Distribution in the Digital Age
“Obviously [these programs] are picky, and that’s good for them,” Simonds notes. “I don’t offer them everything. I only offer [books] that I think will drive customers [through] their doors and that will be successful.”
For Simonds, that excludes novels—“People don’t buy novels from a nobody,” she says—but includes books like the Beagle Bay young-adult release “Women Astronomers,” the first in a series of books about women scientists.
Barnes & Noble ordered 100 of them—one per store—in a test marketing strategy in which an automatic reorder kicks in if the book sells.
Another option for small publishers is the Amazon Advantage program, which allows books to be listed on Amazon without having to be picked up by Baker & Taylor or Ingram. The program requires an annual fee and a 55-percent discount, but pays promptly, which Simonds says can be another issue for smaller publishers trying to stay solvent.
The Importance of POD
Another important development sending ripples through the supply chain is the growth of print on demand (POD).
“The costs of POD have continued to fall, so it’s getting close to offset [printing],” Gray says. “Why would a publisher fund books sitting in a warehouse? It is absolutely reinventing the supply chain.”
Ingram is now printing 1.5 million books a month, Gray reports, and the numbers are growing quickly. “POD offers straight access to the entire supply chain,” he says. “It’s really taken off, and more and more trade content is coming into the program. Anyone who is not engaged in POD is almost in dereliction of duty, it is such a core component of supply chain. Publishers are looking at [using it for] the front list as well as backlist.”
As the quality of POD has improved, an increasing number of publishers are using it to streamline printing, warehousing and distribution by joining these services under one roof, notes Yali Friedman, author and publisher of the textbook “Building Biotechnology.”