Marchbooks' Blog

March 13, 2009

The Face of Publishing Today – by Janus Kane

Filed under: On Writing and Publishing — marchbooks @ 9:31 pm

There is no question that the world of publishing is experiencing some growing pains. With the development of new Print-on-Demand technology, one has to wonder why we are holding onto the old ways.

It has been almost 600 years since the advent of the first printing press. Much of what we are seeing today, in the publishing world, are operating practices that are that deeply entrenched and equally outdated. Large print runs, short promotional periods and unlimited return policies are just a few of these antiquated carryovers. Isn’t it time that we reavaluate those practices?

Today, when our forests are dwindling, can we really say that we have the luxury of large print runs that will eventually wind up in the supermarket discount bins? Why should a book’s shelf life be limited to 4-6 months unless it is a breakout bestseller? Today, we have the luxury afforded by new POD technologies. We can print a text out in 1-500 copies at the touch of a button. Those books can be at the vendors front door in a day or two.

Why then is it necessary to continue overshipping books, storing and handling them only to pack them back up after six months and return them for a credit.

What other product in today’s economy offers a no-questions-asked, unlimited return policy? Perhaps there was a need for such guarantees at one time. Now, there is no need for such speculative safeguards, in fact, they are counterproductive. No other industry offers a guarantee of sale on their merchandise. There is always a bit of speculation involved. By allowing a merchant to return books, in any condition, upon their failure to sell, there is no incentive for the merchant to exercise intelligent buying practices. They can buy large quantities to fill their shelves, secure in the knowledge that they can return unsold books at any time.

It is lovely to have a sea of bestsellers spreading across the entrance to your local bookstore, but ask yourself – what is the cost? What is the cost in labor to print, package and ship those books? What is the time investment required to unpackage and display those books, only to repackage them months later for return? And most sadly, what is the cost to the environment of producing thousands and thousands of books that will at best end up in the recycling bin.

Maybe it is time for a more enlightened, environmentally sound approach to book publication. Maybe it is time to break free from outdated practices and approach the job of publishing with a less short-sighted outlook. Perhaps it is time for the book publishing trade to join step with the new publishing technology and quit holding on to old, outdated practices.

We can only hope.


To Be Released in August 2009

To Be Released - August 2009

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