Monday, July 2, 2018

Printing is not publishing, dammit.

(Above: advertising something that doesn't exist. Would you like to buy a unicorn?)

For a business that depends on communication, publishing often has terrible communication. Terms for basic functions are misused and misunderstood by people in the business—and certainly by 'civilians.'

I was reminded of this long-standing problem when someone complimented my for the "fine penmanship" I demonstrated in an online posting a few days ago. He meant to compliment me on my expression, not my formation of letters with an ancient handheld device.

I've been guilty of a similar offense.

When I was a teenager in the summer of 1963 I had a job working in a clothing store. One time I was talking to a customer and she told me that her family owned a well-known local company. I responded with something like, "oh yeah, the publisher." She corrected me saying "we're not that important. We're a printer, not a publisher." 

More than half a century later, the confusion continues.

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 sleazy companies that print books on demand mostly for their authors rather than for readers.

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

Llumina Press, Booksurge, Lulu, Tate, Outskirts, CreateSpace and others have paid Google to run online ads for the stupid phrase aimed at ignorant writers who don’t know the difference between printing and publishing. There have even been stupidly named websites called (now apparently defunct) and (also apparently defunct).
  • Some critics describe and deride "self-publishing companies" as "POD companies" -- which makes the situation even more confusing.
  • Sleazy and dishonest PublishAmerica said, "PublishAmerica is not in any way a POD, vanity press, or subsidy publisher. . . . In the most commonly used context, POD indicates "Publish On Demand." BULSHIT.
Publishing and printing are not the same thing. Printing is often 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—whether pbook or ebook—can take weeks, months or even years.

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. (Of course, with ebooks, publishing occurs without printing.)

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 "indie" and now they are demeaning and devaluing "POD."

When I checked, the new Ingram Spark was keeping a much bigger chunk of a publisher's money than corporate sibling Lightning Source did for the same work.

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 and printers would be more careful with the language they and we depend on.

(Clinton photo from the White House. Humpty drawing from Thanks.)

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