The Rise of the e-PODs

30 03 2009

Exciting news for all those indie magazine printers–or wannabe magazine printers out there! I know I’m excited by the notion of what this cheaper-than-photocopied, printed and bound glossy magazines implies about the democratization of the press. Reading this article makes me want to think up a magazine right here, right now, pull it together, upload it and poise myself for distribution:

H.P. Lowers Bar for Printing Glossy Color Magazines –

Now, on the one hand, this print-on-demand stuff means that writers are likely to be facing an end to the days where they could just write and send books to publishers who would give them a small percentage and then do all the work of marketing and so on for them, having invested hugely of their own money to put the book out(and therefore having lots of incentive to sell copies).

But, on the other, I see the beginnings of a new model emerging, with print on demand at its core. And with it, the emergence of editor/publisher/marketers who will, for a fee or for a large cut, clean up your book, put it out there and then keep a percentage of the profits. Like a publisher, but less investment up front on the part of the editor/publisher/marketer. Kind of a publisher and agent rolled into one–someone with a strong, somewhat diverse, skill set who can get out there and sell your book, or add your book to their established line of books, with the plan of building their own brand. This is what we’re seeing variations of with e-publishers already. I suspect that’s where we’ll be going.

The prominent e-publishers are generally lean and savvy. They know their markets, and they know how to make things work with the merging of e-publishing and POD technologies. They are also very straightforward about their pricing: a goodly cut to the author, a smaller cut to the editor, a cut for themselves and then a flat rate, as one of the few fixed costs, to the artists for the “cover” images. For e-publishing, I expect that’s the nature of the division–or something close to it. And then they simply add their fixed costs to the top, for printing and distribution, in the case of those readers who want to buy a physical copy of the book and own it for themselves.

The big, ponderous publishers haven’t figured out the sense of this model yet. I hope they do soon–it annoys me to pay two dollars less for an e-book than I would for a print book, knowing they’re saving a hefty amount on distribution (esp. if I buy the print book at a bookstore, which generally keeps up to half of the cover price for their own overheads) and printing. Presumably the big publishers are pocketing the difference–or, for now, using that difference to offset the cost of the big print runs they’re putting out and possibly losing increasingly large amounts of money on, until they update their presses to some kind of large-scale system that can move between the POD paradigm and the large print-run model (for the initial shipments of new releases to bookstores) as needed.

The smaller e-POD publishers are also savvier about being fair to authors. With POD, a book need never be out of print. In the old model, it’s only after a book falls out of print that the rights revert to the author, who can then resell or do what they want with it. BUT, the big publishers want to keep their rights in perpetuity now, because of that old model and the whole never-going-out-of-print issue. The e-PODs instead offer fixed-term contracts (e.g. 7 years), after which rights revert to the author, who can choose to renegotiate with the original publisher, or to sell the book somewhere else.

Way to go, e-PODs!



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