Hopefully everyone read yesterday's post and the comments. It is a copyright thing with me not to repost the comments here, so please go look.
Frankly, I don't mind a passionate comment, so please continue to make them and continue to ask hard questions, not just in this, but everything.
I have friends who used these print companies mentioned yesterday for their novels and non-fiction works. For some it worked beautifully because they had no interest in learning how to do any of the stuff to publish a book totally on their own, even if only to upload it. For others it was a starting place in the maze of alternative choices. Most are where they are happier now. And for some, none I know personally, it was the end of their writing career before it began.
It is human nature for us to think our way is the best way, and for us it probably is. The important point is to research the options. What I try to do with First Draft is bring up concepts, the tip of them not the thesis. I also try to use industry words in a relaxed format. More than anything, I want to encourage people to keep going in their quest by making it a little less threatening.
One example where vanity publishing has nothing to do with vanity would be a pool and patio supply company (and I'm making this up, if it mirrors anything someone is doing, I don't know about it). I'll name it Splash! Imagine for a second that Splash! is a huge chain and offers classes on pool care. Over the years they have developed a good PowerPoint presentation complete with nifty handouts for the participants.
After experimenting with folders and binders, someone decided to take the material to the copy center and have it bound with a spiral and heavier stock cover. Because there is so much to know about caring for a home pool besides chemicals, things like backwashing, filter types, pool pumps and...whatever else, the class takes a huge jump as people tighten their budget. After all, pool service is one thing that can be eliminated from the budget if someone in the family learns this stuff.
The extra copies of the copy center "book" at the cash register sell like crazy. People tell their neighbors and the book is getting new customers into the store in droves. A staff member is dispatched to the copy center for more books on a regular basis. Other Splash! stores across the valley want the book in their shop too.
Someone comes up with the idea to have them printed. For a chunk of change, they go with, what I called yesterday, a POD company. The set-up fee is certainly less than the cost of sending staff to get the copy center book and it looks nicer - they put a list of all the Phoenix store locations in the back and share the cost with their sister stores. Splash! has no interest in how the publishing industry works, they are busy selling pool and patio stuff now that they have all these new customers they snagged because of their book.
As luck would have it, someone thinks about putting it on their website since it is now on online book retailer's websites. While they have a book, they probably don't think of themselves as writers like we think of ourselves.
There you have it, one example of where I think these companies serve a need beyond the ones we usually discuss. Remember I just made this up. This isn't the post I thought I'd write for today, but yesterday changed my mind. I think all forms of quality printing (and sometimes publishing) a book have their place. The trick is to learn enough to make sure your book ends up in its best place to satisfy your goal.
Sooner or later (remember I'm moving house now too) I will post the second area of self-publishing that I mentioned yesterday. This is actually real self-publishing. When done well, these people are my heroes.