Print Is Dead, Long Live Print p2 – Making a Cover for Createspace

Making an eBook cover isn’t hard.  It can be tricky to make it look good, but it’s really not all that difficult.  If graphic design isn’t your bag, there are plenty of cover designers out there (myself included).  If it is, and you enjoy making covers building one for CreateSpace isn’t overly difficult.  There are some technical issues you’ll need to deal with, though.  An eBook cover is usually something like 2500px by 1563px or some variant thereof.  If you take the height and multiply it by 0.6252, you’ll get the width.  Then it’s just a matter of finding or creating cover art, laying out the text, and doing some basic cleanup (size checks and whatnot) in GIMP or Photoshop.

A print cover is bit different.  You have to worry about bleeds, margins, the physical size of the spine and things like that.  It’s not that a print cover is really all that different, there’s just more to it and you have to be cognizant of where your elements lie in relation to where the ink is going to fall.

I’ll be going through this step by step using the cover for my upcoming collection of short stories.  I use Inkscape to do my layout and GIMP to do my image editing.  At this stage, the image work is done and it’s all about the Inkscape.  If you don’t have a copy of Inkscape, you can get one here.  If you need a copy of GIMP, that can be found here.

This post will cover the following steps.

  • Getting the cover template
  • Setting up guidelines in Inkscape
  • Importing images
  • Layout and design

Just like the last post on formatting your manuscript for CreateSpace, this looks complicated but it’s really not all that difficult.  It can be tedious and step-intensive, but it’s not difficult.  Set aside some time, make the cover, and step back for a day or two.  It’s those times that you step back that allow you to think about what you’d like to see without it staring you in the face.

So, step one.  Getting the cover template.  Don’t skip this step.  As I said earlier, print layout has some technical issues that simply don’t exist in eBook cover design.  Notably, there’s no standard size for the spine of a book.  You can assume you’re working on, say, a 6 inch by 9 inch book and the front cover and back cover dimensions won’t change.  The spine, however, is a variable.  The size of the spine is dependent entirely on the number of pages in your manuscript.  Then there’s also the issue of bleed lines (the point past which images will bleed off the sides).  If you put text past a bleed line you’ll likely never see it when the cover is printed, so it’s important to be aware of exactly at what point elements start to bleed off the cover.

Fortunately, CreateSpace has your back.  They’ve created a bunch of templates that will let you lay out your cover and have a pretty damned good idea of exactly where folds and bleed lines will hit.  Grab a template from here: Createspace Cover Templates.  You’ll need to know the formatted size of your manuscript (I’m using 6×9) and the number of pages in the text (the Clock Man is right about 300).  Download the template, unzip it, and you’ll have two files: a png image and a pdf file.

I’m going to start by importing the png image into Inkscape and setting up the Inkscape document dimensions.  To do this, find the dimension of the image in pixels (mine’s 5700 x 3900, but a lot of it is white space), and tell Inkscape how big the picture is going to be.  Go to File -> Document Properties and set the image dimensions.  Make sure to select pixels as the unit of measurement – my copy defaults to millimeters for some odd reason.  You don’t have to click OK or anything, as you move from field to field, the image will resize.

Inkscape document setup properties. It usually pops into the upper right hand corner.

Inkscape document setup properties. It usually pops into the upper right hand corner.

BlankSizedDocument

Inkscape with the document resized

With the image size set, press the minus sign a few times to zoom out so you can see the entire workspace.  Now we’re going to load the template file.  Go to File -> Import.  That will bring up a run-of-the-mill select file dialog.  Locate the png image you downloaded from CreateSpace and double click it.  This will bring up another dialog box asking you how to import this thing.  There are three questions: Link or Embed, Image DPI, and Image Rendering Mode.  Link or Embed means does your Inkscape file link to the template or is the template actually part of the Inkscape file?  Embedding puts the whole file in with the rest of your Inkscape file, meaning if you open your cover on a different computer the template is still there.  If you just link to the template and open the Inkscape file on a different computer you might not be able to find the template.  I usually embed.  Embedding makes for a larger file, but it’s less of a hassle if you use multiple computers or want to send the file to someone else.

