So What Is Print on Demand?
Print on Demand (POD) is a recurring term on our website; it’s a cornerstone concept in our vision of publishing, after all. But unless you’ve read up on the printing industry beforehand, the real meaning behind the term might not be very clear. If you’re curious about how POD actually works, then this article is for you. In it, we’ll be discussing the process behind the technique, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of the method.
Offset Printing vs Print on Demand
Costs and Efficiency
Since the mid-20th century, offset printing has been the preferred method of commercial book printing. The process involves making an impression of a document on an aluminium plate. Ink is then applied to this plate, whereafter it is pressed against a thick sheet of rubber. The rubber, in turn, is then pressed against paper being fed into the press. Offset printing allows for cheap, high-quality production of large quantities of books.
However, this method is not economically viable unless large quantities are being printed, due to the costs involved with setting up the presses.
Naturally, this presents most self-published authors with a problem. Most people wouldn’t exactly be comfortable investing in several hundred copies right off the bat. Who knows if anyone is actually going to buy your book, after all?
This is where POD comes in. It’s exactly what it sounds like – we print the books as orders (i.e. demands) are placed. So, when you order a book in our bookstore, that order goes directly to our printers, who produce said book and send it to you directly.
The printing process is entirely digital, meaning it’s much quicker and far cheaper than setting up an offset printer. This means that the cost per book is lower, up to around 300 copies, which is when offset printing starts being profitable. In other words, this makes POD the perfect method for printing smaller batches of books. Great news for self-published authors!
Another issue with offset printing which is closely linked to the requirement of large quantities, is waste. The International Symposium on Sustainable Systems and Technology (ISSST) estimates that about 65% of the publishing industry’s CO2 emissions come from paper consumption. They also estimate that up to 35% of all printed books remain unsold and get returned for pulping.¹ That’s roughly the equivalent of 637,000 passenger vehicles being driven for a full year!²
By eliminating the need for such vast quantities of stock, Print on Demand is thus one of the primary solutions to minimizing the environmental impact caused by paper waste.¹
The Advantages of Print on Demand
This brings us to the advantages of Print on Demand when compared to offset printing, which are as follows:
- There’s no minimum order quantity. You can order as little as one copy, if you’re so inclined. This is great if you want to order an example copy to double check your final product. After all: can you imagine ordering 500 copies of your book only to realize that your meticulously designed cover, that looked so great on your screen, is lackluster in real life?
- Flexibility. Since there’s no minimum order quantity, you won’t be needing any storage space for surplus copies. At the same time, you’ll never run out of stock! If you need more copies before a book presentation for example, they’re just a button-click away. This also means that you can easily make changes to your manuscript on the fly, if necessary.
- Quick delivery times. With offset printing, delivery times tend to vary from a few days to a few weeks, depending on the size of the book and the number of copies ordered. In contrast, POD offers quick and fairly static delivery times, usually between 5-7 days.
- Quality books at low cost. Your readers won’t be able to see any difference in quality between an offset book and a POD book. In addition, we’re continuously in touch with our printing partners in order to monitor the process and ensure consistent, professional quality.
- Environmentally friendly. Since there’s no minimum order quantity, there’s no risk of large quantities of excess stock remaining unsold. Combined with the ability to make adjustments instantly, this minimizes paper waste that occurs due to excess stock and printing errors. At MBS, we also make sure that all our POD partners are compliant with the latest environmental regulations when it comes to supplies and equipment.
The Disadvantages of Print on Demand
This section may seem unrealistically short in comparison to the “pros” section, but that is primarily due to the fact that we’ve already touched upon the main disadvantage of POD. As mentioned, this disadvantage is that it’s unsuitable for printing larger quantities of books. If you want to print more than around 300 copies, offset becomes both more efficient and cost-effective.
We’ve covered the financial benefits of POD for self-published authors in the bullet points above, but if you’re interested in raw numbers, why not check out our price calculator? Simply select the formatting options you want for your book: cover type, dimensions, finish, paper type, the number of pages and whether or not the book should be in colour. We’ll then calculate the price per book, including potential bulk discounts (starting from 3 copies).
To Sum Up
POD is an ideal option for self-published authors, especially first-timers. The option to create fully customized books without a minimum order quantity makes it a very forgiving way to start your career as a writer. Also, direct selling has the highest potential profit margin for you as an author, scaling with bulk discounts. So, if you’re just starting out and need to maximize your profit per book, POD lets you do just that.
Sound good? Whether you’re just looking to print a few books or write one from scratch, we’re here to help. You can create a free account here, or contact us with any questions by sending an email to info[at]mybestseller.com.
¹ 2012 IEEE International Symposium on Sustainable Systems and Technology (ISSST) Sustainable Systems and Technology (ISSST), 2012 IEEE International Symposium on. :1-6 May, 2012
² United States Environmental Protection Agency, Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator. Accessed on 27/06/2019.