Friday, May 06, 2011

Will bloggers save book publishing?

Eh, probably not.  But it is fascinating to note how many bloggers have translated online success into published work.

I could probably stock a bookshelf or two with books that I own that have been spun off from blogs.  Phil Plait's Bad Astronomy and Death From the Skies!, Jen Yates's Cake Wrecks - soon to be joined by its upcoming holiday-themed sequel.  I have the LOLcats book How To Take Over Teh Wurld culled from the I Can Has Cheezburger? site.* I have the book Schrödinger’s Ball by Adam Felber - not spun off from his blog, but written by a blogger nonetheless, as was his run on the comic Skrull Kill Krew Vol. 2. Ryan North has two books based on his Dinosaur Comics, and was responsible for the inspiration for the anthology book Machine of Death: A Collection of Stories About People Who Know How They Will Die and its upcoming second volume.

One interesting aspect of this:  With the exception of Adam Felber's books, almost everything in these books was already available for free online.  This is only partially true in the case of Phil Plait's books; while all of the topics covered in both books have been discusses at one time or another on his Bad Astronomy blog, the exact text of the books was created specifically for the books.  It is, however, literally true with Machine of Death: at the time of the book's release, the entire book was also released as a downloadable pdf file -at no charge.

So what is the value of publishing these books?  And why do people buy them when they can already access the content for free?  I don't know.  I think it's psychological:  people want to be able to see, feel and smell the thing they're buying, not simply have it available as images on a screen.  There are also issues of convenience, and of permanence - Cake Wrecks or I Can Has Cheezburger? may come down next week, or next month, or next year, but as long as I have the book, the content is available to me.

Now one of the most fantastically successful bloggers around today is putting out a book.  Allie Brosh of the wildly popular (and amazingly good) blog Hyperbole and a Half announced today that she will have a book coming out in the Fall of 2012.  She thinks it will be about half previously published content, and half new content. Already the regular readers of her blog are salivating, dreaming of the day that they can hold the fruit of her labor in their own hands.  I expect it will become a best seller as soon as it comes out.

Maybe someday I'll jump on the bandwagon and finally follow the advice friends have been giving me for years, and see about publishing some of my own original work.  But until I get around to that, I'll be happy to keep reading books written by my fellow bloggers!

*Not really a blog, I realize.

1 comment:

Steve said...

A long while ago I contributed to a cookbook made up of recipes from bloggers which was published via Lulu. All proceeds went (still do! Buy one!) to Doctors Without Borders.