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# Examining the Era of Print-on-Demand

#### Zonk (UID: 12082) posted more than 7 years ago | from the pod-easy-as-one-two-three dept.

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tonywong writes "Printing on demand is getting cheaper and better every year. The New York Times has this a review of sites that offer simple DTP programs for free to lure potential publishers. The article claims that the print run can be as little as a single copy on demand." From the article: "Blurb.com's design software, which is still in beta testing, comes with a number of templates for different genres like cookbooks, photo collections and poetry books. Once one is chosen, it automatically lays out the page and lets the designer fill in the photographs and text by cutting and pasting. If the designer wants to tweak some details of the template -- say, the position of a page number or a background color -- the changes affect all the pages. The software is markedly easier to use -- although less capable -- than InDesign from Adobe or Quark XPress, professional publishing packages that cost around $700. It is also free because Blurb expects to make money from printing the book." cancel × ##### This is a preview of your comment ### No Comment Title Entered #### Anonymous Coward 1 minute ago No Comment Entered ### 162 comments ### ANOTHER FINE FP BY V0DKA (-1, Offtopic) This comment was hidden based on your threshold setting. #### DJCacophony (UID: 832334) | more than 7 years ago QlDlOlDlOQDlOQl.....lOQlD................OQlDl.... ...QlDlOlDlOQDlOQl.....lOQlD...........OQlDl lDlOQDlOQllOQlD.....OQlDl................QlDlO.... ...lDlOQDlOQllDlOQ.....OQlDl.........QlDlOl DlOQl......................QlDlO................lD lOQ.......DlOQl.......................QlDlO......l DlOQ lOQlD......................lDlOQ................Dl OQl.......lOQlD.......................lDlOQ......D lOQl OQlDlQlDlOlDlOQ.....DlOQl................lOQlD.... ...OQlDl.......................DlOQllOQlD QlDlOlDlOQDlOQl.....lOQlD................OQlDl.... ...QlDlO.......................lOQlDOQlDl lDlOQ......................OQlDl................Ql DlO........lDlOQ.......................OQlDl...... QlDlO DlOQl......................QlDlO................lD lOQ........DlOQl.......................QlDlO...... lDlOQ lOQlD......................lOQlDOQlDlQlDlOlDlOQ... ....DlOQllOQlDOQlDl.....lDlOQ........DlOQll OQlDl......................lDlOQDlOQllOQlDOQlDl... ....QlDlOlDlOQDlOQl.....DlOQl..........lOQlD ### Re:ANOTHER FINE FP BY V0DKA (-1, Offtopic) This comment was hidden based on your threshold setting. #### Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago ANUS! ### No other formats? (2, Insightful) This comment was hidden based on your threshold setting. #### Atzanteol (UID: 99067) | more than 7 years ago This seems very interesting. It would be nice if they would accept existing formats as well as whatever is generated from their application. But I like the idea of printing low-volume books becoming cheaper. ### Re:No other formats? (3, Informative) This comment was hidden based on your threshold setting. #### plover (UID: 150551) | more than 7 years ago You need to read deeper into the article. Different publishers are accepting source materials in different formats. Blurb has their composer on a web site, Picaboo gives you a free download of their software, and Lulu takes PDFs. Shop around, and find the one willing to work with you. They all seem comparably priced for the end product, which isn't much more than you'd pay for an ordinary hardbound edition from a well respected author. ### Re:No other formats? (1) This comment was hidden based on your threshold setting. #### Atzanteol (UID: 99067) | more than 7 years ago Ahhh, so they do. I hadn't seen the Lulu entry (I'd just looked at blurb.com). I haven't paid much attention to on-demand printing so far. This may not be the same as "being published" as some folks have mentioned, but I could definitely see this stuff being used for clubs and other groups though (promotional material, bylaws, etc.). ### Re:No other formats? (1) This comment was hidden based on your threshold setting. #### FLEB (UID: 312391) | more than 7 years ago I haven't looked into it (aside from R'ing TFA), but if they don't accept standard formats, that's just their niche decision, and it's just not the one for you. There are plenty (most, I think) of similar online small-run publishers that do accept common formats. ### old school (4, Interesting) This comment was hidden based on your threshold setting. #### blinder (UID: 153117) | more than 7 years ago i dunno, being an old timer zine publisher (since '87) i still kinda sorta miss the days of the gluestick, typewriter and a trip to the kinkos (well, the one where you had a friend who worked the grave yard shift and let you copy your zine for free). but alas, i must admit that programs like quark (and now indesign) have made things a bit easier... and well, the whole on-demand publishing like lulu (and others) have made the DIY publishing cheaper but also opened up "underground" press (aka small-press) to new audiences. i mean, there was only so much you could do with your by-hand copied zine... sure passing them out at the shows and begging the local record store owners to carry them was great... but this on demand thing is, well... not only do you get the control (creative) but you also can actually (sorta) compete with the "big boys." ### Re:old school (2, Interesting) This comment was hidden based on your threshold setting. #### ATMosby (UID: 746034) | more than 7 years ago Makes me wonder how much money places like Kinkos has lost over the year due to people with friends on the graveyard shifts! I know several people who published zines for *years* that way. And that's just in a limited geographical area! ### Re:old school (1) This comment was hidden based on your threshold setting. #### XxtraLarGe (UID: 551297) | more than 7 years ago I can't speak for other former college town Kinko's graveyard shift employees, but I never let anybody copy their zines for free. I'd charge them full price for their copying. I would help many of them with using the light table, and we always kept a fresh supply of exacto knife blades, glue sticks & white-out tape - but we did this for all of our customers. I did not charge them for hand-placing documents, and if we were slow, I'd offer to fold/collate stuff for free on the machines. So basically I'd give away services they weren't going to pay for in the first place (because they would have done it themselves), and helped to build up a lot of good will with the zine community. ### Re:old school (1) This comment was hidden based on your threshold setting. #### fm6 (UID: 162816) | more than 7 years ago I guess that's why Kinko's now uses smart cards. ### Re:old school (1) This comment was hidden based on your threshold setting. #### Roblimo (UID: 357) | more than 7 years ago Back before the WWW and email, when I was getting going as a writer, my Kinkos graveyard shift friend (Hey, Damen! Long time no see!) let me make free copies of all my clips from local pubs and of my article proposals, which meant I could send good-looking packages to national magazines for the cost of a stamp and an envelope. I sent out lots of them, and enough editors bit that I did rather well freelancing. Of course, since 1996 or so, I don't think I've dealt with a publication that didn't accept emailed proposals and finished articles. Funny: I had to send a paper ms. to Financial Times Prentice Hall for a book in 2002. I'd already FTPed all the copy, illustrations, and such and they were already editing the thing, but their contract called for a copy on CD and a paper copy before they'd send me the final advance check. I essentially did 260 pages of inkjet printing and a CD burn & spent$30 on Fedex for no real reason besides, "We've always done it that way."

