Print on demand

From Academic Kids

Print on demand (POD) is a publishing business model. The main distinguishing mark for print (or publish) on demand is that a copy is not created until after an order is received. While it is conceivable that one could print on demand using any printing technology (e.g. linocut or Gutenberg letter press), digital printing is so often employed that the terms are often used interchangeably. Digital technology is ideally suited to publish small print runs of books and posters (often as a single copy) as and when they are needed. To add to the confusion, Print on Demand is also a trademark of Cygnus Business Media, Inc.

Print on Demand with digital technology is used as a way of publishing books to order for a fixed cost per copy, irrespective of the size of the order. While the unit price of each physical book printed is higher than with offset printing, when setup costs are taken into account digital Print on Demand provides lower per unit costs for very small print runs than traditional printing methods.

The introduction of UV durable inks and media for large format inkjet printers has allowed artists, photographers and owners of image collections to take advantage of print on demand too. The National Gallery, London installed a print on demand system using HP printers and technology in their shop in July 2003. The system increased the number of images available as prints from 60 to 2500 (almost all of the gallery's permanent collection).

While the unit cost of a book or print produced using POD is usually higher than one produced as part of a longer print run, POD does bring some key business benefits: 1) large inventories of the book or poster do not need to be kept in stock, 2) the technical set-up is usually quicker and less expensive than for traditional printing and 3) there is little or no waste from unsold products. These advantages reduce the risks associated with publishing books and prints and can lead to increased choice for consumers. However, the reduced risks can also mean that quality control is occasionally less rigorous than usual.

While most print-on-demand services do ask an up front fee for the creation of the digital masters, editing, and formatting services, it is likely to be less than the set-up for traditional printing.

Profits from print on demand publishing are on a per sale basis and the amount of commission will often vary depending on the route by which the item is sold. Highest profits are usually generated from sales direct from the print-on-demand service's website or by buying copies from the service at a discount, as the publisher, and then selling them yourself. Lowest commission usually come from sales from "bricks and mortar" bookshops, with on-line bookstores falling somewhere in between.

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