AUPresses Session Notes: Perspectives on Print on Demand

by Laura


Green background with an open book and AUPresses logo and session title along with Sheridan logo

As the print and publishing industry continues to evolve, so do perspectives on cost, quality, and sustainability around print on demand (POD) as a print strategy. Shared below are insights from the 2023 AUPresses Annual Meeting session panelists on this topic, along with their hopes for continued advancements in POD.

Why POD?

  • Went from an end-of-life mindset to a long-term print strategy where frontlist POD is prepped and setup at the same time as the initial print run
  • POD is more of a distribution model than a print model – books sent directly to customers
  • Short-run POD orders are used for warehouse fulfillment (warehouse space is limited)
  • Judging initial print runs for scholarly monographs became difficult so the frontlist moved to POD
  • Ongoing sales for backlist titles
  • Bridges the gap between conventional print orders
  • Regarding open access, POD allows books to be available if someone wants a print version
  • Advance review copies, booklets, and catalogs are ordered POD

Considerations for Incorporating POD

  • Think long-term, think upstream
  • Prep files upfront for POD even if the initial print run is conventional
  • Consider if the book’s specifications are a good fit; will altering the look and embellishments risk sales with the audience?
  • Have conversations about POD upfront with different stakeholders when bringing on a new title
  • Discuss upfront if color is critical or if images can be greyscale
  • Limit screens, bleeds, and heavy ink coverage, and allow ample margins on the cover spines for cover alignment
  • Always think about going out of stock and how quickly you can get more books

Cost, Quality, and Sustainability

Insights from the panelists on quality and whether POD is more sustainable and cost effective than conventional printing…

  • Higher unit cost is a given for POD, so you need to look at the bigger picture
    • POD frees up staff time by eliminating the need to manage stock and streamlines reprints
    • POD allows for books to be distributed in other geographic areas without having to incur transportation charges
    • POD eliminates warehousing and pulping costs
  • Limiting transportation and pulping has a positive environmental impact as well as an economical impact
    • Shipping books around the world is not great for the environment; POD allows books to be printed in the region they will be distributed
    • One panelist’s experience with POD printers has shown that because books can be produced around the world, using papers from sustainable sources cannot always be guaranteed given the material options available in different countries
  • POD quality has improved over the years and concerns are more around product availability than quality
    • POD quality for monographs is indiscernible to the average person
    • If color is critical, the book is high-end, has extra embellishments, etc., panelists will print conventionally rather than POD

Looking Forward

Advancements in digital print technologies continue to bring greater flexibility in paper options and specifications. In turn, panelists are hopeful that as more publishers widely use POD, the push for expanded options and higher color quality will continue. They also desire additional stocks that are environmentally certified and greater transparency in materials regardless of geographic print location to support efforts to publish sustainably.

Interested in additional AUPresses 2023 session recaps? View these related posts: