Friday, September 18, 2009

Instant Paperbacks

Or should it be "Google Takes Over The World, Latest Chapter?" Depends on how you look at it.

I almost put this on "Retrotechnologist," given that I am no fan of bookless books: Google's given a point-of-purchase printer access to its vast collection of book that are out of copyright; On Demand Books has a machine that'll crank out your book, bound and ready, in about five minutes. For those of us who like our books to be, well, books, this could be a real boon.

Google's also angling to get permission to reprint copyrighted works that are no longer in print; this may be a done deal (according to the link in this paragraph) or it may not (according to the first link). If so, the author gets a little check (or a big one, if the book suddenly becomes popular) and Google takes a cut.

Interesting.

As it stands, the instant-paperback machine sells for $100K (with E-Z Pay leasing available! Operators are standing by...), so you won't be having one at home or find them in the corner coffeeshop any time soon.

Flip side, you won't have Google coming to your door and taking your book back, either. And the flip side of that is, writers may continue to get nickle-and-dimed by publishers and shady reprinting joints. The more things change, the more they're same as ever.

15 comments:

Turk Turon said...

I had a book printed up that way at Kinko's a couple of years ago. It was just an instruction book, but I got to specify the paper type, size, color, font and font size, B&W or color, and type of binding. Then I just emailed 'em the PDF. I selected spiral binding so it would lay flat, etc., etc. Kinda pricey at nearly $50, but I had to have it.

Ken said...

Shoulda been done ten years ago, but better late than never. I got good books via Barnes & Noble Press (similar concept, but their choice, not yours). This is better.

Vincent said...

@Turk -- Are you the Turk that used to be on /.?
-RW

D.W. Drang said...

Theoretically, of course, print-on-demand has been available for years.

This is great, I have a bunch of e-copies of books that I may want dead-tree editions of, in case of SHTF...

I have read books on a screen, and not particularly enjoyed the experience. Mrs. Drang got herself one of the Sony e-readers, as it is much easier for her to carry it on the bus; it is still not quite the same, but much better than reading a .pdf on a computer screen. (I am eagerly awaiting the much-rumored ASUS reader.)

Crucis said...

I don't care for e-books. I do stash electronic copies of my books whenever possible on flash drives. I have a LOT of books. I haven't voluntarily tossed any book I've bought since I was a teenager. My basement is lined on three sides with bookcases and they are filled from floor to ceiling.

But, I have lost some to water damage and other natural occurances. Stashing electronic copies helps preserve my original investment. Just this week I bought 5 electronic copies of the Liaden novels from Baen. They are stored on my RAID system and now on a flash drive. (I have hard copies of these books---somewhere.) :-(

Old Grouch said...

IIRC, the technology has been around for a bit: IBM (?) developed the system, which has been in place at some of the big wholesale distributors (e.g., Ingram) for several years. So far it has been mostly used by "small press" publishers for quicker fulfillment of bookstore-originated special order requests.

Then there are the vanity shops (like Lulu) who have been offering this as an option for a while.

The important difference with Google's plan is that it moves the printers into the bookstores ("Go have a latte while we print this off for you"), and that it will (supposedly) involve titles from major publishers.

The next logical step will be to offer the choice of print-it-now to customers looking for titles that are current but out-of-stock. (Great for the impatient: Faster than Amazon.) If I were in the bookstore business, I'd be looking to sign up- looks like a great way to keep the doors open.

@Ken, AIUI the B&N Press titles are limited-run but conventionally printed (like book club editions). There's a lot of out-of-copyright stuff, but some are in-copyright "by special arrangement" with the original publisher.

Turk Turon said...

RW: Doesn't sound familiar.

Nathan said...

"Flip side, you won't have Googl[e] coming to your door and taking your book back, either."

Are you sure? They know where you live. They even have pictures of it.

Anonymous said...

How many divisions has Google got? How ellarmed are they?

It's a lot easier to take back your e-copy, especially on a proprietary reader.

Nathan said...

Well, I was kidding...at least in Bobbi's case. :) It'd probably take a division to reduce Roseholme.

Old Grouch said...

OT- I assume we're still go for Blogmeet (version 1) on Sunday...? (Otherwise I just made a fool of myself.)

Rob K said...

Turk, "/." == slashdot.com, all the news that matters for a geek.

Back on topic, my wife was just last night talking about putting together an anthology of public domain Horatio Alger books and having a bunch of copies printed up to sell.

Ed Rasimus said...

I've got two books out and a third in production. Not vanity press stuff--first was Smithsonian Books, next two are St. Martin's Press. I hold copyright and that is pretty standard in the publishing industry, not the publisher. I've got a contract that spells out my royalties and even if the book is out of print, I don't see how Google can avoid those facts. To say that they will be making available copyrighted material that is out of print and provide a "small royalty" bypasses the agreed upon royalties in the contracts. It might be the way for me to really get rich in that lawsuit for infringement! Bring it on!

Me, unofficially said...

Yes, Yes, Yes, Old Grouch: BlogMeet is GO!

Ken said...

A division to reduce Roseholme? Take more than that just to protect their communications against the rest of us. ;-)