Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Lulu.com - Excellent Idea

I have to wonder if this isn't a disruptive technology - to the classic model of printing, that is. Let me recount my experience with it. I've known about Lulu for years, but have never really had the occasion to use it (as a publisher or a consumer).

But - I ran into a book that is out of print, and all used copies are ridiculously priced - the specific book is On Lisp, by Paul Graham, and used copies run as low as $200 to about $400. That's insane, especially for a paperback on technology, even if it is supposed to be one of the better texts covering Lisp. I happened to know (and it's mentioned in the comments) that this book happens to be released on PDF by the author. So I go download that. But this is a long book, and I find myself getting very restless very quickly trying to read a book on the screen. So I kick around the idea of asking Paul if he'd be open to letting me publish it on Lulu. Then I think I should look around on there first to see if it's already there - and sure enough, On Lisp is already there.

Shipped, the book came to less than 1/10th the cost of a used copy of the book. And the printed PDF was nicely bound, IMHO. Way less than the cost of having Kinko's do it, too. The interesting thing, and why I think it may be disruptive, is that it's printed on demand. The author/publisher doesn't have to eat all the cost printing a huge run upfront. I suppose that can be bit of a put-off for those that want their books NOW, but hey, it's being ordered on-line anyway. They seem pretty flexible as they also sell PDFs online, as well.

Do I think this will change the entire business of books? No way. I imagine that it will continue in the current fashion for the big blockbusters. But for self-publishers of off-beat topics or out of print books that have been reclaimed by the author, I see a changing landscape.

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