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Examining the Era of Print-on-Demand 162

Posted by Zonk
from the pod-easy-as-one-two-three dept.
tonywong writes "Printing on demand is getting cheaper and better every year. The New York Times has this a review of sites that offer simple DTP programs for free to lure potential publishers. The article claims that the print run can be as little as a single copy on demand." From the article: "Blurb.com's design software, which is still in beta testing, comes with a number of templates for different genres like cookbooks, photo collections and poetry books. Once one is chosen, it automatically lays out the page and lets the designer fill in the photographs and text by cutting and pasting. If the designer wants to tweak some details of the template -- say, the position of a page number or a background color -- the changes affect all the pages. The software is markedly easier to use -- although less capable -- than InDesign from Adobe or Quark XPress, professional publishing packages that cost around $700. It is also free because Blurb expects to make money from printing the book."
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Examining the Era of Print-on-Demand

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  • No other formats? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Atzanteol (99067) on Friday July 21, 2006 @04:38PM (#15759821) Homepage
    This seems very interesting. It would be nice if they would accept existing formats as well as whatever is generated from their application. But I like the idea of printing low-volume books becoming cheaper.
    • Re:No other formats? (Score:4, Informative)

      by plover (150551) * on Friday July 21, 2006 @05:02PM (#15759987) Homepage Journal
      You need to read deeper into the article. Different publishers are accepting source materials in different formats. Blurb has their composer on a web site, Picaboo gives you a free download of their software, and Lulu takes PDFs. Shop around, and find the one willing to work with you. They all seem comparably priced for the end product, which isn't much more than you'd pay for an ordinary hardbound edition from a well respected author.
      • Ahhh, so they do. I hadn't seen the Lulu entry (I'd just looked at blurb.com).

        I haven't paid much attention to on-demand printing so far. This may not be the same as "being published" as some folks have mentioned, but I could definitely see this stuff being used for clubs and other groups though (promotional material, bylaws, etc.).

  • old school (Score:5, Interesting)

    by blinder (153117) * <blinder...dave@@@gmail...com> on Friday July 21, 2006 @04:38PM (#15759822) Homepage Journal
    i dunno, being an old timer zine publisher (since '87) i still kinda sorta miss the days of the gluestick, typewriter and a trip to the kinkos (well, the one where you had a friend who worked the grave yard shift and let you copy your zine for free).

    but alas, i must admit that programs like quark (and now indesign) have made things a bit easier... and well, the whole on-demand publishing like lulu [lulu.com] (and others) have made the DIY publishing cheaper but also opened up "underground" press (aka small-press) to new audiences.

    i mean, there was only so much you could do with your by-hand copied zine... sure passing them out at the shows and begging the local record store owners to carry them was great... but this on demand thing is, well... not only do you get the control (creative) but you also can actually (sorta) compete with the "big boys."

    • Re:old school (Score:2, Interesting)

      by ATMosby (746034)
      Makes me wonder how much money places like Kinkos has lost over the year due to people with friends on the graveyard shifts! I know several people who published zines for *years* that way. And that's just in a limited geographical area!
      • I can't speak for other former college town Kinko's graveyard shift employees, but I never let anybody copy their zines for free. I'd charge them full price for their copying. I would help many of them with using the light table, and we always kept a fresh supply of exacto knife blades, glue sticks & white-out tape - but we did this for all of our customers. I did not charge them for hand-placing documents, and if we were slow, I'd offer to fold/collate stuff for free on the machines. So basically I'd g
      • I guess that's why Kinko's now uses smart cards.
      • Back before the WWW and email, when I was getting going as a writer, my Kinkos graveyard shift friend (Hey, Damen! Long time no see!) let me make free copies of all my clips from local pubs and of my article proposals, which meant I could send good-looking packages to national magazines for the cost of a stamp and an envelope. I sent out lots of them, and enough editors bit that I did rather well freelancing.