ImageImportDialog

Bitmap image import dialog. I usually embed, pull the Image DPI from the file, and select Smooth (optimizeQuality).

Image DPI is the dots per inch.  This isn’t the dimensions of the image, it’s the resolution of the image.  You can have a huge image (5900 x 3700) but if the dpi is only 72, it’s not going to look good.  DPI refers to the amount of pixels packed into the image.  Anything under 300dpi should not be used in print.  I’d actually argue that anything under 300dpi shouldn’t be used in design period, but that’s just me.  Make sure “From File” is selected.  This will allow Inkscape to use the native resolution of the image.  Image rendering mode is immaterial for our purposes – we’re not going to keep the template in place when we export – but it pertains to how Inkscape pulls in images.  You’ve got None, Optimize Quality, and Optimize Speed.  When I pull base images into Inkscape I always select Optimize Quality.  For the template, you can leave none selected.  Click OK and Inkscape will chug away at rendering the image for you.  When it’s done, you’ll see something like this:

ImageImported

Template image imported into Inkscape.

Resize the template using the arrows around the selected image. NOTE: if the arrows point out, you’re good to go.  If they curve that’s for rotating the image.  If you’ve got curved arrows at the corner, click the object again to get regular arrows.  If you hold down Ctrl while you resize, Inkscape will keep the image dimensions in tact.  If you don’t hold down Ctrl, you’ll just wind up stretching the image instead of scaling it.

With the image resized it’s time time to start putting in guide lines.  These are the little lines that layer over the top of an image to tell you approximately where things are.  You can pull guide lines onto the screen by clicking inside of either ruler (top or left side) and dragging.  Position the lines along all the lines of the template image so you’ll be able to see what you’re up to even after you start putting elements in the drawing area.

GuidelinesInPlace

Whole lotta guide lines, but they’ll come in handy.

The guide lines around the image above are references to various parts of the template.  The extreme outer lines mark the end of the cover.  As you move in toward the center of the image you’ll get the bleed lines; don’t put any text outside of those.  The next closest ones are the main cover area; anything inside those lines is fine.  Likewise the spine has fold lines and there are lines for the bar code box.

To make things a tad easier, we’re going to add a new layer on top of the template and lock the template layer.  To do this, look on the extreme right hand side of Inkscape’s window for an icon that looks like three pieces of paper stacked on each other.  This will add the Layers dialog to the rest of the dialogs.

LayersAdded

Click the plus sign to add a new layer.  Call it whatever you like.  You can toggle back and forth between the layers by selecting whichever one you want.  To lock the template layer, select it, go to Layer – Lock/Unlock Current layer.  That will lock the template layer so you don’t accidentally move it.  Then select the new layer and work with it.

Now we can start importing the cover elements.  The eBook cover for The Clock Man was already partially done, so I just copied and pasted the artwork and did some image fiddling.  I then imported the back matter image just like importing the template image.  Size both images until they work for the positions you need them in.  Again; the imported images often pop in much smaller than they really are.

The next step is put some color on the spine.  Look for the rectangle drawing tool in the toolbar on the left.  It looks like a little box.  Click it and your cursor will change.  Click and drag to draw the rectangle between the front cover and the back cover.  I used the eyedropper tool to change the color of the rectangle.  To use the eyedropper, select the object you want to recolor (the spine rectangle in my case), select the eyedropper tool, and click on any color in the image.  Bam!  The object gets the new color.

Let’s put some text on the spine.  Select the text tool – it looks like an A.  Click anywhere on the document and start typing.  Likely your text will be really small; remember you can zoom in and out by using the plus (+) and minus (-) signs.  You can resize text exactly like you resize everything else.  Once the text is entered, select the select tool (it looks like an arrow).  Click on your text and you’ll get the same arrows for resizing.  Remember, Inkscape is a vector program.  This means all the elements are nothing more than bits of math hiding under the scenes, so you can resize as much as you want without pixellating things.  Your imported images, however, are still bitmaps; resize those as little as possible.

