Distribution in the Digital Age
“POD works very well for textbooks and backlist books, where demand varies significantly over the course of a year,” he says. “Instead of paying up-front to print large quantities, and running the risk that they won’t sell in a timely manner, POD allows publishers to have books printed as they’re ordered. This means that textbooks won’t go out of stock in the middle of back-to-school season, and backlist books won’t fill warehouses.”
Martin Cournoyer, general manager and digital printing specialist at Transcontinental, says cost savings are emerging as a central advantage of digital printing as publishers look beyond cost-per-unit considerations in the face of rising energy and transportation prices.
“Right now with digital, maybe the unit cost is more expensive compared to offset, but the total cost, when taking into consideration distribution, inventory and sending books back because they cannot sell—this is a new way to look at it,” he says.
The Role of the Big Distributor
Even as more publishers find opportunities for taking on the printing and distribution role themselves through venues like Amazon and direct selling on their own Web sites, Simonds believes that the role of the big distributors is not likely to be eradicated any time soon.
Reviewers and retailers often will not pay attention to a book that is not listed in Ingram or Baker & Taylor, she says, because of concerns about availability.
“We encourage small presses to find some kind of distributor; otherwise, it’s almost insurmountable to get anyone other than a small, local bookstore interested in you,” she says. “If you can get a distributor and get some marketing going, and if people come in and say ‘Why don’t you have this book?’—that’s when [bookstores] will start stocking it. Our business is about getting people to go into the bookstore and ask for something.”