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Open Question: What is the Best Use for Print on Demand?

PublicAffairs Books recently used POD services from Lightning Source to manage demand for Scott McClellan’s What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception.

From a Lightning Source press release (pdf):

PublicAffairs’ experience with this title demonstrates how POD can be used to supplement offset printings in specific cases in which demand exceeds supply for a short term. In this instance, the POD copies of the book will supplement large scale conventional offset reprints, which are underway.

PublicAffairs used POD as an insurance policy, and panelists in a Digital Custom Publishing session at BEA also noted POD’s use in short runs, niche titles and its importance as a Long Tail tool.

But do insurance policies, niche books and Long Tail plays represent the extent of POD’s opportunities? What options do you see for POD? How have you used it in your own organization? How will POD evolve? Please share your thoughts in the comments area.

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  • http://toc.oreilly.com/keith_fahlgren/ Keith Fahlgren

    POD can also be quite useful when you need something extremely quickly. We’ll do a tiny POD run before a regular offset printing for books that we absolutely have to have at a conference, for example.

  • http://www.threepress.org Liza Daly

    Alternate layout or typographic formats seem like obvious candidates: large print, for example. Maybe 5 or (more likely 10+) years out, this could include high-quality automatic machine translations.

    “Bonus” material, including material that might be released later. For example, if I bought Atonement through Amazon or another online bookseller, they could email me to let me know that the movie just came out and I can download or POD the screenplay.

    For CC-licensed remixable work, POD derivatives. Imagine if JK Rowling specifically blessed fan fiction — the publisher might offer the top ten novel-length fan fiction works as POD, as determined by user ratings.

  • phunkysai

    POD will be a boon for indy publishers or self-published authors, much like online outlets have become a boon for “new media” publishers. Authors will not necessarily have to rely on big media conglomerates any longer, which can have its down-sides, but in the end could pave the way for an astonishing amount of original and innovative content.

    I’ve used POD (LuLu) for self-published books that I intended as a gift (I never would have had that option in the pre-LuLu days). As a writer, it’s an exciting time to know that getting your work out to the masses is only a few clicks away.

  • Jeremy Dunck

    POD is useful where demand for particular works is geographically sparse, making conventional distribution cost-prohibitive.

    Archive.org’s bookmobiles have been demonstrating this for years.

  • bowerbird

    in the future, print-on-demand will be
    the _norm_. for _everything_ printed…

    or, more accurately, p.a.t.p.o.d will be.

    that’s print-at-the-point-of-demand…

    the idea that a publisher would print
    a large run at a certain place and then
    _ship_ the copies to points-of-demand
    will seem downright silly, and stupid…

    (even if we _could_ afford it, and we
    obviously won’t be able to afford it,
    with energy shooting through the roof.)


  • http://mediterraneancruisesinfo.com David Cruise

    I must add here that I bought Atonement through Amazon or another online bookseller, they could email me to let me know that the movie just came out and I can download or POD the screenplay.