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CreateSpace, an Amazon on-demand self-publishing service, inks deal with National Archives for 100,000's of public domain films
August 8, 2007 1:57 PM   Subscribe

CreateSpace is the new name of Amazon's on-demand self-publishing service for the super long tail of books, audio CD's and film DVD/Blue-ray. Products automatically get an ISBN number and are listed on Amazon.com, including "Search Inside" for books. The National Archives and CreateSpace will be publishing movies from its collection of over 200,000 public domain films, raising some provocative copyright issues.
posted by stbalbach (34 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

 
Very interesting; I'll check this out some more tonight. I am literally starting design on a book this weekend that I planned to print through LuLu for a cartoon show in October; I'm interested in if this place is a better setup. I know flat-out the automatic Amazon/ISBN thing is a huge draw.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 2:05 PM on August 8, 2007


Pretty sexy! I just ordered a copy of my ebook I'm working on from Lulu as a print book so I can proofread it tangibly.
posted by ao4047 at 2:10 PM on August 8, 2007


Maybe I don't understand "public domain" well enough, but how would this raise any copyright issues, let alone provocative ones? (knows what he's reading about tonight)
posted by ODiV at 2:17 PM on August 8, 2007


Finally I have found a publisher for my shallow, uninspired, poorly written and egotistical drivel.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 2:18 PM on August 8, 2007


Besides mefi?
posted by ODiV at 2:19 PM on August 8, 2007 [5 favorites]


So Amazon's getting into the vanity publishing business?

Well, at least they're more reputable than most companies in that line.
posted by Target Practice at 2:21 PM on August 8, 2007


Maybe I don't understand "public domain" well enough, but how would this raise any copyright issues, let alone provocative ones?

It wouldn't. The second link, about the eighth paragraph ("Public sector and private sector partnerships..." raises the issue of whether it's appropriate for a government entity to partner with a private company for distribution of public domain materials--an interesting question, but not a copyright issue.

Also, the second link notes that other people would legally be able to buy a single DVD of a public domain film, make their own copies, and sell those. Notably, people involved with both the National Archives and with CreateSpace freely admit this would be totally legal. The author calls this "provocative." I don't see it.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:33 PM on August 8, 2007


A lot of people crap on vanity presses but this is different since it is on-demand and you aren't having the extra bedroom crammed with your book in boxes - they only create the product when it is purchased. Print-on-demand is useful for small businesses especially that are servicing segmented audiences that wouldn't merit a full publishing outlay but expect books addressing their needs.
posted by ao4047 at 2:34 PM on August 8, 2007


Sounds like a good service - better then many cheap 'copy ships' for vanity publishers ...
posted by homodigitalis at 2:37 PM on August 8, 2007


Thanks for the info.
posted by Outlawyr at 2:47 PM on August 8, 2007


I don't see it as provocative, either. In the second link it states the deal is non-exclusive. Anybody else can make the same arrangement with the Archives if they wish. If it were exclusive, there might be some valid questions about the public-private partnership, at least in the absence of any public bidding, but that's not the case. As a practical matter, no one else is likely to want the same deal, since as DA notes, anyone is free to resell Archive material purchased via CreateSpace. So the good news is, here's one deal that Google didn't get first. But don't be surprised to see a rollout of a way to buy hard copies of public-domain material in GoogleBooks.
posted by beagle at 3:00 PM on August 8, 2007


On-Demand is definitely different to vanity publishing.
For a starter, you're not handing over a bunch of cash to be "published". You'll never receive a letter saying how much the publisher liked the book and they only require a small deposit to start printing. Basically, it's not a rip-off.

There's a lot of buzz around the poetry world at the moment with regards lulu and print-on-demand. A lot of poets realise that being properly published is something that either won't happen or they don't want to happen. There's no profit in being published, just a small amount of kudos for being chosen by a known publisher.

At the moment, a lot of poets just print up their own books and sell them at performances. I've done this. It's a nice way to pay for drinks and to give the people who like you something to remember you by. It's no different to a musician selling CDR's of their work to the folks that come to his or her gig.

So - This is going to make that process simpler. A couple of unknowns will get rich from this, sure, but for the majority of people in the poetry world it'll be a simpler way to get stuff printed for selling that is of a good quality. I'm of the opinion that this is a good thing.