        Of course, since 1996 or so, I don't think I've dealt with a publication that didn't accept emailed
    • Re:old school (Score:4, Insightful)

      by SuperRob (31516) on Friday July 21, 2006 @05:40PM (#15760237) Homepage
      Oh, it gets far more interesting and complex than just magazines. Print-on-Demand is a gateway to doing fully personalized stuff. Imagine a comic writer who could make the reader a character in the story by doing a simple name replace on each issue printed. When you can do "one-offs", this becomes what people expect. The bar is being raised quick.

      For a marketing agency, this allows you to send out personalized sales brochures and other collateral, which can have a massive impact on response rate. Combine something like this with sophisticated data mining, and I shudder to think how eerie some direct mail could get. "Hey Rob, remember how much fun you had on Space Mountain last year? Walt Disney World wants to invite you and your wife Andrea back for another ride ..."

      Fair Disclosure: My company, Marketsync [marketsync.com] does Print-on-Demand for marketing departments and agencies through a salesforce.com plug-in called Marketsync On-Demand Marketing [marketsync.com].

      • "Hey Rob, remember how much fun you had on Space Mountain last year? Walt Disney World wants to invite you and your wife Andrea back for another ride ..."
        Unfortunately, not only does the timestamp on the picture coincide with the regional sales conference, the picture itself depicts him with Julie, the long-legged redhead from accounts.
      • Re:old school (Score:3, Insightful)

        by AaronLawrence (600990) *
        I think you overestimate the interest people have in this kind of "personalisation". Most people will almost instantly identify such obvious fill-in-the-blanks stuff (after all it's only slightly more than the form current junk mail which fills in a few bits of info into a form letter).

        Basically, unless a marketing gimick is genuinely useful or entertaining, people will learn it very fast and ignore it.

        For example, if your hypothetical mail actually knew that Rob *enjoyed* his time at space mountain and sug
  • by The Queen (56621) on Friday July 21, 2006 @04:39PM (#15759828) Homepage
    Any professional writer will look at this and say, POD and vanity press stuff does not count as being published. And they will be right. Just because you can gather the scratch needed to print something does not mean you will find yourself on Oprah's book club. It's still all about distribution and marketing.

    Now when someone writes software that will query agents and automatically keep track of responses and requirements for different publishing houses, I'll be interested.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Well, sure. I don't think this is meant to replace publishers for big books.

      But what about for people like me?

      I'm currently writing a book, but I'm well aware I'm not a wonderful writer. It is just something I do in my free time if I get bored.

      I think it would be fun to be able to give "my book" to friends and family.

      And I'm sure this service is marketed to people like me...
    • by ultramk (470198) <`ten.llebcap' `ta' `kmartlu'> on Friday July 21, 2006 @04:52PM (#15759915)
      It's not as strict a line as it used to be. There are quite a few smaller publishers out there that do quite well in focused market segments. Often they start with someone self-publishing and being very successful at it, from where they go onto publishing other authors.

      Mind you, I don't think the fiction market works this way. Many other markets are much less entrenched.

      I work for a small publisher that started this way, and I wouldn't call selling 2m+ copies (at $32.95) a "vanity" press.

      Like lots of other industries, it's less monolithic than it was 30 years ago.

      m-
    • Any professional writer will look at this and say, POD and vanity press stuff does not count as being published. And they will be right. Just because you can gather the scratch needed to print something does not mean you will find yourself on Oprah's book club. It's still all about distribution and marketing.


      You'll excuse me if I find this mentality quite on par with the music and movie industries. I really have little desire to explain myself simply because I think I'd be preaching to the choir. In short, however, the internet I think can make a dent in this mentality if not overcome it. Things haven't matured enough, IMHO, to make a foregone conclusion either way but I thought it was worth pointing out.
      • In short, however, the internet I think can make a dent in this mentality if not overcome it.

        Mentality, yes. However, passing along the mp3's of an unsigned band is much more friendly than passing along either multiple printed copies of something, or the files it was printed from. On the one hand you'll be out lots of cash and on the other you'll have a hard time trying to get someone to read 100+ pages on a laptop.

