It has to be said that print-on-demand (POD) has changed the way the publishing industry does business. But before we talk about the wonders of POD, let’s define what it is. In a nutshell, it's the process by which a book is printed when an order for that book is received. With POD there’s no inventory being stored or anticipated demand being measured—get an order, print a book, one at a time.
History of Print on Demand
POD really started some 20 years ago when John Ingram founded a company called Lightning Source®. The print quality of POD has improved to the point that it is virtually indistinguishable from a traditionally printed book. Publishers large and small use POD today as part of their overall business plan to test demand of a new author or genre and then print traditionally if a title takes off, allowing them to publish more and anticipate demand. Publishers of low demand content use POD for their titles. Low demand can mean as many as 10,000 books, but you won't see your Stephen King, James Patterson, or J.K. Rowling novels being printed on demand. Those books are considered high demand and are printed via offset printing. It's necessary for there to be stock of those titles at all times to try to stay ahead of demand, whereas print on demand titles are printed on the spot as orders are placed.
Wonder #1 – Reduces Publisher’s Financial Risk
POD reduces the publisher’s financial risk to print a book and bring it to market. Before POD, a publisher had to predict the demand over time, print, warehouse and ship the number of copies they predicted could be sold with the result being that they often predicted incorrectly. A surprise best-seller created almost as many headaches as a title that was languishing in the warehouse.
Wonder #2 – Variety of Options
POD includes the choice of hardcover, hardcovers with a dust jacket, a wide variety of trim sizes constantly being expanded, and different options for color interiors. And when you tie POD in directly with distribution, customers get POD service bundled with e-book distribution to 39,000 retail and libraries. Ingram has continued to invest in POD technology and is considered today the global leader.
Wonder #3 – Edits on the Fly
Probably the best thing about POD is that a title can be easily updated or corrected. Imagine that you get a great endorsement or book review or spot an embarrassing typo on the first page (it happens). If you had boxes of printed books stacked in your garage you wouldn’t be able to make those changes until you sold through that inventory (or worse simply threw out all of your stock containing the typo). With POD, it’s as easy as saying “abracadabra” and another problem is solved.
There are several common misconceptions when it comes to print on demand, but POD books are widely accepted in the publishing industry today with how far the technological advancements have come and the variety and economy it offers to independent and traditional publishers alike.
For more information about the wonders of print on demand, be sure to listen to our 15-minute episode of Go Publish Yourself, IngramSpark's self-publishing podcast.