Friday, September 7, 2007

A Curious Book Tale

Here's an interesting self-publishing story from my man, Fender Tucker. Fender runs Ramble House, publishers of Harry Stephen Keeler and loads of other great out-of-print authors. Every once in awhile, I get the Ramble House Rambler, a newsletter about Fender and his company. The story below is from today's Rambler:

I was browsing the web the other day when I found a site listing all of the extraneous things one of my favorite authors, Philip Jose Farmer, has written. Essays, articles, introductions, etc. One of them was an afterword for the 13th Doc Savage Omnibus from Bantam, published in the 70s. I was interested and had the book -- indeed, I have all 181 of the Bantam Doc Savages -- so I got it down from my shelf and read the afterword. Farmer says the final Doc Savage novel, UP FROM THE EARTH's CENTER, is especially good and I'd never read it so I started to.

So far so good, but I found that the book, which is in pristine shape, has the text printed deep into the gutter and I knew that before I finished the story I would have probably cracked the spine a little. Dammit! The book sells for $50 - $100 on eBay and I hated to make it less "valuable" by simply reading it. I was also having trouble with the small font that Bantam used. Double dammit! I'm getting old.

So I did what any normal Ramble House Grand Exalted Mojo would do and checked to see if I had the text in a file on my computer. I did! Luckily I had downloaded all the Doc Savage ZIP files from the site of Black Mask before Bantam sued the hell out the guy who ran it and made him take all the Doc Savage texts down. All I had to do was unZIP the file, paste all the text into WORD and format it for Ramble House. That took about a half hour. Then I printed the PDF out and bound it (fifteen minutes) and was able to enjoy the story in a large font in a book with a wide gutter that I didn't have to treat like a $50 book.

The moral to my story is that once you become a Grand Exalted Mojo at Ramble House, it may be cheaper and easier (at least on the eyes) to MAKE a book than it is to get in my car and go out and buy it. Or even order the book online and wait for it to come in the mail. Or maybe the moral is that the big publishers ought not to print so deep into the gutter so that merely reading a book all but destroys it. Whatever, I can assure you that Ramble House always uses a one inch margin in the gutter so that you don't have to bend the books unnaturally to read the text.

Now this was a special case. I had the text already ZIPped in WORD format. If I hadn't, I would have had to scan the book and OCR it and the scanning probably would have been more damaging to the book than reading it. But more and more texts
of great old books are available online from and other places. Maybe one of these days the copyright laws will become less insane and even the texts of great old books of the 30s and 40s will become available online.

I used to consider people who needed large-print books as wimps but time has a way of making wimps out of all of us -- see Congress and the White House for examples of this -- and I sure do enjoy a book more when I don't have to squint. Don't you? If there are any Ramble House books you want in a large print format, let me know and I'll format and make them available from Lulu. Warning: because Lulu charges by the page, a large-print book will cost about 20% more than a regular book. I should probably charge for the time it takes me to do the reformatting, but I do that all day anyway, so it's no big deal.

Fender is so cool.

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