Miss Snark had a link to a relatively new blogger here in her Monday post.
Miss Snark filed his post under "sucka," offering a critique in her uniquely brusque and snarky fashion.
I wrote a lengthy response in POD Critic's comment space. I don't know how long that comment will appear, but I'm going to incorporate parts of it in this post.
Pod Critic states: "The truth is this: print-on-demand technology, as I’ve told others, has the capacity to revolutionize the publishing industry; to alter it almost entirely in fact."
Frankly, I agree with him (I'm going to use the generic "him" since I have no idea of the blogger's gender) that POD is the wave of the future. Richard Curtis made that case nearly a year ago in his keynote address to the Backspace Writers Conference in July. You can read his comments here.
Pod Critic and I begin to part company when he says: "Right now, print-on-demand is an advanced printing technology and business model that is mainly in the hands of rank amateurs."
I know I've said it before, but I'll say it again: POD is a technology, not a business model. It is the technology that permits a publishing house to digitally print one book at nearly the same average price per book as it can print one thousand books. I agree it will overtake the industry, in the same way Gutenberg's printing press once did, simply because it makes economic sense. However, it is NOT a business model. The only people calling it a business model are the presses that specialize in self-publishing, who now call themselves "POD publishers" because it sounds better than "vanity presses."
Self-publishing IS a business model. The technology by which one self-publishes is called printing, whether it be POD or traditional press.
Where POD Critic and I really tear the sheets is when he says: "Many authors, and even a few publishers, employing the method are, in essence, inexpert and unprofessional. That is what happens when there is no real (affordable) training program or adequate learning apparatus readily available to the masses. The entire POD system is, in effect, abused; hence the heavy criticism and standoffish positions from those on the other side."
He's off his nut if he thinks the publishing industry doesn't recognize the potential of POD technology. Large publishers like Random House, HarperMorrow and Simon & Schuster are already busy digitizing their backlists.
Last week, Borders Group announced it is revamping its chain of superstores to create digital centers, which will include assistance for self-published writers.
The real problem with POD has nothing to do with "a lack of training program or adequate learning apparatus" for publishers and authors. Both publishing houses and POD presses know exactly what the technology can do and exactly what it means to their future.
The real problem is that POD publishers have given the technology a bad name by printing whatever dreck comes in the door accompanied by a writer with a check who says she wants to self-publish.
In traditional publishing, the READER is the ultimate end user of the publishing house. In self-publishing, the WRITER is the end user of the POD press. And therein lies the problem. A traditional publisher is betting its future by taking a chance on a writer and a manuscript. If the book bombs, the publisher loses a bunch of money. This is not the case with a POD press. Since they are paid up front, they mostly don't care whether the book sells (some of them retain publishing rights or take a percentage of sales, but that's after their costs are covered by a check from the writer).
Instead of refusing a manuscript of poor quality, the POD press accepts the check and turns out a pretty product, no matter how bad the contents, because the writer is their end user. The poor deluded writer then begins to refer to himself as "published," earning the scorn of the rest of the industry.
Until the self-publishing industry develops a filter system to weed out the garbage, even quality self-published authors will bear a stigma.
Hastings Entertainment just posted its fourth quarter results. According to Publishers Weekly, they were the last of the book retailers to announce disappointing year-end figures, following Borders' disastrous results last week.
If book retailers like Borders believe they can save themselves and inflate their revenues by printing and then selling self-published books without vetting for quality, they are sounding their own death knell. It's a very short-term strategy.
Readers are not stupid people. It will only take getting burned a few times by purchasing a poor-quality self-published book before they will associate the seller with getting ripped off. They will become more wary of unknown writers as well. Unfortunately, this is going to make it even harder for new writers to break into the industry.
Let me repeat myself: What IS needed is a filtering system by which inexperienced and impatient authors seeking to self publish are sent back to the drawing board (the way agents and editors currently handle them) instead of encouraging them by taking their money and filling them with false hope when their writing is not up to par.
Like many others, I'm grieving the loss of POD-dy Mouth. I would welcome a new blogger willing to bring quality self-published books to the attention of readers. However, if Pod Critic wants to fill POD-dy Mouth's shoes, IMHO, he will have to demonstrate three qualities: (1) An ability to pick good books; (2) An ethical compass similar to POD-dy Mouth's. Even though she was an author herself, she never used her forum to promote her own agenda (or books); and (3) A less grandiose sense of his place in the publishing universe.
About #3 above: It's fine to be ambitious and to have enthusiasm for your project. It's another thing entirely to make over-blown statements about the amateur quality of the professionals in an entire industry.
The people at POD presses are professionals. They are professionals at selling a dream to hungry, naive and impatient writers. Their services may be overpriced and their advertising somewhat misleading, but the world runs on a "buyer beware" model. If a writer hasn't taken the time to do her research before diving into a POD contract, it's her own fault. God knows there are lots of blogs and websites that warn against plunging into self-publishing. However, there are lots of warnings against buying into silly "lose weight fast" schemes, too, but that hasn't stopped millions from purchasing foolish devices or dietary supplements.
I wish Pod Critic well. Again, in my opinion, he needs to narrow his focus and tone down his rhetoric.