Tuesday, June 2, 2009

I Told You So

In my previous post I speculated that techonolgy would come up with a way to produce a physical book on demand. I don't claim that I was the initiator of this idea -- just that it struck me as inevitable. Well, it's here -- a machine that's been dubbed an ATM for books.  At a relatively low cost, it creates a book (from an ever-growing list of available titles) described as being of "library quality." This raises a number of questions: What effect will this have on the book publishing industry? How about libraries? And -- one of the most intriguing questions, I think -- How will literary and cultural life be affected when anyone can produce a "published" book to be marketed Amazon-like from a personal web site (or even from Amazon)?

1 comment:

Warren said...

My Learned Friend,
There is a vague sky-is-falling implication in your post that this new book machine is some kind of threat. Indeed, your inner panic caused your fingers to stumble on the word "technology". Very Freudian.
I don't think this machine gives "anyone" the power and ability to publish and market a book. That ability is out there already in the form of the many vanity presses circling vulture-like over the internet. No, it appears to me that the books produced by the Espresso machine require the same editing, design, and other professional guidance that a traditionally published book would require. If this machine poses a threat to the traditional publishing world, it would be to the printers, who have no economical choice but to print books by the thousands. Most of those books go unsold and are destroyed.
But I think this machine will never occupy more than a niche in the publishing world. I predict that best-sellers, lush gift books, and perhaps books for very young children will continue to be published, printed and sold in more-or-less traditional ways. But the average rack paperback or bodice ripper can be disseminated via newer electronic technologies that are more cost- and environment-friendly. Thus the Espresso machine will be relegated to providing the coffee to accompany the Kindle.