That's me on the right, working on a book
If you haven't already heard of print-on-demand (POD) publishing, you certainly will soon enough. This new technology makes it possible to issue books for which there is a small but very real market — books that would otherwise be unprofitable to print due to limited demand. In essence, it prints each book from a digital file as it is needed, one copy at a time. No more warehousing of thousands of copies, no more funds tied up in inventory. Think what this means! Backlisted and out-of-print titles can remain alive and available instead of being relegated to that great black hole of forgotten knowledge.
HOW IT WORKS:
There are basically two methods of producing POD books. For new titles, the completely edited and formatted word-processing file is uploaded into a desktop-publishing program such as Quark, InDesign, or PagePlus, arranged into page format — with illustrations if desired — and then converted into a PDF file using Acrobat or a similar program. In either case, the resultant file is sent to the POD printer online via FTP or as a CD or DVD disk. For older titles, one copy of the existing book is scanned in high resolution by the POD printer and converted into a PDF file. Either way, the resultant file is then checked against a second (reference) copy and if asked for, a proof copy of the book made for the editor's approval. This file becomes part of the printer's database, and can be made available to other POD printers worldwide via the Internet.
When an order for the book is received, one or more copies are printed on a high-speed laser printer, trimmed, bound, and shipped to the customer the same day. One fascinating aspect of this is that the actual printing can be done anywhere in the world by accessing the file over the Internet — whichever printer is closest to the customer. This greatly saves on shipping costs, customs duties, and handling. The printer used by my publisher, Hastings House, has arrangements with other POD printers in many countries. Their name is Booksurge, and they are a divsion of Amazon.com, which also lists the books on their popular website.
As is also the case with conventional offset printing, quality could be a problem unless rigid controls and inspections are implemented. When these are used, the resultant book quality closely matches that of regular printing presses, particularly for text and (for some reason) for color photos.
Cost is another factor. Since each book is printed one-off, the labor costs are higher than for automated offset printing. Still, the savings from not being stuck with slow-selling or unsold inventory makes it the better choice for books that will sell in the hundreds or low thousands of copies over an extended period of time. And, as the POD process becomes more automated — as it surely will — the costs will eventually rival conventional offset printing.
A PIONEER IN POD:
My publisher, Hastings House, with its backlist of classic titles from the 1930s through the 1990s, has been a pioneer in the use of POD printing. This began in the spring of 2003 when stocks of my Daytrips Italy (4th Edition) had run out and there were orders for more, but not enough orders to justify an offset reprint. So this was the perfect time to see what Booksurge LLC and their newfangled POD process could do! The results looked fine, so Hastings downloaded the digital files of other titles in the series to them. On June 16, 2003, I flew down to Charleston, South Carolina to watch them run off copies of my Daytrips books, and to meet with my publisher, Peter Leers, who had flown up from Orlando, Florida.
Now there are several POD printing firms, most of whom are geared to working directly with authors in what is politely called "subsidy publishing" and impolitely known as "vanity printing." This can actually be a good way for aspiring authors to get their feet wet before finding a publisher. Booksurge LLC is different as they also cater to regular publishers who desire to keep old titles available even though demand for them is small. Now a subsidiary of Amazon.com, Booksurge has arrangements with other POD printers around the world, so that an order for one book can be filled by the facility closest to the buyer.
At Amazon.com's annual meeting on May 23, 2006, company founder and CEO Jeff Bezos announced that POD books have improved Amazon's selections and are becoming an important part of the company's business. "As a customer, if you get a product from Amazon, you might never know that it was printed yesterday," Bezos said. "I think we'll see more and more products created instantaneously."
CLICK HERE for a July 2007 update on how we are now using this technology.
In another post on this blog, I discuss an electronic technology that will allow the low-cost downloading of specific portions of books, to be printed out by the user or put in a PDA or I-book. In concept, this is similar to the way that individual songs are sold by i-Tunes or various MP3-based vendors. CLICK HERE TO READ IT.
And for more on this subject, CLICK HERE.
Interested in photography? Check out my "Assisting Avedon" blog.
SO, just what Little Adventure am I up to now in 2013? Why, just the most challenging one of them all! CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT.