Thursday, January 31, 2008

Cool Technology of the Week

When I was 18 years old, Sybex published my first book, "The Best of CP/M Software". That was followed by "Real World Unix", a roadmap to implementing Unix servers in small to medium size businesses, and "Espionage in the Silicon Valley", a collection of true stories about my experience working in high tech in the early 1980's.

Each of these was published in the traditional way. I submitted proposals to publishers, received a small advance, wrote manically for months, reviewed galleys, and then thousands of first editions rolled off the presses. The process was time consuming, expensive, and involved many stakeholders.

The Cool Technology of the Week is LULU.COM, which completely revolutionizes the publishing process by supporting on demand publishing of any author at low cost. At CareGroup, we recently used Lulu to publish a book about the retirement of one of our longstanding employees.

Here's how it works:
1. Publish -You upload your manuscript and photos, then use their online formatting tools to specify the layout, size and binding. There are no set up fees - you just pay the cost of the book when you buy it, as you would in a bookstore. Lulu does not inventory any books, they are digitally produced on demand when ordered.

2. Sell - Lulu books are listed in the Lulu marketplace, but you can also get an ISBN number so the book will be available on, in retail stores, libraries and schools.

3. Connect - Lulu includes social networking tools to link together a community of digital media creators.

When I compare the process of on demand book publishing to the workflow I used 30 years ago, I'm amazed at how democratic publishing has become. Like blogging, anyone can become a published author with formal publisher. In fact, if I wanted to bind together my first 100 blog posts in book form, I could do so without a set up fee on Lulu, call the result something like "True Confessions of a CIO" and make it available on Amazon. This is my 80th blog post, maybe I'll do that after my 100th.

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