Monday, October 25, 2010

Old vs. New School Publishing

Last week, “The Last Original Idea” became available through the publisher’s website as a paperback and over the next couple of weeks it will be added to the listings on Amazon and Barnes & Nobel. Within a month or so it will also be available as an ebook for both Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes & Noble’s Nook. Due to vague guidelines, it’s going to be a month or more after that before it will be listed on Apple’s iTunes.
While, taking an idea from conception to publishing is an achievement in itself, there is a growing indication that the life of traditional paper books is on the decline and that the future lies in pure ebook production.  The pressure is even greater when authors such as myself & Geri, choose to abandon the world of traditional publishers and go with on-demand publishing (sometimes called self-publishing).

If one reads about the latest trends in ebook publishing you’ll see a fantastic growth rate for ebooks with the inevitable prediction that the future of words being printed on paper as a form of publishing is facing certain death. Environmentalist frequently join in on this discussion by referencing how many trees are being cut down daily around the world to support the paper industry and how ebooks help reduce this trend.

On behalf of the “The Last Original Idea” we took these three steps to appease our own personal environmentalist side.
  1. Brevity: we could have easily added lots of fluff to our book (more pictures), excessively sized chapter headings, larger margins, meaningless rambling on within the text to increase the number of pages of the book. Instead of being a trim and fit 100 pages, it could have easily been inflated to 150 or 200 pages without containing one iota more of insight or information.
  2. Print on Demand: we chose a print on demand publisher. By choosing to have the books only produced when people order them, we ensure that no paper is wasted by printing large quantities of books that may or may not sell quickly or that ultimately must be returned to the publisher for destruction. This process not only reduces the demand on paper, but also for the ink and electricity required to run the printing presses, amongst other things.
  3. Eco-Libris (  We participated in Eco-Libris which means that we arranged to have 100 trees planted in honor of the book being published and that it is printed entirely on recycled paper. Given the brevity of our book, unless it becomes an international best seller selling millions of copies; we have planted more trees than will be consumed in the printing of our book.
For those who believe that ebooks are still an environmentally sound choice consider these points:
  • How much pollution including heavy metals was used to create your ebook reader?
  • With the constant fear of oil shortages (a non-renewable resource) and rising oil prices how much plastic (created from oil) is required to meet the annual demands of the ebook readers?
  • And what will you do with your ebook reader when it becomes obsolete? Perhaps you’ll ensure that the few valuable metals in it are extracted before the remainder is sent to a landfill?
While we can’t deny the convenience of ebook readers (multiple books on one devise taking up no shelf room) there is still something to be said about the tactile feel of paper on your finger tips and the ability to read without worrying about dust/sand getting on your book or forgetting to charge the battery of before a long flight. When was the last time you had an author sign your Kindle? While we make no claim that ebook readers are not the natural evolution of the printed paper page, we do remember early failures like the Apple Newton and firmly believe that paper books will be with us for a long time to come.


  1. Two things …

    The Apple Newton was not just an eBook reader, it was the very first PDA device. The ability to create and view formatted texts in electronic format was only one of its many capabilities.

    Secondly, I take issue with your statement that the Newton was a “failure”. True, the Newton platform never achieved the mass-market success of similar, yet differently executed devices — such as the Palm Pilot. However, I would argue that the Newton was far from a failure. Technologically, it did exactly what the platform set out to do — and did it very well. It was continuously developed and improved over the course of five years, taking advantage of increasingly more powerful hardware as it became available. It certainly achieved a respectable status within consumer, education, and corporate communities and is still appreciated as an innovative and unrivaled (in many aspects) computing platform.

    Was it a “failure”? Heck, no.

    Was it a less successful product that was killed just as it was getting some traction? Absolutely.

  2. Grant,

    I'll admit I simplified the features and functions of the Apple Newton. Many may say it was a success and others a failure at least financially.

    It's always hard being first. Palm took the best and eliminated worse of the Newton and built a profitable market (at least for a while). I've always said, it's the early bird that catches the worm, but it's the second mouse that gets the cheese. In this case Apple got a worm.