I've written two more books for Prentice Hall since, and now I'm gearing up for another. No more paper required, thank Glub.

And Kinkos has gotten so crazy-tight about copyrights that they give you shit if you want to copy an article out of a newspaper or magazine even if your own byline's on it and you have matching ID. Good thing I don't need many copies made these days, eh?

- Robin

PS - You can still copy just about anything you want with Office Depot/Staples/Office Max self-serve copiers...

### Re:old school (-1, Offtopic)

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### Re:old school (3, Insightful)

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#### SuperRob (UID: 31516) | more than 7 years ago

Oh, it gets far more interesting and complex than just magazines. Print-on-Demand is a gateway to doing fully personalized stuff. Imagine a comic writer who could make the reader a character in the story by doing a simple name replace on each issue printed. When you can do "one-offs", this becomes what people expect. The bar is being raised quick.

For a marketing agency, this allows you to send out personalized sales brochures and other collateral, which can have a massive impact on response rate. Combine something like this with sophisticated data mining, and I shudder to think how eerie some direct mail could get. "Hey Rob, remember how much fun you had on Space Mountain last year? Walt Disney World wants to invite you and your wife Andrea back for another ride ..."

Fair Disclosure: My company, Marketsync does Print-on-Demand for marketing departments and agencies through a salesforce.com plug-in called Marketsync On-Demand Marketing.

### Re:old school (3, Funny)

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#### Bastard of Subhumani (UID: 827601) | more than 7 years ago

"Hey Rob, remember how much fun you had on Space Mountain last year? Walt Disney World wants to invite you and your wife Andrea back for another ride ..."
Unfortunately, not only does the timestamp on the picture coincide with the regional sales conference, the picture itself depicts him with Julie, the long-legged redhead from accounts.

### Not to be confused with publishing (4, Insightful)

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#### The Queen (UID: 56621) | more than 7 years ago

Any professional writer will look at this and say, POD and vanity press stuff does not count as being published. And they will be right. Just because you can gather the scratch needed to print something does not mean you will find yourself on Oprah's book club. It's still all about distribution and marketing.

Now when someone writes software that will query agents and automatically keep track of responses and requirements for different publishing houses, I'll be interested.

### Re:Not to be confused with publishing (2, Interesting)

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#### Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago

Well, sure. I don't think this is meant to replace publishers for big books.

But what about for people like me?

I'm currently writing a book, but I'm well aware I'm not a wonderful writer. It is just something I do in my free time if I get bored.

I think it would be fun to be able to give "my book" to friends and family.

And I'm sure this service is marketed to people like me...

### Re:Not to be confused with publishing (0)

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#### Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago

But what about for people like me? I'm currently writing a book, but I'm well aware I'm not a wonderful writer. It is just something I do in my free time if I get bored. I think it would be fun to be able to give "my book" to friends and family.

Don't take offense, but your family and friends really don't want to see it. I have an aunt who just self-published a book (through the vanity press PublishAmerica), and she gave copies to all her relatives. They are just sitting around collecting dust, and we've all talked to each other about how uninterested we are in it and what an unpleasant situation she has put us in. Most Americans don't care for literature at all, and the few who do want something that's a worthy piece of art, not something done by an untrained hack, even if said hack is a family member.

### Re:Not to be confused with publishing (5, Insightful)

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#### ultramk (UID: 470198) | more than 7 years ago

It's not as strict a line as it used to be. There are quite a few smaller publishers out there that do quite well in focused market segments. Often they start with someone self-publishing and being very successful at it, from where they go onto publishing other authors.

Mind you, I don't think the fiction market works this way. Many other markets are much less entrenched.

### Not to be confused with readability (2, Insightful)

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#### biendamon (UID: 723952) | more than 7 years ago

It's still all about distribution and marketing.

And the quality of the material. Writers -- especially fiction writers -- who self-publish do so because they can't get their work published anywhere else. And it shows; I've read more than enough overly-long descriptions of how beautiful/sexy/handsome/perfect the masturbatory protagonist is in the first paragraph of POD books to know there's a lot of dross out there.

And even the rare gem that gets through usually needs the guiding hand of a vicious editor. ("No, no, no! You will not describe her eyes as "obsidian orbs," no matter how cool you think that sounds!")

### Re:Not to be confused with readability (2, Insightful)

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#### The Queen (UID: 56621) | more than 7 years ago

*howl*

See, I wasn't going to go there, but yes. This is the true evil of POD. My favorite was one that a 'friend of a friend' sent me through the mail. It was called "Towboat Terrorist." Priceless.

However, if POD becomes more rampant and the Internet becomes the new bookstore and distribution center, the market will keep all the "obsidian orbs" at the bottom of the pile. Would love to see a resurgence of beat writers...

