[-empyre-] publication

matthew stadler businessofutopia at gmail.com
Mon Jun 7 03:25:14 EST 2010

Hi, Matthew Stadler here.

Thank you Morgan. Publication Studio is a for-profit business that
uses what we call "non-exclusive rights." We ask the authors for
permission to publish our editions (printed, bound book and DRM-free
ebook) and we encourage or enable, if we can, the authors to publish
the same texts with others. Where authors we admire are caught in an
exclusive rights contract with a publisher that will not circulate
their work we offer to "bootleg" the book and produce our customary
non-exclusive edition, alongside the legal one. We always begin a
"bootleg" by explaining our service to the other publisher and asking
how they would like to proceed. We pick these cases very carefully in
the hopes that we can productively model the use of non-exclusive
rights. We feel this rights arrangement offers the best future for
publishers and for writers. So far (10 months) we have five books that
help model bootlegging.

By printing and binding the books ourselves using cheap, reliable
print-on-demand machinery (an old Instabook III), maintaining a
digital commons with free off-the-shelf tools such as Wordpress and
a.nnotate, and organizing social events that are paid for by whomever
attends — we either go super cheap and make up the costs by selling
enough books; or, we work with talented cooks and musicians, so that
our audience pays for those things and gets the books and authors in
the mix — we're able to make a profit producing books on-demand for an
audience that can begin very small (one reader) and grow to whatever
size it will.

Our guiding goal is to connect texts to readers meaningfully. We
cultivate meaningful conversations around the work, and this grows an
informed desire for the text itself. We have no interest and invest no
resources in selling books to people who will not read them. This is a
radical departure from the conventional approach to for-profit
publishing. We focus only on cultivating the conversation around
reading, which makes a market of readers and draws the books we sell
into that market.

All of the material capacities of print-on-demand publishing together
with digital distribution of (for us, PDF) texts have thrown us back
on the primacy of social relationships. Publication is the creation of
a public. Our only work is to attend to the relationships that create
such a public. The economy and the material practice that supports
writers will follow directly from proper attention to these
relationships, one by one by one. We make money move through making
these relationships rewarding and meaningful enough that people will
pay for the texts. (We price our books at roughly 4x material
production cost, which is roughly 2x labor and material cost, and
split the profits 50/50 with the writer; most of our novels, for
example, cost $20 of which the writers gets $5.) We pay writers more
per-book than conventional publishers.

Regarding your initial questions, Morgan, we have also helped
structure and publish several collaboratively written books. Two used
an Etherpad (now PiratePad) writing environment to enable a
geographically-dispersed but socially unified group to work together
in real time on a book-length text. Both of these turned out to be
funny, fun, but nearly unreadable and a huge pain-in-the-ass to deal
with and edit (or not). A third, WHAT WE ARE LEARNING, was structured
and enacted by three writers (Sam Lohmann, Colin Beattie, and Alyse
Emdur) and is, I believe, enormously successful model for activating a
social group as the authoring intelligence. Our "store" has more
details, as well as our usual "free reading commons" copy of that book
(which you can read and annotate, using the a.nnotate tool we've
engaged). http://www.publicationstudio.biz/books/34
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