Digital Paper Pitfalls
These titles might be selling no more than 100 to 500 books a year. They went out of print in the pre-BOD era, because publishers had to sell at least 2,000 offset-produced copies of a title annually to make money on it.
AIMING HIGH FOR LOWER COST
Today publishers can justify runs as small as 100 units. Indeed, officials at printer Ames On-Demand, with its BookBuild keep-in-print product, say their publisher clients can squeeze the same margins out of short runs as they do from titles printed en masse.
Ames officials also say publishers are increasingly using on-demand book printing for short-run first printings. This is for publishers who are unsure where and how much demand a new book will trigger.
BOD lets them debut or test-market a title, or even customize it for different markets, without incurring undue production costs or financial risk.
Small publishers can produce 2,000 or 5,000 books for short run first editions, competing effectively with larger publishers who typically get in the game with at least 10,000, and usually more copies.
With cost the driving factor for on-demand applications, Ames officials say most of their publishers opt for "very economical" 20-lb. bond paper.
"People seem to be more cost-conscious these days, and less concerned about the type of paper in general," says Tom Delano, business development manager at Ames, in Somerville, Mass., a division of Ames Safety Envelope Company. "For most [BOD] applications, there is less concern about the quality of paper than price. [Publishers] know when they hit a manufacturing price point where they have to make some compromises on the paper."
While a title's finished quality is determined, in part, by the type of paper used, the on-demand printer can also bring further efficiencies to the table, reducing cost without affecting quality in the least.