Amidst all the furore over e books, and with the announcement from Apple pending this Wednesday on its new tablet device, the Espresso Book Machine that allows the printing of a physical book while-you-wait has almost been forgotten, except for an article in the Independent on 18 January that announced a new partnership with Xerox.
"The Espresso Book Machine, launched in 2009, offers a print-side answer to some of e-books' many advantages. Through a new partnership with Xerox that improves both the technology and its distribution possibilities, it may soon be clear whether or not the concept takes off."
The EBM presents an intriguing alternative to e-reading for those who prefer a physical book. From the reader's prospective, it grants quick access to a wide range of titles. On the author's side, the EBM - and technology like it - could offer competition in the growing area of self-publishing, a field where digital technology is increasingly replacing print-on-demand solutions."
No more expensive stock, storage or distribution problems - sound familiar? It should, it's what they're saying about the e reader, and print on demand (POD). Then there is Amazon's offer to sell the digital version of your book by-passing the publisher altogether and giving authors 70% royalties.
There are interesting times ahead for writers, publishers and all involved in the book trade. And although this may be encouraging news for those who wish to self-publish there is one aspect in all of this that can't be replaced by a machine and that is marketing.
With hundreds of thousands of books already available and a possible explosion of material in the years ahead, the challenge for the author (and publisher) will be how to make the book/s stand out from the crowd and generate sales. It's all very well being published but if people don't know about you, or are not made aware of your work then it won't sell.
When it comes down to it I would rather have a publisher paying a lower royalty but with a full commitment to publishing and marketing my books worldwide, including actively selling rights. This means an allocated marketing budget and plan, and full involvement and consultation with me. This would be renewable on an agreed term. This way at least I would be sure of exposure and therefore sales and an active partnership. Perhaps the argument therefore should not be over royalties but an agreed level of marketing activity. And perhaps the time has come for a new type of contract and partnership between author and publisher.