The introduction of Print On Demand technologies and business-models has fuelled a range of new book-creation and publishing opportunities. The innovation in this space is presently clustered around three categories of offerings.
1. Self-publishing authors
Print On Demand fuels a new category of publishing (or printing) company that offers services directly to authors who wish to self-publish, generally for a fee. These services generally consist of printing and shipping a book every time 1 is ordered, handling royalties and obtaining listings in on-line bookstores. The initial investment for POD services is usually less costly for little quantities of books when compared with self-publishing that uses print runs. Frequently other services are offered also: formatting, proof reading and editing, and so on. Such companies typically do not spend their own cash on marketing, unlike conventional publishers. Some POD Players are focused on serving this author segment. Their offerings are tailored to disintermediate classic publishers (à la Penguin, McGraw Hill). For authors who wish to design and promote their work themselves, POD businesses focus on the low-service, low-cost end of the market.
For authors, the possible benefits of POD publishing are several. They include editorial independence, speed to marketplace, ability to revise content, and greater share of royalties kept compared with conventional publishing.
2. Conventional publisher use
Print-on-demand services that offer printing and distributing services to publishing businesses rather than directly to authors are also growing in popularity within the industry.
Ideal to Maintaining availability
Among conventional publishers, Print On Demand services can be used to make sure that books remain available when one print run has sold out but an additional has not yet become obtainable, and to maintain the availability of older titles whose future sales might not be fantastic sufficient to justify a further conventional print run. This can be useful for publishers with big back catalogs of older works, where sales for individual titles might be low, but where cumulative sales might be substantial.
Helpful to Managing uncertainty
Print on demand could be utilized to decrease risk when dealing with “surge” titles which are expected to have large sales but a short sales life (like celebrity biographies or event tie-ins): these titles represent high profitability but also high risk owing to the danger of inadvertently printing many more copies than are essential, and also the associated costs of maintaining excess inventory or pulping. POD permits a publisher to exploit a short “sales window” with minimized risk exposure by “guessing low” – utilizing cheaper conventional printing to produce enough copies to satisfy a more pessimistic forecast of the title’s sales, and then relying on POD to make up the distinction.
3. Ideal for Niche publications
Print on demand is also used to print and reprint “niche” books that might have a high retail price but limited sales opportunities, like specialist academic works. An academic publisher may be expected to keep these specialist titles in print even though the target market is nearly saturated, making further conventional print runs uneconomic.
Many of the smallest little presses, often called micro-presses simply because they’ve inconsequential profits, have turn out to be heavily reliant on POD technology and ebooks. This is either because they serve such a small marketplace that print runs would be unprofitable or because they are too little to absorb much financial risk.