Since I'm thinking of writing a scholarly book or two, I wonder whether print-on-demand publishing houses, combined with outlets like Amazon, allow academics to effectively compete directly with the more usual academic publishers like Springer, Cambridge UP, Oxford UP, etc...? I've recently noticed that in ordering new books from all three of these publishers, I've frequently been sent what look like print-on-demand editions. Here's a bit on Springer's POD activities. To take one recent purchase, Faraut and Koranyi's Analysis on Symmetric Cones, Oxford, is now print-on-demand, and they're still charging $200 for it. It's adequate, but much less attractive than the original edition which has the trademark Oxford deep-blue cloth-covered boards, with nicely finished paper (perhaps excessively sized, even) and extremely crisp type. The print-on-demand edition is on paper that's not as nice, an almost inkjet-printed appearance where the edges of the characters are just not crisp enough for my taste, and the boards are thick, covered with something glossy, and more prone to warp outward so the book doesn't quite close firmly. Springer and Cambridge POD books are similar. It's a little more like you LaTeX'd something, printed it out two-pages-to-a-sheet, cut the sheets in half and glued them into a binding. (Except maybe your average laser printer would produce sharper results---I'd need to do a direct comparison.) This is quite serviceable for the right price, for usable math books, but $200 (I was able to find it for less, but still an outrageously high price) seems ridiculous. But if academics were able to publish their works this way, sell for $40-65, deduct the cost of printing (about which I'm quite curious), do a little yearly accounting and extra business at tax time, and pocket the rest, it might be a much better deal than publishing through a major house. I suspect that for a good academic work, reputation developed through citations and online access (one could make the book available chapter-by-chaper for free, if desired) might work almost as well as the publicity provided by an academic or corporate publisher. The major issue might be library purchases, I'm guessing. Anybody out there have any experience or ideas with this?
More info: Amazon's POD printing and distribution unit, Createspace (Springer's US partner) has an expanded distribution plan claimed to wholesale books to libraries and bookstores. Cambridge has partnered with LightningSource.
Here's a video of the Espresso Book Machine, for producing paperback books at or near the point of sale, in action:
Here's Amazon's "Pro Plan" at their CreateSpace. The combination of the terminology "royalties" for the money you get, and "self-publishing", seems, technically, contradictory. Royalties are paid by a publisher for the right to publish and sell your book; if you were actually self-publishing, you would be hiring Amazon/Createspace to print your book, and do some of its distribution and sales, but what you keep would be profit, not royalties. So I'm curious which it actually is, in their case. Anyway, you seem to get about 43% of the list price on sales through Amazon, 23% on their Expanded Distribution Channel (to libraries, bookstores, and "certified resellers" at, presumably, wholesale prices, although maybe not since Amazon labels the entire difference between your share and list price "Our Share"), and 63% through something called an eStore (which is presumably an outlet at your own website, linked to Amazon; more investigation warranted). Those are on a $16 book; on a $45, 320 page book with black and white interior, it looks like 30% through the EDC, 50% through Amazon, and 70% through your eStore. I'm guessing this is for a paperback.
So, quite a bit better than the standard academic press royalty which I believe is something like 7% or so, but still, through the expanded distribution channel, not that hefty.