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On-Demand Book Production

Opportunities and Strategies
Opportunities to sell on-demand book production and related services abound within the book publishing marketspace. The successful sales representative must prepare thoroughly before he/she approaches a book publisher to fully understand and address the challenges and issues that the publisher faces.

When calling on publishing executives, the on-demand print sale representative should stress the following important economic benefits of on-demand book production:

Publisher Problems, Print-on-Demand Benefits

Publisher Problem

Print-on-Demand Benefit

Returns: High bookstore returns and low sell-through as a result of the books’ lack of perceived value by the reader.

Database-driven on-demand printing coupled with the use of variable data technologies will customize and personalize the book’s content to the reader. Additionally, digital printing technologies offer attractive short-run economies, which may enable the book publisher to operate with a more conservative production forecast. 

Demand: Demand for a given book is often unpredictable due to the nature of the content or lack of solid market data. In the case of course packs and customized textbooks, late student enrollments in colleges means going back to press in September and holding extra offset printed books for another 6 to 10 months.

Whether the book is a first printing of a niche trade book or a backlist title being sold by online booksellers, demand may be impossible to forecast. On demand book production ensures that there will not be lost sales due to stock out situations or excess and obsolete inventory, from the perspective of the cost to produce as well as reduced time in the production cycle. 

Revisions: Frequent revisions of books, manuals, or directories due to changing content results in excess inventory.

This is a constant in technical, legal, and business subjects. The result is always excess inventory that is built into the price of the book. On demand book production allows up-to-the-minute revision with little or no inventory obsolescence.

Adding incremental sales: Sales growth has fallen off and the book publisher is looking for new ways to add incremental sales without adding expenses or staff.

Perhaps the publisher is putting more books out-of-print than necessary to due to the economic order quantities (EOQ) required for offset printing. A keep-in-print program will allow a publisher to continue to reap returns from its up-front investments without adding staff or using valuable warehouse space.

Non-book materials: Managing all of the non-book materials that accompany a textbook is more than a publisher’s warehouse can handle. Materials such as CD-ROMs, audio and video cassettes, marketing collateral, and student study guides are a challenge to pick, pack, and ship in a seasonal business.

The core business of on-demand book printers is managing complex print-on-demand jobs. Many service providers have experience in handling client-owned inventories of print and non-print items for their clients.

Productivity:  All regular work in the marketing office stops when it is time to prepare and mail prepublication review and sample copies. 

On demand book manufacturers can set up programs to manage prepublication copy printing and mailing. No longer is it necessary to take a book’s page proof to a copy center to be printed and bound and then send it back to the publisher to be mailed to over 200 reviewers. Turnkey programs that address all aspects of prepublication, copy production, and distribution will make the publisher’s marketing department more effective.

The market potential for on-demand book printing remains potentially huge, and is in many cases limited only by the willingness of publishers and printers to re-engineer their production workflows or traditional work patterns.

The preceding is an excerpt from CAP Ventures’ white paper “Revisiting On-Demand Book Production: Opportunities, Strategies, and Practices.” For more information on this report, visit our online publication store or contact Alison Hipp at ext. 126.


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