PublicAffairs, an imprint of The Perseus Books Group, recently found itself with an enviable problem—not enough books to fill orders for a runaway best-seller. The book was Scott McClellan’s White House memoir “What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception,” but luckily for Perseus, the appearance of McClellan’s face everywhere on TV this spring coincided with a propitious meeting at BookExpo America between John Ingram of Ingram Book Group, owner of digital printer Lightning Source, and Perseus Publisher Peter Osnos.
“Demand went vertical, and there was a period of time when orders were coming in and they [didn’t have] any copies … [available] anywhere,” says Lightning Source President David Taylor. “So John Ingram said to Peter Osnos, ‘Look, give us the file, and we’ll set it up as an on-demand model, and we’ll fulfill at least some of those orders.’ ”
The problem for Perseus became an opportunity for Ingram to show the world the value of on-demand digital printing.
“We got the file from them on the Monday morning after BookExpo America, and we were printing the first books that afternoon,” Taylor recounts. “We actually moved over our entire casebook production to just that book for a period of 48 hours. We printed several thousand copies, and those were orders that otherwise would have just [been lost] or would have not been fulfilled. When the offset order came back in, we switched it off.”
Printing What You Need When You Need It
Taylor hopes examples like this one demonstrate the versatility of digital printing, both in terms of logistics (speed of turnaround) and printing capabilities (“What Happened” is a hardback, jacketed book with photo plates in the middle). Driven by recent technological improvements, falling production costs and a changing book market, digital printers believe their services are on the cusp of playing a major role in all segments of book manufacturing.