Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Print in 50 years : Downloadable pre-imposed PDFs , aka MUNROs

The book "as we know it now" will be dead in 50 years, but the book itself will not be dead, far from it.

I publish my own journal and write occasional book reviews, but I have also worked in four different bookstores for a dozen years and am a lifelong avid reader, so I hope I have seen the issue from various sides.

I insist that the book, Phoenix-like, will be revived as downloadable pre-imposed PDFs, (what I have labelled as a 'MUNRO') to produce story papers or even slim saddle bound books inside the ultimate reader's own home.

Today the average copy of a print book or magazine is written here, edited there, printed over there, shipped out to a warehouse, shipped to thousands of stores, shipped unsold back to the warehouse and then finally shipped out to be pulped.

In addition, the meaningful contents have often been deliberately padded up in size till it is at least 250 pages thick , to be profitable and or convenient to handle for conventional literary agent, publisher ,book critic, book store and library.

In the world of culture, print book publishing is like the Alberta Tar Sands in its impact on our planet.

In the commercial model of my alternative scheme, a customer would pay online for a link to a downloadable PDF of the book or magazine which they will print out in their homes or offices on their own duplex* computer printer.

*The scheme doesn't need "printing on two sides at once" (duplex) printers to work - that just makes it easier.

The key is that the PDF is already pre-imposed , in printing industry lingo , so it will read in correct order, when simply taken out of the printer and quickly folded in on itself like a conventional newspaper, magazine or booklet.

To wit : imagine an A4 or letter sized piece of paper as printed in 4 'page' panels - two to each side and then it is folded in the middle of the longest dimension.

So in a 64 printed page magazine, one side of a sheet of paper has page 64 on the left and page 1 on the right, flipped over, page 2 is on the left and page 63 is on the right.

64 printed pages from only 16 sheets of A4 paper.

The assembled pages no more need staples or a stiff cover stock cover than your everyday daily paper needs them to remain together ; thank friction of rough paper on rough paper for that.

If it is unbound by anything but friction, technically it isn't a book but a story paper --- a book in the form of a daily newspaper, in a sense.

Any history of publishing will reveal just how big this story paper format once was and how savagely the fearful elites opposed this democratization of literature.

Now there is a limit to the number of sheets that hang together in this fashion without need for a sophisticated trimming operation : perhaps 80 printed pages is the limit.

Still if the paper size is upped to A3 or tabloid (11x17)  (my home printer is that size and I bought it in 2013 for $150 Cdn), we do thus end up with a magazine sized product that can hold about 50,000 words in a two column layout - enough for a lot of novels or non fiction works.

But I expect most books will be printed on A4 paper and produce novella sized work of about 20,000 words.

As in Victorian times, 'books' might be once again produced in three or more volumes.

Yes, the end reader must come up with a dollar or two for their own paper and ink , but the market will see the price for the link is set at below an equivalent of today's $5 to $10 dollars.

Some of us, very old, can remember having to cut the pages of books we brought ourselves, or only receiving the text block of a book and having to have a cover put on ourselves at a book binder.

Somehow, we survived.

The competition is bookstores with incredibly expensive machines that can print out thick "perfect bound"* books very slowly and expensively one at a time, when the customer requests them.

* Ie, books with a thick square spine.

Bookstores and book publishers hate/fear slim staple bound publications and teach us all quality literature and intellectual thought can't live within them.

Is this is because anyone can make them - and then what will they do for a living ?

Strange when we consider all the good literature and intellectual heft that has traditionally come out of the slender , staple bound, magazines.

If the Book Trade can be believed,  the literary or intellectual quality of a work falls off alarmingly, when the material is shifted from a lot of small pages in a book to a few big pages in a magazine. 

Bosh, a cartel is a cartel whether it involves drug company presidents in a smoke filled backroom or cosy publishers,booksellers and critics laying down the rules in public at a wine and cheese salon ..... 

1 comment:

  1. No , "MUNROs" are not named after Alice our Nobel winner - but after George Munro .19th century GB (General Benefactor) of Dalhousie University, whose donated money earned from his "story papers" lifted the university from the depths of obscurity and or bankruptcy and merger.
    His much despised ( by the literary elite - those who today worship Alice) story papers led to a marked democratization of literature.
    Now that's MY cuppa tea !!!