The New York Times strikes yet again, this time with a profile of XKCD creator Randall Munroe and his plans to go to print:
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.)
“We never made any projection — 10,000 seems like a good run,” Mr. Ohanian said, adding that this lack of research “is laughable from the perspective of anyone who knows the book industry. It’s what makes sense.”
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.
“It doesn’t need to be in bookstores,” Mr. Munroe said. “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.”
Munroe is just 24 years old, and he doesn’t see the need to go with an Andrews McMeel or Random House to be successful. Barnes & Noble and Borders are completely beside the point. He’s either yet another in a long line of naive creators who don’t want to look at numbers, or the prophet of a new way of thinking that isn’t ground down by a system that obviously isn’t working any more.
Compare this story with a recent one in PWCW about CTRL+ALT+DEL, which is employing a similarly “mavericky” publishing strategy — creator Tim Buckley has already self-published several collections but is now teaming up with an already trusted collaborator — not a book publisher — to get into bookstores, for whatever that’s worth.
OTOH, Jon Rosenberg has the opposite idea with his GOATS collections — and he’s going with Del Rey.
It’s way too early to tell who is going to win this race …in fact, there could be MULTIPLE winners. Or different roads to the same destination. The Big Takeaway is that today’s creators — including some of the most creative — are approaching their business models free of any old notions of success and failure.