Since 2002, or with a clearer idea 2004, I have been working on something that started as a book. What book exactly doesn’t matter here but it’s on a topic relevant for current designers, I hope. Over these, say, 10 years the world, market, design, and technology around us (and I) have changed significantly. This is not the only reason why I’m asking myself since the fourth iteration of this thing, ca. four years ago, what it should be will it ever get finished. Is a book still a good idea? It would probably not be a book you’d want to read in bed or on the toilet, the places where some people seem to still prefer physical books over screens, not including me. Publishing has changed. We moved on from an era of large publishing houses with a lot of influence and budget, to small independent publishers with quite some influence and no budget, on our way to the next hay days of the personal “private press”.
If you want to publish something these days and propose your material or even readily written, proofed and laid-out book to a publishing house, you also have to bring up the full funds for producing this book. (Most) Publishers (I know) are only willing to take your book into their catalog and distribution chain (aka put it on Amazon and their website). They are not going to pay for production, or you for desinging it, maybe not even doing much marketing for it. And this for an average of 5% royalties on a sale? If publishing a book ever was a form of spreading ones ideas and in return making money from its sales for all the work that went into “producing” these ideas and the book, this is now very rare, at least in our typography niche. Also, for a lot of content, a searchable, indexable form and portability has many advantages. I’m a book lover. And a screen lover. I hear the critics, both sides. “You can’t monetize a website, or a PDF, or whatever form of digital content”. Fair enough, that’s hard, but if I have to bring up the production cost of the book anyway, why not just publish the thing myself, or put it on the internet, as a website, or a document, for free, or with a donate-button, like Butterick. Less production cost I have to offset against revenue.
You are probably wondering by now what/where the point of this mumbling post is. I don’t know, guess there is none, it’s coming straight from my morning-tired brain in the kitchen standing at the counter drinking a coffee. Stream of consciousness writing to try out this Writer. But I post it anyway, as a reminder for myself that I want to write about publishing here, and books, and ebooks, and reading on screens, and type on screens, typography. I’m looking forward.