Gate Keepers and Publishers: Out with the old and in with the new




Old models of media distribution are going to collapse.  There is an ever decreasing need for the “middle man” as means of production and distribution continue to be streamlined and available to the public.  One example of this is book publishing. There is really very little need for publishing companies any longer.

Here is an article discussing a store in NYC that has its own book printing machine.
“More than 1,000 books were printed on the machine in the first four weeks for prices starting at $8 apiece. Kurtz said the main attraction to the Espresso Book Machine is that it is a tool for self-publishing.”

Here is a direct link to the specific book printing machine mentioned in the article.


Here is a video showing the actual production of a book with this machine.

According to the narration, production cost of a book utilizing this machine is 1 penny per page.


I would like to see a version of this machine in every library in the country. Then, I would like to see every book in existence converted into digital form and made available for personal printing.  This may seem like an impossible task but it really is not.  A reasonable number of automated book scanners (they exist, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-oOXXpxzETA) could very easily achieve this goal.  
Now, using the library of congress as a central hub, we should create a massive digital database of every book in existence and connect each public library up to to this database through the Internet.  There are many options for the pricing of books printed in this manner but for an off the top of my head example I feel that something like the following would work.

Have a base printing fee of printing cost + a small “donation” to the library system fee. Then, we can look at how much authors make per book sold now and figure out a reasonable amount more to charge per printed book with which to pay the author.  Without going nuts looking for sources I found this website of a “NYTimes Bestselling Author” which has a page discussing how authors are currently compensated. Here is what we find.

Generally speaking, the standard royalty rates for paperback books vary from a low of 1% to a high of 10%, with the average royalty rate falling at 6%. So if an author’s paperback book has a cover price of $6.50, then at a 6% royalty rate, the author will earn only a $.39 royalty on every copy sold.


Further, I found the average book prices for 2007 at the following website. From which we can gleam a bit more information.
In 2007, the average price per book, for all soft cover books, was $18.02

We can find a brief discussion of the standard number of words per page here

We can find a listing of the typical number of words per book type listed here
Flash Fiction… 1,000 to 3,000
Short… 3,000 to 15,000
Novelette… 7,500 to 17,500
Novella… 17,500 to 40,000
Novel… 40,000 to 75,000
Epic… 75,000+


By cutting out the middle man (the publishing companies) we can potentially improve profit for the producers while providing easier access and a wider selection for the consumer.  For example, lets work out the numbers for a middle sized novel.

57.5k words / 250 words per page = 230 pages.


At $0.01 per page production cost plus a little rounding up to be extra conservative lets say we charge $2.50 in production costs + lets say a 1$ mandatory library donation (this could absolutely be removed completely or made optional)


Then, if we sell the printed copy of this book for the average softcover book cost of $18.02 the author gets a 14.52$ return on each book sold.  Even if the author took only 50% of the income from the book for himself and used the other 50% to pay for editor and designers and what not they are still coming out with a $7.26 income per book.

Considering that the 10% royalties suggested by Rebecca Brandewyne would net the author only $1.80 per book under the current model it is not unreasonable to lower the cost of the same book to only $10 for sale under this new distribution model. Even under this pricing scheme, if the author takes only 50% of the income for himself they are bringing in $3.25 per book, which is nearly 2x the old model of publication and distribution at full price ($3.60).


Yay for efficiency.  

Let me know what you think in the comments!

Also, take a look at my thoughts on copyright here: http://lofalexandria.blogspot.com/2011/09/my-thoughts-on-copyright.html

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