The publishing world has long been controlled by powerful companies with high costs, barriers to access, restrictions on distribution, one-sided copyright ownership contracts, and lengthy delays in getting critical information and knowledge out to a broad audience. In this world it often seemed all but the most famous of authors controlled little while publishers controlled everything. In the academic community, the sad result has been an excessive price increase in the cost of textbooks. Technology is finally empowering authors.
When an editor affiliated with a traditional publishing company asked me to contribute an article to a textbook, I expected something similar. After I spent two weeks writing and rewriting the article to the editor’s requirements, my article was approved. I then received a contract offer, which gave the publisher full ownership of all intellectual property rights permanently -- for the princely sum of $100. I would also be liable for breaches as well as “alleged breaches,” and my work could be published without attribution to me. When I asked for a fair and balanced contract, the editor offered a take-it-or-leave-it option.
When I recently wanted to publish my doctoral dissertation and make it available at a reasonable cost to anyone in the world, I found all the traditional routes were skewed toward publishers. Some sites mentioned royalty payments, but nothing was clearly identified. Nowhere did I see any information about publishing timelines.
My research led me to Kindle Direct Publishing and CreateSpace -- both Amazon companies. The entire process was quite transparent and I know exactly how the royalty payments will work. Interestingly, royalty payments on the electronic platform was skewed completely in favor of the author. I had tremendous flexibility in pricing, plus the ability to change content, design covers, and the entire publishing process. In fact, I was able to publish the electronic version of my dissertation within 24 hours of my doctoral defense, and other doctoral students could immediately buy it at a low cost.
The full color paperback version took more time because the template provided by CreateSpace was very difficult to work with. Still, I was able to do a respectable job in a week. CreateSpace provided everything necessary -- including the assignment of ISBN numbers -- and my book became available worldwide 10 days after my doctoral defense. Had I chosen to produce a black and white version, I could have priced it lower but it would have reduced quality since my work contains several pages of color charts.
The best part? My only expense was $25 to market my paperback to other bookstores and libraries. I could order copies of my book by paying CreateSpace’s production costs, along with a shipping and handling fee. Within two weeks I saw other booksellers beginning to offer the item for sale. Kindle Direct Publishing lets me track sales in real time; CreateSpace has a time lag of several days. It was a very liberating and powerful experience.
This is the future of publishing. It will reduce costs for consumers and allow authors to manage their content and pricing while retaining intellectual property rights and a fair share of royalties.
— Mansur Hasib has served in CIO/CISO and other leadership roles in the public, private, and education sectors.