Cambria, CA, April 18, 2015 --(PR.com
)-- Is the printed book on its last legs, destined to go the way of the dinosaur?
Many would think so. eBooks are commandeering sales from traditional publishers. And traditional publishers are finding fewer and fewer outlets for their hard covers or paperbacks (the last large bookstore chain, Barnes and Noble, is barely hanging on in some locations).
But hold on a minute.
People still love printed books (especially the older generation consisting of 70 million plus boomers). They don’t really want them to disappear. Many prefer the feel of a book in hand--and even eschew leisurely reading on a screen. (They might even be afraid of dropping a Kindle in the toilet!)
Many also want to line their shelves with their favorite books.
As Conde Nast Traveler magazine’s publisher was recently quoted in the New York Times, “The luxury consumer loves their print—there’s something tactile about it…and it feels great stocking it in your bookshelves and holding onto it.”
“When I was researching a book project tentatively titled The End of the Book about three years ago,” says author William L. Seavey. “I saw what appeared to be the writing on the wall. However, I also realized that certain kinds of printed books would always be here—ornate coffee table books, technical manuals and hands-on children’s books.”
Seavey abandoned that project as too complex--and probably much better suited to a publishing company insider.
But it made Seavey realize that the times they were definitely achangin’. E-books were here to stay, and downloading books to your Kindle or Nook were becoming all the rage. The idea of “printing on dead trees” was gaining a negative cachet that resonated with many--especially as people were coming to grips with global warming and resource depletion.
As an independent author with no agent to represent him (he once had a top one in New York City), Seavey, who is related to the first family of Iditarod fame (the Seaveys are 15th generation Americans who arrived in the colonies in 1632), has continually faced the challenge of selling books--often without a mainstream publisher.
He has developed websites for specific books—thecrisisinvestor.com (Crisis Investing and Entrepreneuring), powerfromsun.com (People’s Guide to Basic Solar Power), and williamseavey.com to name a few. Recently he’s operated under the aegis of “Crisis Response Publishing.” To date he has embraced Printing on Demand (POD) via such outfits as Lightning Source and CreateSpace--but not yet e-books such as those produced by such companies as Smashwords.
It recently dawned on Seavey that some of his highly targeted self-help books without a formal publisher were being, in effect, individually manufactured. They were custom, almost one-of-a-kind products that, like a few books he had stumbled on, were really breaking the mold of how books have been generally mass produced.
One example: he initially had great success selling a totally hand-bound book on DIY solar power via Google Ads in the early 2000’s before a flood of competition from You Tube videos, competing how-to manuals and e-books cut into his profits. (He ultimately sold upward of 7,000 via postal mail). Despite this early “re-book” incarnation that lacked some quality, returns were extremely rare and refunds almost non-existent. People wanted the information any way they could get it.
Another book, a memoir (Confessions from Generation Woodstock), chronicles Seavey’s life from when he attended the famous Woodstock Music Festival as a photographic intern with Newsweek Magazine. (Seavey is collecting Woodstock memorabilia for the 50th anniversary and has yet to sell the book to a publisher.) But Confessions is currently a “re-book” with full color photo inserts of the gathering participants and shots of the famous artists--which can be taken out and made into wall art or posters. (He might even add ticket replicas and other items).
Now Seavey has a new book: Americanada? (Cross Border Connections and the Movement to Establish a North American Super Union). (See americanada.us or ameri-canada.com). It’s a unique research project that endeavors to help both Americans and Canadians in understanding each other better and working toward forming a cooperative venture on the North American continent. His editor is a former writer for Maclean’s, Canada’s business magazine, whom he met at the Indian Wells (CA) Masters 1000 Tennis Tournament in 2014.
Americanada? plumbs the depths of both country’s cultural, political, economic and historical differences and similarities and is really Seavey’s first foray into geopolitical “self-help.” (His wife is Canadian and the Seaveys have investments in Canada).
“I think this is going to become my best book and, at age 68, I don’t know how many more are in me.”
Seavey has already begun production of the book as a “re-book” with a removable/replaceable spine, stock cover, inserts, and personalization. “It’s really a Pre-book at this point,” he says. Later versions will be printed on 100% recycled paper, have updatable testimonials etc. The early versions are going to potential reviewers, only. There is a crowdfunding campaign to help produce the book, at gofundme.com/americanada. (The goal is $10,000).
“The ‘re-book’ concept can have just a few or many elements to it, but the idea is to produce a custom product that will satisfy a discerning reader who wants something special--and in line with the ‘sharing economy,’ can be passed around,” says Seavey.
In a sense the “re-book” is a throwback to the earliest days of Gutenberg --but incorporating modern photocopying technology (Amazon’s CreateSpace actually produces its author-published books on giant copy machines today).
The downsides of the re-book is its initial cost in time and materials, but it could be seen as the “organic” Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey ice cream alternative to the a plain vanilla, mass produced Dairy Queen soft cone.
“The ‘re-book’ (reinvented book) approach is by no means mutually exclusive,” says Seavey, “and I intend to see Americanada? produced (1) as an e-book, (2) POD book, and ultimately (3) marketed in hard cover by a hopefully prestigious mainstream publisher.
“This book is much too important not to seek out all avenues of potential commerce.”
Most authors writing in obscurity feel disempowered, he says, and expect to be paid (at least via an advance) to see their books in print. (Seavey admits he has never really had a “best seller” but has been published by a major, Dearborn Financial of Chicago—that book was mentioned in a TIME cover story on moving to small towns).
“Unfortunately, this model is changing rapidly—authors must accept less of or no advance at all, find their potential readers themselves, and do virtually all their own publicity. I certainly understand these things and accept that I must make an investment in time and money,” he says.
“To justify a donation/investment in a crowdfunding campaign, I can certainly see wanting to offer donors a really special personalized book and not just a flimsy paperback or even a hard cover that might not have that much personality,” he says.
“If you’re a struggling writer—even one with some success—the realities are daunting but I don’t want to suggest that they are ‘mission impossible,’” says Seavey.
“While our digital age has made knowledge dissemination more inexpensive and democratic than ever before,” Seavey says. “I still believe in printed books.”
“And I expect they will line shelves for centuries to come.”
(For more information see americanada.us and williamseavey.com. Seavey lives and works in Cambria, California near the estate of famous publisher William Randolph Hearst. When not writing, he co-runs a bed and breakfast (hercastle.com).