For millennia, communicating knowledge in written form has gone through huge changes in technology. First, there were pictures on cave walls (think Lascaux, Native American pictographs). When the alphabet was created, people carved their messages on stone tablets (think Ten Commandments or the Rosetta Stone), or pressed symbols into damp clay (eg, the Sumerians).
The next step was writing on animal-skin or papyrus scrolls, using carbon sticks or reed pens. The ink may have been made from ground carbon or some other ground up colored material (plant or mineral).
Information-sharing came of age when individual pages were bound together into volumes called codices (the plural of codex). Today we call these books.
Then in the mid-1400s came the Gutenberg printing press, which suddenly brought printed materials (e.g., books) to a wider audience than ever before. The various stages of improvements in printing-press technology brought books to almost anyone who can read.
Most people don’t know or remember that, in the 1800s, it was not uncommon for an authors to publish their own works, often in serial form in magazines. The Sherlock Holmes stories started this way, as did many of the works of Charles Dickens.
And of course, mass distribution in the 20th century brought newspapers, magazine and paperback books to a wider audience than any time in history.
Skipping forward to our time, the ability to produce books on demand (BOD) or print on demand (POD) began to allow authors to once again self-publish their books. And the advent of electronic readers and electronic books (or e-books), whether as dedicated devices or applications (apps) made availability and distribution of an author’s work even greater. In fact, the potential audience is anyone in the world with an e-book reader, a tablet with an e-reader app, or a personal computer (PC).
And because there’s no need for paper, printing presses, ink, and fancy covers, the cost of an e-book is minimal compared to its printed sibling. And there are no limitations to the size of your book. If what you want to say can be said in 50 pages, that’s fine. You no longer have to write 200 pages of descriptive blather just to fill up space.
So, you no longer need quill and paper, or even a typewriter. Just sit at your PC and write. You’re free to format your book any way you like, understanding that there are sometimes certain limitations for electronic publishing. When you’re ready to publish, you can choose the POD avenue or the pure electronic channel. Take note that you’ll have to pay for the former, and you may end up with one or more boxes of books in your garage or closet. The latter option is often free. And they each come with differing royalty schedules, so do some research.
Every Author Needs and Editor
At AES, we see and read lots of books. Many of them, especially newer ones, have only “fair to middlin” editing or proofreading. If you’re going to publish anything more than an e-mail — which includes blog posts, web pages, newsletters, pamphlets, books, etc. — please use the services of an editor. And if you’re new to writing, the services of a writing coach can be invaluable in shaping your book and moving it into publication.
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