Neck Deep in PODs (Publish on Demand)

An interesting article once again explores the impact of print on demand books. A offbeat attitude is displayed by the author of the article, Clive Thompson. It’s his contention that PODs will lead to *more* physical books, not less, actually he thinks in 20 years we will all be ‘neck deep’ in them. It’s what *kind* of books that’s the twist.

They won’t be ‘traditionally published’ titles. (I can’t tell you how much I despise that phrase. In my opinion, there is either published books, or vanity press books–traditional doesn’t come into the equation.) No, the books our necks will be struggling to stay above will be various and sundry PODs. Some will be self published dreck, novels and such. But his belief is that most will be lush presentation type books that corporations will print for remembrances. Or personal family albums, histories, bound quickly and easily as a paperback, something that is already available. And he points out how with this kind of technology a book can become ‘plastic’. Meaning, it can be altered on the fly. If someone is lecturing, for example, and they are using a text of theirs, they can print copies instantly, revising chapters, adding them, eliminating some.

He makes a great example of the general concept back in the 1980s that computers would eliminate the need to print, therefore paper would become extinct within the office. And of course, that never became the reality–just the opposite. The more computers are used, the more we print, the more we print the more paper we produce, and the more paper produced, the more it lays around the office.

But I’m not sure his theory about books being similar in nature to the less paper fallacy holds water. Corporate tomes probably wouldn’t affect the general public. The glorification of the capitalistic picnic, or ‘retreat’ as Thompson stated, would remain with only those affected, the teeny amount of corporate bigwigs that participated in whatever thrilling escapade they needed to immortalize as a bound entity. How would these books spread to the plumber’s bookcase, or the hair stylist’s waiting area?

And preserved family memories? I believe they are called scrapbooks. However they are created, paper and scissors or slick color photos in a hard bound cover, they remain with the family who needs to document every time their child places 10th in a dance or science contest. These type of ‘books’ never leave the premises. Maybe 50 years down the line, with no heirs to inherit the decease’s heavy memory laden pile, they’ll be dumped in the trash, put on the lawn for a yard sale, or cut up and sold for whatever repurposing can be gotten from them, just as artists today purchase tintypes, sepia photos–memories of families that have been discarded . Family ‘books’ will not touch the mainstream individual either–so we are still free of neck damage.

What other PODs would fill our living spaces? Right back to where I knew it would go–vanity, self published ‘novels’. This is what the most paper, glue, and cardboard will be used for, and Mr. Thompson’s assertion not to worry about the book’s death knell because of all the quirky, unusual uses for POD, does nothing to mitigate what most of us fear most–not so much that physical books will be outdated and mundane in the future, but that so many idiots will have ‘published’ the great American novel, that we as readers will not be able to tell the difference between a work paid up front for, professionally edited and vetted by someone other than the technician that will be pushing the buttons to reproduce it, and a gorgeously illustrated sleek book full of the meanderings of  the delusional. I firmly believe that anyone who pays someone to produce their ‘work’ is delusional. Just as someone whose parents have told them they had a wonderful voice believes that when they audition for American Idol, they’ll be a shoe-in. If the only people surrounding you and your work are friends and family, then you have no grounding, no way of knowing what is true, from what they want you to hear, because they can’t bear hurting your feelings. We’ve all watched the train wrecks on Idol. We’ve winced, and reacted in horror to a person walking away from their humiliation still convinced of  their talent and god given right to be heard no matter what three professionals say. We call them delusional.

What’s the difference between them and self pubbed people? You write something, you believe it’s the best thing since the encyclopedia, you send the manuscript–your computer’s ink jet printout–to some publishers, but you get no response, not even a rejection letter. So you say to yourself, screw them–I don’t NEED to go that path, I can publish my opus myself, no sweat. I mean the technology’s right there–why struggle to get published by some faceless idiots sitting in offices giving contracts to Danielle Steeles of the world? I’m sooo much better than her, and most of the horrible things published the ‘traditional’ way. So you send it via a pdf to Pseudo Book.com and they print as many as you pay through the nose for. And you start contacting the local stores and B&N’s for book signings, naturally the public would love to meet and greet the newly published local celebrity, and the empty headed leaders at the B&N down the highway don’t bother to check who you were published by, and after all, they think, who cares? The public won’t know the difference, and this guy will bring every relative, friend, office pal, and fellow church member he knows to the signing and we’ll make some dough. How can we possibly lose? How can the POD person lose? How does society lose?

Well besides the loss of some trees, how about when you run out of friends and the like? What then? Do you have your own publicity department who will possibly advertise for you, or send you on a book tour? OK, most mid-list authors are not given that kind of treatment anyway, so how do they promote their own work? Join online author groups, go to fan based conventions as a ‘published’ author, confuse the hell out of the reading public as to who wrote what how, and in the end customers can play a sort of book Russian Roulette-good novel, vs. dreck. No one will shoot themselves in the head, naturally, if they purchase dreck, but after reading a POD book, they may wished they had.

