An on-demand book printer at the Internet Archive headquarters in San Francisco, California. A finished copy of Darwin's On the Origin of Species emerges from a slot about 20 minutes after the job was started. 23 February 2008, User: Dvortygirl, Wikimedia. GFDL (Gnu Free Documentation License 1.2)
Daily Thoughts 4/25/2010
Publishing 3.0 A World Without Inventory http://ereads.com/2010/04/publishing-3-0-a-world-without-inventory.html . This is an interesting phenomenon. We can view print on demand as a reaction against physical inventory in bookstores. It is a way to limit returns. It is also a way to limit what gets printed. The number of titles which we order at our library which get cancelled has increased. If there are not enough copies for a particulr item ordered, the item gets cancelled. This has some benefits; we are less likely to get a book which no one will read.
However, not everything we order is based on circulation. There are prize winning books, or extremely well reviewed books which have literary quality which may be advertised, but not have enough demand from the warehouse. This brings up the question of how a publishers deals with very small runs in a print on demand system. With something like the Espresso Book Machine, it is very easy to print a single copy, but is that single copy economical. Do you have print on demand for small distribution houses like Small Press Distributors. http://www.spdbooks.org/Default.aspx
The other issue is the view about libraries. Libraries are even more of a warehouse for books and older materials than bookstores. We have far fewer returns than bookstores. We also store far more books for a much longer period. As print on demand increases will there be more demand for older books in libraries because they will be uneconomical to print for print on demand systems. Being careful with weeding and preservation will become even more important because of this.
Ebooks are another story. There are all sorts of issues surrounding ebooks in libraries. It is very easy to recommend free ebooks in a library setting. Many of the classics which are not available in the library are easily available as ebooks. We also subscribe to ebooks as part of our library system. The interesting thing about ebooks is that you can download them from any location with a library card and an internet connection. They do reduce inventory, but they limit access in some cases requiring specific devices. You might say, they exacerbate the digital divide. Making ebooks usable on any device, I think, is better for libraries.