Friday, August 04, 2006

Instant Gratification.

Instant gratification is a modern mantra, but things instantly available are not always of the best quality.

When I lived and worked in the United States (which has taken instant gratification to its ultimate limit) some friends of mine ran a restaurant. They were French and complained that business was never as good as with some of their rival concerns down the street. I pointed out to them that they had, on display, the biggest turn-off for an American eater one could envisage. It was a notice that said, “Good food is not fast. Fast food is not good.”

I was reminded of this when I was scrabbling through the Internet and realised the number of “Print on Demand Publishing Companies” that were now hawking their wares to prospective authors.

Now I am a great enthusiast for the technology that, by using the POD process, enables limited run books to be produced inexpensively. But buying the machinery (or, as in most cases, having a trade agreement with one who has) is a far cry from being a “publisher.”

Even the better and more ethical of these companies overcook the possible success rates for their clients, but to my mind, the worst thing, reading through the blurbs on their websites, is that nowhere do they mention any editorial quality requirements for the books they publish. Any “editing” service they provide, at a cost, will be something of a joke and have nothing to do with the quality of the material.

Provided your credit card works, voila, your book is published – almost instantly.

The result is that of the millions of books produced, a large percentage turn out to be the most appalling tosh, their authors having been deprived of the critical filter provided by agents and traditional publishers ( and, dare I mention, ghost writers!) that prevent such dross ever appearing in print.

The problem is that Print on Demand is a printing process, and a very good one, for making available memoirs, biographies and all sorts of material that would not fit in with the requirements of a traditional publishing house. But it is a printing process only - and has little or nothing to do with publishing.

But by uncritically churning out “books” on demand, these so-called publishers do the professional writer and aspiring authors immeasurable harm. Not surprisingly, few reviewers will bother to even take a glance at a book carrying their banner.

And who can blame them.


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