Print On Demand
Solution: As POD technologies evolve, production costs are coming down, says Victor Celerio, CEO of InstaBook, a Gainesville, Fla.-based manufacturer of equipment that allows users to print and bind a book in seconds. The company's integrated, single-step book-maker can produce books of the above-mentioned specifications for about $1 each. Even at higher per-unit costs, POD still may be more cost-efficient than offset printing for many modest-selling titles.
Don DeHart, president, DeHart's, Santa Clara, Calif., quips that a publisher who offset prints 3,000 books but has 2,900 in the warehouse really hasn't saved any money at all.
And according to John Ruggeri, vice president of marketing for Phoenix Color, Hagerstown, Md., "The only cost-effective method of printing short-run books is print-on-demand. The cost advantage to printing less than 500 copies almost always favors POD over offset," he notes.
Getting POD Books to Retailers
Problem: While POD allows publishers to produce books at a fraction of the cost, some publishers face challenges getting them to retailers.
Solution: Major POD services such as Lightning Source and Replica Books, Bridgewater, N.J., offer publishers broad distribution through bookstores, thanks to corporate relationships with leading distributors. LSI is a division of Ingram; Replica, a unit of Informata.com, the e-commerce division of Baker & Taylor. As a result, publishers who release POD editions through these companies or their affiliates can gain access to the world's largest distribution channels. LSI and Replica sometimes produce a handful of copies of newly released POD books for their main warehouses, so that POD titles are actually in stock, albeit in small quantities, when orders are placed by bookstores. This also helps blur the line between the distribution of POD titles and conventional books.
Not on the Shelves
Problem: Because POD books aren't printed until consumers place their orders, the lack of availability at point-of sale (POD books rarely are on bookstore shelves) may be a drawback. In an age of instant gratification, consumers don't usually want to wait several days to get their purchases. For example, at online booksellers such as Amazon.com, there's substantially less contrast between POD books and conventional books. I recently ordered a POD title from a dot-com bookseller, and had it delivered in five days—about the same as a traditional book ordered online. While online orders for POD books aren't always fulfilled this quickly, the integration of systems for publishers, printers and retailers is steadily improving.