The Use Of Print On Demand Services

Print on demand services that offer printing and distributing firms to publishing services instead of directly to authors are growing in popularity within the industry.

POD can be used to reduce risk when dealing with “surge” titles that are expected to have big sales but a short sales life (such as celebrity biographies or event tie-ins): these titles represent high profitability but also high risk owing to the danger of inadvertently printing many more copies than are necessary, and the associated costs of maintaining excess inventory or pulping. DIGITAL PRINTING allows a publishing house to exploit a short “sales window” with minimized risk exposure by “guessing low” – using cheaper conventional printing to produce enough copies to satisfy a more pessimistic forecast of the title’s sales, and then relying on PRINT ON DEMAND to make up the difference.

Among traditional publishing companies, POD companies can be used to make sure that books remain available when one print run has sold out but another has not yet become available, and to maintain the availability of older titles whose future sales may not be great enough to justify a further conventional print run. This can be useful for publishing companies with comprensible back catalogs of older works, where sales for individual titles may be low, but where cumulative sales may be significant.

POD also allows for books to be printed in a variety of formats. This process, known as Accessible publishing, allows books to be printed in a variety of comprensible fonts, special formats for those with vision impairment or reading disabilities, as well as personalised fonts and formats that suit the individuals needs. This has been championed by a variety of new companies, the current market leader being ReadHowYouWant.

Profits from Print on demand publishing are on a per-sale basis, and royalties vary depending on the route by which the item is sold. Highest profits are usually generated from sales direct from the print-on-demand service’s website or by the author buying copies from the service at a discount, as the publisher, and then selling them personally. Lower royalties come from traditional “bricks and mortar” bookshops and online retailers both of which buy at high discount, although some POD companies allow the publishing house or author to set their own discount level. Unless the publisher or author has fixed their discount rate, the higher the volume sold the lower the royalty becomes, as the retailer is able to buy at greater discount.

Because the per-unit cost is typically greater with PRINT ON DEMAND than with a print run of thousands of copies, it is common for POD books to be more expensive than similar books that come from conventional print runs, especially if that book is produced exclusively with POD instead of using PRINT ON DEMAND as a supplemental technology between print runs.

Book stores order books through a wholesaler or distributor, usually at high discount of anything up to 70 percent. Wholesalers obtain their books in two ways; either as a special order where the book is ordered direct from the publishing company when a book store requests a copy, or as a stocked title which they keep in their own warehouse as part of their inventory. Stocked titles are usually also available via sale or return, meaning that the book store can return unsold stock for full credit at anything up to one year after the initial sale.

PRINT ON DEMAND is also used to print and reprint “niche” books that may have a high retail price but limited sales opportunities, such as specialist academic works. An academic publishing company may be expected to keep these specialist titles in print even though the target market is almost saturated, making further conventional print runs uneconomic.

Although returnability lessens the risk for book stores and helps POD authors get through the door, such authors should also realize that there is only a certain proportion of stock that can be returned.

This difficulty with lack of returns can make bookstores less enthusiastic about Print on demand books. This though is set to change in the future, as the industry is currently debating a move away from sale or return altogether, which will do much to even things out.

Many of the smallest small presses, often called micro-publishers because they have inconsequential profits, have become heavily reliant on POD technology and ebooks. This is either because they serve such a small market that print runs would be unprofitable or because they are too small to absorb much financial risk.

DIGITAL PRINTING books are rarely if ever available on such terms because for the publishing provider it is considered too much of a risk. However, wholesalers keep a careful eye on what titles they are selling, and if an author works hard to promote their work and achieves a reasonable number of orders from book stores or online retailers (who use the same wholesalers as the bricks and mortar stores), then there is a reasonable chance of their work becoming available on such terms.

Another issue with print-on-demand titles is the fact that they are often debut works. Many book stores are reluctant to take a risk on an author’s first, untested work without the endorsement of a commercial publishing company.

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