### Re:Not to be confused with readability (2, Insightful)

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#### stoolpigeon (UID: 454276) | more than 7 years ago

it's not evil - it's awesome. sucky, talentless hacks have every bit as much right to get their work out there. we talk about the move from scarcity to abundance and this is a small example. books used to be rare and extremely valuable and the printing press changed the world. well publishing on demand means that i can write a book, and distribute all over the world, without the huge economic barriers that existed in the past.

sure maybe i can't write for crap and no one will ever read a word. so what? why should that matter? in fact, a lot of junk got published the old way and some gems got missed. now everything can be published and all the gems at least have a chance.

some people will look down on it, just like some people look down on 'popular' authors. i think this is more a reflection of the hubris that is a large part of the human condition as opposed to the worth of those works.

once upon a time it was a big deal to own a book. then it became a big deal to write a book. i look forward to when having written a book is no more a big deal than owning one.

### Re:Not to be confused with readability (1)

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#### biendamon (UID: 723952) | more than 7 years ago

All very good points. However, the large publishing houses will, in that scenario, continue to have a monopoly on wide distribution and popularity, because they've got something the vanity publishing houses usually don't: A stable of very experienced (and bloodthirsty) editors.

The technology exists, obviously, to produce very professional-looking books on demand. But the same can't be said for producing professionally-edited material.

### Re:Not to be confused with readability (1)

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#### stoolpigeon (UID: 454276) | more than 7 years ago

i'm not sure how they can have a monopoly on either. lulu sells and ships overseas. so, if i write a book, put it on lulu and it isn't the suck, and people read it, then it can become popular and widely distributed.

publishing on demand certainly does not gaurantee quality, but the traditional model does not do so either. i've payed for and read plenty of books that were horrid. i wonder how many really great books never saw the light of day because the traditional model missed them.

### Re:Not to be confused with readability (1)

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#### biendamon (UID: 723952) | more than 7 years ago

publishing on demand certainly does not gaurantee quality, but the traditional model does not do so either. i've payed for and read plenty of books that were horrid. i wonder how many really great books never saw the light of day because the traditional model missed them.

I will say I agree that the model's not perfect. An editor can end up dismissing a great story for any number of bad reasons, including the editor's mood that day. And I certainly hope that if a story really is good, but maligned by publishing houses, then the writer will take advantage of POD services like lulu to get it printed and sold anyway.

But like I've said elsewhere, the vast majority of vanity publishing projects are truly, painfully bad. I'm sure the good/bad ratio is still, unfortunately, worse than that of established publishing houses.

### Re:Not to be confused with readability (1)

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#### stoolpigeon (UID: 454276) | more than 7 years ago

i am sure your right. and in many ways, i'm glad. i want good writing to be valued so that really great authors can devote their time to producing great works. i'm sure that is part of the reason the ratio will stay as you describe it. i think it was in a china mielville interview i read, that he said he doesn't know how people write while they have other employment.

but i do really like the idea, no matter how long the odds, that there are chances for anyone who wishes to try.

### Re:Not to be confused with readability (1)

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#### biendamon (UID: 723952) | more than 7 years ago

"Towboat Terrorist." I really feel sorry for whatever synapse misfired badly enough to produce that title.

I hate to bag on POD, I really do, because the concept is wonderful. But in many ways, it suffers from the same problem as the internet itself; anyone can say anything, so... anyone will say anything.

### Re:Not to be confused with readability (2, Interesting)

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#### Trepidity (UID: 597) | more than 7 years ago

Have you taken a look at what does get published? Sure, 90% of POD stuff is crap, but easily 90% of major-publisher stuff is crap too. I'm not even sure the major-publisher percentage is lower; the stuff they publish is more likely to be polished, but also more likely to be formulaic.

Music works similarly; most unsigned bands suck, but most bands on MTV suck too.

### Re:Not to be confused with readability (2, Interesting)

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#### biendamon (UID: 723952) | more than 7 years ago

I disagree. I'm an avid reader, and never lack for quality material. Sure, the publishing houses produce a lot of crap, too, but unlike MTV there are a lot of choices. Don't like what Tor puts out? Baen has a huge line-up of talent. Don't like any of them, either? Take a browse through Random House's catalog. Prefer smaller, less mainstream stuff? Try out Small Beer Press, publishers of the extremely good 'zine "Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet." Or Wheatland Press. Or... See what I mean? There's a ton of variety out there, and it's not all 'formulaic.' In fact, the single largest complaint I hear from editors is that so much of the slush they have to dig through is formulaic, and gets discarded immediately. The tragedy of POD is that there's no one to tell you, "No, this is just a rehashed Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan-fic with the names changed, and is not of publishable quality."

I'd say the readable stuff -- as in, stuff I personally would consider readable -- coming from the genre publishing houses I like numbers in the 40% range. A lot of that is stuff I still wouldn't choose to read, but it wouldn't specifically offend my eyes, either.

The POD outfits, however, are batting 0. I have never picked up any piece of fiction from one that's been worth reading. The vast majority of it is on par with the Buffy fan-fics I mentioned. A lot of it is the utterly original and unique story of a halfling, an elf, a dwarf, and a mysterious hero on a quest involving an ancient, magic ring.

I know -- or at least, I've heard -- that there are gems that pop up sometimes. But I'm simply not willing to dig through all the steaming piles of... er... manuscripts I'd need to in order to get to them.

That's what the editors at publishing houses, great and small, are for. And frankly I appreciate all their hard work.

Incidentally, I know MTV has editors, too. But they're basically a monopoly unless you know where to go to find good music videos. (Hint: Not television!) And they have a built-in bias toward anything that will sell more Coke advertisements. With professionally edited and published fiction, you have an astonishing range of choices. With MTV you have, well, MTV. And, I suppose VH1. Oh boy, VH1.

### Re:Not to be confused with publishing (1)

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#### 14erCleaner (UID: 745600) | more than 7 years ago

Most self-titled professional writers will look at this and say "do you want fries with that"?