So, here’s my name.  I typed it in, selected it with the text tool and changed the font to Impact.  Now, I just need to rotate it.

RotatingText

Me!

If you see regular arrows when you click the object, just click it again and you’ll get the curvy arrows.  Dragging one of the curvy arrows will rotate the image.  The sideways and up and down arrows skew the object.  Here’s my name rotated.

TextRotated

Me falling down.

Now, just drag it into place on the spine, resize as necessary, and you’re good to go.  In this image, the title has already been added to the spine.

RotatedTextInPlace

In place.

To add the back matter, we’re going to do something a bit more fun with the text tool.  Rather than just clicking, we’re going to click and drag, drawing a box with the text tool.  The advantage to doing this is it gives you a bit more control over multiple line text blocks.  This comes in handy when you’re adding larger amounts of text like a blurb or an “About the Author” block.  So, select the text tool and draw a box that will fit nicely on the back cover.  Start typing.  Formatting text blocks in Inkscape works an awful lot like formatting text blocks in Word or OpenOffice.  Select the text you want to change and you can reset the font, the weight, the size, and so on.  One thing that’s different is a text block is just an object, you can resize it just like any other object.  If you run out of space in your text block, select the text block with the text tool and look for the little circle on the bottom right hand side.  You can use that handle to resize the text block without scaling the text.

TextBlock

It’s that little red dot on the bottom. Click it and drag to resize the text block.

You can edit the block by clicking it with the text tool, selecting whatever text you want, and changing it.  With the text selected, the text formatting bar at the top of the screen shows so you can change fonts, kerning, leading, and all that other fun stuff.  The first block can be your regular blurby back matter and the second one can be your about the author.  Go wild.  Just make sure you don’t put anything over the bar code box.  Put it all together and you can come up with something like this.

It still needs some work, but it's functional for blog post purposes.

It still needs some work, but it’s functional for blog post purposes.

To clean everything up I’m going to export the whole kit and kaboodle and a png image and fix the borders in GIMP.  Exporting is easy enough.  Locate Inkscape’s Export PNG Image dialog on the right hand side of the screen.  Click the Export As button to tell Inkscape where to save the file, select all the objects you want to export, put a check mark in Hide All Except Selected, and click Export.  This will produce standard png file that can be edited as a bitmap.

Don't forget to reset your field calibrations.

Don’t forget to reset your field calibrations.

Now, take that png file and open it in GIMP.  There are some border issues to take care of so I’ll use some guide lines (they work the same in GIMP as they do in Inkscape) to figure out what to remove.  The gray spine box was sized correctly, so a pair of horizontal lines aligned with the top of the spine box will give me the correct sizes.  Select the image using the guide lines as guides, then go to Image -> Fit Canvas to Selection.  Voila, the extraneous border parts are gone.

LoadedInGIMP

Guide lines are your good buddies.

When it looks good, go to File -> Overwrite [Whatever the file name was].  Congrats, you now have a cover.  The final step is to save it as a high-quality PDF (File -> Export as, select Portable Document Format) and you’ll be ready to go for CreateSpace.

And there you go.

See, that wasn't so bad

See, that wasn’t so bad

Print Is Dead, Long Live Print – A Quick and Dirty Primer on Createspace

eBooks are everywhere.  They’re on your tablet, your Kindle, your Nook, your phone, your computer, anyplace you want to read them.  eBooks are easy to create, easy to distribute, and have managed to shake the traditional publishing industry in ways it would have preferred to not be shaken.  There’s only one small problem with eBooks: some people prefer real books.

Reading is wholesome fun

Reading a book is wholesome fun

Indie authors who exist solely in the digital space are completely missing a lot of marketing opportunities.  If you want to have your books sold in a bookstore, if you want to do a book signing, if you want to leave copies of your book lying around your workplace, you need to get that sucker printed.

