Print-on-demand and the backlist

Print-on-demand and the backlist

Publishers are always looking for ways to keep older titles in circulation and make them available to a wider audience. One way they can do this is by using print-on-demand technology, which allows them to reduce costs and inventory levels.

Print-on-demand (POD) technology is a process by which books are printed as they are ordered. Books are printed “on demand” using digital print technology, bound, and then shipped to the publisher’s warehouse or directly to the customer. While larger publishers may install this capability within their distribution centers, others access the technology through their distributors or external services, such as Ingram’s Lightning Source or Amazon’s POD program.

A publisher will set up their title with these channels and then either pass orders to them in an order-to-order process or allow Amazon or Ingram to print individual books for orders that come in through their respective channels.

POD has several benefits for publishers. It allows older titles to stay in circulation, which can help to widen the audience for those books. Additionally, POD can help publishers reduce costs and inventory levels. This can be especially helpful for smaller publishers who may not have the resources to keep a large inventory of books on hand. Additionally, POD can help to ensure that books are available when they are ordered, which can reduce delays and frustration for customers.

POD can help publishers reduce costs and inventory levels in a few ways. First, POD eliminates the need to print large quantities of books, which reduces printing costs. It does this by eliminating makeready costs, dropping the size of an effective print run as low as 1. Additionally, POD allows publishers to order only the number of needed books, which reduces inventory costs and offers sustainability benefits by eliminating overprinting. By reducing or eliminating inventory, a publisher will reduce the investment and the cost of maintaining that inventory. Finally, POD makes it possible to keep older titles in circulation, which increases sales and reduces the need to discount prices.

There are several drawbacks/considerations to using POD, the first of which is that individual books can cost more than their conventionally produced counterparts. This is especially true for four-color titles. If the margin was tight for the original book, the publisher might need to increase the price for the POD edition. Most POD printers support a limited range of trim sizes, binding styles, ink, paper grades, and weights. This can lead to differences in book size, bulk, and case quantities, causing issues in the warehouse. If the deviation between what the POD printer can handle and the original format of the book is large enough, it might well require re-composition. If you use specialty ink for your covers, say to match a series design, the colors might not match exactly.

Finally, the files used for POD are usually different than the files for conventional, so there may be some modification required before use. And there’s always the issue of permissions. It's difficult to make sure that permissions on third-party materials remain current and under the agreed print quantities in the best of circumstances but especially so if permissions tracking isn’t set up to recognize POD printing.

Despite these drawbacks, the future of POD is looking very bright. With the ability to reduce costs and inventory levels, as well as keep older titles in circulation, POD is a valuable tool for publishers. As POD technology becomes increasingly advanced, it is easier to use and more accessible to a wider audience.

POD is a type of digital printing that allows publishers to print books on demand as orders are received. This technology has been around for about two decades, but it has only recently become popular because of the growth of the internet and the decline in bookstores. POD works by sending digital files to a printer, which can then produce a physical copy of the book. The main benefit of using POD is that it allows publishers to keep older titles in circulation and make them available to a wider audience. Additionally, POD can help publishers reduce costs and inventory levels. The future of POD looks bright as more people adopt e-reading devices and order books online. Publishers who embrace POD technology will be able to stay ahead of the curve and keep their backlist titles in print.

By Ken Brooks, founder of consulting firm Treadwell Media Group and a founding partner of Publishing Technology Partners. Brooks served as chief content officer at Wiley and COO at Macmillan Learning.

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