### Re:Not to be confused with publishing (1)

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#### biendamon (UID: 723952) | more than 7 years ago

I'm afraid you don't get to call yourself a professional writer unless you've actually made a profession out of it. Unpublished hacks who call themselves professional writers deserve what they get -- not a whole lot.

### Re:Not to be confused with publishing (1)

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#### qbzzt (UID: 11136) | more than 7 years ago

Print on Demand is only likely to make you significant amounts of money (the definition of professional in my book) if you discover a market niche that existing publishers are unaware of and therefore don't serve. The editors at Baen can probably evaluate your Science Fiction book's marketability a lot better than you can, and if they tell you it sucks, it probably does. However, publishers are completely unaware of the pent-up demand for free-fall cookbooks. If you wrote a free-fall cookbook, and you believe the market is there for it, print on demand is probably your only venue. If you succeed, you can start a small publishing house, run it successfully for a few years, and then sell it to one of the huge corporate publishers.

### Re:Not to be confused with publishing (0)

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#### Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago

Any professional writer will look at this and say, POD and vanity press stuff does not count as being published.

Don't be a pompous ass. There are many fields where the entire worldwide audience doesn't exceed a few hundred or a few thousand people.

### Re:Not to be confused with publishing (1)

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#### biendamon (UID: 723952) | more than 7 years ago

And for that, POD is great. For science fiction and fantasy, POD isn't very great. In fact, it's rather the opposite of great.

### Re:Not to be confused with publishing (1)

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#### God_Retired (UID: 44721) | more than 7 years ago

Of course, no one wanted to publish Walt Whitman either. He had to go do it himself. I guess that doesn't count though...

### cheaper -yes better - no (4, Interesting)

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#### foobsr (UID: 693224) | more than 7 years ago

Printing on demand is getting cheaper and better

There was a German transcription for DTP - "Dumme Treiben Plötsinn" (along the lines of "Dumbheads Try Printing"). So it is more likely that language and readability of printed matter will decline/degrade even more. But that does not matter, cause technical quality (10^y dpi, full colour) will be state-of-the-art.

CC.

### I totally agree (1)

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#### DancesWithDupes (UID: 982965) | more than 7 years ago

> So it is more likely that language and readability of printed matter will decline/degrade even more. But that does not matter, CAUSE ...

...apparently, the quality of online language will degrade right along with it.

### Re:I totally agree (1)

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#### foobsr (UID: 693224) | more than 7 years ago

CAUSE

Well, an imbecile attempt to pose as a person with a good command of the English language. I apologize.

CC.

### Re:cheaper -yes better - no (0)

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#### Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago

The sad fact is that "editing" (that is, actually reading the text and checking it for grammar, spelling, content and style errors) has been on the decline for years. These days, most major publishing houses and even much of the academic press do little more in this regard than the equivalent of spell-check (if that) with all the inherent problems that brings. Will Print-On-Demand accelerate this trend? I suppose so, but it's already pretty bad by my "old-school" standards.

### Re:cheaper -yes better - no (0)

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#### CRCulver (UID: 715279) | more than 7 years ago

There was a German transcription for DTP - "Dumme Treiben Plötsinn" (along the lines of "Dumbheads Try Printing"). So it is more likely that language and readability of printed matter will decline/degrade even more. But that does not matter, cause technical quality (10^y dpi, full colour) will be state-of-the-art.

The readibility will decline even if the prose is decent. I doubt these firms are providing users with the ability to designate the language of certain blocks of texts, which is necessary for proper hyphenation and ligatures. Everything will just end up being hyphenated like in English, which will really break the occasional foreign word you have in your document. And what if you are using a lot of non-ISO-8859 characters? If your book explores some of the upper ranges of Unicode, the company's fonts may not suffice.

On the other hand, maybe there's a firm out there that will accept PDFs, so one is able to typeset one's work in LaTeX, or other professional typesetting software, instead of relying on the company's solution.

I wish LaTeX were thought of more around here. Even if LaTeX isn't a solution for 99% of pedestrian users, there's no reason why Slashdotters with their technical skills couldn't use it for all their needs. Just consult the TeX FAQ and get a small tutorial like Kopka & Daly's Guide to LaTeX . It would be nice to break the tradition of using Word (or, for Free Software afficionados) OpenOffice.org for important stuff.

### Re:cheaper -yes better - no (1)

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#### foobsr (UID: 693224) | more than 7 years ago

I wish LaTeX were thought of more around here.

So myself did when I was so much younger than today. But now my optimism has vanished in the haze.

CC.

### Experience with Lulu.com (4, Informative)

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#### rdwald (UID: 831442) | more than 7 years ago

I played around with Lulu.com's print-on-demand service a few months ago; it was surprisingly easy. I layed out the book in OpenOffice, saved it to a PDF, checked it in xpdf, and sent the file to them. A week or so later, I had a hard copy with a professional-looking cover and everything. One thing to note before ordering from them: Lulu's 6" x 9" format is actually larger than most paperback books; if you want yours to look "normal," don't use it. Anyway, overall it was a fairly positive experience; I'd recommend them for low-volume book printing.

### Software may be good... (3, Interesting)

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#### ackthpt (UID: 218170) | more than 7 years ago

The software may be good, but output is still another matter. Print has been making great strides in resolution, but laser copy has a tendency to stick to vinyl binders and inkjet runs when wetted.

i'd like a tiny little 4 colour offset press, please.

### As a designer... (4, Insightful)

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#### ultramk (UID: 470198) | more than 7 years ago

...this doesn't worry me. In the slightest.

Just like home DVD templates, and all sorts of stuff like that, it'll be great for Billy and Sunshine to print the grandparents a copy of "Baby's First Shit".

See, the thing that software like this can't compensate for is people who can't recognize and don't understand what makes a project work. What makes it readable. What makes it attractive against all the other competition sitting on the shelf at Borders (or Amazon for that matter).

We're talking about near-subliminal things that create an impression of quality and expertise. Sure, time can be put in creating an amazing template that has some of these qualities, but then what do you have? A bunch of projects that look the same, and lack any soul of their own. Look at most of the template-built blogs out there. Boring.

