Sunday, March 05, 2006

Click, download, publish

Guardian Unlimited Books News Click, download, publish POD (print on demand) seems to be taking off. According to Victor Keegan: "Self-publishing enables anyone to upload a book in digital form to a website, which then formats it complete with a cover. It costs anything from £4.50 (single proof of one book) to more than £500 for full personalised involvement of the publishing house at all stages, from starting up to getting a link to Amazon." Victor's article is about his experiences after he was contacted by POD publishing companies after writing a column about his attempts to publish a book. It is clear that self-publishing by this method is a real option nowadays -- though not, of course, if you are looking for J K Rowling's level of sales. Among many other things, this type of self-publishing certainly has implications for the scholarly publishing industry, which makes significant profits by publishing reprints of articles for authors -- not always very efficiently or cost-effectively for the author. I wonder if authors will now start producing their own reprint collections, maybe from a variety of journals, if copyright agreements let them. Many publishers of journals have abandoned copyright in favour of publication licences which give the publisher exclusive re-use rights but leave copyright with the author. Even this level of publisher control over content may turn out to be untenable in this era of open-access. Newtypes of publisher are cropping up, offering more benefits to authors. (At the moment, they cannot offer the crucial carrot of "high impact factor", but this may be only a matter of time). Research institutions are mandating the deposition of published articles by authors they employ and/or fund into various kinds of online archives. Google scholar is, if nothing else at all, the way by which all these diverse publishing fora can be searched in one place. Stop press: there is a posting on Booksquare about the Guardian article and POD/self-publishing, linking to an earlier article on the topic on its own blog.