Special Advertising Section: Digital Printing: The Burgeoning Business of Books
"There's really no minimum or maximum on the offset. It depends on quantity breaks and those are often based on page counts." says Ray Sevin, President of BookMasters in Ashland, Ohio. "Under 1,000 copies we tend to go to digital, but we flop back and forth a lot. The decision of which press to use is ultimately based on the customer's needs and press availability."
A New Long Tail
Digital production has changed the "long tail" of publishing because a title can literally never go out of print. Leveraging this, publishers—whether large publishing houses, small independent imprints or even self-publishing authors—are looking to digital presses and short runs as a key to managing cash flow—and maintaining profitability.
"Digital printing allows customers to take a lot of the guesswork out of guessing how many books they will sell in a couple years. Now they can print only what they know they need right now, and can re-evaluate and reprint down the road as needed," explains Hess.
There's also a big service and convenience factor. "We take time out of the equation for publishers," says Knight. "We can make books available on short notice for special events, book signings, market testing and speaker engagements. It's interesting to note that reviewers are more receptive to books that are bound and look ready to sell than they are to just receiving a review copy of a manuscript."
Such levels of control are part of the allure of digital book production, and part of the infrastructure at BookMasters, which also acts as a distributor for some of its customers.
"Low inventory levels and short runs also drive revenue for the publisher," explains Sevin. "For example, a title produced in short runs can be sold on the publisher's Web site and directly shipped to the customer. An offset version of the title that would sell through a retailer might cost the publisher $2 a copy. But they give up about half of the cover price to the retailer. A short run of digital copies might cost $6 each, but are sold through the publisher's Web site. This eliminates the retail level and returns a greater profit for the publisher, even though the cost of production is higher."