Anyone can play guitar, but it takes a publisher to make an album. Or at least it used to; see how the web is opening up publishing and commerce options to everyone and allowing anyone to release and market their own works.
Double You, Three Sea
On-demand publishing is the missing step in the circle from the printing press, to the web and back.
We've often considered the possibility of establishing a Mercurytide band. We'd put our graphics department on guitar; our developers on percussion and vocals; the management team on backing vocals and yours truly on bass. We'd play on-trend upbeat electronic bubblegum pop and we would almost certainly rock. Sadly such a venture, as tempting as it is, is fraught with pitfalls; not least the inevitable copyright row with German heavy metal ensemble "Mercury Tide" and even putting that and the very real limitations of the writer's bass playing capabilities aside, there's still the issue of getting our music "out there" to contend with.
Of course, we work with the Web on a daily basis, and while we're impressed with the likes of MySpace, Muzikvoice and IndieStore for offering the chance for us to sell and exhibit our music online, they can't offer quite the same thrill as holding a copy of our debut album (incidentally titled "Double You, Three Sea") in our hands.
No, what our aspiring electronic pop-rock nonet really needs is something altogether more tangible: something that bridges that gap between the flash player in our web browser and the CD rack in our bedroom. That's where on-demand publishing comes in. On-demand publishing is the missing step in the circle from the printing press, to the web and back. While the web opened up a massive audience to anyone with the inclination to write or perform, on-demand publishing offers the opportunity for individuals to finally have their works realised in physical production. However, what makes on-demand so special is its consistency with ideals of online publishing as a whole.
Back to black
Currently the majority of on-demand services are print on-demand (POD) services. They offer the ability to print and bind books in a matter of minutes. The writer holds dominion over layout and content, just as they do online, and the POD service prints them a new copy of their work whenever a request comes in. With the advent of digital printing, when the ability to print varied formats and varied texts in a short time frame became feasible, these services emerged up to offer cost-effective and reduced-risk publishing to aspiring writers. They've proven a successful route for anyone wanting to retain as much control of their own intellectual property as possible, or for those who simply want to offer these products without having to buy stock from a third party.
Mercurytide is no stranger to print on-demand; we've already written very successful systems which automate the production of documents and their on-demand printing. However, our requirements from on-demand publishing here are a little more niche; we want the production of CDs on demand. Thankfully, technology in CD and DVD replication has also improved over time, ultimately to the point where on-demand publishing has become a reality in those mediums as well.
Conduit for sale!
One such service, and possibly the one with the best connections, is CreateSpace which offers a range of on-demand publishing services in both traditional and purely digital media. The Mercurytide Band can specify every aspect of their CD: the tracks; the number of discs; the inlay art; the CD face; the price; even the production staff and copyright notice. CreateSpace, will then set-up a product based on all these attributes and, depending on your choice of service, will offer them for sale through Amazon or other e-commerce solutions. That's it. The CD would be immediately available for sale alongside albums produced by large record labels. When an order is placed, the CD is assembled and dispatched without any further involvement and the Mercurytide Band can happily sit back and collect its earnings (minus a commission of course).
The service also allows us to offer the CD as a digital download, again through Amazon for those who'd prefer it on their iPod. On-demand publishing therefore fills the gap left by those who still like the feeling of owning something physical, and it does it in a way that involves the minimum of outlay from those responsible for its creation. With on-demand publishing therefore, the web is no longer an alternative avenue for those with something to say, instead it becomes symbiotic with the real world and offers the creative entities that occupy it the ability (with ease and efficiency) to translate their works from the digital to the physical. It allows any individual to become a multifaceted publisher in their own right.
Keep the customer satisfied
At this moment in time there are a limited number of providers for these types of services, and of those CreateSpace seems to be the most advanced in terms of its online management and configuration systems. CreateSpace is also unique in that it offers all of these abilities under one roof, somewhat of a one-stop-shop for on-demand publishing in a range of different media. Want to sell your online video tutorials in a DVD collection? CreateSpace can do that. Also want to offer them as pay-to-download files? They can do that too.
However, as time goes by and the costs of establishing the facilities required for these services diminishes, so it's increasingly likely that competition in this sector will increase, just as it has in the print on-demand sector. As APIs are developed and the services become more open Mercurytide will be available to offer integration for those wishing to branch out from their online presence into real world products. On-demand publishing may well be that bridge between you and your customers that you'd previously believed to be outside the focus of your operations. It may be the tool that offers that missing factor that you wanted but didn't think feasible and if so then Mercurytide are here to help you to take advantage of it.
The Mercurytide Band, on the other hand, is unlikely to find success regardless of the ease of their CD production. I doubt we'll be hearing their folk-infused grindcore on the radio any time soon...