Getting a book printed used to be an arduous affair.  In fact, if you wanted to see your title in print you used to have to go through a publisher or have a large chunk of change lying around to pay a printer to print and bind your text for you.  That’s all changing, though, through a magical process called print on demand services.  I wrote a post nearly a year ago about the basics of how print on demand works; today we’re going to take a look at what you’ll need to feed to CreateSpace in order for them to make you a physical copy of your book.

Here’s what you’ll need to get started:

  • A manuscript that you want to print
  • A cover for that manuscript
  • A copy of Microsoft Word or some other program that can handle creating and editing .doc files
  • Some free time
  • A CreateSpace account

I’ll be covering dealing with the cover next week and registering for an ISBN number and actually publishing shortly after that.  For right now we’re going to focus on the intricacies of getting the manuscript ready to go.

First, take a deep breath and realize this isn’t rocket surgery.  Keep a backup of your manuscript in case of catastrophe and a glass of scotch ready to go.  This only looks intimidating.  You might have to fight with Word a bit, but it’s really just following steps.  The scotch is for when you’re done.  Or when you get frustrated.

Or do you really need an excuse for scotch?

A buddy of mine has this advice on scotch: if it starts with Glen or Loch and you can't pronounce the name, you're probably in the right area.

A buddy of mine has this advice on scotch: if it starts with Glen or Loch and you can’t pronounce the name, you’re probably in the right area.

Before we dive fully in, there are a few things to keep in mind.  This isn’t an arduous process, but it can be tedious and time-consuming.  There’s a reason preparing documents for print used to be handled exclusively by experts but thanks the wonders of technology and the fact that a novel is a fairly simple thing to layout it’s something anyone can do with a bit of trial and error.  Also, you need to keep in mind that with eBooks a reader can change things like font, spacing, margins, colors, and so on.  That’s not going to be the case with printed text.  If you have an excellent story but you think the Papyrus font is what you need to tell it in, you’re not going to sell very many copies.  Do some research and keep things simple: people want to read a book, not be blown away by fancy layout.  The design needs to emphasize readability.

I’ll be using screenshots of Henchmen here as examples – partially because I just went through this process redoing both my cover art and updating my text.

Step one is to decide what trim size you want to go with.  Industry standards vary somewhat, but you’ll probably want to stick to something common.  Traditional paperback books fall into a range of around 5″ x 8″ to 6″ x 9″.  It goes without saying that a smaller book will likely have more pages than a larger book.  This is important because the number of pages in a book effects its per unit price.  The price to print each book is pretty high, so lower printing costs equals better royalties for you.  For instance, Henchmen was 74,210 words long.  At 6×9 that gave me 197 pages once it was formatted.

CreateSpace conveniently has a calculator (look on the royalties tab) you can use to determine your royalties.  At 6×9, 197 pages, charging 6.99, I can expect to make $0.97 per copy sold through Amazon.com and $2.37 per copy sold directly through CreateSpace.  At 5×8 I got 267 pages.  Charging 6.99 per unit I’d get $0.13 per copy through Amazon.com and $1.53 per copy sold directly through CreateSpace.

Yes, the 5×8 is smaller, but has more pages and that’s what CreateSpace uses to calculate the cost.  The larger book is cheaper than the smaller book.

Almost no one buys directly through CreateSpace, so $0.97 per unit it is.  You can fiddle with the sizes and prices, but the standard seems to be 6×9.  Anything beyond that and you risk getting weird looks from people.  Non-fiction, manuals, and things like that might require different sizes and prices.

So, onto step one.  You can get a template directly from CreateSpace or set up your own layout.  I just grabbed one of CreateSpace’s templates and used it.  If you are going to create your own template, set your paper size to 6″ x 9″.  To set your paper size in Word go to the Ribbon Bar (that thing across the top that has all the tab.  Yes, it has an official name: the Ribbon Bar), select Page Layout, go to Size, and look for More Paper Sizes at the very bottom.  Click that and it will take you into you document setup.

