Monday, October 1, 2007

Print on Demand: A boon to DIY publishing

In the interview I linked to below, Jen mentions that Horse Less is planning to print books with Lulu, a print-on-demand publishing company. I’ve been meaning to write about POD on this blog for awhile, because it’s a huge issue in the printing industry, especially the book publishing specifically.

First of all, if you are remotely interested in the topic of DIY publishing, you should be reading the newsletter Publishing Basics put out by Ron Pramschufer of RJ Communications. It is the single best resource on independent publishing that I read regularly because of its balance between practical info and birds-eye view of the topic. For instance, here’s a recent article on’s acquisition of iUniverse.

If you want some perspective on the way POD is affecting book publishing, the article is a good place to start (and then read some of the back issues). One of things I’ve taken from my reading on POD and as partner in RMP is that the print-on-demand part of POD is not exactly why it has been a boon to DIY publishers.

Most people assume the reason that print-on-demand removes a huge barrier to independent publishing is because you don’t have to pay for books that don’t get sold. However, that particular cost savings is negligible in my view. Printing 1,000 books up front is not prohibitively expensive. In fact, the unit cost is always lower than if the books are printed on demand. Where I think POD printers have done a great service for DIY publishing is not in the printing but the auxiliary services, such as listing the books on a website, taking care of order processing and mailing the printed book when someone buys them. Those are the most expensive and time consuming parts of running an independent press.


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