Sunday, June 2, 2013

Dear Traditional Publishers

A friend of mine recently made a Facebook post about a wonderful book of sketches, called "He Drew As He Pleased," by Albert Hurter, the great Disney character designer of the 30s and 40s. (I just realized that in 20 years, if I'm still alive and writing, I'll have to say the 1930s or no one will know which century I'm talking about. Egads!) The book has been out of print for a long time, and collector copies can run over $500.

Which is a shame, because the book is a valuable reference tool for artists today, as well as an important piece of motion picture history.

I understand how expensive it is to republish a book, especially one that has such a limited audience. That is, it's expensive if you take the traditional route. But even if you're a traditional publisher, the technology of print-on-demand (POD) is available. Using this technology, it would only take the labor and equipment needed to translate the originals into electronic files to put this on the market. As with the books I've published, the cost of printing is borne only when the book is ordered.

And, of course, once you have the electronic version, you can publish for Kindle and Nook as well.

Even if the book needs to be priced far above what a traditional book would cost, that would still be better than the price that has be be paid for a collector's copy.

This would be a way to bridge the gap between works that are in the public domain and works that are still under copyright, but out of print. Traditional publishers do not make royalties from used and collectible books, and the author (or the author's estate) gets nothing from these sales, either.

New contracts might have to be negotiated, but I think that some kind of standard agreement for POD books is far more beneficial to authors than a situation that generates no income at all. And publishers can pull this off with no inventory costs. And it will help alleviate the problem of people posting PDF files of the book online, as they have done with Mr. Hurter's book. I would much rather have a printed or legal electronic copy of a book, but I can't afford to pay hundreds of dollars for it.

Print-on-demand for the back catalogue of traditionally-published books? A win all around!

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