As You Like It
As professors begin creating their course plan for the year, often they’ll select a title that they once used during their days as an undergrad or graduate student, not realizing that the title has been pulled from the backlist of the publisher as ‘out of print.’
The advent of short-run digital technology has allowed publishers to offer books that are no longer in print in quantities anywhere from one to a few thousand. The technology in recent years also has opened up custom publishing divisions at major educational publishers.
Pearson Education is one of several large educational book publishers to offer such a program to its customers. The company’s custom publishing program with Offset Paperback Manufacturers (OPM) allows professors to pull chapters from several titles to create their course material.
“Whether it be Pearson, McGraw-Hill or Thomson, their custom divisions are pretty much all digital print,” says Dale Williams, director of prep, sheetfed and digital printing operations at OPM. “Because the professors that order material from these companies take chapters from different books and combine them into a new book for a different class, it’s obviously going to be shorter run.”
Williams says that the custom book program the Berryville, Va., company fulfills for Pearson takes up to about 85 percent to 90 percent of its digital print capacity. “[Last] year we did about a billion pages [with Pearson], and [this year] it’s supposed to be closer to a billion-five, maybe two billion pages,” Williams says.
Currently OPM is able to produce only black and white customized books for Pearson, but Williams says the company will be able to offer color custom publishing in 2006 at price points the market will be able to bear.
“Right now, if [educational publishers] have a [custom order] that requires a lot of color pages, [they’re] chopping up the books,” he says. “They have a warehouse full of these books and they … take chapters out …. That’s just labor-intensive.”