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Future Self-Publishing Models?

Are these experimental models the future of self-publishing, or will they simply become footnotes as the industry evolves? It’s an exciting juncture in self-publishing, and new technology and innovative minds are bringing ideas to life every day. While this list makes no effort to be all-inclusive, here are a few models to watch. by Joe Wikert

THE ESPRESSO BOOK MACHINE

Touted as an ATM for books, the Espresso Book Machine serves up paperbacks to order. Named one of Time magazine’s best inventions of 2007, the EBM houses laser-printing, paper-slicing and book-binding mechanisms, and it’s networked with a digital database of more than 200,000 public-domain books—plus the ability to download your personal files. Nine experimental machines are operating worldwide (with just four in the United States), and parent company On Demand Books (ondemandbooks.com) alludes to the release of a commercial machine soon. With the EBM, you can have a freshly made 300-page book in hand in three minutes. Have an espresso while you wait.

E-PUBLISHING COMMUNITIES

Several new online communities are experimenting with an e-publishing model in the spirit of critique, collaboration and publication—in no particular order.

WEbook (webook.com) defines itself as an online book publishing company that “does for the industry what ‘American Idol’ did for music.” It offers opportunities for peer review at each user’s discretion. Then, users can submit their work for inclusion in periodic voting cycles. Projects are offered to the community for polling, and selections from the top 10 percent win the opportunity to “solidify a publishing plan” with WEbook.

Scribophile (scribophile.com) is designed primarily for peer critique. What’s unique about the format? Before you can post a work, you need to earn karma points by critiquing and rating the works of others. Scribophile acknowledges that by posting your work for the public, you’re publishing it, but also states, “Scribophile isn’t a publisher; we just want to make you the best writer you can be!” You can restrict your work to other members to help protect your rights.

BookRix (bookrix.com) is a Germany-based platform that “provides an online destination where authors can showcase their work.” Works don’t need to be book-length; short stories and poems are welcome. Discussion groups, rating and reviewing systems and competitions are also offered. Terms of use insist it’s not a publisher, stipulating the site “merely places online a platform enabling others to upload and perceive contents which have been created and/or uploaded by users and which enables communication between users.”

These sites can be innovative forums for writers who manage their expectations and decide the services are in line with their goals. But remember: When you post your work online, you’re essentially publishing it. Never enter into such an arrangement lightly, especially if you have traditional publishing goals in mind for that same work. Scrutinize terms of use and FAQs before posting a word. Most of these sites are so new that they’re still evolving, and so are their terms—so if they seem decidedly vague, it may be because they are.

BOOKS MADE TO ORDER

What if you just want to make a book for yourself, or a handful to give as gifts? Blurb (blurb.com) offers affordable services that yield professional-looking results.

Just download its free bookmaking software, design your own book using original text (and even photos) and choose your format: paperback or hardcover, black-and-white or full color, in small to coffee-table sizes. Finished books arrive at your door in days.

This article appeared in the March/April issue of Writer's Digest. Click here to order your copy in print. If you prefer a digital download of the issue, click here.

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