PageSize

While you’re there, you may as well set the margins, too.  Look for the Margins tab and set the margins that work best for you.  Mine came straight from Amazon’s template so they should have the official okey dokey.  I used top, bottom, and outside at .5″, inside at .75″.  Note: you won’t see inside until you specify Multiple Pages with Mirror margins.

Margins

Now you’re ready for the easy part.  Open your manuscript, select everything, copy it, and paste it into your new CreateSpace document.  Doubtless all your hard work on formatting will need some work in the new document.  Get all that set and remember one key thing: this is exactly what your reader is going to see.  They can’t override your fonts or change your line spacing.  Look at books you like to read and start mimicking how they’ve done it.  Keep the fonts simple: Times New Roman, Garamond, things like that.  I used 12pt Garamond, justified, single-spaced, with a .3″ indent on the first line for paragraphs.  Print some stuff off, read it, hand it around and let others read it, whatever it takes to get a good idea of readability.

Once the formatting is back where it should be it’s time to wrestle with page numbers.  This is where you start dealing with Headers and Footers.  Again, keep it simple and realize Headers and Footers are straight out of Hell.  Word’s page numbering features are nice but there’s still one little bit of nastiness you need to take care of before you can start putting in page numbers.  The problem with page numbering is it’s a very literal process.  If you just double click at the top of your document (which takes you into Header/Footer editing mode) and add some page numbers with the Page Number drop down you’ll wind up number the text from the very first page.

This is usually considered bad form.

We’re going to break the document into sections to make the page numbering work.  If you’re in Header/Footer mode click on the Close Header Footer button on the Header Footer Design Tools part of the Ribbon Bar.  Most books have only two or three sections and only one of those really needs pages numbers.  Henchmen was broken into three sections: Opening Matter, the novel itself, and some closing matter that consisted of a brief thanks and a preview of Arise.  Of those sections the only one I wanted numbered was the main part of the novel.

To set up sections decide what will constitute a section.  Title page, copyright information, also by, contents, and dedication made up section one.  The novel itself made up section two, and the final matter made up section three.  Once you’ve got that squared away click to get the cursor right at the end of the text at the end of a section.  Select Page Layout and look for Breaks.  In breaks look toward the bottom for Section breaks.  Select the one that works best for you (continuous works quite nicely and doesn’t insert unnecessary page breaks.  Keep doing this until you’ve got your sections.

SectionBreaks

All we just did was tell Word that the document consists of multiple sections.  This is important, as far as we’re concerned, because it will let us use page numbers on only some parts of the document.

Now, for the fun part.

Double click anywhere at the top your manuscript and that should dump you into Header Footer editing mode.  Make sure Link To Previous is NOT selected.  If it is, the page numbers you set here will be copied into the previous section.  That kind of defeats the purpose of making sections.  Select Page numbers and start with Format Page Numbers.  The key thing to do here is make sure you don’t continue numbering from the previous section.  Select you number format (1,2,3) and, in the page numbering section, make sure to select Start at 1.

PageNumberFormat

Another thing to remember is books have facing pages.  Look for a set of check marks that say Different First Page, Different Odd & Even Pages, and Show Document Text.  Different First page just means the first page of the section won’t have a page number.  Different Odd & Even pages means you can set the page numbers in opposite corners.  Show Document Text just shows the document text.

Make sure Different Odd & Even pages is selected.

PageNumberOptions

Now you can actually add the page numbers.  Select the Page Numbers drop down and pick something that looks good.  You’ll likely have to edit it, so don’t get too wrapped up in how the samples look.

PageNumbers

If all went according to plan you should have page numbers starting at one and going to whatever page ends this section.  If not, highlight the page number on the first page of the current section and delete it.  That’ll get rid of the others and you can start over.  You’ll note they’re kind of ostenatious, though, with all their fancy underlining.  You can reformat these just like any other thing in your document.  You’ll have to do this twice, once for the even pages and once for the odd pages.

