Think again about POD

Producing books using print-on-demand (POD) technologies is hardly new (a decade or more of commercial experience, depending on where you draw the starting line), and imprints like Cambridge University Press have made it a standard option in planning and serving their lists.

More recently, I’ve met with smaller publishers like the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) and heard their compelling argument for making an entire list POD. AIHA provides its members with technical publications that are updated frequently, and they understandably correct errors whenever uncovered. Converting to POD helped AIHA maintain an “inventory” of files that is always up to date. They print a copy when you order a copy.

I’m convinced that almost every publisher could benefit from greater use of POD as a planning and production tool, even when acquiring some front-list titles. My core arguments are that:

  • POD is cheaper than you think, particularly if you look at the total cost (manufacturing plus inventory and carrying costs) per book sold (that is, net of returns and unsold copies)
  • POD quality is better than you think. If you haven’t looked recently at a book produced using POD technology, call a supplier and ask for a sample.
  • 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 – no small matter in a market increasingly sensitive to sustainability issues.

Elsewhere on this web site, you can find and download copies of two presentations I’ve developed and presented to outline where POD makes sense as a publishing option. The two decks focus on the cost argument, primary, and they overlap a fair amount. The June 2008 BookExpo Canada deck includes information specific to the Canadian marketplace, while the December 2008 O’Reilly Media webinar deck focuses on the structure and more general arguments in favor of POD.

In both presentations, the core message is the same: POD makes sense to use (far) more often than it is employed today.

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.

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