As I was brushing my teeth (and pushing Dinah out of the sink basin--she seems to believe that the curvature of my bathroom sink was designed for her lounging pleasure), I had an interesting thought.
Back on April 28th here, I made the following speculation:
What I suspect is going to happen is that the lines between publisher, distributor, bookstore and author are going to start blurring. Unusual contracts among the different parties are likely to emerge.
Remember the line I already quoted from the New York Times article this morning?
On Demand Books is pitching the EBM, "which may eventually sell for $20,000 or more, principally toward the nation’s 16,000 public libraries and 25,000 bookstores. A 300-page book costs about $3 to produce with the machine. A bookstore or library could then sell it to customers or library members at cost or at a markup."
Add public libraries to the institutions in which the lines will begin to blur.
Public libraries are already struggling to find their niche in the digital age. What if they began selling print-on-demand books to the public at slightly above cost? Think of the impact that could have on the equation.
There have been isolated stories recently of towns forced to close their public libraries. What if the libraries could help to sustain themselves via book sales?
If ever there was a time to think outside the box, this is it.
Update: More thoughts on the subject. While public libraries could certainly print anything in the public domain (Beowulf, Pride & Prejudice, Shakespeare), they would not have the werewithal to negotiate the issue of rights. They could print the public domain books which students need to read for assigned classes. My guess is that they could undercut the prices of both bookchains and the used bookstores and still make a tidy profit.
Who could be a significant player in industry change would be the university presses/libraries.
Although most people don't realize it, the biggest chunk of the publishing industry is the textbook industry.
In my own graduate program, most of my textbooks were authored by my own professors. If those instructors and the university decided to use POD technology to print the textbooks, my guess is that the professors could get a royalty hike, the students could get a price break and the university could pick up a chunk of change, too.
It would be interesting to see how the numbers of such an experiment would look.