I've done 4 books this year so far, and I average 8-9/year, so I feel comfortable evaluating this.

m-

### Re:Benjamins (1)

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#### asphaltjesus (UID: 978804) | more than 7 years ago

It's all about the benjamins. Publishers have access to the distribution channels > distribution channels charge money to be there > retailer charges money to be on their shelf. Period.

If I had millions to throw at a POS book about some topic, I could get distribution everywhere.

Pompous ass.

### Re:Benjamins (1)

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#### ultramk (UID: 470198) | more than 7 years ago

It's all about the benjamins. Publishers have access to the distribution channels > distribution channels charge money to be there > retailer charges money to be on their shelf. Period.

Distributors charge money to be there, eh? That's funny, although I've been in the business for 15 years, I've never experienced that. They want discounts to beef up their profit margins, but what else is new.

It takes a relatively modest investment to get something printed, and getting distribution is a lot easier than it used to be, thanks to Amazon and its ilk. if you actually have something useful and original that people actually want, you'll do just fine, money or not. Time is another matter. Marketing and promotion are extremely time consuming.

Pompous ass.

Mmmmmk. Whatever. Don't blame the rest of the world if you aren't willing to work hard enough to be successful.

m-

### Re:As a designer... (2, Funny)

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#### Anne_Nonymous (UID: 313852) | more than 7 years ago

>> a copy of "Baby's First Shit"

Actually that got quite good reviews in the Times and Atlantic Monthly.

### Re:As a designer... (1)

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#### gEvil (beta) (UID: 945888) | more than 7 years ago

You're talking from a designer's point of view, which I totally respect. Another aspect of the whole thing that many people don't consider are the roles of copyeditors and proofreaders. It's not uncommon to read through something that's self-published and notice the glaring grammatical errors or lack of continuity and flow. Again, it falls into that category of near-subliminal things that you mention. There's a whole ton of little things that need polish in order to make the greater package really shine...

### I'm wondering if there isn't a market for.. (1)

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#### the_rajah (UID: 749499) | more than 7 years ago

copy editing services in this niche of the industry? My wife is a retired editor and could do that sort of thing as a service very easily.

I think this is a great alternative to the old vanity presses.

### Re:As a designer... (2, Insightful)

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#### ultramk (UID: 470198) | more than 7 years ago

Yes, that's a good point. Good editing is key, because frankly, people just can not proof their own work. It's a special kind of blindness I think. Good editors will turn a good project into a great one, and make suggestions that the author never considered.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of editors out there who either way too aggressive ("correcting" non-errors), or too timid (afraid to change anything). It can take a while, but a good editor who really knows the subject is a godsend.

m-

### Re:As a designer... (1)

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#### njh (UID: 24312) | more than 7 years ago

Can you give examples of these subliminal things? I agree 100% about templated layouts being oh so boring :)

Perhaps at some level you are also just producing templated layouts though, it's just that the space of layouts is big enough that you believe they are all different. This might be called 'your style'.

### Making a hardcopy is not the bottleneck (1, Insightful)

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#### Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago

This article is only about the progress of the MEDIUM, not about the progress of human thought or some kind of intellectual literary breakthrough. The hardest part about making a good book is coming up with compelling content. Any monkey can press keys on the keyboard now and click "Print". In fact many household pets and human babies have been known to jump on their parent's keyboards and accidentally print out gibberish. The key to making something worthwhile to read is having interesting subject matter. I don't care if it is written in 3D-Holographic-Magic-Time-Shifting-Newsprint-from- the-24th-century, if it is written poorly, then nobody will care or remember. I would rather read something written on delicate parchment, or something scribbled in the margins of a notebook in Crayola, if the IDEA contained in those scribbles is unique, amazing, and earth-shattering. For example, suppose somebody urinated in the snow, the equations for faster-than-light-speed travel. Even though the medium that the message is communicated in, is utter garbage, the message itself is divine and priceless.

LOL! MY POST IS SWEET!

### Re:Making a hardcopy is not the bottleneck (1)

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#### zotz (UID: 3951) | more than 7 years ago

Surely you jest! We have all known since the 60s that "The Medium is the Massage."

http://www.marshallmcluhan.com/main.html

all the best,

drew
(da idea man)

### All due to better printers? (1)

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#### MasterC (UID: 70492) | more than 7 years ago

It would seem to me that the reason DIY book making could be getting cheaper is better printers. The easier and faster it is to print something the cheaper and more flexible you become for DIY books.

The article is severly lacking in juicy technical details but if you had a printer that would not only print the pages but bind it and put a dust jacket on it then the difference between printing 10,000 different books and 10,000 copies of one book is zero.

That's my hunch. The easier and faster printers become to do this sort of thing, the cheaper DIY printing will become. Anyone with actual technical knowledge about the printers behind the scenes care to chime in?

Would this not be the step beyond assembly line production? You can completely customize the output without sacrificing the ability to make duplicates. Next step: rapid prototyping of 3-D objects done in similar high-volume custom jobs.

### Re:All due to better printers? (1)

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#### jkauzlar (UID: 596349) | more than 7 years ago

Xerox has been consistently improving their perfect-binding module for increasingly small printer/copiers models. This module will catch sheets coming off the printer, stack them up, fold them in half and put a binding on them. There's generally some overhead from the time between separate jobs, but, yeah, there's barely any price difference between 100 copies of the same thing or 100 different things.

Keep in mind that in Xerox's case, at least, these aren't exactly the binding quality of something you'd find on the shelves of Barnes and Noble. This is more like Kinko's style binding. Not sure about the quality of this print-on-demand stuff, but you have to factor in the shipping & handling cost as well, which is a significant problem with the print-on-demand industry.

### Why not Latex+templates? (1)

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#### bunbuntheminilop (UID: 935594) | more than 7 years ago

Would this not be the perfect application for a LaTex?

### Re:Why not Latex+templates? (1)

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#### gatzke (UID: 2977) | more than 7 years ago

Exactly. But latex is best for math and complex documents (cross reference and citation stuff).

Colors and lines and pictures of the family and art stuff may not be easy in latex.

PS- Anyone using LaTeX on a PC, check out the new 1.4.2 version of LyX with a installer that does everythging for you (GS, latex, spellchecker libs). LyX is a great front end to LaTeX, but getting it to work under cygwin once was a beast. I have used it for nearly ten years and have been quite happy with the results. Math you can see, tables, figures that look like tables and figures. Beautiful!

### Re:Why not Latex+templates? (0)

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#### Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago

Lyx is great.
I can see why someone would like it... but why did they choose a non-latex backenf for their .lyx format. It seems to be pretty damn close to the original latex... why this new syntax?

Latex is the shit... if you want to add to it make macros or save extra information as comments.

%% extra XML data that the user can ignore whan hand-editing.
\int_0^\infty e^{-x^2} dx = \frac{\pi}{4}

### Re:Why not Latex+templates? (1)

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E.

### Re:Why not Latex+templates? (4, Interesting)

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#### Jack Action (UID: 761544) | more than 7 years ago

If you know how to use LaTex, you could set up a lulu.com book in about 10 minutes.

LaTex has had a "book" template for years, and true to its purpose as "type-setting sofware" (created by Donald Knuth at Stanford), it creates an absoutely picture perfect document with chapter headings, and eye-pleasing margins and hyphenation. This is all done automatically according to the principles of typography printers have been using for hundreds of years (though of course they can be manually over-riden). All that is required is that you learn a few html-like mark-up commands to format your text.

I've printed one novel with lulu.com and LaTex, and the inner text was easily as good as hard-cover books from the 50s and 60s (which I consider kind of a golden age of printing). The cover though does require some graphic design skill , as I think a professional designer noted above (though lulu.com does have a gallery of about 50 stock covers you can use).

Also, lulu.com was started by Bob Young, founder of Red Hat Linux, because of the terrible experience he had publishing a book through conventional means. I believe lulu.com runs on FOSS software.

### Sure. (1)

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#### jd (UID: 1658) | more than 7 years ago

LaTeX might well be usable directly by some POD publishers. PDF certainly can, and DVI-to-PDF converters come with most LaTeX distributions. LaTeX has one book format provided as standard and there are MANY other templates from CTAN (a TeX distribution system that inspired Perl's CPAN).

It would be good if LaTeX 3 ever got released, but the mailing list is silent and the website suggests nobody has done any signifcant development in years. If LaTeX 3 progress remains dead, I'd say fork the development tree as it stands and produce a variant with the features desirable in modern desktop publishing. Nothing to stop anyone, and LaTeX 2e came about precisely because people thought the original version 2 was crap and went on to make their own derivatives.

I doubt, for example, any DTP software out there has meaningful support for high-contrast colour formats such as OpenEXR or JPEG2000. Printers are probably not up to it yet, but who is going to add on a complex feature nobody can use? The software is much easier to change, so it is much easier to create the demand first.

(In fact, LaTeX' bitmap support is truly pathetic. True, LaTeX is designed to be totally scalable, which means vetors are always preferable, but there are many illustrations that simply can't be done that way.)

LaTeX' handling of subsections is also very poor and works in absolutes rather than relatives. Sure, not many people want to nest more than, oh, three or four deep. But plenty of technical texts can nest much deeper than that, and LaTeX has no provision for it, because of the way you have to name the specific depth you're working in. (This also makes it much harder to develop things section by section, as you have to be very cunning to make something viewable at an arbritary depth.)

Finally, you've got to process your fonts to work at a specific DPI, at the time of display or printing. "But won't I know this?" Only if you're using a pixel-based printer. What happens when someone produces a laser printer that can handle vectors as well as pixels? What's the DPI of a vector, if the laser has two degrees of freedom and can control both motors simultaneously? For that matter, what if I want to output to a plotter, where I already have this capability? Vector monitors aren't in widespread use any more, but they do exist. If the software is designed to work with such methods, shouldn't it be outputtable to such devices?

(LaTeX editors exist now, which was my big grudge for a long time, although they're nowhere near the point of, say, Ventura Publisher. Yet, anyway. This, despite the fact that TeX is already a very powerful engine.)

### Printing-schmrinting... (1)

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#### GillBates0 (UID: 664202) | more than 7 years ago

You young 'uns and your fancy-schmancy "Desktop Publishing" and "print on demand". In my day, we didn't have this ninny-winny "DTP software" with "cookbook templates".

When we wanted to write something, we had to do it all by hand. All we had to write on was a good old-fashioned hillside and our trusty hammer to write it with.

No sirree, none of these childish "publishing packages" for us. We used to trudge up in the hills all day long to find a good spot to scribble on, and we loved it!

### Re:Printing-schmrinting... (1)

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#### Senzei (UID: 791599) | more than 7 years ago

You young 'uns and your fancy-schmancy "Desktop Publishing" and "print on demand". In my day, we didn't have this ninny-winny "DTP software" with "cookbook templates".

When we wanted to write something, we had to do it all by hand. All we had to write on was a good old-fashioned hillside and our trusty hammer to write it with.

No sirree, none of these childish "publishing packages" for us. We used to trudge up in the hills all day long to find a good spot to scribble on, and we loved it!

You had a hammer? Hah, were you ever lucky. In my day we had to carve our writings into hillsides with a bent spoon that had a broken handle. It did give us two print colors though: red and brown, depending on which end of the broken spoon you held.

We didn't have any hills either. Had to build those ourselves out of belly button lint and earwax, which we stomped down into the flat ground until it was the size of a proper writing hill, and we loved it!

