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Lakeshore
An author of no particular popularity

Jay Lake
Date: 2007-10-09 18:04
Subject: [publishing] It's a production process, not a business model
Security: Public
Location:Coffee house
Mood:mildly vexed
Music:coffee houe music
Tags:books, publishing
For the four hundred eighty seventh time, "print on demand" is a production process, not a business model. I continue to be amazed at the number of otherwise intelligent, thoughtful people who conflate "print on demand" with "vanity publishing."

Some very fine, well-regarded books have been produced via print on demand from commercial presses. Some real trash has come out of the New York trade press. And vice versa. Production process is not an inherent predictor of quality, artistic merit or market value.

That is all. You may shop as usual. No need to return to your homes.
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J Erwine - writer/editor
User: jerwine
Date: 2007-10-10 01:50 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
If it wasn't for POD, a lot of the small presses couldn't survive, and lately, I've been enjoying books from the small press more than the ones from the big publishers.

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Andrew Trembley
User: bovil
Date: 2007-10-10 03:07 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Digital press technology has improved enough that even tiny print runs can be economically viable if your business plan is designed around them.

Of course, that's a printing business.
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User: n5red
Date: 2007-10-10 02:16 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I had a friend who couldn't understand the difference between "small press" and "vanity press". Idiot. He also has a degre in Nuclear Engineering, yet another reason why trying to build nukes is a really bad idea in this country.
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International Bon Vivant and Raconteur
User: nick_kaufmann
Date: 2007-10-10 03:28 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
To be fair, it's not entirely the fault of the people who conflate the two. Just about every modern vanity press uses print on demand technology and has since POD was invented. To muddy the waters even more, all the vanity presses that routinely advertise in Writers Digest use the acronym POD in large letters in their ads, though they mean it as "publish on demand." It's a confusing world out there!
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Lisa Deutsch Harrigan
User: lisa_marli
Date: 2007-10-10 04:18 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
We use a normally POD press for our Mythopoeic Press Runs of 300 copies. We just find it cheaper to pull the 300 at once and then distribute them ourselves, than any other way.
We are definitely a Small Press and vanity has Nothing to do with it (most of our authors are dead, or we are writing scholarly stuff about dead authors).
YMMV
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mallory_blog: pic#47746478
User: mallory_blog
Date: 2007-10-10 05:31 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:pic#47746478
not to contradict you - but it can also be considered a business model and it has the potential to truly revolutionize print production if a few very techy people have their way - a business with NO WASTE or stripped books is a model- I believe there are currently machines that will print, bind and cut from cover to interior pages - on demand - if these become size effective - say the size of your average ATM then anyone can put in a few bucks, dial up their fav title and poof - receive it - no bookstore, no waste, just an atm renting space.

Today some of the POD publishers are actively working toward this as a feasible answer to e-books and how people dislike not having something tangible.
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sheelangig: sex = tea
User: sheelangig
Date: 2007-10-10 05:40 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:sex = tea

Oh by all means, contradict him. I know exactly nothing about the topic, but I would say, definitely, contradict this man, early and often.


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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2007-10-10 12:39 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Phttptpt
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sheelangig: sex = tea
User: sheelangig
Date: 2007-10-11 14:24 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:sex = tea

::grinning::
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russ: watchmen
User: goulo
Date: 2007-10-10 09:44 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:watchmen
I agree. In some sense it is a business model (print and sell as orders are made, instead of print a batch and store them, selling until you have no more copies left and must decide whether to print another batch).

Also, to assert that "production process is not an inherent predictor of quality, artistic merit or market value" seems dodgy to me. Of course it makes no definitely true predictions, but if you see a text whose production process was "write illegibly with crayons on leftover trash paper", for instance, you might reasonably suppose something about its quality compared to a text whose production process was "have skilled editors proofread and edit the text, then print it with a high quality press".
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2007-10-10 12:43 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Print on demand is just a way of making books, from the publisher's perspective. You could "print and sell as orders are made", etc., even with offset press, it would just be an impractically expensive way of making the books.

