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Publishing: Physical or Not?

By: on July 25, 2011 in Book

As I plow ahead with my plans for the Denali version of my book (good suprises to be announced when I talk about it in detail soon), I’m doing my research. In not wanting to compromise the content (meaning a larger page count), I keep running into one constant roadblock: a physical book and its cost to both you and me. This challenge has a few aspects.

First and foremost, let me say that I love “real” books and in tech books, I often prefer them. However, the higher the page count, the more the cost goes up. It’s a conundrum for authors such as myself that want to tackle topics properly. No one (including myself) is going to get rich off of doing a book, so that isn’t my motivation. If you want an eBook, that’s not going to be a problem. I own an eBook reader (the Sony PRS-950, and the PRS-505 before it). I do like eBooks as well, and the new book – no matter what the page count – will be available in the most popular formats (currently targeting PDF, ePub, and Kindle).

  1. The publishing world has changed. With the closing of Borders here in the USA, my chances of getting the book on a shelf decreases immensely. Sure, we’ve got Barnes & Noble and smaller independents, but they’ve also got limited (and shrinking) shelf space that probably won’t be taken up by a self-published book even if they can get it from Ingram. I’m realistic. So why would I go through all the trouble to sell very few physical copies?
  2. The number of print on demand publishers that can handle a book of the size I’m proposing is limited. I’m looking into costs now of what this will be. I really don’t want to charge you guys an arm and a leg just to get a physical book.
  3. According to some research I’ve done, Amazon is not keeping print on demand books that they don’t publish. If I go with someone other than Create Space, that makes getting a physical book frustrating for everyone since Amazon is a pretty big distribution channel. Sure, that means you will be able to order it online, but from where? Obviously I can make it available via my site and I’m hoping it would show up elsewhere, but this is a very real and valid concern of mine.

I think many of you would like a physical option and I’m really trying to make that happen and at a reasonable cost. Will it be possible? Time will tell. Here are some options as I see them:

  1. Print a limited run of physical books that would be done via preorders only. Once they’re gone, they’re gone and eBook will be the only option. Maybe I would do another run if demand was there to do another run. I live in an apartment and really don’t have the space to have cases and cases of books that will never sell. That’s just an expense and physical limitation I cannot afford.
  2. Figure out the whole distribution thing with print on demand, but that is still a really big question mark. This would allow you to get a printed book until the end of time. This would clearly be the best option if it’s available. Stay tuned.
  3. Only offer an eBook, and eschew the idea of a physical book altogether. This would sadden me – trust me. This is a last resort option. However, it would allow you to print the sections you want on your own. For example, want only the clustering how-to stuff printed? That’s all you would get if you printed that yourself. I see a big upside to choice in doing that. If I do go down this road, I would probably offer some sort of multi-format deal allowing you a copy for your eReader and the straight PDF, which would make it easier to print. Obviously in terms of cost, having just an eBook will keep things reasonable, even with a larger reference book as the one I am aiming to do.

There’s one other distinct advantage to only being an eBook: I can publish very soon after Denali is released. That’s a pretty big advantage to everyone – readers and author alike!

Note to publishers out there: if you’re willing and interested to take this book on, I’m all ears. Use the Contact Allan link above.


4 Responses

  1. Nic Cain says:

    I would gladly do a pre-order on a hard copy of the book. I’d get both formats, and the early to market on e-book makes that a great option.

  2. Ken Johnson says:

    I share the feelings on the physical book. It’s nice to write on the pages, mark your place and have all the kinesthetic cues that come with the paper format.

    Could the magazine model work for this? (not that it’s doing all that well for the magazines lately) Some corporation might be willing to underwrite all or part of the book. Think, “this chapter brought to you by the letters I, B and M.”

    • Allan says:

      Magazine model? No. And I’m not going to sell “ad” space per se. Whether or not I’ll be able to do a physical book will work itself out. If not, I’m sure I’ll lose some sales, but I also need to be realistic about this.

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