Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Book Nirvana

B is in the digital printing business and when we met recently, he was talking about how marketing budgets for print ads have shrunk with the bulk of the action moving to social media outlets these days. I asked him about the the idea of printing books on demand that gets tossed around - if he thought there was a future for print shops like his in that line of work. He was not sure how popular that model of book buying would get and how soon.

With conversation turning to books and the many ways to read them today, I wondered if it were possible in a print on demand scenario to excerpt out portions of several books and make it the book the buyer would actually read in its entirety - an idea not unlike buying one song at a time from the iTunes store rather than a full album. This is specially relevant for non-fiction books.

More often than not, I find myself skimming through many chapters that are of little interest to me, until I find one that I like enough to read in full. In a 300 plus page book, I may be interested in only 50. If I could have a book that excerpted these 50 pages for me, allowed me to add material from ten other books on the same subject so I ended up with a book that exactly met my needs and interests, that would be ever so perfect.

It seems like the model would help less established authors if a book seller offers suggestions on other books that may be of interest based on what I choose to excerpt from my each of selected books. A second order benefit may be for one such as myself - which could be just about any book buyer, to go ahead and plow back into the system their custom books for other readers to buy or browse through.

B agreed that it was a neat idea but probably hard to implement because of the financial implications to the author, publisher and even the buyer of the book. He did not even want to hazard any guesses on what it meant for intellectual property, copyright and such. I guess it won't be any time soon that I can mash up ten books of my choice to print out a volume that I will enjoy reading from page one to page three hundred.

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