And of course production process has some correlation to product quality. Generally, people don't invest in expensive production unless they think they have a product that is worth the trouble.

But you of all people should be able to relate to the fact that, for example, open source software without slick packaging and 1-800 customer service numbers can be as powerful and feature-rich as anything from a Big Name Software Publisher. Open source can also be a pile of disk-corrupting crap written by sript kiddies, which is how a lot of corporate and commercial players saw it until fairly recently. Likewise POD.
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russ
User: goulo
Date: 2007-10-10 13:45 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
This software example is odd because it seems to be somehow assuming that at some level my unconscious reaction is that the only good production process is the stereotypical corporate one, but in fact I have a reaction that open source software that has a good team working on it and a good clear website with documentation, unit tests, bug tracking, etc is probably good.

I.e. I'd say that the production process is EXTREMELY more important for software quality than for book quality.

"Many eyes find more bugs", use of unit tests, good documentation, source control, bug tracking, etc is a production process that, all else being equal, gives me more confidence.

Perhaps your phrase "inherent predictor" was ambiguous or confusing to me. I got the (apparently mis-)impression you were saying that the process has no relation to the quality of the result. It seems that we agree that it has some predictive relevance but of course guarantees nothing.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2007-10-10 13:54 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Right. I think we're in agreement. Correlative, but not causative.

(And I presumed you are a strong proponent of open source development, even if I didn't manage to say that effectively.)
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mallory_blog: pic#47746478
User: mallory_blog
Date: 2007-10-10 18:42 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:pic#47746478
Another side of this question that I don't see talked about too often is for authors who have their books go 'out of print' and based on publishers criteria not a fast enough sell-thru to warrant reprintings - at some point the author should be able to make a determination that their (already edited and first printed - potentially very well received novel) can be made available on a more permanent basis or that it may never actually go out of print. Now this idea is beyond the 'skilled editors' aspect and the print only in high quantities of the higher quality press - and it does get into posterity issues and potentially changing ownership of works laws to pass rights through family lines much longer than is happening today.

My perspective is that the future is or could be quite different than the recent past and that the war of ownership and control of author works is one we are just beginning to see the true shape of.

I can even visualize a 'repulping' type machine which you feed with a paperback book and receive a new one - again with a consideration for ecology and the idea that we don't need to hoard all the books we like, we can pick one up inexpensively when we wish to re-read it. Is recycled paper of a different quality than primo top end paper - sure, but if my thought is that paperbacks are inpermanent or completely recyclable products then my concern that they be perfect or high end is less valid. A great many of the current paperbacks are on inadequate paper which are degrading rapidly today - I think they have a higher acid content though I'm no chemist.

Quite frankly, if I buy mass market today the production quality is often questionable with type fonts too small and leading too tight for me to easily read. Should I then assume the content of the work is inferior? No.

I predict the author/publisher contracts of the future will be strongly concerned with exactly these types of long term issues since content is inherently valuable as publishers are beginning to discover today - contrary to the precept that works have a life span defined by a publisher/bookstore's willingness to maintain production or shelf space for a work.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2007-10-10 12:39 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
a business with NO WASTE or stripped books is a model

Sure. It's a business model for the printer who operates the machine. It's still a publishing process for the publisher, which is the point I was reaching for. (I know way more about the printing business than I probably should, fwiw.)
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REudaly: Evil Genius
User: reudaly
Date: 2007-10-10 12:59 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Evil Genius
I will NOT contradict this man on this point. 8-)

Instead I will say, "AMEN, Brother!!!!" and some form of "Preach it!"

It's one of my bugaboos too, equating POD with Vanity/Self Publishing.

I *have* equated POD with fire -- it's a TECHNOLOGY to be used for a purpose. Used for legit SMALL PRESS (=GOOD/warm/food cooked) or Vanity/Self pub (=BAD/weapon/destruction) it's a MEANS NOT AN END.
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