Books on demand

Every Italian, or at least every Italian that went to a Liceo Classico, dreams of one day writing a novel. And many novels are also waiting in drawers, unpublished. The future of publishing promises to be different.

Books will be around for a while, not for romantic reasons, but because they have some specific advantages. For instance they do not risk to became unusable because of a change of standards. With an e-book there is always the “Beta” risk, that is, the risk that in the future we will not know how to deal with that format, but with a printed book we can reassure ourselves that if we leave it on the shelf our grandchildren will one day discover it, blow the dust away, and enjoy it as much as we did (our grandchildren will share our own sensitivities of course).
Anyway, this is not what I wanted to post about. I was saying that the way books are published is changing. Books on demand are already here. No need to print thousands of copies trying to guess how much it will sell. Instead, at very little cost, any book ever written can be made available and if one wants a copy it will be printed there and then (or somewhere else and posted, but you get the point).
That in itself is no great revolution, although it may save a few trees. The real revolution is in the possibilities that are opened up by printing on demand. For instance authors may allow for optional extras, like pictures, to be included. They may allow alternative text, for instance the degree of blood and gore in the book may be chosen by the person who buys the book, if this option has been implemented by the author. Or imagine something easier to implement. Suppose you had a schoolmate called Julian who was really nasty to you. You may request that no character in the book should have the name Julian. This is a simple find and replace, trivial to implement.
Another possibility is for authors to really take full advantage of the electronic format. Together with a book we would have an expert system. This system my change a number of things depending on specific instructions or even at random. The possibility exist that a a given story may sell a million copies, but that each copy is a bit different, so that everybody with a copy of the book knows that what they have is unique.

I bet these things are already happening. I wish I could be the first to write that book which is a million books, but the chances are slim given that I hardly find the time to write a blog!!



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