Monday, December 28, 2009

The future of publishing is possibly here

Look at this article: "Reviving Mary Elizabeth Braddon. The future of publishing is at Third Place Books" by Paul Constant of The Stranger. Third Place Books, which is a huge bookstore north of Seattle in Lake Forest Park, now has something called the Espresso Book Machine. The Espresso Book Machine is a self contained print on demand contraption that takes a print ready PDF and makes a book out of it in as little as fifteen minutes, more likely thirty when all is said and done. If that's not enough, Google Books has signed a contract with these folks allowing all the public domain books that they've scanned to be eligible for printing, at $8.95 per book. So many, so so many books that were terminally out of print are now available to print through this thing. Dude, it's not even funny.

When I first read the story two titles that I'd partially read through a university library and the central Seattle Public Library that are now completely out of print, and that I'd found on Google Books popped into my head: "Homo Sapiens" by Stanislaw Przybyszewski and "The Inferno" by August Strindberg. This morning I went up to Third Place Books, made my order, and now I'm in possession of both of them, all for the price of one trade paperback.

I'm really hoping that, as the article says, these things start spreading. It seems that Third Place Books is part of a sort of pilot program. Besides just being great for book lovers what it could possibly mean is the first really publicly accessible concrete manifestation of all the information made available and floating around the internet. There's lots of great stuff out there, great ideas, great potential, but unless something besides PDFs come of it most of that potential will remain just that. People want something that they can touch and feel when it comes right down to it. They don't want to have to spend loads of time behind a computer screen scrolling down through a large file. Print on demand through a service like Lulu, where you can buy my book through, while a step in the right direction, doesn't bring people across all the way either since everything is mediated by shipping. One thing that all of this promises, as noted by the article, is an era where people will be able to work with a tech person at their local book machine place (within reason) in order to create their finished product, that is then uploaded to a kind of central database where it can then be printed by anyone at any book machine elsewhere.

I'm so happy about this. Hopefully now we can start realizing some of the information age's Great Expectations.

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