In the past couple of weeks, both Thomas Nelson, the large Christian publisher, and Harlequin, the leading romance publisher, have announced new divisions to cater to authors who decide to publish their own books. There has been a lot of talk, some impassioned, about these initiatives, and what they mean for publishing.
The partner in both cases is Author Solutions, Inc. (ASI), who owns the publishing-services companies AuthorHouse, iUniverse, Xlibris, Trafford Publishing, and Wordclay. It remains to be seen whether there is any advantage for self-publishers in contracting with one of these new imprints—Wingbow Press (Nelson) and DellArte Press (Harlequin)—and paying what are likely to be higher prices for editorial, production, and distribution services to gain whatever allure attaches itself to these new entities.
ASI Joins Forces With the Espresso Book Machine
to provide writers with an online toolset to publish, distribute, print, and market their books in retail locations via the Espresso Book Machine.®
Our retail customers can now offer writers a menu of services covering all aspects of the publishing supply chain, including in-store book production and distribution. It will transform self-publishing opportunities for both retailers and writers.
The intention is to allow retailers who have an Espresso Book Machine on site to create their own websites offering self-publishing services through software provided by ASI. Writers can either use the software from home, or right at the retail location, and have their books printed while they wait.
The End of the World, or Just A “Book ATM”?
There’s something both wonderful and wonderfully frightening about this whole scenario. I guess the thinking here is that if you’re sitting around the house with a couple of hours to spare, maybe you’ll decide to run down to the copy shop and publish a book. I mean, why not?
But I prefer to think of it as the book itself morphing into new forms never seen before. And it’s ironic in a kind of techie way, that just as the publishing industry is quaking at the tsunami of ebooks that seems to be just over the horizon, there’s an intrusion from a new way of producing paper-based books, which have changed very little in the last 500 years.
Can Writers be Tempted?
I do love the democratizing effect of this kind of initiative. Forget for a minute publishing (or self-publishing) as a business, the need for professional standards, the marketing research and all the rest. What writer wouldn’t be tempted, with not much more effort than uploading a file, to hop in the car and run downtown to pick up your book as it drops out of the Espresso Book Machine’s delivery slot?
There are currently about 20 Espresso Book Machines scattered in the United States, Canada, England, Australia and Egypt, with plans for more in 2010. Each one is capable of printing, binding and trimming a book in a matter of minutes.
If there was any doubt that we don’t really know what will be happening in publishing as it attempts to fit itself to an uncertain future, we can be sure the changes will keep coming at breakneck speed for the time being. Self-publishers are gaining tools, markets, and capacities at an amazing speed. It will be interesting to see what we make of them.
What do you think of these developments? Is self-publishing on a roll? Or are we seeing an adept opening of a whole new market, one with a weakness for instant gratification?
Note: It’s your responsibility to thoroughly research your options for self-publishing before committing to any vendor. Start with resources provided by Mick Rooney, Writer Beware Blog, and Predators and Editors. Decisions you make now may affect you for many years.