Books, Printing, and Self-Publishing

In an age of increasing digitization, objects become more valuable. And that value is the reason print media will not die, even if it does shrink. My prediction for print media, therefore, is two-fold: you will see small run, local editions of hardbound books and quick, cheap paperbacks. Couple this with our new attitudes on the democratization of content online and you are going to find quite a number of people self-publishing books. In fact, there are number of folks doing interesting things already:

Snarkmarket, earlier this year, published 200 paperbacks of New Liberal Arts which drew from a number of different thinkers online:

It’s 2009. A generation of digital natives is careening towards college. The economy is rebooting itself weekly. We have new responsibilities now—as employees, citizens, and friends—and we have new capabilities, too. The new liberal arts equip us for a world like this. But… what are they?

The best part about their self-publishing model is that after the 200 paperbacks were sold, the released the pdf for free.

Now, in light of that success, Robin Sloan has raised money through Kickstarter to write his latest novel:

The basic setup is: Imagine a Sherlock Holmes for the 21st century. All thereally good cases are on the internet. And Holmes is a woman, and Watson is an A.I., and San Francisco… oh, poor San Francisco…

Why are these ventures important? Well, with the cost of print small runs is coming down, you are going to see more interesting thinkers outside the traditional publishing circles writing and selling books online. And you will find self-publishing will be increasingly legitimized* because as Diana Kimball noted about Robin Sloan’s current project:

Kickstarter forces promotion, planning, and urgency to the beginning, right when affirmation is most precious. By creating a public contract, Kickstarter takes the vanity out of self-publishing. It’s not you publishing it, not really; it’s all the people who trusted in your work enough to bet on its success.

“The money” Robin confided, “is nothing, compared to just knowing.”

*This makes me wonder whether or not this would mean a de-legitimization of the more traditional model.

2 thoughts on “Books, Printing, and Self-Publishing

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