POD: EVs and the Lost Decade

By Bill Moore

Posted: 12 Mar 2010

Pundits are calling the years 2000-2009, the "lost decade" for many reasons. Two fruitless wars, little progress on climate change abatement, stagnation in environmental improvement, deteriorating political relations, slumping economic growth, spreading religious radicalism; and the capstone, from EV World's perspective of sustainable mobility, the "death" of the electric car.

Now, as we all know, the electric car did not, in fact, die. The major OEM's may have temporarily cancelled their EV programs and shelved their technology, but others from AC Propulsion, to Venturi in Monaco, to Telsa in Silicon Valley gave birth to a new round of high-performance electric cars that showed it was possible for an EV to be fast, fun and almost affordable. The 'lost decade' was really more a hiatus than an wake.

With that as my guiding vision, yesterday I self-published my first book, "Electrifying Ride - The Lost Decade - Book 1," using Lulu.com, a print-on-demand service. POD is to conventional book publishing what the Web is to news reporting. It allows anyone with a desire to publish -- and it can be books, music CDs, and even independent videos on DVD -- to bypass the gray-suited gate keepers at the traditional publishing houses and their book editors. In a sense, gone are the "sorry-but-this-is-not-for-us" days of rejection letters or frustrating search for a literary agent. Lulu and its competitors' don't reject unsolicited manuscripts. Instead, they make the process of submitting digital versions as easy as online banking. The author assumes responsibility for editing, proofreading and promotion.

Take "Electrifying Ride" as an example. Back in January, I decided to collect together much of the material I have written over the last twelve years or so into a single volume, a task that while not overwhelming, did prove surprising. I discovered that I have written enough words to fill not one book, but many. What started out to be a single book covering roughly 1999-2009, quickly evolved into at least two volumes, and even then, I had to cull material; hence the use of the term "Book 1", which highlights events and people in our EV world between late 1999 and the end of 2004; and totals 299 pages.

With my wife assuming the role of editor and proofreader, I pulled these stories into a standard US trade book 6x9 inch template that Lulu provides authors using Open Office, a wonderful Open Source software program that competes with Microsoft Works and Apple iWorks. Following Lulu's instructions and after several revisions, I finally published a 1.54MB manuscript in PDF format, from which the service can print the book, as well as offer it in digital E-book format. This I uploaded, along with the front and back book covers that I designed; the back utilizing a gray-scale version of the above photo taken of me in 2002, during my second trip to China's Great Wall.

Because "Electrifying Ride" is more anthology than definitive history, long-time readers of EV World aren't likely to discover anything particularly new or revelatory. As the subtitle states, it is a collection of "selected musings, observations and reports." A definitive history of the "lost decade" will have to wait for another time, though I have started working on it, completing first drafts of three chapters, but this is a long term effort, which could take years to complete.

Back to Lulu. Once you've uploaded the digital manuscript and art work, Lulu then calculates what the book should sell for -- they suggested $24.95 for the paperback version and $6.95 for the E-book version. However, you can set your own price, as long as it's not less than the actual cost of printing the book. I reduced the paperback price to $21.95, still high for a paperback, of course, but that's the trade-off of doing print-on-demand; it's just like building Tesla Roadsters one at a time, instead of 20,000 in a run. The price of the digital book is $5.95. As the author, I can purchase copies of the book, which I may do; the thought being that these would be limited autographed versions, assuming anyone actually would want my autograph, of course. The waitress at my local Mexican food restaurant doesn't seem particularly excited about it when I sign my credit card receipt. Anyway, Lulu allows you to preview the first few pages of the book for free online as part of their "try it before you buy it" policy.

Now I have no illusions that this will ever make the New York Times best seller list or even sell more than a relative handful of copies. My hope is that in these formats, the story of our EV world over the last decade will, perhaps, finds its way into the hands and minds of a few more people, inspiring them to join us in the effort to make transportation and personal mobility more sustainable, accessible and affordable.

I hope you'll, at least, check it out. It makes a great gift…

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