In the last year it seems everyone and their brother is into self-publishing. Sure, it started with Lulu.com cornering the market, but Amazon got in on the game, Harlequin has their venture, and it seems every month or three there's some new endeavor out there. With so many self-publishing options it seems like a new age of print material, both electronic and physical.
I'm all for self-publishing; indeed, I am self-published. However I can't say it's exactly new. We've had self-publishing for years, we've had unrestricted access to eyeballs for any author for well over a decade.
We called it the World Wide Web.
I'm old enough to remember the first discussions of the web as self-publishing endeavor. There was fanfic, of course. There was also talk of online stories and serial novels and so on. It was there before blogs, before eBooks, before Print On Demand.
Of course the Web As Publishing didn't quite work out for a number of reasons:
- Early on, access was restricted to people on computers.
- Even if you did want to read it on a computer, you had to read in a browser or a saved file.
- Reading on computers was not exactly easy, so if you really cared you had to print things out.
- Endless questions about copyright law, public identity, etc. made things chaotic and unsure.
Yes, the web didn't work out as a content delivery system per se. But I think in it we see the cultural and technical changes that actually helped lead to the self-publishing boom. The web planted the seeds – and knowing these seeds can help us understand the present and the future.
The web laid the foundations for self-publishing in the following ways.
- It got people used to the idea of displaying works electronically, laying a foundation for eBooks.
- It got people used to the idea they could self-publish, be publicly involved, increasing acceptance for online publishers like Lulu.com or Smashwords.com. Or, in short, it made people more accepting of the idea of putting their work out in public.
- It encouraged people to explore electronic and alternate forms of delivery.
- The assorted blogs, websites, etc. reminded people that anyone can write (they may not be good, but they can write). Now however they can write and get it out there.
- Finally the internet provided so much information, people would want to get it in alternate, familiar forms – thus again a foundation for eBooks and POD.
So, let us remember the World Wide Web, what I consider the start of the modern self-publishing movement. It helped lay the foundation for what we have today, a day of the iBookstore, Lulu.com, Print On Demand, Amazon CreateSpace, and so on.
And then, after you consider that, my progeeks and profans, ask yourself what this current self-publishing boom is laying the foundation for next . . .
– Steven Savage