        I was just trying to point out that there are places out there who will use this technology a
        • there are places out there who will use this technology and try to scam unwary authors into paying to be published.
           
          probably, but they wont be very succesful when someone googles pod and finds out they can publish through a place like lulu with zero up front. this is not the vanity publishing of the past because the user doesn't end up taking out a second and having a garage full of boxes of books.
      • The people who go to vanity publishers usually do so because their work isn't good enough for the professional publishing houses. I'm not saying that to injure egos, I'm saying it because it's true. Self-publishing -- that is, publishing your own material as your own editor and paying all the costs of book production -- is almost always an exercise in futility, because writers need editors.

        Of course, it's not an absolute, and I think it would be really great if more top-notch talent, like Cory Doctorow, us

        • the whole point of publishing on demand is that you are not paying all the costs of book production. the people who buy the books pay that. if no one ever buys the book-- none are ever printed and the author loses nothing but their time and bandwidth used to upload the document. that's it.
        • by narcc (412956) on Saturday July 22, 2006 @01:03AM (#15761891) Journal
          The people who go to vanity publishers usually do so because their work isn't good enough for the professional publishing houses.

          No... people go to POD/vanity publishers to meet a specific need.

          A few examples:
          A good number of universities require students to submit a bound copy of their dissertation (meeting ALA standards). POD makes this easy and affordable.

          Some books are of local interest only, and need very short print runs -- A local historical society may want to publish book, series of books, or books for special events (i.e. for a towns 150th aniversary).

          A local museaum may want to publish a book related to a particular exhibit. (Not all museaums are big -- in Greenville, PA [Pop. ~6,500] there are *two* museaums.)

          An individual may want to compile a geneology into book form to hand out at a family get-together.

          A new bride might want to compile wedding photos and stories into book for friends and family.

          A photographer might want a portfolio he could pass out to clients.

          A teacher may want to publish a text specific to a class s/he teaches or a collection of lecture notes and course materials.

          I could go on. The point here is the POD business is far larger than the yahoo who thinks their poetry collection is going to be a best seller or their sci-fi/fantasy novel is going to spark a phenomenon.
    • It's still all about distribution and marketing.

      And the quality of the material. Writers -- especially fiction writers -- who self-publish do so because they can't get their work published anywhere else. And it shows; I've read more than enough overly-long descriptions of how beautiful/sexy/handsome/perfect the masturbatory protagonist is in the first paragraph of POD books to know there's a lot of dross out there.

      And even the rare gem that gets through usually needs the guiding hand of a vicious editor.

      • *howl*

        See, I wasn't going to go there, but yes. This is the true evil of POD. My favorite was one that a 'friend of a friend' sent me through the mail. It was called "Towboat Terrorist." Priceless.

        However, if POD becomes more rampant and the Internet becomes the new bookstore and distribution center, the market will keep all the "obsidian orbs" at the bottom of the pile. Would love to see a resurgence of beat writers...
        • it's not evil - it's awesome. sucky, talentless hacks have every bit as much right to get their work out there. we talk about the move from scarcity to abundance and this is a small example. books used to be rare and extremely valuable and the printing press changed the world. well publishing on demand means that i can write a book, and distribute all over the world, without the huge economic barriers that existed in the past.

          sure maybe i can't write for crap and no one will ever read a word. s
          • All very good points. However, the large publishing houses will, in that scenario, continue to have a monopoly on wide distribution and popularity, because they've got something the vanity publishing houses usually don't: A stable of very experienced (and bloodthirsty) editors.

            The technology exists, obviously, to produce very professional-looking books on demand. But the same can't be said for producing professionally-edited material.

