27 June 2010

POD and the Back Catalogue

Ever since I learned about print on demand (and well before I became involoved), I have been very excited by the concept. Many of my favourite books and authors have gone out of print, leaving me scouring 2nd hand stores. Not that I have a problem with that; lots of my best finds come from there and I like them more than retailers. But I had often thought "I wish I could just order this instead of spending months or years looking for it."

Enter POD. Simply put, print on demand works like this: a customer browses a catalogue or otherwise requests a book. Currently, a retailer then orders the book, it gets printed and shipped, and the reader receives a brand-new copy of whatever they wanted. Then there's the Expresso Book Machine - a modified copier-like device - which takes an electronic file of the book block and covers, prints and binds it, and delivers a completed edition. This machine does books one at a time rather than runn print runs. Several universities are in possession of the EBM but, eventually, the EBM may be standard equipment for any bricks and mortar store. Imagine a retailer which has eliminated pallet-loads of titles for a single copy. Your book would be manufactured while you waited!

More importantly, there's all the back catalogues. Publishers will not re-issue a title unless there is a sudden interest to justify the print runs (such as The Silmarillion, after The Lord of the Rings movies). Mostly, excellent books fade into obscurity because there isn't a demand for thousands of copies. But there could be demand for hundreds of copies, one at a time.

For me, the biggest challange is finding Mack Reynolds' books. Mack wrote a narrow offshoot of sci-fi - social fiction - from the 50's to his death in the 80's. He has well over a hundred titles to his credit, most published by the defunct ACE Science Fiction, all out of print. I really like his work and I would love to be able to walk into a retailer and buy a new copy. I'd probably buy one every week until I had them all!

POD will make this possible and I, for one, cannot wait!

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