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Rick Smolan is responsible for some of the largest photographic projects ever undertaken. A former Time, Life, and National Geographic photographer, Rick created the best-selling Day in the Life book series and many other large-scale photographic projects, such as America 24/7, 24 Hours in Cyberspace, and Blue Planet Run. He pushes the boundaries of technology with each new project while delivering inspiring books that tell masterful photographic stories. His projects have been featured on the covers of magazines such as Fortune, Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News & World Report. This installment of Creative Inspirations takes viewers inside Rick's latest production, where he reveals his unique processes and shows how he reinvents himself for each new project.
(Music plays.) Rick Smolan: There has never been a bestselling print-on-demand coffee table book in publishing history and there is a simple reason for that. It's too expensive. Right now, a print-on-demand book that we print one at a time, costs about four times as much as a book you print in China or Korea and then ship over here. But it also, print-on-demand gives you the sense of immediacy. So, what we are really excited about is it's the first time people could personalize a book like this and we are trying to see if we can make this the first print-on-demand bestseller in history. It's a nice challenge. I don't think of myself as a book publisher. I like to think myself as a photo entrepreneur.
I mean, my orientation is Photography and Story Telling, but if I want to compete with these big, huge, behemoths of the publishing world, who have billions of dollars and editors and distribution, I have to figure out how to have our products appear different in some way. Female Speaker: We're really excited on our current project, to be working on this new concept for us of print-on- demand. It's not something that we've ever done before and we've taken-- we've always gone the traditional of shipping files to a printer and letting them print it and then ship all the books and distribute them throughout the network of book stores and whatnot.
We are excited to be kind of dabbling in to this world because maybe this is the wave of the future, for the way that books will all be printed. And right now, it's rather expensive to do it this way, but we think that with this current project, The Obama Time Capsule, we are showing this great wonderful content with print-on-demand technology and if everybody can see the value of it, the prices will naturally fall down. And will we go the other way? I don't know.
We'll see with our next project, if by the time that we begin our next project, well, we might find that this is the way to do-- print-on-demand is the way to do all our projects. Rick Smolan: More and more, I find that companies like ours, like Against All Odds, we come up with an idea, we raise the money, we hire the editor, the photographers, the writers, the designers, we do the publicity ourselves, and all the publisher does is basically they are a bank. They basically give us a loan, kind of a non-repayable loan hopefully, and they have a distribution network to get your book in the stores, because I don't know how to do that and I really don't want to know how to do it. I am not interested in selling my book to book stores.
So if I can produce the book and have Amazon sell it, I can do two things. I can either double the price and then keep that $25, which would be the smart thing to do. It's what my mother would tell me to do, or you can be crazy like me and I would actually take out the publisher's percentage and still keep my royalty at the absurdly low price, but then charge the public a lot less. So that's what we are trying to do here. We have asked everybody to kind of forgo their profits, and just this is a great publishing experiment at a depressing time in publishing. I love doing the book and I just thought, this will open the doors for future books.
So, I mean, this is all coming. It's just the question of whether it's 5 years out or 10 years out. And I hope people look back and think this was the first book that really showed that it looks as good and it's as affordable, and then I think people will look at that a little differently if this thing hits the way I hope it will.
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