            • i'm not sure how they can have a monopoly on either. lulu sells and ships overseas. so, if i write a book, put it on lulu and it isn't the suck, and people read it, then it can become popular and widely distributed.
               
              publishing on demand certainly does not gaurantee quality, but the traditional model does not do so either. i've payed for and read plenty of books that were horrid. i wonder how many really great books never saw the light of day because the traditional model missed them.
              • publishing on demand certainly does not gaurantee quality, but the traditional model does not do so either. i've payed for and read plenty of books that were horrid. i wonder how many really great books never saw the light of day because the traditional model missed them.

                I will say I agree that the model's not perfect. An editor can end up dismissing a great story for any number of bad reasons, including the editor's mood that day. And I certainly hope that if a story really is good, but maligned by publis

                • i am sure your right. and in many ways, i'm glad. i want good writing to be valued so that really great authors can devote their time to producing great works. i'm sure that is part of the reason the ratio will stay as you describe it. i think it was in a china mielville interview i read, that he said he doesn't know how people write while they have other employment.
                   
                  but i do really like the idea, no matter how long the odds, that there are chances for anyone who wishes to try.
            • because they've got something the vanity publishing houses usually don't: A stable of very experienced (and bloodthirsty) editors.

              Speaking as a writer, that's not so true any more. As large(r) corporations have bought up a lot of the smaller or formerly independent publishing houses, the culture has changed. While in the past editors would actually spend a lot of their time editing, nowadays it is much more of a sales/marketing position, with most of the actual editing being done by agents and their sta

        • "Towboat Terrorist." I really feel sorry for whatever synapse misfired badly enough to produce that title.

          I hate to bag on POD, I really do, because the concept is wonderful. But in many ways, it suffers from the same problem as the internet itself; anyone can say anything, so... anyone will say anything.

      • Have you taken a look at what does get published? Sure, 90% of POD stuff is crap, but easily 90% of major-publisher stuff is crap too. I'm not even sure the major-publisher percentage is lower; the stuff they publish is more likely to be polished, but also more likely to be formulaic.

        Music works similarly; most unsigned bands suck, but most bands on MTV suck too.
        • I disagree. I'm an avid reader, and never lack for quality material. Sure, the publishing houses produce a lot of crap, too, but unlike MTV there are a lot of choices. Don't like what Tor puts out? Baen has a huge line-up of talent. Don't like any of them, either? Take a browse through Random House's catalog. Prefer smaller, less mainstream stuff? Try out Small Beer Press, publishers of the extremely good 'zine "Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet." Or Wheatland Press. Or... See what I mean? There's a ton of

      • by cfulmer (3166) on Friday July 21, 2006 @11:58PM (#15761703) Homepage Journal
        That's an excellent point -- traditional publishing is a multi-step process designed to pick marketable books, refine them, get them into the market and get them sold. Print-on-Demand allows people to get to print faster, but does so by bypassing the publishing process and the value it adds. It seems to me that your concern is not so much publishing on demand, but self-publishing because it avoids all the filters and product refinement of traditional publishing.

        Publishing-on-demand has the potential to solve two problems in the publishing industry: meeting the relatively low demand for out-of-print books and inventory. The first problem is that books go out-of-print because low demand makes traditional volume publishing economically infeasible. But, a publisher that is able to economically meet that demand has an additional source of revenue. Inventory, the second problem, is the perpetual beast of industry -- it drains cash flow, consumes storage space and increases the cost of failure. There's nothing like making 100,000 of something, only to have it sit on store shelves for 2 months before the stores pull it from the shelves. Publishing on demand avoids that risk.
    • Most self-titled professional writers will look at this and say "do you want fries with that"?
    • Print on Demand is only likely to make you significant amounts of money (the definition of professional in my book) if you discover a market niche that existing publishers are unaware of and therefore don't serve. The editors at Baen can probably evaluate your Science Fiction book's marketability a lot better than you can, and if they tell you it sucks, it probably does. However, publishers are completely unaware of the pent-up demand for free-fall cookbooks. If you wrote a free-fall cookbook, and you belie
    • Of course, no one wanted to publish Walt Whitman either. He had to go do it himself. I guess that doesn't count though...
    • I'm a professional writer. Besides thousands of articles, I've written three books for Prentice Hall and I'm getting ready to do a fourth.

