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Self-Publishing is No Longer a Profession – It’s a Piece of Equipment

2283319494_8e54bfdb1d_zDo you know that saying of Clay Shirky’s that "publishing now is a button"?

That statement referred to the fact that publishing was so simple now that it was no longer an industry or profession but was instead an automatic process. I was reminded of Shirky’s saying today when I realized that it now has a corollary:

Self-publishing is now a machine, or at least that is the common usage.

I reached that conclusion this week when I realized that the general media now refers to the Espresso Book Machine as a "self-publishing machine". While it is technically a POD, or print-on-demand, machine, it’s now widely referred to as a self-publishing machine, or SPM for short.

This first came up in late July when The Windsor Star reported that the local library’s self-publishing machine "was a hit". About a week later the Sacramento Bee announced that "nearly 200 authors have used the self-publishing machine", and then just a couple days ago DNAInfo revealed that the Shakespeare & Co was getting a new look and a new self-publishing machine.

A few minutes with a search engine has revealed that this is not a sudden change. I’ve found two references dating to 2013, including one from the WSJ. (Books-a-Million has also used the term in its press releases, but I’m not sure whether to count those.)

So there you have it.

The publishing industry media might call the Espresso Book Machine a POD machine (most of the libraries and bookstores which have one also refer to it that way), but the general media is telling the public that it is a self-publishing machine.

If the device ever becomes common, that term could stick.

So do you think we should fight the usage, or just roll with it?

I’m planning to let it go. I decided, around the time that the Danish word for crap (bae) became a term of endearment, that language shifts just weren’t worth fighting over.

But your mileage may vary.

images by  Willi Heidelbach and Jeremy Mates

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carmen webster buxton August 28, 2015 um 2:16 am

Totally NOT a self-publishing machine! Those things are damned expensive! Who has them? Book retailers, either online ones like Amazon, or boookstores. The reason they use them is so their inventory can be digital right up until a book is ordered. Certainly, many of the main beneficiaries of POD are self published authors, but that could easily change over time. As the machines get cheaper, more bookstores will buy them and more publishers will make their backlists available to POD. Distribution is still a challenge for print publishing.

Maria (BearMountainBooks) August 28, 2015 um 6:32 pm

Self publishing as easy as pushing a button?? Haaaaahaaaahaaa. Oh, that is funny. I’ve just spent a week studying up on facebook ads. So many things about self publishing have nothing to do with writing or pushing a button. Sigh.

As for terminology, you are right. The meaning of words change. I doesn’t really matter what they call those printers.

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