out of print is out of date 04.11.2005, 1:15 PM
posted by ben vershbow
Amazon.com has recently acquired BookSurge, the self-described "global leader in inventory-free book publishing, printing, fulfillment and distribution." This adds cutting edge print-on-demand technology to Amazon's online retailing recipe - big news for self-published authors, but even bigger news for readers. Amazon's move suggests that print-on-demand might finally be maturing out of the terrible twos of the vanity press into a technology that redefines publishing in space and time. Imagine rare books suddenly coming back into print, and newer books staying in print longer, or indefinitely. Every book, no matter how old or obscure, could theoretically be in print, in perpetuity. Amazon already sells out-of-print or hard-to-obtain titles produced on demand by BookSurge, but their absorbing the company signals a definitive step futher into long tail bookselling. (article)
The backbone of any serious publishing house used to be its backlist - the large catalogue of older titles that sell reliably over time and are therefore kept in print. A backlist might include classics by the country's most important authors, or books with more modest readership that still sell consistently over the years. It's like the publisher's DNA - a map of who they really are. On occasion, you have a runaway bestseller, and you rejoice, but it's not something you count on. It's the sturdy, distinguished backlist that keeps a publisher grounded. Today we have the opposite. Most publishing houses have merged under large media conglomerates, backlists have dwindled, and publishers are ever more obsessed with finding their next blockbuster hit - a Dan Brown or Sue Grafton. Books quickly go out of print, and many more - books that might have found a smaller, more select readership - probably never see the light of day since publishers aren't willing to take on the cost and risk of a smaller print run.
But as Greg Geeley, Amazon.com media products vice president, puts it:
"Print-on-demand has changed the economics of small-quantity printing, making it possible for books with low and uncertain demand to be profitably produced... Thanks to print-on-demand, 'out of print' is out of date."
People have been talking for some time about the internet's potential to sweep away the stagnation of mainstream publishing. Amazon has already changed the way we browse, buy and discuss books. Now, with machines that can turn out a single book at a time, indistinguishable in appearance and quality from a regular trade paperback or even hardcover, no title need ever go out of print, and publishers might finally be able to direct their attention away from quantity and back to quality.
For further reading...
Posted by ben vershbow on April 11, 2005 1:15 PM
dave munger on April 11, 2005 4:26 PM:
I suspect this is how Google is planning to leverage Google Print, and since I seem to recall that Amazon is planning a similar project, it would make sense for them to also have the printing capability to go with it. "Never out of print" is one way of looking at it, I suppose. The other would be "never a reader who doesn't pay for the privilege."
alex on April 11, 2005 11:32 PM:
anyone else think that flower is starting to look like Issac Misrahi for Target? Who stole which from whom? Fucking Zeitgeist!
That said, Google has allowed me to read some weird books I could only find on line... such as Hoffman's problem child about LSD.
Karla Johnson on February 25, 2007 2:11 AM:
I am looking for two "Little Golden Books'
titled "Crybaby calf" and "Fraidy Cat"
I think they were first published somewhere in the 1960's.
Thank you for your help!!
Debbie Glutz on January 27, 2010 10:51 AM:
I am looking for a book and the title was " Springtime on the Pike, it was about a carpenter in Hebron KY, It would have been my great great grandfather but I have had no luck in the past 2 years of finding this book.