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$3.48

That’s how much it costs to print a 228-page book with Ingramspark, the POD part of Ingram, the largest book printer & distributor in the world.  And it costs a little less than that at Amazon’s Create Space.

So the cost for anyone to publish a physical book–a bound trade paperback, that is–is about the same as buying a large coffee at a drive-up espresso bar.

I’ve been mulling that over tonight, because I spent a couple of hours reformatting my book to be in very large print for my friend with poor eyesight. It really did just take a couple of hours. While I was at it, I revised the dedication, to dedicate it to my friend who needs the very large print. And then I uploaded the file, and ordered a copy, and in a day or so I’ll be able to give my friend a unique edition to my new novel.

It gave me all kinds of ideas about individualized books, and what purpose they might serve. Each book published could be made unique, designed for just one reader. Changes are ridiculously simple to do with ebooks, which are ephemeral to begin with–you just upload a new file, and within a few hours the old version is gone and the new version is there instead. (The ease of changing an ebook leads to all kinds of questions about when it becomes a “new work” requiring a new ISBN or new copyright application…it seems people have different opinions, and I’m not sure who would be checking, or how they would know that what was there now is not what was there yesterday).

But I hadn’t really thought about how easy it has become to also print unique, one-off physical books, which would be lasting and could be all different from one another. The entire market for books is still predicated on the belief that the more of a book you sell the better. But maybe one day it’s going to be more about selling one at a time–and each in some way unique. A famous author might do limited editions, like silk screen artists do, where each copy is numbered. Or a thriller writer could change the name of the hero to be the name of the reader who ordered the book.

I don’t think we have begun much more than baby steps toward understanding how POD and digital publishing is going to change what we read, not only online but in the physical book world as well.

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