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:
Thanks to Quill & Quire for the link.