According to Edwards, because technology has reached a point where customers cannot tell the difference between a digital and an offset product, the focus is on turnaround time and matching market demand. Files are portable; therefore, content can be moved seamlessly from one manufacturing format to another as sales patterns change throughout a book’s life cycle.
“We have actually trademarked the phrase ‘life of title,’ ” Edwards notes. “We want the publishing community to be able to print what they need when they need it.”
McClellan’s book highlights the advantages of well-timed integration of digital print options into the life cycle of even mass-market trade titles.
“If [Perseus] had set the book up as a print-on-demand book at the time they published it, we could have printed probably several thousand [more],” Taylor says. “There was a gap of three to four days when they were out of stock, and we didn’t have the file.”
Such a setup gives publishers the flexibility to print fewer books initially, reducing the risk of overstock and the associated cost of returns, shipping and warehousing. This hybrid POD-offset model is increasingly being adopted by traditional book publishers who still rely primarily on offset, Taylor says, citing such Lightning Source customers as Cambridge University Press, Oxford University Press, Random House and Elsevier, who are using POD to keep already-published books in print.
Reconsidering the Per-Unit Cost
“A lot of publishers are still very happy to have a business model based on the holding of inventory, but the general trend is that they’re looking to take that cost out of their business,” says Taylor.
John Paeglow III, president of digital book manufacturer IBT Global, says customers are increasingly focusing on the advantages of getting a book to market over the higher per-unit costs of digital.