I mentioned in a previous post recently that I’d been using modern technology to help me keep my work safe. The beauty of Print On Demand technology is that we can produce a single volume without any great effort or expense. The downside to this is the ever-growing mountain of shit out there, but that’s another story. The same thing applies to ebooks, of course. But there are many other ways we can use this technology for good.
For example, it’s easy now to gift someone a hardback, coffee-table edition of photos from a wedding or holiday. Rather than sticking photos in an album – Remember that? Does anyone actually print photos any more? – we can have a lovely, glossy book.
Equally, while it’s great to have all my writing saved and backed up, I still have a slight end-of-the-world niggle. My stuff is saved on the hard drive of my laptop. It’s also backed up on two extrenal hard drives, a USB memory stick and I have a cloud storage thing set up, so it’s on servers miles away. Every once in a while I also burn a DVD backup. But this is all digital. What happens when some fucktard supervillain drops an EMP and everything electronic becomes nothing more than a high-tech ornament?
You may think, Well, if that happens, who gives a fuck about your writing, Al? It’s the end of the freaking world, you narcissistic penmonkey! And you’d be right, to some degree. But, if post-apocalyptic fiction has taught us anything, it’s that the human race is one tenacious bastard and will survive. We’ll fight and claw and refuse to give in. We’ll end up with rag-tag bands of survivors, slowly finding each other and building civilisation anew. And who knows, we might even make a better job of it the second time around, though I have my doubts about that.
Regardless, if all our knowledge and culture is digital, we stand to lose it all. If we make sure there are hard, papery copies of as much as possible, we might not lose everything. Of course, that’s also assuming we don’t burn all the books to survive the hideous cold of the nuclear winter or the next ice age.
But there are other reasons to have hard copies as well. My wife likes to read my stuff, for example. Well, I often think she doesn’t like it, and she once called my “a sick and twisted little monkey”, but to me that’s a term of endearment. Anyway, she reads my stuff. But she has no ereader and doesn’t like to read on screen. Of course, she can read the contributor copies of magazines and anthologies that my work is in, and has read the print copies of my novels, but not all my stuff is produced in print.
There’s also the casual visitor. If I mention a story and they say, “Sounds sick and twisted, my friend, I’d like to read that”, then I can pull the book off the shelf and say, “Here, page 176.”
Plus, I’m a narcissistic penmonkey and like to see books of my stuff on the shelf.
So, I went to one of those POD sites where you follow all the guides and templates, upload a text file, and a couple of weeks later you get a book. I used a pretty small font to keep page numbers, and therefore cost, to a minimum, and it arrived in the post today. All my short fiction up to the end of last year. Just for my own shelf, a hardcopy backup:
I already noticed a couple of mistakes I made in the formatting. Nothing major, and it’s only for my records, so it really doesn’t matter. However, I think when I do another one, I’ll correct those things and maybe put a kickass dragon on the cover or something. Maybe a dragon eating a spaceship, dripping ectoplasm from its crystal fangs. Something like that.
So yeah. Backing it up, old school.