Geek Camp 3
25 May 2010 in Future of Publishing
Last week I went along to Geek Camp 3 at Free Word - my first time at this event. Lots of opportunities to talk to people, set up to encourage discussion around key topics - this worked really well for me as I have a stupid tendency to talk to people I already know at these events, and I managed to break that habit at Geek Camp 3. There were some interesting presentations too - from the Literary Platform people, looking for ideas about how to manage the success of their project, as well as how to create revenue from it; and also from the Lazarus Project, a fascinating look at Cambridge University Press and its very successful print-on-demand resurrections from its 450 years of accumulated backlist.
The Lazarus Project (which doesn’t seem to have a website) takes books from this backlist, gets them scanned in India, copyedits, tidies up the file, and reproduces original cover here in the UK, and makes them available for between £15-20 as print-on-demand. Alistair Horne, the speaker, said they only need to sell 4 or 5 copies to make this financially viable. He used the example of a splendid book called ‘The Complete Bibliography of Sponges: 1598 to 1754’ which they had brought back to life - and have now sold 22 copies. An interesting look at the potential economics around print on demand for backlist titles. Tell me again how publishers figure a royalty of 25% on ebooks - which, afterall, remain as a digital file so don’t even have printing costs - is fair?
It was a good evening, but I came away with a weariness about our endless discussions about the future of publishing - and I’m not a publisher, lord knows how they stomach it. For the time being, when it comes to these kinds of events and discussions, I’m going to try to focus more clearly on writing - the future of literature, what literature and good writing can offer in the digital age. Good writing, and good reading - these are the things that matter to me. How will we read in the future? Will the novel as we know it today fundamentally change? Is the investment we writers ask of our readers worth it? I’m not talking about the £7.99 - or less - you hand over to buy a book, print or digital. I’m talking about the hours and hours readers spend with our work - the time they spend reading. No other cultural producers require such a huge investment of time. Opera might be long, but it’s nothing compared to reading a novel. Does this matter? Will this change?
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