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Printing has changed, but it’s certainly not dead… — 2 Comments

  1. In virtually every technology, there’s a wide gap between the efficiencies of high-volume mass production (web printing) and technologies more suited for small volumes (print on demand). Each have their place and, as you note, it’s unlikely that one will eliminate the other. That’s the sort of silly chatter reporters get caught up in.

    The problem comes when the clueless think that one can be used for the others. The latest U.S. fighter, the F-35, is a disaster because those who set its development standards failed to realize that, except in the middle of something like WWII, high-performance military aircraft can’t take advantage of mass production. Fail to understand that and you get the F-35, a plane that does nothing well because, in an effort to create a need for more of them and thus create the illusion of mass production, it tries to do too much. And that is coming along at a time when one-off production technologies are improving immensely. Really dumb, really dumb. I don’t know why the press isn’t all over this.

    The one volume-matters exception are digital books. POD may be best for print runs in the hundreds and web for those in the thousands, but digital books—placed on large server farms like those owned by Amazon and Apple—scale easily from one sale a week to a million sales an hour.

    That’s why digital allows independent authors to challenge the publishing giants. But that only works with digital. An author who’s going to sell hundreds of thousands of print books needs the printing, distribution, and marketing abilities that companies such as Random House bring to the table.

  2. As usual, Michael, I agree with what you’re saying. The moneywrench in the works is the same as that one exploited by mass paperbacks in the 1930s. Digital books can make good money and still be very cheap. I just read a traditionally published book that lists for $8 for the Kindle book. I got it on sale for $.99 and I’m so glad. It’s just entertainment and not worth more than a couple of bucks.

    Sooner or later, the major publishing houses will realize this new paradigm—I hope.

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