16 April 2010

Print on Demand and “Just World Books”

Print on Demand and “Just World Books”

An innovation in publishing

The Communist University has been using a “print on demand” for several months now, by arrangement with the Jetline Print on Demand company. Jetline has uploaded a large number of Communist University “short texts”, and made them available via their outlets and hence to study groups all over South Africa. To find out more about this very economical CU service, click here (see top of right-hand panel).

Just World Books

Now, an e-friend of the CU, Helena Cobban of Washington, DC, USA, who is the proprietor of the longstanding Middle-East-oriented blog “Just World News” (JWN), has taken the Print On Demand publishing concept to another level.

Helena has set up a publishing company and called it “Just World Books” (the JWB web site is coming soon).

This new publishing house will sell full-length, properly printed books in the USA for less than $25, and give the author a bigger cut than other publishers do.

The books will be “self-curated” and self-edited by the authors. Helena’s idea is to publish the best of peoples’ existing blog output or other writing, in book form.

Helena wanted “to work with some of the fellow-bloggers whose work I most admire, to provide a vehicle through which they could get some of their best work repackaged and presented in a form that would be much more easily accessible than blog archives are to the many readers who need to be reading this important material: Also known as a b-o-o-k.”

“I decided to call this process ‘curating’,” writes Helena.

“The existence of a number of companies offering excellent ‘Print-On-Demand’ (POD) services… is kind to Mother Earth, since it avoids the printing of book-copies excess to market needs.

“But it’s also more important than that for our project: Since we don’t have to make all those complex commercial calculations about print-runs, and then deal with the costs and hassle of inventory management, warehousing, tracking returns, etc., we can concentrate instead on bringing out excellent copies of excellent books. We can be much more agile and timely in our publishing plans than traditional publishers ever could be,” says Helena

“JWB’s business plan is based on the concept of ‘Short Turnround Time for Timely Titles',” says Helena.

The announcement of Just World Books was made on JWN yesterday, 15 April 2010, here.

Print on Demand as such

Print on demand can make it possible for “hard copy” books to become significant carriers of political ideas once again, as they were in the days of the "Left Book Club", or "Penguin Books" in its heyday, or "Progress Publishers" and "Seven Seas Publishers", in the old Soviet Union and GDR, for some examples.

Helena Cobban’s model publishing house can be the fore-runner of thousands of such low-overhead publishing houses, freed from the burden of stocking titles.

Books that are “out of print” can be recovered and made available once again. These could include the Marxist “classics”, which have already experienced a renaissance because of their reappearance and free availability on the Internet, outstandingly so in the case of the Marxists Internet Archive , which has recently also launched a hard copy book-publishing operation of its own (see here).

Books remain the preferred method of reading for most people. The secure, semi-permanent nature of an edition in book form is a useful attribute that electronic publishing will never equal. Books are also desirable artefacts and art objects in their own right.

Print On Demand can also potentially reduce the cost and increase the availability of all kinds of school and university books, just as it has for the CU’s material.

The book is back!