Highlight the page number, go to the Home tab and format it however you deem fit.  Then do the same thing for the opposite page.  You should wind up something that looks like this.

PagesNumbered

If it all looks good, congrats.  You’re almost done.  The last thing to do is put in a Table of Contents (if you want one).  Go back to someplace in the first section, insert a page, and find Table of Contents on the References tab.  Select the one you want and drop it into place.  Format it however you want.  You can also build a TOC from scratch if you want to.  It’s not difficult (I did it), but it is beyond the scope of this post.  If enough people ask, I’ll put together a post on how to do it.

If all looks well, you’re done.  Go over the document with a fine-toothed comb.  CreateSpace books aren’t as easy to update as Kindle books so make sure it looks exactly like you want before you publish it to CreateSpace.

Questions, comments?  Leave a note and I’ll be happy to get back to you.  If I missed a step, let me know and I’ll get it added.

Createspace and Gutenberg

I’m sure at this point everyone knows about Johannes Gutenberg.  If you missed out on Gutenberg, go check him out, he was an interesting guy.  We’ll still be here when you get back.

Also responsible for first pictures where eyes follow you everywhere.

Also responsible for first pictures where eyes follow you everywhere.

Movable type printing presses revolutionized the world in the 1400s.  Prior to printing presses books were hand written, usually by monks or others who had all the free time in the world to write a book – and usually illustrate it – with a quill pen and some ink.  Needless to say this was something of a tedious process and it wasn’t uncommon for books to take decades to write.  Sure, they were absolutely gorgeous when they were done, but imagine waiting 20 years for the next Charles Stross novel.  Hopefully it wouldn’t land with a thud like the last Star Wars movies did.  And even when it came out there would be precisely one copy of it.  Ever.  Unless you could find a monk or someone willing to copy it, which could also take decades.

So, along comes the printing press and suddenly it takes a whack of time to set up a book because you’ve got to custom make the plates but you can crank out a ton of copies in a short amount of time.

Groovy, man.

Now, imagine moving from this world into the movable type printing press world.  Mass communication just became a reality and it was a serious thorn in the side of both political and religious leaders.  It made information easier to come by and made it a damned site harder to hide secrets.

In its own way, mass communication was a weapon more powerful than anything that had ever come before.  Movable type printing presses allowed the first mass production and dissemination of information.  Things like this allowed the Renaissance to happen, kick started the scientific revolution, and wrested information from the iron grip of the literate elite of the time.  Writing made information portable, printing presses made it affordable.  And that right there is a powerful weapon.

Information is still a weapon, and an amazing one at that.  To paraphrase Spider Jerusalem, with the right information in the right place you can blow the kneecaps off the world.  And you can do it with a single shot.  Wars are won and lost on information.  Kings fall because of information.  Lies are opened wide to the world instead of lurking in the shadows.  Information, as they saying goes, is power and printing presses redistributed power.

At the time Gutenberg was working with movable type the presses were expensive and cantankerous beasts.  It took some know-how and a lot of money, but you could put out a flier that not only said the king was a big doody head, but had proof.  You could publish novels and stories and all sorts of information that kings and priests would have preferred stay hidden.  It wasn’t easy, but you could do it without spending a lifetime writing it by hand.  Information could be more timely; maybe the king was a big doody-head at this moment in time, but he was okay at others.  By hand you could spend months or years writing up a diatribe about the king only to find when they were done that the king had been whacked and replaced with someone completely different.

You just look foolish showing up with fliers decrying the previous king.  Especially if the new one actually turns out to be a decent guy (or gal).

Things stayed like that for a very, very long time, at least until mimeograph machines and later Xerox taught us a few new tricks and became economically viable to print up a slew of flyers about your missing cat or candlelight vigils for dead rock stars.

