Libraries as Publishers: Possibilities with print on demand

Clive Thompson recently gave an excellent interview on the findings tumblr as part of their “How We Will Read” series. In the interview, Thompson discusses his ideas on eBooks, social reading and the future of print. But I think that his thoughts about print on demand books are the most interesting.

What you see with print on demand in the last couple of years is that there’s been explosion in the number of things printed, but they’re printed in small quantities: three, four, five copies total. They tend to be things like very specialty books; weird memoirs only three or four people want to read; mementos: people put together photographs of their vacation with a little writeup. You get books that get updated in curious new ways. The University of Calgary hosted the former prime minister of Canada, Kim Campbell, and offered to sell copies of her book at her event. But her book was out of print. So she got the digital file, wrote two new chapters, a new introduction, and they printed 50 copies of it for the event.

Justin Hoenke‘s recent webinar has me thinking about the idea of libraries as “content creators.” This is probably why I get so excited to read Thompson’s thoughts and then connect them with the video from the Sacramento Public Library that I’ve embedded below. The possibilities with a print on demand machine in a library are many, and the programming and communities that could spring up around it would be fun, creative, and informative – for all ages.

*For further thoughts on the future of books, I’d highly recommend Craig Mod’s essay Post-Artifact Books and Publishing. I briefly discussed it in a blog post last June.

— by TTW Contributor Ben Lainhart