Making the Case for Digital Printing – Â Tools of Change Conference – Feb. 22, 1:30 – 3:30
Brian O’Leary and Ashley Gordon
This session was directed to publishers who are thinking about digital printing opportunities. Â The speakers were obviously pro-digital printing and provided many examples of the benefits of digital printing for publishers. Â But, libraries should take note. Â Digital printing could be a good source of revenue for libraries who have large digital collections. Â I particular like the idea of “chunking” Â and creating keepsake books from public domain material (discussed below). Â Consortia could purchase a POD machine and member libraries could use this for a variety of projects, just think of the number of digital collections in one consortia. Â What great revenue! Â The speakers discussed 3 overlapping segments in digital printing- digital printing vendors, onsite services, and author services
Digital printing is more than print on demand (POD). Â POD is a strategy in digital printing.
Content: Think in terms of content, not the physical book
1. Digital printing vendors
- listed 12 digital printing suppliers such as Lightning Source, CreateSpace, Textstream, etc., each is different but has their sweet spot
- types of digital printing : pure POD 1 – 100, ultra short run 50-500, traditional short run 300 – 2,000 and offset 1,000+
- each overlaps in services, Ingram and Baker & Taylor are the only two that can take the content all the way to the retail end of things
- vendors look for printable PDF’s, XML or native-application formats like InDesign, Quark and sometimes Word (Word may cost more)
- all offer 3rd party conversion of content
- $200-300 to scan a book, this is more expensive than digital conversions
- limitations – paper choices, trim sizes, max page counts (80-740), foil stamping or embossing, rough cut edges, sewn bindings, case-bound color, spot colors (look for small set of vendors who specialize in the features you require)
- more titles to convert = better price
- backlist is popular (not just long tail) for digital printing, just-in-time printing (good for overseas expansion b/c shipping is so high)
- new formats can be addressed such as large print (traditionally held for popular titles)
- just in time inventory saves on the rent, great for small independent publishers
- crashing and bridging – “printing miracles” – examples given for companies who used digital printing to create a market opportunity – making sure your content is ready for POD is key. Â (Gave Governor Sarah Palin bio example, her only bio wasn’t ready for POD a few days prior to her announcement to be VP candidate)
- digital printing can lower the unit cost of books sold- focus on the total cost per book sold (not printed), must include the manufacturing cost, returns/unsold, spoilage/shrinkage, and carrying costs
- unit costs per POD book printed are higher than seen with conventional technologies, could be lower depending on sell through for a title
- POD can help reduce or eliminate returns/unsold copies – publishers can choose inventory objectives, and it supports zero inventory, POD titles could be sold as non-returnable, they can be fulfilled directly
- POD can reduce inventory/spoilage/shrinkage – this can consume about 10% of the print run
- reducing inventory cuts carrying costs – warehouse costs can range from $.12 to $1.80 per copy, for slow moving copies the carrying cost can exceed the manufacturing costs
- more content = more money – gave OUP example of 15K+ titles available through Google Book Search, nearly 144 million pages were viewed, over 700K readers clicked the buy the book link, an average of 47 purchased the book, expensive books – average price was $40. Â Publishers leave cash on the table by not making backlist/out of print titles available for POD.
- digital printing supports new formats – large print is a growing market, or use personalization software to personalize a book and give as a gift (use public domain titles to create keepsake items), chunking – make a brand new book from content that is available from multiple sources (this was done at the ALA Conference in Chicago, shown on the exhibit floor)
- Curious, could libraries get the rights to POD “chunking” of reference titles? Â It would be great to get a collection of reference articles on a topic together in one location.
- Some cautions – some publishers could take books out-of-print that shouldn’t be, or large print books could go by the wayside if POD could provide the service – side note – many Kindle owners are over 50 and the Â option for font size changes could eliminate the need for Large Print.
2. Onsite Services
- Instabook (Bookends), On Demand Books (Espresso Book Machine)
- limited but growing market penetration
- they promising uses – customized content, high traffic areas
- get a book in about 4 minutes
- expands the size of a bookstore without taking physical space
3. Author Services
- 10 companies listed such as Author House, Lulu, Blurb, Bookends – these smaller companies are growing and working with many traditional publishers, traditional publishers can learn from these folks
- authors can pick/choose services. Â they show up with a manuscript and end with a book, some with an ISBN
- promotion and fulfillment usually not included, they farm out fulfillment
The speakers ended with a matrix of costs and printing types for digital printing in an excel spreadsheet. Â They inserted real numbers from a publisher to determine the cost savings achieved with digital printing. Â Tim is willing to share a snapshot of this, but the actual model is proprietary. Â The model assumes that every book printed and not spoiled is sold. Â There’s no reduction in the model for copies not sold.
- can save you money – keep or invest
- offers alternative to keep books in print
- may help grow book sales
- set up costs – if backlist is not in digital format, that’s an issue
- vendor capabilities
- pricing is not always transparent
Discoverability and access in a POD world
- lower demand titles are less likely to make it to bookshelves
- successful digital printing strategies use online to promote titles
- direct sales probably not as successful in the near term
- individual authors without a platform may be best served by author services
How do you get started?
- determine your objectives, what do you want POD to accomplish?
- title set up: fees, process, file types, book specs
- design your workflow with POD in mind
- identify vendors and partners
- know your numbers