Has anybody else dabbled with Print on Demand publishers? That sounds like some sort of cult, but of course it is not… I have a few ‘abebooks alerts’ which tell me when certain books become available (like ‘richmal crompton’ + ~william – that’s Boolean searching right there, thank you Mr. Boolean, whoever you may be) and increasingly they’ve been obscure titles, with the addition ‘this book is printed especially for your order, and may take longer to arrive.’ Or something like that.
Anyway, the most recent one I got (not this year, I hasten to add) was Lovers in London (1905) by AA Milne. I have read this, but I had to do it in the Bodleian… it’s more or less impossible to find in non-print-on-demand editions. It was his first book, a series of little sketches of Amelia and the narrator having whimsical courtship and visits to the zoo, that sort of thing – later he decided he didn’t like it, bought back the copyright, and refused to let it be republished. Now, he died in 1956, and under copyright laws his books aren’t in the public domain until 2026, so I don’t know how they’ve managed to get hold of it – but Kessinger Publishing have reprinted it.
I saw reprinted it. What they’ve done, it seems, is photocopy a 1905 edition of the book, and stuck it in some cheap card. It’s even got a shelfmark written on the first page, so it was clearly from some library or other. Inside, the book has that beautiful font they so often used in the early 20th century – outside it’s about as cheap as a book can get, with a fairly flimsy cover and no cover design to speak of. Or even of which to speak.
So… what do you think of this phenomenon? If a phenomenon it indeed is? I would never choose this quality of book over an original edition, but I think it’s great for things like Lovers in London which I’d never be able to afford otherwise. It’s a way for publishers with tiny budgets to get obscure things ‘in print’ – though it will never create a buzz about the book, or new-found popularity for the author, in the way that Persephone Books or The Bloomsbury Group have the potential to do with their reprints. But it means I have a copy of Lovers in London on my shelves, which I wouldn’t have had a chance of otherwise – unless I resorted to larceny of course.
Have you bought any Print on Demand books? I’m thinking novels, rather than the other fields P-on-D works in. Or does their cheapness (in quality rather than price, I assure you) put you off? Or has the whole concept just never crossed your mind?
EDIT: do read the comments – my experience with PoD publishers isn’t very vast, and there are some good links and advice about better quality ones. Thanks for your comments, guys!