I'm tempted to give this a go to see just what's involved. I'm not sure if it applies to amazon.com though or if published books are also available to amazon.co.uk and other non-US subsidiaries.
posted by seanyboy at 3:06 PM on August 8, 2007


Looks like it's US only at the moment. I'll stick with lulu.
posted by seanyboy at 3:10 PM on August 8, 2007


I'd like to read some of your poetry, seanyboy.
posted by sciurus at 3:13 PM on August 8, 2007


One of the disadvantages of hanging out in metafilter is the realisation that I'm so much less talented than I could be. You can find it if you look, but I'm not advertising.
posted by seanyboy at 3:38 PM on August 8, 2007


Hrm. Poet. Not American. Not as talented as he could be. I think I might have figured it out: Seanyboy?
posted by Slap Factory at 3:45 PM on August 8, 2007


ODiv you little gem what inspiration - I can see it now:

Insipidy
- A selection of comments and quotes selected and collected from Sam Farrow's five years in the blue.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 3:47 PM on August 8, 2007


I'm finding it tricky to compare CreateSpace and Lulu despite how similar their services are. My impression is that similarly-sized books are a little cheaper to print through Lulu, but if you want Lulu to do things for you -- like give you a unique ISBN and add your book to Amazon.com -- you need to purchase a "Distribution Service" from them. I'd really love to see an in-depth comparison.
posted by churl at 3:51 PM on August 8, 2007


Churl, I think it depends on volume. LuLu looks better for higher volume, since it's a 1-time fee for Amazon and ISBN. CreateSpace has a pretty high commission, 30%, but free ISBN and Amazon listing, so it would be better for low volume sales.
posted by stbalbach at 4:53 PM on August 8, 2007


from the website: If you sold a 100 page black and white book with a list price of $25.00 through a CreateSpace E-Store, you would earn a royalty of $14.85 per sale.

Holy crap thats a huge royalty. If JK Rowling had a royalty ledger like that, she would be approaching a Warren Buffet-level of wealth.

Correct me if I'm wrong here, but would this new feature allow me to print obscure public-domain works that I feel are beneficial to humanity at or near cost?

If thats true, I can envision a lot of history freaks like me scowering Project Gutenberg for good finds. It'll be a antique book arms-race!
posted by Avenger at 5:18 PM on August 8, 2007


Note that you lose $2 of that royalty for every 100 pages. And clearly no one is going to buy a 100 page book for $25. If it was a 300 page book for $20, the author gets $4.85.
posted by smackfu at 5:30 PM on August 8, 2007


damn you and your mathematical witchcraft, smackfu!
posted by Avenger at 5:46 PM on August 8, 2007


Note that you lose $2 of that royalty for every 100 pages. And clearly no one is going to buy a 100 page book for $25. If it was a 300 page book for $20, the author gets $4.85.

Maybe they can use a really small typeface...
posted by Hicksu at 7:40 PM on August 8, 2007


Very cool. And I agree with what others have said, I think you have to be digging for controversy to call it a "provocative" copyright issue. To put it bluntly, there's no copyright issue.

The only way there would be any impropriety would be if the National Archives started giving Amazon some sort of exclusive distribution rights to their films, or allowing Amazon to claim new copyrights on republications of Public Domain works (which ought to be illegal, but copyright law being what it is these days, doesn't count for much). Anything to get all those works in various Archives out into the hands of the public is a good thing. The best way to preserve things is to copy and disseminate them.

My only concern would be if they started selling public domain films on encrypted DVDs, or in other DRMed formats ... that would be very evil. Although, it would make an interesting court case.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:02 PM on August 8, 2007


Note that you lose $2 of that royalty for every 100 pages. And clearly no one is going to buy a 100 page book for $25. If it was a 300 page book for $20, the author gets $4.85.
Depends on the market. Computer books about niche technical topics? Definite possibility. Graphic novels? Might work well. Probably not anything that approaches mass-market numbers, though; the scale makes it a better bet to go traditional there no matter how you cut it.

On second inspection, that's probably what you were saying...
posted by verb at 8:54 PM on August 8, 2007


smackfu writes "Note that you lose $2 of that royalty for every 100 pages. And clearly no one is going to buy a 100 page book for $25. If it was a 300 page book for $20, the author gets $4.85."

Still not a bad return for minimal work.
posted by Mitheral at 9:00 PM on August 8, 2007


Hmm. This is cool. Dibs on the "Best of Metafilter" coffee-table book. Complete with naked pictures of quonsar.

On second thought....
posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:09 PM on August 8, 2007


Note that you lose $2 of that royalty for every 100 pages. And clearly no one is going to buy a 100 page book for $25. If it was a 300 page book for $20, the author gets $4.85.

Lots of technical books in vertical markets are about the 100 page or less mark. Also, coffee table books.

And even at the 4.85 point, you're still making more per copy than you would with a traditional publisher. And considering that promotional budgets have all but disappeared, it's not like big publishers are really doing a ton of work for new authors.

