The official weblog of the little-poetry-press-that-could, Plan B Press. Specializing in chapbooks, we have published of over 40 books from authors both local and international.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Something we aren't (a POD)

Someone sent me an article from a recent Time magazine on this subject and here's a similar article from the New York Times both dealing with the multilayered subjects of self-publishing, audience development, distribution, publicity, etc. The whole range of issues that is connected to "Print-On-Demand" publishing. I will state again, I am not for it. Never have been. It's vanity press publishing - all done electronically, like that makes a difference.

It doesn't. I was reading something in a book over the past year and wrote a note to myself which said "just because someone has published a book doesn't mean they should, nor does it obligate people to read it". And THAT truth is not much discussed when reporters write about this "brave new world" of publishing. Publishing crap doesn't make the thing smell better nor somehow make it readable when it may clearly may not be. There's this weird little concept I truly believe in called "EDITORIAL CONTROL". Silly me, I thought part of the job of a publisher was to weed out junk. To prevent garbage from being published. Wow, geesh, that seems to have fallen by the wayside.

To what end? More garbage that no one wants to read - or doesn't have time to read - on top of the mountain of books published each year by established publishing companies, and mid-level, hello people, there's a GLUT of books out there and only so many hours in a day to read....we can not live on reading alone. People need to work at jobs to afford to buy these books, or e-books, and if we continue to publish complete garbage simply because WE CAN that isn't going to lead to more readers, but fewer. People will continue to cut back on their reading to watch TV or play video-games, or watch films in surround sound in their living rooms. We are affecting our own demise. There is no one to blame for this glut of garbage than the publishers or self-publishers of said garbage.

Plan B Press has always been careful about our numbers, our authors, and our books. We are mindful that books of poetry, and that's most of what we publish, is not a necessity. It might be food for the soul but it doesn't compare with the sagging economy and the endless purging of jobs that is happening in the United States right now. Besides, we like our running man icon enough to want only a certain aesthetic or quality to be associated with it. Again, silly us, how can we possibly survive? Well, it's important to have principles and to stick to them. Have fewer books come out each season instead of just pumping out material, if you will, because that's "how it's done". Yeah, that's been how it has been done and the companies that have done that since the 1920's and 1930's are the same ones that are dumping employees and cutting back on the number of books that they are buying these days. The model of "how things work" doesn't work. But, I would and do argue, that doesn't mean that PODs are the answer.

One thing that supporters of POD publishing don't discuss is the imperfect quality of each book. I have seen enough POD books to know that they all look alike. They are produced, by machine, with little to no human oversight. They are stylistically laid out the same, same paper stock, same bar code inside the last page. It's an elaborate cookie cutter technology applied to publishing. Since the books are published after or at the point of sale, there is no guaranteed that any two books will look identical. YES, it avoids closets full of unsold books. Indeed so. But those unsold books in a closet printed by humans are at least printed at the same time and using the same paperstock and are, well, identical.

As a publisher who has been fortunate enough to have worked with the same printers for a half dozen years, I know their operation. I know the limitations of their equipment. I know what they CAN do. They make suggestions about problems we present to them and because each of our 'projects' are unique, we are always presenting them with problems. See, we want each book that we publish to be special, unique, and well, 'novel'. A machine can only do so much, it's programmable to do X or Y. That's how I can spot a POD so quickly. They look like a Print-on-Demand. (That's not a compliment, in case you are curious).

No comments: