Lulz in Treespace: xkcd Going to Press

Internet darling webcomic xkcd is getting a proper print run through a small online distributor (breadpig). Not shocking news in and of itself, but interesting (if unsurprising) in that the book will be sold almost entirely through standalone websites, outside the domain of the traditional book publishing and distribution machine. From the NYTimes article about the forthcoming book:

“The print xkcd book is not being published through a traditional company but rather by breadpig ‚ which was created by Alexis Ohanian, one of the founders of the social-news Web site reddit. The site has sold high-concept merchandise like refrigerator magnets or T-shirts, but never a book. (Its profits go to the charity Room to Read.)

The book ‚ with the working title xkcd, though Mr. Ohanian says it may carry a subtitle like a book of romance, sarcasm, math and language ‚ will not initially be sold in bookstores, and probably never in the big chains. Instead, it will be sold through the xkcd Web site.”

Randall Munroe, creator of the strip and no stranger to librarians or their weaknesses, goes on to say: It doesn’t need to be in bookstores. I don’t have hard numbers about this, but the impression I get is that the amount of eyeballs you get from being on the humor shelf at Barnes & Noble ‚ it is almost insignificant.

The humor shelf at Barnes & Noble may be as overlooked as the the bottom shelf of the cereal aisle at the grocery store, but the xkcd book could also be something of an underground hit if all those strangers on the Internet look to their local libraries to see if they’ve been written about. If that happens, will we see another case of libraries missing out on an opportunity to offer materials that are popular with their patrons because of the old distribution and purchasing methods?

What do you think? Is this something that your library would consider purchasing if the right sales mechanism were in place? Are you going to go after the book once it’s released? Let us know in the comments.

P.S. For the xkcd fans: Anyone else disappointed that the alt text is being printed alongside the copyright notice? I was hoping there’d be some way for me to get the text to display by hovering my hand over the text.

P.P.S. For the etymologists wondering about the title, here’s the derivation:
cyberspace –> meatspace –> treespace

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About Josh Hadro

Josh Hadro (jhadro@mediasourceinc.com; @hadro on Twitter) is Executive Editor, Digital Products for Library Journal, School Library Journal and The Horn Book. Since joining LJ in 2008, he's covered ebooks, technology, academic libraries, and reference among other topics.

Comments

  1. Roy Tennant says:

    Josh, you have a valid concern, as it certainly won’t be as easy for libraries to add this to their collection as it is for books that are a part of an approval plan or other such structures. But don’t count us out. I self-published my latest book (see techinlibraries.com ) via Lulu.com and am marketing it myself. It appears on Amazon, but in no approval plans or in a publisher’s catalog. However, libraries do have it, see http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/244584484 . So overall I’d say it may have an impact not going through standard channels, but there are still librarians perfectly able and willing to go outside of the usual channels.

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