will jump right up to be "in the face" of the consumer. That is because major book stores like Barns & Noble, Borders, and even small shops like my own, will be inventorying and displaying a much smaller array of books physically. Then they will utilize the newest generations of Electronic Book Machines to have them printed, nearly labor free, on demand. Of course, as the EMB machines come down in price, I also expect to see them start showing up in Walmarts, Targets, etc. So "book" stores will likely have to divdersify themselves further by providing more "services" to the core readers of the book market, with even more book signings, book previews, hosting writer groups, etc. The EMBs will let the mass market stores compete even more easily on the retail of books so true book stores will have to survive by supporting the culture of book readers, publishers, etc.

As the market moves into direct POD fulfillment with on sight printing faccilities, the old school concepts of book distribution will begin to collapse. But don't think those guys haven't seen the writing on that particular wall since LSI first got started. They've begun to adapt. Thats why these EMB machines are set up to get PDF data dumps directly from Ingram's electronic catalog. In the future Ingram will be able to reduce its warehousing space by 2/3rds or even 3/4th and only distribute books, calendars and other specialty items that the EMB machines can't print and their core business will be in the maintaining the electronic distribution of files and then the setting up of systematic processes to promote new releases.

Small businesses will still have the same difficulties of getting into that system. It will be seen as some sort of labor cost to set up a new vendor in the system, get their profile and payment system for sales all set up, etc. Plus there will still be seen as a limited throughput for stores and limits to the promotions that can be organized for stores to run, so resources spent on those limits will be focused on known names and known publishers (ala, the folks with money and rep already). Small publishers will struggle to get into and stay in the large distribution catalogs like Ingrams, but I believe smaller and specialized catalog distributors will emerge to service much of the non mainstream content. Like, One Bookshelf could emerge as the leading distributor of hobby game products to any retailer with in house POD operations, be it through a full data dump to an EBM machine or to smaller stores like ours where we handle our POD on machines with a bit more hands on needed.

The world is changing. With in-store POD close to becoming a reality (we're doing it now, but we're reduced to only printing PDFs already owned by consumers and with license that don't restrict their printing options, or by POD printing and merchandising product that we have made direct relationships with the publishers. Tangle and organized distribution of the e-files needed simply hasn't come about yet), the future distribution of printed goods is going to change dramatically. Heck, we're likely only a decade away or so of the same being said of single piece plastic items too, since they have those 3d printers already. Its only a matter of time until they become more cost efficient, faster, and better at crafting the plastic items. To the point that in-store production might become more efficient than the old centralized production-ship half way around the world-then store in huge warehouses and ship locally system we have now.

Ryan S. Johnson
Guild of Blades Retail Group - http://www.guildofblades.com/retailgroup.php
Guild of Blades Publishing Group - http://www.guildofblades.com
1483 Online - http://www.1483online.com
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Ryan S. Johnson
Guild of Blades Publishing Group
http://www.guildofblades.com
MatrixGamer
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« Reply #5 on: February 03, 2009, 07:49:26 AM »

I'm reminded of the 1970's when offset printing pushed letter presses out of the market. Guttenburg was dead and everyone who had letterpresses and type sold them off along with the old smyth sewing machines. The old technology didn't completely disappear - it just became a more expensive specialty product.

I'm certain POD machines in stores (with a single sample on display) will be what drives the mass market. I thought that the first time I heard about Lightning Press in the 90's. I don't think that will make it much easier for small companies to sell product because the marketing is the harder task and it won't go away. I can also easily see specialty sewn and printed hardback books finding a nitch. It's the binding that will make the difference. Maybe when I get out of game making I'll turn to that market. Say $50 for a hardback sewn book.

Interesting thought - it takes printing back in to the art market.

Chris Engle
Hamster Press
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Chris Engle
Hamster Press = Engle Matrix Games
http://HamsterPress.net
guildofblades
Member

Posts: 309


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« Reply #6 on: February 03, 2009, 09:37:39 AM »

Hi Chris,

For sure. When soft cover books from EBMs become the norm, we'll bring in the hard cover case makers. be worth it then. Right now, they are just too pricey, once labor is factored in, to make hard covers on demand.

Ryan S. Johnson
Guild of Blades Retail Group - http://www.guildofblades.com/retailgroup.php
Guild of Blades Publishing Group - http://www.guildofblades.com
1483 Online - http://www.1483online.com
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Ryan S. Johnson
Guild of Blades Publishing Group
http://www.guildofblades.com
Lance D. Allen
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Posts: 1970


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« Reply #7 on: February 03, 2009, 11:11:50 PM »

Wow, you know Chris (K), when you said that "books themselves [are rendered] an archaic artifact of communication history" I nodded in agreement that you were probably right, and felt more than a little sad.

As nonsensical as it may seem, there's just something... to be loved about dead-tree versions of books.
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~Lance Allen
Wolves Den Publishing
Eternally Incipient Publisher of Mage Blade, ReCoil and Rats in the Walls
Christopher Kubasik
Member

Posts: 1159


« Reply #8 on: February 04, 2009, 03:15:37 AM »

Hi Lance,

Of course.

But remember that many folks were sad when writing started become common.  After all, they argued, what would happen to the mind if we didn't have entrust the words that mattered to memory.

Everyone values what is familiar, and what is familiar dies off, replaced by something new.  And this is clearer in the case of how we record and transmit information than anything else I can think of.

It's just part of life.  Not just change, but so often the sadness that comes with it. 

Although for some, instead of sadness, there is the excitement for the new thing.  I had lunch with a women recently out of college the other day.  She was pretty much reading me the riot act, demanding why the shows she wanted to watch weren't easily available on her iPhone, since she never watched anything on a TV and even watching shows on her laptop was becoming archaic.  It happens to everything!
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"Can't we for once just do what we're supposed to do -- and then stop?
Lemonhead, The Shield
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