There’s an interesting article in today’s Guardian by Max Hastings, who talks about the news that Amazon.com has bought a firm called BookSurge. BookSurge specialises in “on demand printing”, which raises the possibility that in the not too distant future anybody will be able to stick a book on Amazon without having to persuade a publisher that their effort is worthwhile.
It’s a fascinating possibility, which ties in with all the “long tail” stuff that’s getting net-watchers excited. To put it simply, the future of commerce may be in niches: instead of selling millions and millions of copies of the same thing, businesses might thrive by selling one or two copies of millions of different things.
Of course, it’s bound to result in some really bad books being made available, in much the same way that the digital music revolution has resulted in some really bad music being made available. However, the potential gains massively outweigh the potential losses: sure, there’ll be a lot of crap, but there’ll also be some gems that wouldn’t otherwise have seen the light of day. Just like the music business, the publishing business often ignores talent because there isn’t a big enough market for it. With on-demand printing, that’s no longer an issue.