Thursday, June 25, 2009

Environmentally friendly book publishing

Ten years ago, my dad decided to take his best photographs, add some text and publish a nice hard-bound book. He found a local printhouse that could do the job. This was before everything was in digital, so it wasn't cheap. For the sake of cost and also because he didn't want to waste resources, he decided to only print 400 copies of his book.

The book turned into a family project and my primary job was to help with logistics, including the press check. I spent one whole evening up until about 2 o'clock in the morning visiting the print shop and looking at the pages as they came off the press. The pages all looked fine, but I was horrified at the waste. For every page printed in color, the shop ran a stack of oversized paper through the press about three feet high, just to make sure the ink was coming out correctly. That's not a misprint -- for 400 copies, they wasted approximately three feet of stacked paper per page. I was stunned.

Fast forward ten years and like father, like daughter, I decided to self-publish a book. I wanted it in color, but besides the fact that the cost would have been prohibitive, no way was I going to generate that kind of waste. Luckily for me, a new type of printing now exists called print-on-demand (POD). I honestly don't know if they waste feet of paper at the start of the day when they turn on the presses, but with the printing method you can print any number of copies, starting at one. It's slightly more expensive per copy than the traditional method, but here's no inventory to store in your garage or to buy back from a distributer when they don't sell.

If I looked into it further, I'd probably find POD companies that use recycled paper or soy ink or something even friendlier. I didn't go that far -- I was just excited that I could print my book without all that waste and without needing to guess how many copies I'd someday need.

If you've ever thought of publishing your own book, you should check this out. There is a range of services that various companies offer. Beware of those that charge too much or don't leave you with full rights to your work. I decided to go really simple, so I landed at CreateSpace. I had to provide everything in pdf form including the cover. I keep all rights to my work; they print, sell through Amazon and send me royalties. I can order books wholesale as needed and resell them. I've received several shipments of my book already and I couldn't be happier with the quality.

I know on a site like our Bookworm there's a bunch of readers who wish you could publish your own book. You should look into this! Rating: 5 out of 5.


hmd said...

VERY cool! I've thought about writing a book, although actually sitting down long enough to actually do it is an issue... Sounds like a great resource. Thanks!

Sam said...

I love this idea of self-publishing as well! Congratulations on your book.

Green Bean said...

Awesome! I think the idea of self- publishing (and the ability to do it) are just what we need in today's society. Congrats on the book!

Donna said...

Heather: Yeah, you don't really want to know how much time it took me. But you should check it out, just the same!

Beany: Thanks. There's nothing quite like seeing your name on the cover of a book. :)

GB: It's kind of like an extension of the web. People can publish online, and now they can get their stuff into print, too. It's a whole new world.

Kale for Sale said...

I've wondered how the world of self publishing worked. Thanks for an introduction as well as a snapshot of the regular printing world too. Or at least the printing world of days gone by. Certainly it's improved.

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