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Here we'll explore the nexus of legal rulings, Capitol Hill policy-making, technical standards development, and technological innovation that creates -- and will recreate -- the networked world as we know it. Among the topics we'll touch on: intellectual property conflicts, technical architecture and innovation, the evolution of copyright, private vs. public interests in Net policy-making, lobbying and the law, and more.

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Copyfight

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September 27, 2007

A Couple of PoD followups - Expensive!

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

Comments on my post about CreateSpace led me to look at lulu.com. Another PoD organization, it also features non-exclusive licensing and is more focused on books and a "global marketplace" (whatever that means). It doesn't have the Amazon tie-ins. On the other hand you're not losing 45% of your gross to the Amazon structure either.

lulu claims to distribute through "60,000 retailers, schools and libraries" which sounds impressive but is really a tiny number when spread out even across the English-speaking world, let alone globally. Having a copy of your book in a school or town library isn't likely to do much for your sales or name recognition, either. lulu's manufacturing costs seem (at first glance) to be even higher - 100 copies of a 400-page paperback come in at just under USD 11 per book.

A FoaF did a monetary breakdown of the CreateSpace costing for various media and it comes out to nearly unworkable, especially for books. The price you'd have to charge end customers would put you at a severe disadvantage when compared with standard preprinted publications from known names. What ever happened to PoD being cheaper?

Comments (4) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: IP Use


COMMENTS

1. walt crawford on September 27, 2007 10:53 AM writes...

I don't remember when PoD was supposed to be cheaper. It's inherently more expensive to produce books one at a time using laser-printer technology than to run off hundreds or thousands of copies using standard printing processes.

To me, Lulu and CreateSpace make no sense if you're (a) expecting to sell thousands of copies, (b) ready to front manufacturing costs, (c) ready to use accrual accounting and stock inventory, (d) ready to handle fulfillment. There are far cheaper self-publishing methods.

Lulu and CreateSpace come in where none of those are true, in which case both are in fact quite workable. You're paying for a whole infrastructure, with fulfillment being a big part of it. Not appropriate for many purposes; very appropriate--and workable--for some. I've published 13 books traditionally (that is, using traditional publishers) and two non-traditionally; both work, but for different purposes.

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2. walt crawford on September 27, 2007 11:10 AM writes...

Should have read the linked commentary first. He's right, in a sense: If your novel is good enough to get published by a publisher, the PoD services don't make competitive sense. Nor are they designed to. (Lulu's founder has said his goal is to sell a hundred copies of a million books rather than a million copies of a hundred books--he's looking at small-sales niche markets).

My books are in a professional field where (a) $29.50 for a 200-page trade paperback is fairly standard, (b) a "big seller" might earn back $3K-$5K for the author over its life, (c) there aren't many big sellers. I had two book ideas (so far) that seemed worth pursuing but where I couldn't suggest sales higher than mid-three-digits. That's where Lulu and CreateSpace come in. They're not in direct competition with traditional publishers, as far as I can see...(and Lulu, at least, makes it quite clear that they're delighted if your Lulu-sourced book gets picked up by a major publisher and put out in a mass edition, improbable as that is).

The moral to this story: Book publishing isn't one market. Different rules apply for different niches.

Permalink to Comment

3. Kurt on September 27, 2007 12:30 PM writes...

POD isn't supposed to be cheaper, per unit. Assume it was: then large publishers would immediately adopt the cheaper publishing technology, and *poof*, it would no longer be cheaper.

POD is cheaper than ordering 1000+ copy print run, of which you only sell 50 or 100, and then have to pulp 900+ copies.

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4. Anonymous on September 28, 2007 9:42 AM writes...

walt: thanks for sharing your experiences. You're right that the expectations and economics are very different in trade publishing than in conventional fiction/nonfiction books.

I do wonder though about "a hundred copies of a million books rather than a million copies of a hundred books" - isn't that the same long tail that Amazon is already making a mint off of?

Kurt: PoD was initially promoted as cheap. Even if it was it's hard for existing publishers to shift their entire infrastructure, not to mention pissing off the same retail outlets that they'd want to use to sell PoD books.

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