You Puts in Your Money and You Takes Your Chances
That's the "bold new publishing paradigm" the makers of ESPRESSO ( http://www.ondemandbooks.com/ ) envision. It's a glorified vending machine/ATM that they have high hopes for. It can theoretically print and bind a book in three minutes.
I don't see any real advantage for unproven writers, since most publishers or retailers still won't waste disk or shelf space on books that nobody wants, but what would be the advantages for readers?
A bookstore anywhere you could fit a Coke machine? ("Hey, I got the new Stephen King at the Jiffy Lube!" "Oh, yeah? Well, I got the complete works of Shakespeare in the men's room!").
No more waiting for an ordered book to be delivered, I guess, and always (theoretically) being able to get the book you want almost immediately, but at what price will that convenience and instant gratification come?
POD books are already considerably more expensive than traditionally published books. And could any machine hold all the contents of your average decent-sized bookstore, not to mention the millions of books they won't or don't carry?
Or will they be connected through high-speed to a central database?
Personally, I fear for the disappearance and ambience of bookstores. Or almost any other place that sells books, be it a big soul-sucking super discount warehouse, a grubby used bookstore or a drugstore spin rack.
Because it's not just reading -- I LOVE books, and the idea that grabbing a book, checking out the cover, scanning the blurbs and maybe even reading a page or so will be replaced by some vending machine makes my skin crawl.
And what about the noble art of handselling by retailers who know what they're doing? Will that be replaced by shriller and shriller mindless BSP ?
The technology and the issues surrounding it (royalties, rights, promotion, costs, can a POD book ever "go out of print?", etc.) are still being worked out -- which is why most of the books offered now are public domain. But what do you guys think?
And for God's sake, before someone starts using this thread to plug their own sorry-ass book, POD does NOT mean "self-published."