What is POD?
POD stands for Print On Demand, and it has the potential to revolutionize the publishing industry. Long ago, when books were made by hand, almost every book was -- in essence -- "print on demand": it took considerable time and effort to make a book, and it was uncommon to make any book unless someone needed it.
Then came mass-market publishing, with paperback editions in every bookstore and airport around the world. Books became products whose production, distribution, and sales systems closely matched those of many other mass-produced goods. Books were printed in runs of thousands or tens of thousands at a time, but it became very difficult for publishers to calculate their actual sales. Warehousing and returns of unsold books meant that sales totals were guesswork until six months or a year after a publication went out to bookstores.
In the world of conventional mass-market and even short-run publishing, the risks for new publishers are significant. Publishers will often expect to sell many copies of a new book, and pay for large print runs, only to sell far fewer books than they anticipated. Even in cases where sales are brisk, returns from distributors and booksellers often leave a publisher with hundreds of unsold copies. These returns are often damaged to the point of being unsaleable, and arrive six months or a year after the book's publication date. The only way for publishers to stay in business in this kind of market is to have plenty of cash resources, and that has made it difficult for new, small-scale publishers to enter the market or stay afloat.
The Print On Demand system is possible thanks to new capabilities in computers and computer printers. Specialized laser printers can now produce print quality very, very close to that achieved by traditional offset printing. The essential difference is that Print On Demand books can be printed one at a time, as required. The binding process is essentially the same as that used in standard editions, and the end result is a book -- whether trade paper or hardcover -- which is almost identical to one produced by offset printing.
For the publisher, this means a book can be trial-printed in editions of dozens or hundreds of copies. Once it has become evident that a given title is a hot seller, it can be printed in volume using standard offset presses, but for books in specialty markets -- which may only sell dozens or hundreds of copies a year -- Print On Demand is the perfect solution.
For an author, Print On Demand means that every time a book is shipped, it is shipped to a paying customer. Royalty payments based on actual sales are easy to calculate.
For a bookstore, Print On Demand appears to have one major drawback: in principle, there are no returns. This means the bookstore has to make its own marketing decisions, and take responsibility for its choices. In fact, this can be a significant benefit for a bookseller. If a shop decides to provide Print On Demand books as a special order, they can be ordered and received within a week. If it decides to keep a title in stock, it can order as many copies as it likes, at any time.
Amazon, one of the world's biggest book retailers, offers a large number of Print On Demand titles, most of which are not kept in inventory. When it receives an order, Amazon automatically orders the book from the Print On Demand printer, and either passes it on to the customer via its warehouse, or has it mailed direct from the printer. Print On Demand book production is fast enough that the customer can rarely tell the difference in delivery time between a book from Amazon's warehouse and one that was printed on demand.
At Kurodahan Press, we hope to make the best possible use of this new technology as we grow and expand our reach as a publisher. Our readers will always receive high-quality books produced to archival standards. Our authors will benefit from the flexibility and long-term sales possible with the new technology.