Print On Demand
Special to BookTech by Danny O. Snow
For centuries, publishers have wrestled with one simple but crucial question upon which their success often depends: How many copies should we print? On one hand, fundamental economics of printing encourage publishers to produce as many copies as possible to achieve better economies of scale and lower per-unit costs. Meanwhile, the cost of unsold copies can also erode profit margins.
The sunny side of POD
Print-on-demand (POD) increasingly offers today's publishers a good solution to this central dilemma. By allowing publishers to print exactly enough copies to meet market demands and no more, POD drastically reduces, or even eliminates, the effect of unsold copies. The benefits of eliminating waste and reducing financial risk/expense are enormous to the publisher. Of course, contemporary POD technologies can be limited and do not yet meet the needs of all publishers. But POD's limitations are diminishing every day, and the technology's economic benefits are so powerful that more publishers are finding ways to use it successfully. This article will explore the reasons why, as explained by key industry players.
Not exactly a new phenomenon
The concept of on-demand delivery isn't new in industries outside publishing. Retailers of hard goods have relied on "just in time" (JIT) delivery for years. For example, a key factor in the success of retail giant Wal-Mart was the linking of its in-store cash registers to a centralized inventory control system, allowing the retailer to replenish inventory in direct proportion to sales. However, retailers' JIT systems depend on having readily-available previously manufactured goods located in a central warehouse. POD takes the concept to the next level: The product is manufactured and shipped on demand, practically eliminating the need for inventory, warehousing expenses and many other costs associated with bringing books to market.