The book, above, is a limited edition (1,000 copies printed) edition of the Rev. John Russell's memoirs, written by E.W.L. Davies and printed in 1902, complete with illustrations by N.H.J. Baird, and "coloured by hand."
The cover is embossed in gold.
I brought it along with me to coffee this morning. I took the picture and loaded it from my laptop at Starbucks.
On the way over, National Public Radio had a story about a fellow who won the Pulitzer Prize for his novel, which was turned down by multiple publishers before it was published by Bellevue Literary Press, which is run out of a couple of rooms at Bellevue Hospital (yes, the place with the nut ward), in New York City.
It seems every other publisher had turned It down. Not commercial enough. The folks at Bellevue thought that was crazy talk. How ironic!
Last night I stopped at Barnes and Noble to drink more Starbucks coffee and cruise the racks. I got two paperback novels, but not before stopping at the desk of the guy selling the Barnes and Noble version of an e-book reader.
Barnes and Noble is selling e-book readers.
Clearly, you do not need to be a genius to see that paper publishing is not long for this world.
Ten years, tops.
I already get my newspaper from my cell phone and my computer.
And with e-book readers, who needs book stores?
Certainly no writer needs a publisher skimming off $19 out of every $20.
In the Next Economy, books will cost $10, the author will get $9, and the file-sharing site will get a dollar. There will be no publisher at all.
And there will be no loss.
Publishers never sold books anyway; they placed them in stores. In the era of Amazon, book stores are going broke faster than tobacco shops in the 1990s.
Anyone can see the Next Economy is already here.
Look at music. Who goes to record stores anymore? You order online and get your recommendations online, and the music is downloaded to your computer, or your I-pod. No more skipping songs, cascading CDs, and ripped audio tape.
How about movies? First there was video tape, and then cable TV, and now NetFlix. Next will be "online all the time, and on demand."
Some folks already have it.
Books are clearly next.
The market for e-book readers is exploding. In a world in which cheap paperback novels cost $15, the demand for a $150 reader will not be contained for long.
Of course, every new technology has its ups and down. A shakeout in e-book readers has yet to occur; the wave of inflated expectations is still building.
But how deep will the "trough of disillusionment" really be?
Not very, I think.
The current I-Pad is not the machine that will win the race, but the next generation along this same curve will probably be the tipping point.
It's not like an e-reader has to do a lot to beat a paper book.
For one thing, a million great books are already out there for FREE (including the book featured at the top of this post).
E-books do not rot, mold, crowd shelves, or cost a fortune to move across town.
Plus they are cheaper than their paper equivalents; a lot cheaper over time.
And what will e-books do for publishers and book stores?
The fellow at Barnes and Noble selling e-book readers tried to make the case that publishers and books stores will still exist in the future. His thesis: that consumers need publishers and book stores to tell us, the consumer, what to read.
I call bullshit.
In the Next Economy we will not need priests to tell us what to read.
Book titles will be loaded directly up to file servers, the same as i-Tunes.
Consumers themselves will rank them up or down. Blogs and social marketing sites will tell niche communities what's hot and what's not.
Of course, the real choke point will always remain.
Very few people can write well.
Even fewer people have something to say.
Even fewer have something new to say.
Even fewer can leap the hurdles of production; the unending hunt for typos, the sanding of sentences, and the tyranny of pagination.
But paper, printing and publishing priests?
In ten years, we will look back on them as an anachronism, right up there with snail mail and the fax.
Listen up children, when I was a kid, we had printed books. On paper. Can you imagine?