      But there are books I'd like to write that might only sell a few hundred copies per year. No mass-market publisher can make money on a title that doesn't sell thousands of copies, and they're rightfully reluctant to ship copies of ultra-niche books to bookstores that can return them for full credit if they don't sell.

      So PoD, here I come!

      This doesn't mean my PoD books will
    • Sure they will. Atleast those of them that see it as important to their ego to separate the world into "published" and "unpublished" authors according to some arbitrary and fuzzy line.

      In reality there's no clear line between 'published' and 'not published'. There's vanity-press stuff that's absolute crap. There's stuff published by large distributors that is absolute crap. There's vanity-press stuff that's never read by more than a handful of people. There's self-published stuff that sells ten thousand. T

  • by foobsr (693224) * on Friday July 21, 2006 @04:42PM (#15759849) Homepage Journal
    Printing on demand is getting cheaper and better

    There was a German transcription for DTP - "Dumme Treiben Plötsinn" (along the lines of "Dumbheads Try Printing"). So it is more likely that language and readability of printed matter will decline/degrade even more. But that does not matter, cause technical quality (10^y dpi, full colour) will be state-of-the-art.

    CC.
  • by rdwald (831442) on Friday July 21, 2006 @04:44PM (#15759869)
    I played around with Lulu.com's print-on-demand service a few months ago; it was surprisingly easy. I layed out the book in OpenOffice, saved it to a PDF, checked it in xpdf, and sent the file to them. A week or so later, I had a hard copy with a professional-looking cover and everything. One thing to note before ordering from them: Lulu's 6" x 9" format is actually larger than most paperback books; if you want yours to look "normal," don't use it. Anyway, overall it was a fairly positive experience; I'd recommend them for low-volume book printing.
    • The typical paperback (what's called a "mass market paperback" in the publishing biz ) is about 4.25 x 7 inches. The 6 x 9" size is called a "trade paperback."
    • by bcrowell (177657) on Friday July 21, 2006 @10:23PM (#15761406) Homepage

      My experience with lulu has been a little more mixed. I have some free-information textbooks that I sell in print. (Even though they're free to download, sometimes it's nice to have a real printed, bound copy.) I had been buying them in batches of about 500 from a local guy, storing them in a closet, and selling them to schools and individuals. The problem was, it was just an incredibly inefficient way to do business. Recently, I've been experimenting with lulu. The good news is that they're incredibly efficient, and can produce a single book at about the same unit price as I'd been getting from a traditional printing process (or maybe just a little more). When I get an individual retail order, they take care of it. I've canceled my credit card processing account (which was a major pain to have). No more trips to the post office to mail books. Most importantly, I no longer have to keep ~$10,000 worth of inventory in a closet.

      There have been some problems, though:

      1. They sometimes do a lousy job of packaging books, and the books arrive damaged. If you complain, they're willing to send replacements, but only if you send them digital camera pictures to show the damage. It doesn't seem that reasonable to me to expect my customers to go through that kind of hassle for something that's basically due to lulu's sloppy packaging.
      2. A bigger problem has been that they don't do a very good job of supporting the pdf standard and OSS. Basically the situation seems to be that they have a number of subcontractors who actually produce the book, and which subcontractor it's sent to may depend on the geographical location of the customer. These subcontractors don't fully support the pdf standard. Part of the issue seems to be that some pdf documents take a lot of cpu time to print, so they put arbitrary, undocuments limits on various things. Also, there are things you can do with fonts (such as subsetting) that are allowed by the pdf standard, but that certain subcontractors may not allow. The machines (docutechs?) they use are totally proprietary. What it adds up to is that some of my books would print 10 or 100 times just fine, and then on one particular order I'd get a message passed back from the subcontractor saying that it failed to print. You can post on their forums about problems, and people there have been very helpful, but you actually can't get any information back from the subcontractor. Basically lulu says that if you use Acrobat to produce your pdf, and embed all fonts without subsetting, it will work, but if you use OSS to produce your pdf, it may or may not work. A little ironic, since IIRC the founder of lulu was one of the guys who started Red Hat. It's a little like web designers who only test their sites on IE; lulu only cares if their system works on Acrobat output.
      • Have you tried using the -dSubsetFonts=false option to ps2pdf? Any other options that might help? Have you had any problems uploading a postscript file instead? Just wondering because I'm in the middle of a small handbook for a local niche market, which I plan to have lulu print, but I haven't used them before.
    • Lulu calls the size you are referring to "pocket size."
      • Yep. That's what my warning is about. You might see two options, labeled "Trade Paperback" and "Pocket Size," and think "Pocket Size must be unusually small, while Trade Paperback is the normal size." I wanted to make sure people didn't get confused.
  • by ackthpt (218170) * on Friday July 21, 2006 @04:44PM (#15759874) Homepage Journal

    The software may be good, but output is still another matter. Print has been making great strides in resolution, but laser copy has a tendency to stick to vinyl binders and inkjet runs when wetted.

    i'd like a tiny little 4 colour offset press, please.

  • As a designer... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ultramk (470198) <`ten.llebcap' `ta' `kmartlu'> on Friday July 21, 2006 @04:45PM (#15759879)
    ...this doesn't worry me. In the slightest.

    Just like home DVD templates, and all sorts of stuff like that, it'll be great for Billy and Sunshine to print the grandparents a copy of "Baby's First Shit".

    See, the thing that software like this can't compensate for is people who can't recognize and don't understand what makes a project work. What makes it readable. What makes it attractive against all the other competition sitting on the shelf at Borders (or Amazon for that matter).

    We're talking about near-subliminal things that create an impression of quality and expertise. Sure, time can be put in creating an amazing template that has some of these qualities, but then what do you have? A bunch of projects that look the same, and lack any soul of their own. Look at most of the template-built blogs out there. Boring.

    I've done 4 books this year so far, and I average 8-9/year, so I feel comfortable evaluating this.

    m-
    • >> a copy of "Baby's First Shit"

      Actually that got quite good reviews in the Times and Atlantic Monthly.
    • You're talking from a designer's point of view, which I totally respect. Another aspect of the whole thing that many people don't consider are the roles of copyeditors and proofreaders. It's not uncommon to read through something that's self-published and notice the glaring grammatical errors or lack of continuity and flow. Again, it falls into that category of near-subliminal things that you mention. There's a whole ton of little things that need polish in order to make the greater package really shine...
      • copy editing services in this niche of the industry? My wife is a retired editor and could do that sort of thing as a service very easily.

        I think this is a great alternative to the old vanity presses.
      • by ultramk (470198)
        Yes, that's a good point. Good editing is key, because frankly, people just can not proof their own work. It's a special kind of blindness I think. Good editors will turn a good project into a great one, and make suggestions that the author never considered.

        Unfortunately, there are a lot of editors out there who either way too aggressive ("correcting" non-errors), or too timid (afraid to change anything). It can take a while, but a good editor who really knows the subject is a godsend.

        m-
    • Can you give examples of these subliminal things? I agree 100% about templated layouts being oh so boring :)

      Perhaps at some level you are also just producing templated layouts though, it's just that the space of layouts is big enough that you believe they are all different. This might be called 'your style'.
  • It would seem to me that the reason DIY book making could be getting cheaper is better printers. The easier and faster it is to print something the cheaper and more flexible you become for DIY books.

    The article is severly lacking in juicy technical details but if you had a printer that would not only print the pages but bind it and put a dust jacket on it then the difference between printing 10,000 different books and 10,000 copies of one book is zero.

