Amy Fisher's Book Tests New Publishing Model
For the Nashville, Tenn.-based print-on-demand and digital fulfillment services company, "If I Knew Then …" was an ideal experiment to challenge the traditional and accepted economics of the book publishing industry.
'Sell One, Print One … Repeat as Necessary'
Lightning Source routinely manages short-run book printing through its on-demand and digital delivery/fulfillment system. It can cost-effectively print books in quantities as low as one copy and is capable of producing up to 30,000 books per day.
"Instead of printing thousands of books and keeping them warehoused until they sell," Best explains, "… why not wait for the order—in other words: Sell one, print one, and repeat as necessary."
Not sure whether to print 10,000 or 200,000 copies of Fisher's book, Driscoll listened to Best's plan for ensuring production levels were optimal by combining old and new technology through a demand-driven publishing model. "In traditional publishing there is the curse of traditional printing, but with this model, I wouldn't have to worry about printing too many copies, " says Driscoll. "It would be a bit more expensive per unit, but actually turned out better for us overall."
An offset run of 25,000 was first required to fill retailers' shelves with copies, in anticipation of Fisher's appearance on "Oprah," Sept. 27, 2004.
Maple-Vail Book Manufacturing Group in York, Pa., was the printer that produced the initial offset run, and RR Donnelley was on standby to print a much larger run if, at some point after "Oprah" aired, "sales went wild," says Best. In the meantime, Lightning Source had the ability to print up to 30,000 copies per day if required until Donnelley got the order ready. The idea behind the process was that, although digital print's cost per book is significantly higher compared to offset, the flexibility it offered in terms of continuity of supply minimized the overall cost for the project.