Print on Demand trends

February 8, 2011

When Caxton invented the printing press he revolutionised communication. Copies of writing could be created far quicker using the machine than the existing technology of having someone copy it word for word in handwriting.

From Caxton’s time onwards the ownership of a press required lots of capital up front and this was reflected in the cost of printing. Every page of a document had to be set in metal before being printed, this was an expensive process – the cost of which was divided among the number of copies printed, meaning it was always cheaper per unit to print as many copies as possible.

Thus, publishing anything in great numbers came with a large financial risk.

In the last few years, the advent of digital printing has removed many of the old costly methods involved in printing. Because great sheets of metal do not need to be indented, much of the upfront cost of publishing has disappeared, or at least it has reduced to a manageable rate.

Within the publishing industry this seismic shift is called Print On Demand (POD).

Instead of printing thousands and thousands of copies of a book to reduce the per unit price enough to make it an economical process, we are at the stage where the economical rate is down in the hundreds.

Instead of printing 10,000 copies of a book and hoping to shift them all in a couple of years, with all the inherent business risks carrying that much stock would bring, a publisher can print a decent sized initial run and depending on the actual demand from the market, print more copies.

In my opinion the logical extension of POD will see book stores with every book ever written stored on a PC’s hard drive connected to a printing and binding machine capable of producing one copy of any book while the customer waits – most probably the waiting will be done over a cappuccino in the store’s coffee shop!

For now that is science fiction, but with the advances we have seen recently in printing technology, it can’t be that far away…

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