What is POD?

(Originally published on the Windscape Book Company blog.)

Publishing methods have changed dramatically since the days of record keeping on clay tablets in ancient Sumeria. Until the invention of the printing press, and movable type in the 15th century, original manuscripts, and later, copies of them, were written by hand. Materials consisted of papyrus, then, parchment or vellum and, eventually, paper. Their format evolved from scrolls into codices, which provided the basic structure for books as we know them, today.

Print shops began to appear in the 16th century. They sold printed editions of hand written classical and religious texts to the Church and the Aristocracy. By the end of the 19th century, reading materials were also in demand by the middle classes, prompted by public education, and the spread of literacy. The growth of the publishing industry kept pace with the public’s increased desire for books, and the existence of commercial publishers was well established by 1900.

During the 20th century, many smaller publishing houses were bought up by ever-larger ones and, increasingly, by global media empires. Now, profitability, not artistic merit, often determines an editor’s choice of manuscripts. Commercialization has forced publishers to make their decisions based on proven track records, or successful formulas. It’s often difficult for new authors, or fringe topics to find a place in the industry.

But, POD is a way of addressing those issues. Print-on-demand publishing is digital. It begins with a computer, and a digital version of the author’s manuscript. Formatting and graphics are added; copies are laser printed and the book is bound. No expensive printing presses, no publishers, no middlemen. Print runs are on-demand, and affordable; the books are sold by the author online, or at book-selling events.

For authors, a printed work can be the first step to building an audience. For consumers, an independently published book increases our choices, and allows us to access original work that may not fit within the boundaries of commercial literature. That can only be a good thing.

Photo credit (top): dharder via morguefile.com.

On the Lighter Side

(Originally published on the Windscape Book Company blog.)

Just for the fun of it, I’m posting two links to highlight the innovative side of bookselling.

This first video boggles my mind.  I can’t even begin to guess the amount of time it would have taken to sort and stack these books once this video had been filmed.  Even if it was shot in pieces over an extended period of time, can you imagine how much effort and care was involved in setting up each scene?  And, then, what if a second or, even, a third take was needed?  As much as I get a kick out of the video and appreciate the idea, I sure wouldn’t want to be on the crew.

Here’s Bookmans Does Book Dominoes:

This next video, The Joy of Books, is another amazing display of creativity.  Be sure to click on the Show More button under it to count the number of volunteers used to ‘move the books’ and don’t forget to listen to the original score:

Youtube is a breeding ground for the bizarre as well as the truly inspired.  It’s also a heck of a lot of fun.

Found: One Sheet of Portrait Photos

(Originally published on the Windscape Book Company blog.)

I’ve been buying used books from secondhand bookstores most of my adult life. Occasionally, I’ll get the books home, then discover an old bookmark tucked inside, overlooked by the store’s purchasing staff. Sometimes, it’s just a receipt or a torn piece of paper; other times it’s a business card but, in most cases, the books are empty of anything belonging to the previous owner.

Now that I’m a bookseller, though, I’m buying much larger quantities of books and buying them much more regularly. I’m also starting to accumulate quite a collection of bookmarks. In addition to the glossy ones with inspirational sayings, there’s been a few from bookstores in other Canadian cities, one from as far away as Yellowknife, N.W.T. I’ve also come across the usual variety of paper scraps including old telephone messages, study notes and grocery lists. I’ve even found a photograph of the Eiffel Tower in autumn.

Photo sheet bookmarkRecently, I was cataloguing a book I’d picked up at the Cut Knife Library Book Sale. Underneath the dust jacket’s rear flap was a sheet of studio portraits. I have no idea how old they may be but, if anyone recognizes this child, please let the family know I have the photos because I’d love to be able to return them.

Just a reminder, folks, before you donate, lend, give away or sell your books, please take a quick peek inside and check for any stray bookmarks. Most of them wouldn’t be missed but, sometimes, there’s something irreplaceable inside.