    That's my hunch. The easier and faster printers become
    • Xerox has been consistently improving their perfect-binding module for increasingly small printer/copiers models. This module will catch sheets coming off the printer, stack them up, fold them in half and put a binding on them. There's generally some overhead from the time between separate jobs, but, yeah, there's barely any price difference between 100 copies of the same thing or 100 different things.

      Keep in mind that in Xerox's case, at least, these aren't exactly the binding quality of something you'

  • You young 'uns and your fancy-schmancy "Desktop Publishing" and "print on demand". In my day, we didn't have this ninny-winny "DTP software" with "cookbook templates".

    When we wanted to write something, we had to do it all by hand. All we had to write on was a good old-fashioned hillside and our trusty hammer to write it with.

    No sirree, none of these childish "publishing packages" for us. We used to trudge up in the hills all day long to find a good spot to scribble on, and we loved it!

    • You young 'uns and your fancy-schmancy "Desktop Publishing" and "print on demand". In my day, we didn't have this ninny-winny "DTP software" with "cookbook templates".

      When we wanted to write something, we had to do it all by hand. All we had to write on was a good old-fashioned hillside and our trusty hammer to write it with.

      No sirree, none of these childish "publishing packages" for us. We used to trudge up in the hills all day long to find a good spot to scribble on, and we loved it!

      You had a hammer

      • You had Spoons? You lazy bastards, we had to gnaw the letters out of the dirt with our teeth. That worked just fine for us. And we had to eat the scratched out dirt to fill our bellies with nourishment , and we loved it!
        • You had teeth? Dear me, that would have been the easy life. The only reason we had broken spoons was because we had to break the spoon handles and jam them in our gums to make fake teeth. We didn't have any tools to break the spoons with neither, we just screamed obscenities at them until they fell apart. And you say you had it hard when they let you eat the dirt? We had to imagine everything we ate, and even then we were only allowed to eat imaginary rotting mud. We would have killed someone to be able to
  • by 14erCleaner (745600) <FourteenerCleaner@yahoo.com> on Friday July 21, 2006 @04:59PM (#15759976) Homepage Journal
    Since you can get a hardcover bound copy of your book this way for less than $40 a copy, this would be great for something like wedding pictures; you could print a few copies for parents and wedding party members without spending all the money you got as wedding gifts.
  • by zetasmack (741760) on Friday July 21, 2006 @05:00PM (#15759978) Homepage
    As a student photographer I was planning on throwing a bunch of photos together and printing it via apple and iphoto [apple.com]. i looked into it and read some bad reviews of apple's printing methods so i decided to look more into the subject of print on demand. I looked at a ton of options and decided to go with LuLu [lulu.com]. I layed out the book myself and uploaded it. Their site gave me a few problems with the formatting but a post to lulu's forums had that solved within a matter of minutes. So after printing a few copies I decided to make it a legit book and acquired an ISBN number for it right through lulu. It's now sold via their website [lulu.com], my website [prunejuice.net], a few independent bookstores, art galleries, and very soon, Borders and amazon.com. So as a result of using lulu (or any print on demand service) my photos are being seen all over the globe. Print on demand is revolutionizing more than just the literary world.
  • Not for you... (Score:4, Informative)

    by gnovos (447128) <.ten.deppihc. .ta. .sovong.> on Friday July 21, 2006 @05:02PM (#15759993) Homepage Journal
    Blurb isn't for people like slashdot readers, trust me. You can get beter quality for less at Qoop, Lulu or even by going to the book printers directly.... But only if you know how to make a PDF, which is beyond the scope of most people... thus the 100% blurb markup.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I've said it time and again: Your best idea, magnificently executed is the smallest part of a successful product.

    It's easy to do a great print-on-demand title [howtoshowyouknow.com] (shameless book plug...), and Lulu does a great job of producing the books, guiding you through getting you in the distribution chain.

