Thursday, February 15, 2007

A Snapshot of the Future

by James Palmer, freelance instigator

Dateline: Sometime In The Not Too Distant Future--Kenneth Foals walked into his local megabookstore and headed for the science fiction section to see what was new. To his surprise, he saw that it had suddenly gotten bigger!

"Wow," he said. "The SF section has suddenly gotten bigger! What gives?"

Upon further inspection, Kenneth discovered that the fantasy novels had been separated from the science fiction titles, and had their own section near the rear of the store, between the restrooms, the table piled high with discounted hentai manga books, and the media tie-ins. "This is great!" Kenneth said, eagerly scanning titles. He hadn't felt this overjoyed since discovering some knowledgable bookstore employee had placed Kurt Vonnegut's novel Timequake in the SF section. No more scanning through endless Piers Anthony Xanth books to get to the Asimovs. No more endless fantasy series taking up shelf space in place of more deserving literature. This was freaking perfect!

But then he noticed something. The books weren't actually books. They were cardboard boxes with the books' covers on them. Something was definitely rotten in Barnes & Borders a Million. "What is this?" he yelled.

He had gotten pretty loud, because the guy behind the pastry counter heard him over the capuchino machine and called the manager.

"May I help you?" said a teenaged girl in horn-rimmed glasses and a blue apron.

"Um, yes. Where did all the books go?"

She gave Kenneth a smile that said she was tired of explaining this to every jackanape who stumbled in from off the street just to get a fist-sized muffin and a cup of joe, and explained.

"We're print on demand now. We can print our most popular titles here, bind them and give them to you right now, at the same cost as a regular printed book.

"Wow!" said Kenneth. "Cool."

"And," the employee went on, "if you don't find the title you're looking for here, we can pull it up on our database and print it for you."

"That's wonderful!" said Kenneth, his eyes bulging from their sockets with the sheer possibilities that lay before him.

"Got any Harlan Ellison?"

1 comment:

Pete said...

Hang on, is this real? Really?

I am.....unsure of what I think of the idea. Every thing I think of in favor of having shelves of books, I can counter with POD-in-bookstores.

Q: I like to be able to pick up the books, read the back, read a bit inside and see if I like it.

A: No reason why you can't do that through the computer. And when you get tired of reading on the computer is the same point you'd get tired of reading in-store. Both ways, you buy the book.

Q: But what about cool and exotic editions? No more six different editions of Lord of the Rings!

A: Why not? The machine can do yout he hardcover, trade paperback, massmarket, movie cover, non-movie-cover.

Q: What about gift boxes, like the Lord of the Rings big set of all three books?

A: Perhaps THOSE would be pre-printed and sent out.

Q: Yeah, but...yeah, but...

A: AND, this would make it easier potentially for new authors to get to an audience, since shelf space is suddenly not a limiting factor.

Q: But no piles in the front of the shop!

A: Books that are guaranteed a sell (like those piled in the front of a shop) could still be pre-printed very easily.