Harsh? I don’t think so. Naturally, the exceptions stand out among the zillions of talentless delusional throngs, and nothing is absolute. But why should the public whose money, after all, is on the line, have to pay to sample a title only to find it unreadable?

“”We can take almost any whimsy and turn it into a book,” says Vladimir Verano, who runs the Espresso machine at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park, Washington.” Oh, goodie gumdrops! My expose on my neighbor down the street who picks his nose can now go public!! Oh Fabjous Day!

Does any one other than myself find this statement nauseating?

Listen, I have absolutely no problem with individuals creating the look and feel of a real bound book for their own personal private enjoyment, and perhaps the fun their friends and family may get from reading a personal piece of writing. I wrote some well received pieces awhile ago, and I could see having them bound in a way my husband and my friends–those who expressed an interest–only–may enjoy reading something in book form, rather than chasing loose papers flying around the room, or squinting at the boring font on their glaring computer screens. So if Vladimir is referring to odd ball personal creations, fine. Why am I cynical enough to believe that scads of individuals like myself feel they’ve written something that should be read, but they want to go further and foist their thoughts onto the unsuspecting public?

Because the majority think so well of their talents, that they feel they are doing a disservice to humanity not to allow the peons access to their wit and wisdom.

Oh, how wrong can soooooo many people be?

 

To read the original article:

http://www.wired.com/magazine/2011/11/st_thompson_books/

Thanks to Quill & Quire for the link.

 

 

 

 

 

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11 Comments

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  • Before I read the linked article or react to your article, will you clarify POD? Specifically, are “Print on demand” and “Publish on demand” interchangeable terms?

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    • I don’t think they are interchangeable–and I probably should have written, publish on demand, wait, no, they are essentially the same–some books that are already out there are being printed and re-published on demand, so, yes, I think they are the same.
      POD people, as some of us call them, are interchangeable too–they are publishing–but not really on demand, you know what mean? Who’s demanding they publish? Not me, or you, or most of humanity. The demand part was clearly coined in regard to the fact that someone has to request a copy of a book before it is printed out–and if a book, such as Fahrenheit 458–or whatever temperature it is, has become an e-book, someone needs to request a copy before it is printed with cover and binding.
      The publish on demand aspect would be for those who believe that people WILL demand to buy their book, once ‘published’. The ‘author’ pays someone to publish–or demand it, lol. I don’t think they need to demand, there are plenty of hucksters out there that just love to take vanity press people and make their dreams come true.
      Maybe, we should start calling them VPP people, getting back to what publishing your own book really is, vanity.

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  • I don’t think POD’s will be littering the earth the same as cigarette butts and plastic bags are not going to do it. – Here is a quote for the world to hear plus my reaction to it.

    “Professor Onsy said: “Plastic bags are made from materials that do not biodegrade easily and persist in the environment for hundreds of years. Studies have shown plastic bags end up in landfills.”
    to which I say, “What are landfills for if not trash?” What I mean is who cares if they ‘biodegade’ in 10 minutes or a thousand years. Maybe an archeologist. (Quote link here – http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/uae/environment/plastic-bags-do-not-biodegrade-for-hundreds-of-years-academic-1.91900 – )

    Regarding you statement, “Because the majority think so well of their talents, that they feel they are doing a disservice to humanity not to allow the peons access to their wit and wisdom.” – I read that and said, “THAT’S ME! I Gotta post a comment (and save a copy of it for my POD (Wit and Wisdom of a Blog Commenter – Coming out next week! Look for it!)

    OH! I disagree with the last line. I know by book will sell.

    ~~~~

    P.S. Nancy – I’m certain that print on demand and publish on demand are near the same thing. ‘Publish’ might be considered the word to use if you take your disk in for a new ‘work’ and ‘print’ might be used for a past work reprinted. They could both use the same machines.

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    • oops! Typo – I know MY book will sell.

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    • Of course you’re book will sell! You will be the one out of a million whose book is worthy!

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      • Wait–I wasn’t being sarcastic–you really could be the exception, who knows–that’s if you really intend to self publish, which I doubt., Right? LOL.

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        • Not taken as sarcasm. But wait… What I wrote initially, about publishing my comments, was sarcasm. BUT! I’m certain your comment about the (potential) book being ‘worthy’ wasn’t sarcastic. After all. Aren’t we “family”?

          (ROFLMHO smiley here)

          One thing a lot of people don’t know is there are a lot of small presses that publish some very good works. Medallion Press comes to mind – http://www.medallionpress.com/

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          • Oh, prying1–yes, indeed, small presses are wonderful! So long as small doesn’t mean, you know, one person, or a gaggle of pals, or someone who is paid by some people to print out their books, calling themselves a publisher or press. I love some mystery small presses, such as The Poisoned Pen. I agree. And I’m glad we are all pals and aren’t publishing anything for the world to read, at least not on our own. Ha.

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  • Hello Dianne,
    Publish on Demand is very different from Print on Demand. Print on Demand fulfills a useful function when an out of print book doesn’t have sufficient demand to be republished but there are a few people who would like to read it but can’t afford the price of the rare copies available. I can’t imagine why anyone would have a problem with this.

