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Want to publish your own book

Someday you may be able to walk into your grocery store and convert your Christmas photos into an instant coffee-table book written in your own deathless prose. And this may happen very soon. Sarah Glazer writes about a new phenomenon in the printing industry - "Print-On-Demand". When Amy Fisher finished writing her memoir about shooting her lover's wife, she told her agent not to send the manuscript to New York publishers. Instead, Fisher, who made headlines in 1992 as the 17-year-old ''Long Island Lolita,'' turned to iUniverse in Lincoln, Neb. The company charges authors several hundred dollars to convert a manuscript into a book and make it available for sale online.

iUniverse is one of more than 100 ''author services'' companies in a fast-growing industry aimed primarily at writers who can't get the attention of traditional publishers. Self-publishing companies like iUniverse have been growing rapidly in recent years, displacing old-style vanity presses and competing with the number of titles produced by traditional houses. The difference between traditional vanity presses and modern print-on-demand publishing is essentially technology. Instead of expensive offset printing, which mainstream publishers use, print-on-demand relies on a glorified digital printer.

Meanwhile, for as little as $459, iUniverse will turn a manuscript into a paperback with a custom cover design, provide an International Standard Book Number -- publishing's equivalent of an ID number to place the book in a central bibliographic database -- and make it available at, and other online retailers. Borders has been offering a take-home self-publishing kit for $19.99 as an experiment. For between $299 and $598, customers can have a manuscript converted into a book by Xlibris, be listed on and get shelf space in Borders.

The Washington Post reminds that you'll also need to shell out at least $245 for an ISBN number (apply at, the unique identifier that keeps distributors from confusing, say, "Birds of America," the illustrated guide by John James Audubon, with "Birds of America," the short-story collection by Lorrie Moore. If you want a tiny printing, you might try a print-on-demand operation, such as Xlibris (, or AuthorHouse ( These companies can simplify the publishing process by providing layout and design services, the ISBN number, and a distribution network -- but they tend to have higher costs and lower returns.

Bloggers may turn to BlogBinders service to publish their blogs as printed books. Or they may use Adobe Acrobat to convert their entire blog into a single PDF file and print the PDF on a laserjet. Ask your graphic designer for a referral. | | | |