Print on Demand Equals Loss of Control by Ray Ogar

>>> COPYRIGHT 2002

Print on Demand is a new technology that delivers to the public nearly instant access to thousands of new authors. With the advent of e-books and electronic books that can be purchased online, some publishers have taken book publishing to the next level. For these Print on Demand publishers, when a book has been written and stored in an electronic medium, it can now be instantly "pressed" at a moments notice into a hardcopy format if desired. After the book block text is completed, it is then uploaded to the POD computer and awaits printing. All of the book's files and images are stored digitally and will be reproduced digitally as well. The pages are printed, the cover is run off on its appropriate stock and everything is bound, sometimes on a single machine and usually within several minutes.

With the advent of Print on Demand technologies, some publishers have also begun accepting more authors' works or in some cases, designed their whole company around mass-producing books for anyone wanting to self-publish and self-promote. We have entered a time where literally anyone can have a book published. For a minor fee some POD companies will take your manuscript or text file and simply place it into a book format for instant publication. In many respects this allows everyone who ever had a dream of becoming an in-print writer the possibility of being just that. Depending on the company you submit your manuscript to will of course deliver different results. You can pay more for having someone edit your work in some minor way, or you can pay less for no editing at all. You provide the filler and the Print on Demand company provides the final product.

In a broader sense, this technology is perhaps an ego stroke. The Internet is some ways tempts us to exist and think in more ephemeral (digital) ways. In the 1960s, Marshal McLuhan argued that we have become a lazier culture because we act on so much material objecta. He dreamed of a digital future in some ways, though he did not live to see the internet blossom into its present form, he would have perhaps argued that its liquidity, interactivity and abstract nature are more human. Data, text and image are simply stored and left available for us to review at our leisure. But POD technologies re-turn to us that stored data in a physical, material form. And with that fixed form comes the bane of having the text fixed into one format with all of its design in place and considered. The moment something is rendered physical it becomes history, static and ultimately it possesses the potential to be critiqued and analyzed repeatedly, whereas with the fluid nature of the Internet, texts can be continuously updated, changed or even completely rewritten. With our culture at least, the possessing of an object commands our attention in some basic way. Thoughts like, I am not an artist if I do not produce a physical end product begin to surface. Or, I am not a writer unless my work is printed in book format. Though I disagree with the two previous statements, for some reason things that are left in the digital realm feel almost more disposable (or they have less value to us). Again, though this may seem an ego stroke, perhaps it is the seduction of the portable object, the book or the postcard or even the painting that hangs on our wall. These objects are anchors and they are physical. Print-on-demand technologies, if they spur into new realms, may hold us back from pushing wholly into a less material realm of existence. It is simply ironic that we can send our materials over the Internet, read things off the Internet but in the end it is the desire to actually hold that text, music CD or whatever in our hands. One could argue that it is the physicality of an object that makes us feel human and it is this act of possession that seems to validate our existence