Linux

How open source is transforming the publishing industry

Jack Wallen is one of the many in the midst of a revolution. Find out how Linux and other open source software titles are empowering independent authors and filling an important niche in the publishing industry.

Many of you already know I am not only a writer of a technical nature, but a writer of fiction. In fact, the second in my I Zombie trilogy will hit the shelves next month. I have been working hard to produce a catalog of ebooks and paperbacks for the last three years. During that time I have discovered something that seems to be slipping through the cracks of the majority of computer-type pundits -- open source is one of the major players in the new world publishing order.

That's right -- open source is the unheralded darling of the ebook publishing. How? Let's take a look:

  • The Amazon cloud is run by Red Hat Enterprise Linux.
  • The Kindle uses the Linux kernel.
  • Smashwords is run on Linux.
  • Twitter is run on Linux (a major PR tool for indie authors).
  • Wordpress is the number one blogging tool of indie authors.
  • A large number of my fellow indie authors use open source tools such as LibreOffice (to write), Calibre (to convert), and The GIMP (to create covers).

Here's the thing -- most indie authors are doing all of this completely out of pocket. They don't have the backing of major publishing houses, so everything is on an extremely tight budget. That means many writers aren't purchasing MS Office, Photoshop, Quark, and other costly proprietary solutions. And although the vast majority of indie authors really have no idea they are furthering the open source cause -- the fact remains they are. What they really care about is that the tools they use work and work well. Open source software (such as LibreOffice, The GIMP, Firefox, and Calibre) do the job and do the job well.

I am not the typical pundit. To be honest, I don't even call myself a journalist (they are a very special breed and will be happy to tell you that very fact ;-) ). So I do not have that romanticized notion that the death of the brick and mortar book store will bring about the downfall of society. In fact, I believe that the rise of the ebook is something long overdue. Not only does it empower the author, it also opens up the floodgates for open source software to really find a niche that proprietary software will struggle in. Remember, we're not talking businesses that Microsoft and Adobe can offer bulk discounts to -- we're talking individuals who depend upon every penny in order to make ends meet. These users aren't going to turn to expensive software when there is a cheap (or free) alternative available.

The publishing industry has hit a serious wall and that wall is currently immovable. Why have they hit this wall? Because they have been incredibly slow (or completely reluctant) to adapt. But like the indie author, open source software is far more adaptable than it's proprietary counterpart. Because of this, open source can embrace this niche quickly (as it is still gaining tremendous momentum) and become the champion of the new world order of publishing.

This change is inevitable. Because of this, I would love to see someone put together a distribution directed at the independent author, with all of the tools necessary to get their books ready for the consumer. Because of the nature of open source, this is not only possible, it's easy. Thanks to Linux, and a host of other software titles published under variations of the GPL, the publishing industry revolution will not be televised, it will be written about in beautiful prose, and finally presented to the consumer thanks to freely available applications ready to give the writer all the power they need.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

10 comments
mike
mike

No one just sticks resources out there for free without any inclination of ROI. Would you fuel an industry who stands to profit (possibly humongous profits) for nothing? There always has to be a catch. If a site can provide the tools to accomplish this, $50 a month is nothing. Have you ever investigated what the cost is to set up, maintain, fund, electric, maintainance....of server/s and online presence? Have you ever investigated the cost of publishing? Stop the complaining when someone talks about cost...you'd think it was owed to you like an ungrateful brat

threebirds
threebirds

Scribus is an open-source page layout program. It is free. But the manual costs $45. :)

Lewis Goddard
Lewis Goddard

The technical side, including building the website, and we listed instructions for getting Word (.doc, .docx) into a suitable format. We were inundated with questions about OpenOffice, LibreOffice, and a couple of less popular ones. As it happened our "suitable format" was .odt, so it was simple to sort, but around 3/4 of submissions before we added an extra page for those instructions asked about it.

mike
mike

There are many of us running at home servers who would love to add $$$ to our pockets. I have a 4tb server w/quad core xeon and 16gb ram sitting almost idle. I use about 1tb for current clientbased storage that takes place between 6pm and 6am, the rest is wide open to recommendations to turn it into a profitable endeavor. I remember putting up my first Virtual server (the origins of the cloud) way before virtual imbedded itslef in the market place. I ran a handful of apps on a TS, and can see exactly how simple it would be to provide a conerstone to this niche. Anyone game?

adornoe
adornoe

Also, if putting together a "distribution" for authors is so simple, then it has already been done, or can be done in a matter of hours or days. So, if things are so simple, perhaps the author can write the system, or at least the specifications. BTW, I already have an idea about how it can be done, but, I'm not sure what the author has in mind.

adornoe
adornoe

database management?

mike
mike

I currently use it as an ftp server to receive backups from my clients. It is SBS 2008 and wide open. I have sql (2008 std, 2008 ctp5, 2005 std - nnot installed but available to install), I have sbs 2008 std mgmnt server available to install, along with - web server 2003 and just about every other version of ms server 2003. I have 2 spare servers, one with a p4, 3..4 and 2tb storage, 1 with dual xeon 3.1 and 2tb storage, also a spare box with quadcore chip...I only need more ram and can add up to 2.5tb space or more if needed.

mike
mike

I have the available bandwidth and the machines to be the infrastructure from a physical standpoint. I will setup web server 2003 as the O/S of choice...What do you need for hard drive space? Anything else off the top of your head?

adornoe
adornoe

in the future, depending upon test results. My web application uses Postgresql, and ASP, as I had written most of the application a few years ago and only recently decided to try to finish the coding, so I kept the language as ASP with the expectation that I would upgrade it later. It's a web publishing system, and not like all the others out there. It would be unique and not like a CRM or WordPress or others like that. It would be much more than that. However, I'm looking for either a "free" test run or a fairly inexpensive option, with the expectation of partnering later with someone that has the expertise and resources to assist in further development of the system. I don't have the system on-line yet, but I could probably demo it through LogMeIn or some other remote network system. BTW, Postgresql is free, and setting it up should not be overly difficult.

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