Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The other P-O-D

Publish On Demand is an unnecessary and confusing misnomer using the same initials as Print On Demand. There’s really no such thing as Publish On Demand. It makes no sense. But companies still want you to think they’ll do it for you.

Despite its use by major traditional publishers, the Print On Demand process has been subject to some unfortunate and unjustified stigma because of its association with vanity presses that print books on demand, mostly for its author-customers.

Therefore, some vanity presses have sought to give a new meaning to the "P" in POD.

Llumina Press, Booksurge, Lulu, Tate, Outskirts and others pay Google to run online ads for the stupid phrase aimed at ignorant writers who don’t know the difference between printing and publishing. They’re not the same thing. Printing is part of publishing. Printing can be done on demand. Publishing can’t.

Publishing is a complex, multi-stage process that takes a writer’s words from manuscript to books on sale. The end result of a publishing project, which may be 10,000 books or just one book, can take weeks, months or even years. The book or books constitute an edition — a particular version of a particular book. Each edition, regardless of the printing quantity and regardless of who the publisher is and what kind of printing press is used, can be published just one time. But books in that edition may be printed many times.

With Print On Demand, books are printed one at a time or a few at a time as orders are placed by readers through booksellers. That does not mean that a publishing company starts the entire publishing sequence whenever an order arrives. With POD, a book is produced (i.e. printed, not published) in minutes, not months.

With conventional non-POD “big batch" publishing, if the stock of books sells out, the publisher usually prints more. But this is considered to be reprinting the previous edition, not a new edition.

If there is a major revision, not just minor corrections and updates, the new version is considered to be a new edition, but it’s published because of demand by the author or the publisher — not by readers.

So, what's the point of all this?

If you see the phrase "Publish On Demand," be very careful before you spend your money. There's a good chance that the company is fooling around with more than the English language. The shady operators in the publishing field have already distorted the meaning of "self-publishing" and now they are demeaning and devaluing "POD."

What word or phrase will be the next victim? I don't know, but I'm not optimistic. Remember what Bill Clinton said: "It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is. And Humpty Dumpty said: "When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean."

I sure wish publishers would be more careful with the language they and we depend on.

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