Folks like Warren Ellis have been talking about the Print On Demand phenomena for awhile now. It’s a market that’s growing rapidly. Books, music, comics–you name it, you can likely do it independently.
I’ve also seen a lot of speculation on what this new accessibility to self-publishing may or may not do for the industry.
On one hand, it makes getting published a lot easier for people like me.
On the other, it also leaves plenty of room for people who don’t know how to properly edit their own work or design their own book to make available something that may not look as polished as what the average consumer is used to. POD is also sometimes a bit expensive.
The worries I’ve seen is that it will cut into the bottom line of the big (and small) publishing houses. Honestly, I don’t really know what the impact may be, and as markets for things grow and change, industries live, die, or transform.
Cathrynne Valente has aptly pointed out that unless an independent writer wants to shell out quite a bit of money for someone to edit their book, manage the design, etc then we will see plenty of poorly edited, awkward looking works out there, as one of the benefits of having a publisher is that all of this is done *for* you. This is one of the reasons you see less of the profits with a publisher vs. POD. They take on the expenses for design, editing, and publicity.
Some established writers, however, are managing to leverage POD to their advantage. Both Valente and Ellis have works of their own that are available POD. Crowdfunding seems to also go hand in hand with online and POD works these days as well, the idea being that people will contribute out of appreciation for the writer, and for the work that’s being made available to the public. Crowdfunding is definitely an option to make POD charges a little less painful. But again, this hinges on you having an audience substantial enough to contribute the funds in the first place.
It may be easier to self-publish, but you still have the problem of visibility. Unless you can bring the crowd in, you still wont have any sales.
So honestly, I don’t think traditional publishing will die entirely, just because POD is getting easier. I would like to see it get easier to spot a few POD books on bookstore shelves, though. Like for instance, if one could show a store that their work has potential for good sales (perhaps some helpful reviews, etc) then that store could show interest in stocking a few copies… I know, not wholly likely, unless one is talking about the Print On Demand book machines. That would be interesting, if you no longer had to worry as much about the store having the book you were looking for in stock–you could get a copy printed while you wait.