2008-01-28

I Got Your POD Right Here

Today seems to be Print On Demand (POD) day over at Publisher's Lunch. Two, count 'em, two articles on POD.

I'll say right up front that POD, as a technology/business model is good for some projects: If you're a seminar leader and have books to hand out; if you're a poet; and genealogy-related books/projects, for instance.

e If you want a mainstream, traditional career (especially where fiction is concerned), then go with literary agents or smaller publishers (because most of the majors just aren't handling slush anymore).

Here's the first article:
New POD Options: Perseus and Edwards Partner on In-House Printing
The Perseus Books Group is returning to print-on-demand via its own facility with a new partnership with printer Edwards Brothers to set up a digital print center in the publisher's Jackson, TN distribution center. The in-house operation should be set up by this fall, and in the meantime they will use Edwards Brothers' outside machines to "ramp up titles in the program."

Perseus will offer the service to all of their distribution clients and use the capability for their own imprints. CEO David Steinberger says it's "the first of a range of digital services that we are making available to our independent publisher clients."

Steinberger says they are able to offer digital printing solution to clients "on attractive terms" drawing on the scale of their overall operation. Client pricing is designed to cover the company's direct and related costs. "The only way we will make money is if this leads to greater sales for the independent publishers we represent. Those greater sales will mean more money for independent publishers, for us and for booksellers."

The offer is non-exclusive, so nothing prevents clients from continuing to work with other vendors such as Lightning Source and Booksurge at the same time. Steinberger notes, "our in-house publishers currently print tens of thousands of units per month through digital print. We expect that volume to increase significantly with clients joining in."

Perseus was an early player with in-house on-demand printing, at one time running their own facility in Boulder, Co. After closing that operation they moved to a Donnelly-based short-run printing solution.

I know the major publishers also use POD for short runs.

Here's the other article:
More New POD Options: Ingram Works on ABA Store-As-Publisher Program
At a session at the ABA's Winter Institute, representatives from Ingram and Carmichael's Bookstore in Louisville presented an experimental program designed to make it easier for member stores to set up their own publishing programs in conjunction with Lightning Source.

The vision is that independent stores can serve as "niche publishers focused on regional and local interests," leveraging relationships within their communities and using their expertise to identify public domain material appropriate for reprint. Conceivably, stores can also offer their own "self-publishing" services to patrons looking for a place to launch and sell their manuscripts.

Ingram projected set-up costs of approximately $150 to $200 to make a book ready for print-on-demand fulfillment. While stores can elect to publish for all customers by setting the retail and wholesale prices, the p&l is clearly most advantageous when the store is selling the books directly at retail as well as publishing them.

As presented, the hope is to formalize a program by this year's BEA. Moderating the panel, the ABA's Len Vlahos underscored that it's an idea that "bears further investigation" though the organization is not sure yet if the concept "really works economically yet" for member stores. There are also a number of questions about rights, clearances, royalties, liability and other components of the publishing process that the organization may or may not provide formal guidance and guidelines on.

But for stores excited by the possibilities, Ingram made clear that they offer such services already, even without a formal ABA program. For that matter, though Lightning Source is not trying to aggressively compete with the pod self-publishers that comprise a significant part of their customer base, the company does already deal with individual customers on a direct basis.
ABA in this instance standing for American Booksellers Association (since I work for a corporate lawyer, I knew it wasn't American Bar Association, heh).

I think I'd still go with Lulu if I were interested in self publishing.

~Nancy Beck

2 comments:

Inkling said...

This doesn't deal with the real issue, which is that producing a quality book still takes a lot of hard work, time and expertise. Sadly, even so-called POD publishers are often creating quickly done, ugly, Microsoft-Wordish junk. When it costs thousands to publish a book, it made sense to make it look good. For some, the fact that a book can be put into print for less that $200 means they create junk. Unless these bookstores were simply creating facsimiles of out-of-print texts, I can't imagine them doing being any better.

I'd much rather see efforts devoted to developing a direct-to-the-public website that'd contain all LSI's POD titles whose publisher's want to distribute through it, including the major university presses. Setup would be simple and LSI or some entity closely linked to them would take care of credit-checking and order fulfillment. The publisher would control what the reader sees. I love to be able to sell my books a full retail but with US and Canadian shipping covered in that price. I'd also love it if this new web store would offer Amazon-like rebates to those who link to its books.

Right now, the primary means of selling most POD titles is Amazon, leaving POD publishers at their mercy with little competition and thus little reason for Amazon to change.

I'm growing particularly tired of the deceitful little games Amazon displays with search results. For one title of a public domain text, Across Asia on a Bicycle I have the best and least expensive paperback version out. No question about that.

Search for it by title. as I just did, and you will NOT see it at all with the default "Sort by" of "Relevance." You'll see an grossly over-priced ($20.48) paperback cheap reprint by Kessinger. followed by very expensive collector copies from the 1890s. My hardback and paperback simply don't exist on the search page and there's no second page to list them. Only when you search for by the non-default "Price: Low to High" does my book appear and then where it belongs in first place. Oddly, it also appears as a link in tiny print on the page for the Kessinger edition.

And, to add insult to injury, that Kessinger book is described in the "From the Publisher" remarks, by words which apply only to my book, with its additional material. Amazon is using ad copy I wrote about my edition to falsely describe another publisher's more costly but poorer quality book. That's false advertising, even it the reason is sheer sloppiness by Amazon.

A few years back I went round and round with Amazon's legal counsel about another example of deceptive search results display (And keep in mind that these results can vary in odd ways.) What I was seeing was no accident. She defended an Amazon policy of writing their code to most prominently titles on which, in some crude sense, Amazon would make the most money and hiding, by not displaying at all or by displaying only in small type on the detail page for other editions, editions on which Amazon, in theory, won't make as much profit.

She seemed clueless when I tried to point out to her that trying to make too much money often means no sale at all for Amazon. You can see it with the example I mentioned previously. My enhanced and improved edition of Across Asia has a marvelous cover along with numerous footnotes and two additional chapters to help readers and sells on Amazon for $11.01. The Kissinger paperback edition has an ugly, generic cover and, as best I can tell no additional material for $20.48. Even my hardcover edition at $18.96 sells for less than their paperback. The result is their book doesn't appeal to potential buyers and doesn't sell while my book, which was selling well before this deceptive link went into place, may be selling better than theirs, because some potential customers do look about carefully, but it's not selling as well as if Amazon's search results were honest and aimed at pleasing customer rather than fulfilling what some nerd apparently thinks is a clever way of enhancing Amazon's profits.

In short, what POD publishing needs most is effective competition for Amazon, so it'll clean up its act and quit trying to manipulate customers.

And someone with more time than I have needs to investigate more carefully just what these Amazon search results are doing.

~Nancy said...

This doesn't deal with the real issue, which is that producing a quality book still takes a lot of hard work, time and expertise.

I've never done it myself, but I could imagine - you have to wear different hats for all the different jobs involved.

Sadly, even so-called POD publishers are often creating quickly done, ugly, Microsoft-Wordish junk.

How pathetic, especially considering that Word leaves all sorts of chachkis embedded in text. (Doesn't everyone know that? A publisher should obviously KNOW that sort of stuff.)

I appreciate your setting the record straight on search results from Amazon, and how it's hampering your book. While I'm the type to do in-depth searches, I realize that a lot of people don't.

That really sucks for you. I wish I could help in some way, but since you've given me quite a good lesson on POD/self pub :-), I don't think there's anything I can do on my end.

Maybe someone will take up your request to investigate Amazon searches. For your sake, and others, I hope someone does.

Good luck, and thanks for the lesson. It's appreciated! :-)