    Undoutedly, there are thousands of OOP books being offered as PODS, for which there is no justification at all. Who cares? If Kessinger, et al, want to scan in those books and advertise them, let them waste their time – who cares? At least they aren’t wasting thousands of acres of trees to publish dreck like Danielle Steele, or Tom Clancy.

    Even the vanity press has it’s place – some books have a small market which mainstream publishers aren’t interested in. If I publish my own memoirs, and the only market is 6 of my relatives, then we’ll print 6 copies and put a nice binding on them.
    There is a small but strong market for local histories, which come from these same detested ‘Publish on Demand’ people, and a lot of important and interesting information would be lost without them.

    Since I have lived a rather interesting, and at times exciting, life, I have written at least the first half of my memoirs. I can’t publish them because I’d have to rewrite the whole thing to disguise the guilty parties and that’s more work than I’m interested in. So I just email the 75,000 word document to a few friends who might enjoy the remembrance of times past.

    It’s a different world now. The internet has changed everything (compare Amazon, Biblio, etc to ‘American Bookman’ magazine – now available only on the internet!)

    It is probably true that 90% of PODs (either definition) is crap, but, as Theodore Sturgeon famously said, ‘90% of everything is crap’. And I believe that applies equally to the mainstream publishers, although often it is better written crap. Not well-written – just better than a lot of the vanity press stuff.

    It’s not as if these books are crowding good stuff off the shelves. I’ve had a used book store for 10 years and in all that time I’ve only noticed maybe half a dozen PODs – either definition. OTOH, I’ve blueboxed literally tons of badly written garbage from mainstream publishers.

    And what about bloggers? What about the people who respond to bloggers? Both of us think our opinions are so profound that we should inflict them on the masses. lol

    This is your second or third article on the subject – why are you so bothered by it? Pick up a book – look at the synopsis, read a page or two – you can usually tell if it’s going to be worth looking at. This method is much more effective than buying based on the publisher.

    Bob

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    • Hello Bob!
      I think I made it clear that I have no problem with someone publishing personal pieces for family and friends. And I also mentioned that I wouldn’t be adverse to making a nice bound piece of something I’d written. And of course, OOPs books that would not be published otherwise, is a very good use for PODs.

      I’m so bothered with PODs because the people who write them, and have them printed, believe they are equals to those who have worked at their craft for as long as possible to hone their skills and have been subjected to many rejection letters that spurred them on to work harder and take disappointment in stride. POD people truly believe they have been legitimately published, despite having no professional editor, proof reader, and they have PAID to have their work printed out, rather than BEING paid for such work, which makes a professional, a professional.

      In the theatre, you can have acted in a zillion plays, but unless or until your earn your Equity card, you are not considered a professional. Does that mean every person who does work without a card, stinks? No. The next level of professionalism is being paid for your work, so even if you’ve not yet earned your card, if you are being, again the word, paid, for that work, you are close to being a professional. The entire point being, you must work for that distinction of a professional, you can’t simply dub yourself one, with nothing to back it up.

      That’s how I and groups like the MWA–Mystery Writers of America see it. Their guidelines for membership are quite clear and strict, as they should be, otherwise the professionalism they are renown for will be diluted–ranging from dreck, to passable prose. That’s not what they and other true professionals stand for.

      It’s also not a matter of crowding shelves. It’s a matter of the public being fooled into believing that one self published title is just as good as one that has been vetted, even if it doesn’t meet your standard of literature, it has been edited etc etc. Of course there are books published that you can’t stand, Danielle Steele being one, I remember you using her as an example before. Have you ever read any thing of hers? Neither have I, but millions of people have, and the difference between some piece of dreck self published and her–she went the route necessary to become published, and is paid for it as a professional.

      There have to be some guidelines as to what is considered truly published works, otherwise every Tom Dick and Blowhard will claim authorship and flood the online booksellers with unprofessional crap–wait, they already have!

      Diane
      Oh–forgot–the look at the synopsis leaf through pages argument, I think we discussed before- someone can have a swell plot, that is horribly executed, and if you are buying it as a POD, ‘leafing’ isn’t possible, joke joke. I don’t buy based on a *publisher* I buy based on professionalism which has guidelines. If I buy a book from Simon and Schuster–at least I know that a billion typos will not occur, only a few hundred, and if I buy from Warner, I know that an excellent editor has cut out the drivel the author had in his book that took the reader no where. If I buy from a small press like Walker, I know that they choose their authors carefully, and respect the reader, who after all is a paying customer.

      POD has none of the above.

      Last thing–the blogging. I think it’s hilarious that you can equate the two–oh if only I was good enough to be considered publishable. Plus, last I looked, my crappy writing is free. And hardly *inflicted* upon anyone–since free, they can sample and zip away to porn or ebay with the click of a mouse. Once having bought a POD, their money disappears, like Houdini.

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  • Here’s an interesting, thoughtful and information-filled blog I stumbled upon. You might want to check it out.
    http://accrispin.blogspot.com/?expref=next-blog

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