I dunno, I think it's an interesting thing for Amazon to do, and I do think they'll take a lot of business away from the disreputable vanity press people. Which is a good thing.
posted by dejah420 at 9:04 AM on August 9, 2007


Coffee table books are another discussion, since the per page charge is 6 times higher for color books. A 100 page book is $12 vs $2.
posted by smackfu at 9:12 AM on August 9, 2007


YouTube for publishing, with profits. Great idea and the right time for it. wow.
posted by nickyskye at 10:20 AM on August 9, 2007


So Amazon's getting into the vanity publishing business?

They already own at least one vanity publisher.
posted by mrbill at 1:53 PM on August 9, 2007


Finally the on-demand revolution begins! Thanks for this post! Amazon's CD rates look much better than Cafe Press (and quality seems to be better too, if the product descriptions are to be believed). Now maybe people will only produce products that are actually in-demand (reducing wasteful use of resources), letting the consumer demand drive production rather than corporate strategery [sic] and PR voodoo. I doubt it will happen quickly, but maybe over time... After I run some numbers, it may actually be worth it to start letting Amazon handle all my label's on-demand orders and fulfillment (I run an on-demand record label, so this is right up my alley--thanks again stbalbach!), assuming the quality of the product actually is up to snuff. This may have just made my life a hell of a lot easier...


So Amazon's getting into the vanity publishing business?

They already own at least one vanity publisher.


On-demand production is NOT simply vanity publishing--at least, it doesn't have to be. What should happen over time is that gate-keepers begin to step in, replacing mass production with on-demand production while still maintaining quality control: Strongly-branded on-demand publishers that only produce quality books and on-demand record labels that only release quality music.

Potentially, it's a more efficient production model that could eventually replace mass production completely because it's radically more efficient--resulting in less operating overhead and less wasted output. I've been singing the praises of on-demand production for years now, because of these benefits--it can allow record labels, for example, to release music that might not sell right away without major losses (unless of course they blow their wad on PR, which let's face it, they probably would have done anyway).

Anyway, very cool. Thanks again.
posted by saulgoodman at 2:08 PM on August 9, 2007


Interesting comments saulgoodman. I've always seen on-demand as a niche, not to replace existing channels, but an additional one. For Harry Potter, the traditional system has worked very well. The question is what kind of latent demand is there to fill the OD niche - not for publishers, but consumers who are already flooded with high quality products from traditional channels.

Another development are the book printing machines that are now installed in a few libraries that print books on demand while you wait. The quality is poor but the tech can be worked out. Imagine being able to print any type of book on-demand at the point of sale, it suddenly changes everything in the traditional system. That is probably many years away though if ever.
posted by stbalbach at 9:48 PM on August 9, 2007


Imagine being able to print any type of book on-demand at the point of sale, it suddenly changes everything in the traditional system. That is probably many years away though if ever.

stbalbach: Exactly. This is the kind of thing that excites me.

For Harry Potter, the traditional system has worked very well.

Sure, traditional production mechanisms work well, when they work, but when they fail (which happens just as often, if not more), they generate a lot of waste. For me, the really exciting thing about on-demand technology is the possibility of eliminating that waste.

See, one of the quirky things about economies of scale, IMO, is that the mass production orientation of our economy actually creates a countervailing tension against the classical forces of supply and demand--for example, a product for which some, but limited demand exists actually costs a lot more to produce than a product in high demand even if the raw materials needed to produce it are just as readily available. It currently costs a lot more to bring a product that isn't initially in great demand to market than it does to bring a product for which the initial demand is high, and as a result, products that may not initially be in great demand often only make it to market at inflated prices that the market won't bear, if at all, which results in stagnation.

This is why industries like the modern record industry devote so many of their resources to creating demand (hype) for a product before it's even produced. And by the time they've invested millions of dollars in promoting a particular artist, they're so deeply invested, they end up having to go through with their business plans regardless of how much actual demand exists for their product. Luckily (for them), through marketing synergies and strategic alliances (cross-promotion deals with other corporate partners, merchandising deals, music licensing, etc.), the labels are often able to recoup their costs, and force the product they've already invested so much in down our throats whether we like it or not. (By the time you find last years' American Idol's CD marked down in the bargain bin at Costco, the record label has already collected its revenue from somewhere else in the distribution chain, so as far as the label's concerned, it doesn't really matter if no one ever buys the disc). The result? End-consumer demand no longer drives production (middle-men demand does), and we end up with nothing but crap on the airwaves.

Hopefully, on-demand technology will eventually correct some of this madness.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:00 AM on August 10, 2007


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