Effective Use of On-Demand Technology

Cambridge University Press (CUP) was an early advocate of effective use of on-demand production technology. The publisher’s recent decision to close its North American warehouse and outsource printing, (limited) storage and fulfillment to Ingram is a logical next step.

As reported by Jim Milliot at Publishers Weekly, CUP’s sales have increased over the last few years, but the number of books shipped from its warehouse has “fallen substantially”. This reflects the impact of shorter runs shipped directly from on-demand printers as well as the growing share of digital sales.

Although the use of POD has become more mainstream in the last few years, many publishers with digital workflows continue to default to longer-run, inventory-driven models. Three years ago, I had a chance to point to work we had done in this area, noting that:

  • POD is cheaper than you think, particularly if you look at the total cost per book sold
  • POD quality is better than you think, and
  • POD’s “smaller footprint” (print what you need, and reduce or eliminate the need to discard what doesn’t get sold) represents a more environmentally appealing use of available resources

As the capabilities of on-demand printers have improved, these claims have become only more compelling. CUP has done a good job of leading the way. The time is right for many other publishers to follow them.

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.