Awesome-Missing-Posters-3

Not saying it’s aliens, but it’s aliens.

For the professional set, though, the printing press was still king and even in the late 80s (when I started doing page layout), you still had to know a thing or two about design and the rules of printing.  My first page layout was done on huge sheets of grid paper with a large ruler and a pencil.  I didn’t get to work with actual desktop publishing software until I was in college.

Again, things stayed like this for while.  You could photocopy some stuff or you could do it right and take the time to put things together and send it to a printer.  If you want to send something to a printer you found out quickly that printing was fantastically expensive.  $20k-$30k for the first book off the press.  The rest of them cost less than a dollar, but that first one was a doozy.  And, no, you can’t skip printing the first book.  Trust me, I tried.

Into this milieu drops a little thing called the World Wide Web, a subset of the Internet.  Most people think the web is the Internet, but it’s only a small portion of the whole Internet.  HTML and the Hypertext Transfer Protocol were relatively easy to use and let anyone put together something that looked – well, pretty godawful if I remember the early days of the web correctly.

HTML gave rise to a slew of publishing technologies including ebooks.  Amazon spearheaded the indie author revolution with the Kindle and self-publishing became a thing.  Now everyone, including me, has written a book (or several).  Some of these are books that never would have seen the light of day under the traditional printing press model.  Printing was still hugely expensive and publishers were wary of publishing anything they didn’t think would sell well.  Can you imagine anyone ever printing Bigfoot erotica?  No way in Hell, right?  Yet, someone self-published it and it became a huge thing for a while.

I have no idea what bigfoot erotica looks like, so here's a picture of a bunny with a pancake on its head.

I have no idea what Bigfoot erotica looks like, so here’s a picture of a bunny with a pancake on its head.

Actually, when you get right down to it, the Kindle was a god-send for erotica authors.  Now you could be reading Bigfoot porn on the train ride to work and no one would ever be any the wiser.

There is a problem with digital printing, though.  The initial cost barrier, much like using a printing press, ain’t free.  You need a Kindle or a Kobo or an iPad or something similar to read these books.  If you lose power or network connectivity you’re boned.  This brings me to Createspace and on-demand printing.

Back in the day, some relative of mine (a great-grandfather, I believe) wanted to write a book.  He sat down, wrote that bad boy and found no one was interested in publishing a book about his dog.  So he did what any red-blooded American would do.  He payed to have it printed.  I still have a copy around here somewhere.

It was called vanity publishing at the time and it was hugely expensive.  That and you had to buy a lot of copies, which meant you just dropped a wad of cash on a bunch of books that you wrote and you still had no guarantee anyone else would want to read them.

On-demand printing is, in my opinion, a truly amazing technological marvel.  Forget ebooks, that’s just pushing electrons around.  I’ve seen on-demand printers and they’re incredibly cool.  Think about a large box, not entirely unlike an advanced copier.  Paper and instructions go in one end and a book comes out the other.

Chug chug chug ping!

Chug chug chug ping!

I hear Amazon has a couple of these things lying around somewhere.  Think of it as a World Wide Web in a box.  Gutenberg, after you peeled him off the ceiling and stopped his ranting about the demons controlling the magic box, would probably have loved these things.  The print on demand printer has finally done something Johannes set out to do back in the 1400s: made printing truly flexible and within the capabilities of the average person.  The input is relatively easy to do and the output looks pretty damned amazing.

I can see why traditional publishers would be leery of these things.  Now, after six hundred years of innovation, it’s easy to make a printed book.  Anyone can do it, Createspace lets you do it for free and even gives you royalties.  IngramSpark lets you do it for a minimal cost and even gives you royalties.  The eBook revolution may have let anyone write and distribute a book over the Internet, but eBooks are limited to digital distribution.  Print on demand technology will let you, with a minimal amount of work (Henchmen and Arise took less than a day to format) print an actual, factual book.  And it doesn’t even have to be a Bible.

And that’s a pretty amazing thing.