Wednesday, August 23, 2006

What a Roads Scholar Learned



I got a cheerful email message yesterday from our excellent friend and colleague Kevin Leander. He was chosen to be one of Vanderbilt's Roads Scholars for 2006. This sounds like a pretty fun concept with a faint ring of Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters to it. Well, maybe not.

Anyway, the concept is that Vanderbilt selects members from the university community to get on a bus and 'go meet the community'. They made a wee video of the event. If you're fast you'll catch Kevin near the end hitting a line from 'This magic moment' right on key.

Anyway, one of the places they went to was an outfit called Lightning Source. This company provides a print on demand book service and one of the key contract users is Amazon.com. Kevin reported that oftentimes when one orders a book from Amazon "the order goes out to this place in La Vergne, Tennessee, and they print the book in something like 18 hours, and ship it out in a box that makes it look seamless". There's also a Lightning Source in Milton Keynes, England.

Kevin says that the books produced by Lightning Source -- "The Power of One" -- have barcodes near the back of the book as well as on the cover -- so that the book contents can be matched to the right covers at the right time. So if you are a regular purchaser from Amazon it might be that some of your books have the multiple barcodes that indicate it has been produced in this kind of way.

Thinking about this from an author's perspective, it makes for interesting questions about 'print runs', and sales, and distribution and costs, and royalties and so on. Imagine all that correspondence running between Amazon and the publishers, telling them they have sold X copies of book Y so that all the records can be kept up to date.

How long's your print run?

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