I had previously missed noticing that the 2006 Lulu Blooker prize was won by Julie and Julia, the book by notable one-time food weblogger Julie Powell. This prize for the best "blook" -- or book that started as a website -- is a takeoff on the esteemed Booker prize [edit 12/2 -- Mcauliflower from Brownie Points corrects my previous description of the prize and reports that Julie and Julia had a major publisher]. I see that many books on self-publishing sites such as Lulu and xlibris cover food and cooking topics. While some of these publishing companies are owned by major book publishers, they still offer a do-it-yourself route around the major publishers' control over information flow.
My work life seems to be peppered with interesting efforts in recent years to reduce the price of information flow: dotlearn, the publisher of the competent online microeconomics textbook used by my program at Tufts; the Berkeley Electronic Press, a publisher of interesting journals on economics and other topics; and online basic statistics teaching resources such as SticiGui and HyperStat.
Of course, life is not just work. I spent a couple hours or more yesterday reflecting on self-publishing while walking in the Fall sunshine around Middlesex Fells with my earphones blaring the punk classics from the guys at Dischord Records, who started at the DC public high school I attended in the early 1980s and went on to become rock stars. To this day, they play all-ages shows with reasonable door prices and charge comparatively low prices for their records. They never signed with a major record label, though they were surely offered millions. See a newly-posted interview with Dischord founder and Fugazi front-man Ian MacKaye (pictured).
Many people seem to think one needs a major publishing house -- or record label -- not just for the economics of product distribution, but also to help consumers distinguish high quality products in the first place. But then I think about Ian MacKaye and the most successful self-published books and I gain hope that the opposite is true [edit 12/2].