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SFF Small Press Threat

05/03/2004. Contributed by Jessica Martin

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Print on Demand costs set to rise dramatically after patent battle rout.

Pity the long-suffering science fiction and fantasy small-press.

Just as the likes of Wildside Press, PS Publishing and Meisha Merlin are starting to mount an effective challenge to the corporate super-powers using the power of POD systems (print-on-demand) to level the book publishing playing field, along comes the marvellous U.S. patent system to piss on the parade.

In the U.S., where it seems you can patent such ideas such as e-commerce buy buttons, breathing air and the genes in your DNA, Lightning Source, Ingram and Amazon have just lost a $15 million patent infringement suit for the somewhat nebulous concept of print-on-demand.

Why? Well, Harvey Ross (now dead), the owner of the On Demand Machine Corporation, was apparently granted a 1995 patent for a "System and method of manufacturing a single book copy". AKA print-on-demand.

Unluckily, the US court system has just sided with our Harvey (R.I.P) and his estate.

Lightning Source is of course the worlds largest POD outfit (owned by Ingram Industries, the world largest book wholesaler and distributor), and is the printing engine behind many, if not most, SFF small presses.

The impact is anticipated to run to substantial licence fees for the use of print on demand technologies, and increases in the already far too high per-copy cost of producing novels using the technology.

This move will pull the rug on the independent science fiction and fantasy media industry just as it was getting going.

Way to go, U.S. patent system.

Coming soon ... announces U.S. patent for atomic level cohesion - aka 'matter' - and sues all of corporeal existence.

Click here to see the verdict (and weep).


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