Here is the first paragraph of a story in Monday’s New York Times describing a new way that individuals or publishing companies can upload digital documents for sale on Scribd.com:
“Turning itself into a kind of electronic vanity publisher, Scribd, an Internet start-up here, will introduce on Monday a way for anyone to upload a document to the Web and charge for it.”
A “vanity publisher”?
The term “vanity publishing” is a pejorative implying that the writer could not get something published, so he or she paid a publisher to print up a few cartons of books that collect dust somewhere. Historically, vanity publishers were little more than scam artists whose revenues did not come from selling books, rather by hard-selling dubious services to people who wanted to see their books in print.
Yet during the past 15 years, though advances in print-on-demand book technology and now, a growing interest in digital books, there are a wide-array of services that enable would-be authors the opportunity to place books into the marketplace without having to pay “vanity publishers” to print up hundreds of books.
Nothing in the New York Times article today reveals what authors will be charged to have their books available on Scribd. I’m assuming the up-front costs will be minimal — or free. Such is the case with a new generation of on-demand print and digital publishing services like Lulu.com, that have transformed “vanity publishing” into a legitimate and viable business and opportunity for independent and self-publishers.
The days when someone needed to purchase a few thousand dollars worth of books to be “published,” are long-gone (although scam vanity-publishers still are around).
The use of the term “vanity publishing” to describe all forms of self- and independent-publishing should be long-gone, as well.
Update: Back to the main story, now that I have that rant off my chest. The Scribd Store has launched and I give it a insta-review thumbs-up. Scribd has been under fire recently for being a place where pirated e-books could be found. This move displays the service is run by people who are aware that liabilities can sometimes be turned into assets — for all concerned.
“For a publisher (and I use the term loosely) the terms for the Scribd store are impressive — publishers set the sale price directly, and keep 80% of the revenue (compare that to Amazon’s DTP program, where the standard terms are that Amazon gets to set the actual price, and the publisher only gets 35% of their “suggested” price). There’s also an interesting “automated pricing” option in Scribd, which uses an (unspecified) algorithm to set the sale price. But the pieces of the Scribd store I’m most excited about is the real-time reporting (compared with a lag of a month or more with most ebook resellers, including Amazon), the option to easily provide free updates to existing content, and the variety of adjustable display options — like preview amount, refreshingly optional DRM, and purchase-link images. Administering and understanding your sales in Scribd is downright delightful compared with the same for Kindle.”