New Life for Fading Titles

The consolidation of the publishing industry during the past 20 years has changed the landscape for both new and experienced authors hoping to see their manuscripts become printed works. Because fewer houses are publishing new books, authors—including those in the higher education community—have fewer places to send their proposals.

Of course, there are alternatives, including publishing via a so-called vanity press or self-publishing on the Web. However, a third option is available that may work well for scholars seeking a way to make their work available to any audience. Now, writers can take advantage of a digital publishing technology known as print-on-demand to reach a larger pool of potential readers.

Several print-on-demand publishers exist, including Xlibris Corp., iUniverse Inc., and Lightning Source Inc. Lightning Source, a division of Ingram Industries Inc., most recently worked with publishers who are transferring some of their titles to print-on-demand status. The company also provides digital fulfillment and other services for publishers.

Is print-on-demand the right option for a professor seeking to publish a manuscript? Possibly, says Arthur Asa Berger, professor of broadcast and electronic communication arts at San Francisco State University and author of more than 30 books. Berger, who has published with several traditional scholarly and textbook publishers, turned to iUniverse to keep alive a book called Bloom’s Morning, which had gone out of print.

“There was a professor using the book in his course,” Berger says, “and I wanted it to continue to be available to him and his students.” Because of the low cost of publishing the book with iUniverse—under $200—Berger decided to give it a try. Although he hasn’t yet earned back his investment, he endorses the print-on-demand option.

“For someone who is an unknown quantity, it’s a good way to get published. Instead of spending thousands with a vanity press, you can spend $100 or $200 and get a book.” Berger points out that the print-on-demand approach ensures that the author will get at least one printed copy of the book, with the option to buy as many more as he or she wants. Authors can direct interested buyers to the company’s Web site or recommend that they order it through their local bookstore.

For Berger, this was an important selling point, because much of his audience consists of professors who use his books semester after semester.

He continues to publish with traditional publishers while placing some of his titles with Xlibris and iUniverse. “Different books are suited for different publishing models,” he notes. “It’s important to have a sense of how much commercial potential a book has and treat it accordingly.”

For more information, visit the Web sites for Xlibris (www.xlibris.com), iUniverse (www.iuniverse.com), and Lightning Source (www.lightningsource.com).

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