The New York Times had another article on print-on-demand. The article is titled "Got a Manuscript? Publishing Now a Snap." But of course, they don't really mean publishing as we know it, they mean printing. It's really just a vanity press with a much smaller print run. The difference, as the article points out, between the old days of a garage full of self-published books and today's POD presses, is the Internet. Distribution has always been the key, and with the web, self-published authors finally have a way to reach an audience. Amazon has gotten into the act by adding POD books to its CreateSpace feature, which previously allowed filmmakers and musicians to burn their work onto DVDs and CDs (which makes me suspect that the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award is just a way to generate a marketing list for CreateSpace).
Because really, what POD does best is to satisfy the need to hold your own book in your hand.