### Re:Printing-schmrinting... (1)

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#### bluekanoodle (UID: 672900) | more than 7 years ago

You had Spoons? You lazy bastards, we had to gnaw the letters out of the dirt with our teeth. That worked just fine for us. And we had to eat the scratched out dirt to fill our bellies with nourishment , and we loved it!

### Re:Printing-schmrinting... (1)

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#### Senzei (UID: 791599) | more than 7 years ago

You had teeth? Dear me, that would have been the easy life. The only reason we had broken spoons was because we had to break the spoon handles and jam them in our gums to make fake teeth. We didn't have any tools to break the spoons with neither, we just screamed obscenities at them until they fell apart. And you say you had it hard when they let you eat the dirt? We had to imagine everything we ate, and even then we were only allowed to eat imaginary rotting mud. We would have killed someone to be able to eat scratched out dirt, but we still loved it!

### Print on Demand? (1)

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#### GiggidyGiggidy (UID: 935020) | more than 7 years ago

I've been printing on demand since I owned my first printer. When I demand something printed, I hit the print icon (or the command print file.txt for the DOS fans).

### Great for special occasions (4, Interesting)

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#### 14erCleaner (UID: 745600) | more than 7 years ago

Since you can get a hardcover bound copy of your book this way for less than \$40 a copy, this would be great for something like wedding pictures; you could print a few copies for parents and wedding party members without spending all the money you got as wedding gifts.

### Print On Demand Isn't Just For Authors (5, Interesting)

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#### zetasmack (UID: 741760) | more than 7 years ago

As a student photographer I was planning on throwing a bunch of photos together and printing it via apple and iphoto. i looked into it and read some bad reviews of apple's printing methods so i decided to look more into the subject of print on demand. I looked at a ton of options and decided to go with LuLu. I layed out the book myself and uploaded it. Their site gave me a few problems with the formatting but a post to lulu's forums had that solved within a matter of minutes. So after printing a few copies I decided to make it a legit book and acquired an ISBN number for it right through lulu. It's now sold via their website, my website, a few independent bookstores, art galleries, and very soon, Borders and amazon.com. So as a result of using lulu (or any print on demand service) my photos are being seen all over the globe. Print on demand is revolutionizing more than just the literary world.

### lulu rules (3, Interesting)

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#### stoolpigeon (UID: 454276) | more than 7 years ago

it just amazes me that the profile of lulu is still so low. vanity press companies have existed for years- squeezing big bucks out of want to be authors. look at how much money gets dumped into the 'be a succesful author' business. along comes lulu and practically drops every economic barrier to entry.

you don't have to worry any more about getting ripped off. write your great american novel, put together your great coffee table book, whatever you want-- and put it out there. lulu keeps on going but i really thought by now it would be much bigger than it is.

### Re:lulu rules (1)

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#### biendamon (UID: 723952) | more than 7 years ago

Lulu is a great service, but I can tell you why it doesn't have a higher profile: The material being produced isn't particularly purchase-worthy, especially in the case of fiction.

### Re:lulu rules (0)

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#### Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago

lulu keeps on going but i really thought by now it would be much bigger than it is.

One reason it isn't bigger is that it doesn't give the author all the BS that is part of the 'vanity publishing' scene. They're well-paid to fawn over whatever decrepit collection of words you choose to have printed at their exorbitant prices.

lulu just prints it. No ass-kissing involved.

### Re:Print On Demand Isn't Just For Authors (1)

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#### Anon-Admin (UID: 443764) | more than 7 years ago

I have looked into lulu, my issue was the rules lulu had on the content.

I have 2 books that I have written. One is along the lines of "Steel this book" http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/156858217X/sr=8-1 /qid=1153516930/ref=pd_bbs_1/103-7799701-8095015?i e=UTF8 The other is, well, more controversial. Both could be considered objectionable, and could facilitate the breaking of the law. Both are violations of there member agreement. As such I can not use them or any other print on demand service to self publish.

### Re:Print On Demand Isn't Just For Authors (0)

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#### Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago

One is along the lines of "Steel this book"

I don't know why they'ld object to a how-to book about how to transform a paper novel into one encoded on steel. If, on the other hand, you refer to Abbie Hoffman's novel about how to make life miserable for those around you by being an absolute selfish jackass, well, no wonder they wouldn't accept it.

Abbie Hoffman advocated screwing over the common man, just because he could. He was no better than the "evil capitalists" he railed against, just worse dressed and scruffier.

If that's the type of book they want to discourage, well, I find it quite socially responsible of them to do so.

### Re:Print On Demand Isn't Just For Authors (0)

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#### Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago

"fuck off, site down"? have you just ./ed your own site?

### Not for you... (3, Informative)

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#### gnovos (UID: 447128) | more than 7 years ago

Blurb isn't for people like slashdot readers, trust me. You can get beter quality for less at Qoop, Lulu or even by going to the book printers directly.... But only if you know how to make a PDF, which is beyond the scope of most people... thus the 100% blurb markup.

### Lulu is cool, but marketing is the key problem (2, Insightful)

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#### Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago

I've said it time and again: Your best idea, magnificently executed is the smallest part of a successful product.

It's easy to do a great print-on-demand title (shameless book plug...), and Lulu does a great job of producing the books, guiding you through getting you in the distribution chain.

But then you have to market, market, market. The books, calendars, etc. that sell best are those that:

• already have some momentum before publishing - i.e. "the ugliest dog in the world"
• those that already have a community ready to buy - software projects, web communities on a particular topic
• those that have real-life communities lined up - college courses, "open university" type fun-education classes

Other than that, it's a long slow slog to make a buck.

Maybe try posting on Slashdot to get some attention!

### The ultimate DRM (1)

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#### CurtMonash (UID: 986884) | more than 7 years ago

Want to have a serious barrier to copying your electronic text files? Make people buy them on paper.

### Re:The ultimate DRM (1)

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#### PlusFiveTroll (UID: 754249) | more than 7 years ago

I can easily give my book to someone else, I can think of no laws preventing this either (short of an NDA). A file that is encrypted and key encoded to my computer/device has much higher technical barrier, the DCMA allows for penalties if I break the encryption.

### Re:The ultimate DRM (1)

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#### Mprx (UID: 82435) | more than 7 years ago

remove binding + sheet feeder + scanner + OCR

This is already a solved problem, as the gigabytes of scanned books on your favorite P2P network attest. The OCR won't be perfect, but it's good enough.

### Better? Yeah. Cheaper? For the publisher, maybe (3, Insightful)

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#### Dachannien (UID: 617929) | more than 7 years ago

One potentially useful application for print-on-demand is the publishing and distribution of textbooks. The costs of dealing with extra unused books are eliminated, and customers no longer have to wait two weeks at the beginning of the semester for their semi-out-of-print book to arrive at the bookstore.

But will this mean a significant decrease in already overpriced college textbooks? Not a chance.

### POD not just for books (1)

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#### RMPMikeS (UID: 990274) | more than 7 years ago

I work for a printing company and we offer POD services for coppanies that might need to have distrubuters or customers have branded and personalized matierals. You can see a demo of what is about at http://www.tavawava.com/demo/

### The end of "out of print"? (2, Interesting)

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#### Beryllium Sphere(tm) (UID: 193358) | more than 7 years ago

I'd like to live in a world where I could click on anything in a publisher's backlist and get it printed and shipped to me.

In such a world, we could try to pass legislation under which refusing to sell a book on a POD basis meant forfeiting the copyright.

In today's world things like "Lord of Light" and the Lensman series have gone out of print, and that is just plain wrong.

### Re:The end of "out of print"? (1)

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#### XenonOfArcticus (UID: 53312) | more than 7 years ago

Amen to Lord of Light, and a lot of older Zelazny. Some of his greatest writing is less well known, and only available used.

His estate ought to be able to revive those somehow, even if the big publishers don't see opportunities for mucho dinero in them. I know he had a family when he passed away -- I want to buy his works, and I want them to reap the rewards of it.

### why limit this to books? (2, Interesting)

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#### alizard (UID: 107678) | more than 7 years ago

I'd like to be able to go to a RIAA label website and be able to buy an on-demand CD of anything ever published by that label... Edison wax recordings, 13th Floor Elevator... name your favorite band that's out of print...

Easier, cheaper, and a lot faster than trying to find it in used/collectible, and in general, the only way any record company will ever make money off their content "in the vaults".

Of course, since this is rational, it isn't going to get done until consumer electronics companies start buying up major labels and look at their content as a way to make money instead of something to "stop pirates from getting into".

Then, there's film/video. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to get a DVD burned of ... anything?

There should be no such thing as "backlist - not available" in an age where all usable content regardless of media type is digital.

### Since we're on the subject... not so shiny writing (2, Funny)

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#### WWWWolf (UID: 2428) | more than 7 years ago

Writer Beware's blog linked recently to "Opening paragraphs of recent PODs that yielded an abbreviated read".

...all this makes me wonder why there's no Emergency Editor Squad (operating under the Language Police). =)

### Re:Since we're on the subject... not so shiny writ (1)

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#### biendamon (UID: 723952) | more than 7 years ago

Oh my god... I laughed, I cried. Mostly, I cried.

### Customized prints (1)

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#### theonetruekeebler (UID: 60888) | more than 7 years ago

I wonder if the publishers can offer customers the chance to customize their books. Get a custom imprint on the first page, order special high-gloss paper, oversize coffee table prints, pocket-sized travel editions, leather binding, gilt edges. That way you could get a sturdy copy for yourself, a run of paperbacks for the class you teach, and a special leather-bound set for Christmas presents, each with a special inscription, and a special hand-cut vellum edition for your grandparents' fiftieth anniversary.

### What exactly is publishing? (1)

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#### Arbitor Elegantorum (UID: 990281) | more than 7 years ago

Faster ways to format material for printing eliminates one bottleneck in the publishing process; easy production of small numbers of physical books eliminates another. What I don't often hear is what sort of publishing book creators actually want to accomplish. I can see these services being very handy for specific kinds of publishing and distribution projects, like your church or organization assembling a cookbook for fund-raising drives or printing a small set of instruction books for your proprietary software. But what does this have to do with the kind of publishing services offered by the big houses: editing, marketing, distribution, etc.? Will the next Da Vinci Code or Tom Clancy thriller be POD? I doubt it. I do see the economies of initial production getting a little cheaper, which might make big publishing houses a tad more willing to try out new authors, but their entire business model is based on shooting for blockbusters. The questions that need to be asked include: How will you get anybody to order your book? Who will edit it and advise you and how to enhance it? (It was said that Theodore Drieser delivered his manuscripts to the editor in a truck, and the editor returned them in a taxicab.) Who will vet the book for libel or accuracy? These are some of the things that reputable publishers currently provide. These programs, as clever as they might be, won't.

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#### alizard (UID: 107678) | more than 7 years ago

Mainstream publishers have these services because they pay people to provide them. If you have a book in mind and you want these services, buy them yourself.

Any online publication service will be happy to sell editing and proofing services to you at extra charge, or line up your own.

With respect to marketing as provided by publishers, it's my understanding based on what experienced professionals have said (I have plenty of experience with selling tech articles for online and print publication, I haven't gotten around to books yet) that if you're unknown in the book market, other than getting press releases on your new book out to various library/bookseller oriented publications and similar routine activities, unless you're the semi-legendary exception to the rule and your MS gets pulled out of the slush pile and droolingly ecstatic editors make the case to the suits for instant rockstar treatment and a six-figure advance, marketing is basically your problem whether you're self-publishing through a service like lulu or iUniverse or getting published by Simon & Schuster.

In any case, more than one book has gone from self-published POD books to the best-seller list via major publishers.

For everybody else... I'm surprised nobody has mentioned that the OpenSource Scribus DTP program will export directly to PDF format.

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