The Cutting Edge of Respectable

POD self-publishing has had a bit of a spotty reputation, what with crappy production values in the early days and most of the content proving Sturgeon’s Law pretty handily. A lot has changed in the last few years though, most notably, the stark rise in both the quality of content and production value. And while the public opinion of POD/self-publishing hasn’t shifted quite yet, it looks like it could be moving out from under the log of scorn and ridicule, thanks to some high profile POD ventures making some news.

Earlier this week, Wil Wheaton released his new book, Sunken Treasure on Lulu. If you’ve been on the Tubes for more more than five minutes, you’ve probably read Wil’s blog, or one of his articles on all that is geeky and wonderful somewhere. This looks like a nice little treat for people who like good stuff.

io9 recently reviewed The Translated Man by Chris Braak. Described as a Lovcraftian police procedural, this sounds haunting and fun. Definitely something to check out.

Jamais Cascio, noted futurist and author, has a new book he’s also published on Lulu called Hacking the Earth, which offers some new ideas about tackling the Global Warming problem by reengineering the planet.

Then of course there’s my own book, The Machine of the World, which is available on CreateSpace (Or here)

Slowly, people are starting to take notice of these books as, you know, books, rather than some kooky monster made by weirdos in their basement. I for one am excited about this new development. POD technology is starting to get recognized as a legitimate method for creating, distributing and connecting people and ideas. It turns out, we do in fact have the technology (and the skills) to build books that are better, faster and stronger. And the fact that we can do it all without having to go through the corporate media processing that often wrings out the genuine heart and feeling from the work is a bonus. Authors now have the ability to interact with their audience in a way that is direct, collaborative and just plain fun. And that is awesome.

I’ll be procuring copies of the above mentioned books soon, so look for reviews over the coming weeks.

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Now as to why POD is suddenly starting to take off… I have a hypothesis, beyond the obvious: the technology has matured to the point where a POD book is indistinguishable form one printed ahead of time: it’s a combination of the recent unpleasantness with the economy and the growing dissatisfaction with the traditional publishing model. These are two very closely related things that have created a situation where there’s a demand for a cheaper and faster method of publishing that gives authors more control over not just content but design. And POD does all of that. So it’s an opportunity for a fully matured technology to fill a need that is just becoming apparent on a larger scale. And let’s be honest, with publishing houses cutting editors and shutting subsidiaries down like they’re discos and it’s 1980, there’s a HUGE problem right now in the publishing industry.Part of this is the economy but a large part is also that the monster conglomerates were being greedy bastards, gobbling up every press and imprint they could find. But I digress.

Some authors who aren’t as obsessed with typography and book design as myself may be put off by the rigors of being their own designer and editor. And to be sure, this is a trade off. Ask me sometimes about the typos. Oh, God the typos! But there is quickly developing an associated set of businesses for freelance editing and book design that works in concert with POD publishing to create a fully customizable publishing model. It’s Open Source Publishing, in other words. It just isn’t organized. Yet.

What we need is the equivalent of the Mozilla Foundation for POD. Something to give this fledgling community structure and a way to interact with one another without it devolving into just another publishing house full of bottom line sniffers or poetry snobs. Also, something not owned by Amazon.com.*

I don’t really know where it all goes form here. All I know is, I want to be part of it.