The NYT had an excellent article yesterday about self publishing ("Self-Publishers Flourish as Writers Pay the Tab", Motoko Rich), showing that while traditional publishers are struggling with the slowing economy, self-publishing companies are doing very well.
According to the article nearly 480,000 books were published or distributed in the U.S. Alone, up from close to 375,000 in 2007 (figures are from the industry tracker Bowker).
So POD self-publishing companies such as Blurb, Author Solutions, LuLu and others are flourishing, which is great news, but is it also good news for the environment?
Well, the basic answer is that POD is an eco-friendly printing system in comparison with the regular printing system that produce a lot of waste - in 2006 more than 1 billion books, or 25% of the books produced, weren't sold and some of it ends eventually in landfills, not to mention all the wasted resources (as well as costs). When you print on demand, there's no such thing and you always sell what you print.
Self-publishing is a a small niche - according to the article, Author Solutions sold a total of 2.5 million copies last year, which is a fraction of the total number of books sold (around 3 billion books). Still, it's a growing niche (Author Solutions represented according to the article 19,000 titles in 2008, nearly six times more than the number of titles Random House released last year) and a one that will get more and more attention, and therefore we hope to see more and more self-publishers who go green and adopt eco-friendly practices, including greater use of recycled paper.
It's true POD is not for everyone and it also has its disadvantages, but all in all I'm happy to see it growing and I think it benefits the whole industry by making publishing a more open and creative industry. I also hope to POD will contribute to make publishing more eco-friendly.
Raz @ Eco-Libris