Supply Chain Management
At academic and scientific publisher Elsevier, the challenge was to tailor book production for a wide-ranging market, from small, specialized technical manuals to textbooks with 1,000 contributors.
The use of author templates allows the work of textbook contributors to be moved easily through production with minimal editing. (Harlequin also makes use of fixed word and page counts to allow for maximum predictability.) Additionally, a management tool similar to the system adopted by AMG allows for tracking books on a day-by-day basis.
“There are no surprises, and that saves time and money,” notes Jim Donohue, managing director of science and technology books for Elsevier.
Printing on-demand for smaller runs (under 500) has become an important part of the company’s business model, allowing for more control, direct shipping from the printer and reduced warehousing and returns.
For all orders, “we work with suppliers and brick-and-mortars, sharing information both ways. They are judicious about what they order and sell, and we work closely with them on advance orders.”
Significantly, Elsevier now publishes 100 specialized academic books only electronically. Other printed books are supplemented by online content.
“Improving the time to market for books is the essence of what you’re doing,” notes Guy Broadhurst, director of product marketing at Océ.
(An interesting development was the Expresso Book Machine launched last year, which was designed to print and bind books ordered online at ATM-like machines set up in libraries and bookstores, altogether eliminating inventory, shipping and returns.)
Broadhurst sees wider applications for Harlequin’s combination of offset and digital printing. As sales taper off from a book’s original print run, POD can function as a way to capture sales along the “long tail” for large catalogs of backlisted titles.
For books likely to sell in small quantities for a long time, a smaller initial print run coupled with digital printing would make sense.