    But then you have to market, market, market. The books, calendars, etc. that sell best are those that:

    • already have some momentum before publishing - i.e. "the ugliest dog in the world"
    • those that already have a com
  • Want to have a serious barrier to copying your electronic text files? Make people buy them on paper.
    • I can easily give my book to someone else, I can think of no laws preventing this either (short of an NDA). A file that is encrypted and key encoded to my computer/device has much higher technical barrier, the DCMA allows for penalties if I break the encryption.
    • remove binding + sheet feeder + scanner + OCR

      This is already a solved problem, as the gigabytes of scanned books on your favorite P2P network attest. The OCR won't be perfect, but it's good enough.
  • by Dachannien (617929) on Friday July 21, 2006 @05:56PM (#15760339)
    One potentially useful application for print-on-demand is the publishing and distribution of textbooks. The costs of dealing with extra unused books are eliminated, and customers no longer have to wait two weeks at the beginning of the semester for their semi-out-of-print book to arrive at the bookstore.

    But will this mean a significant decrease in already overpriced college textbooks? Not a chance.

    • But will this mean a significant decrease in already overpriced college textbooks? Not a chance.
      No, but it will improve the quality for those professors who like to use their own material. I hated those plastic-bound photocopy jobs that I had so often as an upperclassman.
    • Yes. Yes it will. Believe it or not, most professors actually CARE about the cost of the textbooks their students need. So called "Open Source" text books may not be popular (or complete, comprehensive, and accurate) right now, but being able to purchase reasonably priced print copies of a community-developed book or a book written by the instructor for his/her class will certainly have an effect.
  • by Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) on Friday July 21, 2006 @06:01PM (#15760373) Homepage Journal
    I'd like to live in a world where I could click on anything in a publisher's backlist and get it printed and shipped to me.

    In such a world, we could try to pass legislation under which refusing to sell a book on a POD basis meant forfeiting the copyright.

    In today's world things like "Lord of Light" and the Lensman series have gone out of print, and that is just plain wrong.
    • Amen to Lord of Light, and a lot of older Zelazny. Some of his greatest writing is less well known, and only available used.

      His estate ought to be able to revive those somehow, even if the big publishers don't see opportunities for mucho dinero in them. I know he had a family when he passed away -- I want to buy his works, and I want them to reap the rewards of it.
    • by alizard (107678)
      I'd like to be able to go to a RIAA label website and be able to buy an on-demand CD of anything ever published by that label... Edison wax recordings, 13th Floor Elevator... name your favorite band that's out of print...

      Easier, cheaper, and a lot faster than trying to find it in used/collectible, and in general, the only way any record company will ever make money off their content "in the vaults".

      Of course, since this is rational, it isn't going to get done until consumer electronics companies start buy

    • I've worked in the printing industry for more than a decade, and specifically the on demand printing industry as it has developed, and am presently bringing the book priner I now work for into the digital "on demand" printing age.

      We've already been seeing in the industry a trend towards shorter and more frequent print runs. Instead of printing 10,000 copies, publishers like to print 1,000 copies 10 times. The pressure on existing traditional printers to reduce make ready costs is a direct result of on de
  • Writer Beware [sfwa.org]'s blog linked recently to "Opening paragraphs of recent PODs that yielded an abbreviated read [blogspot.com]".

    ...all this makes me wonder why there's no Emergency Editor Squad (operating under the Language Police). =)

  • I wonder if the publishers can offer customers the chance to customize their books. Get a custom imprint on the first page, order special high-gloss paper, oversize coffee table prints, pocket-sized travel editions, leather binding, gilt edges. That way you could get a sturdy copy for yourself, a run of paperbacks for the class you teach, and a special leather-bound set for Christmas presents, each with a special inscription, and a special hand-cut vellum edition for your grandparents' fiftieth anniversar
  • I may be a market of one, but I'd like a way to print custom editions of public-domain works. I have before me a Nelson pocket bible, a very small and thin 1,000-page book that will lay open on my knee while I'm scribbling in a Moleskine journal propped on my other knee. It's the perfect size for traveling, for carrying in a backpack, etc. What I want is a way to get ANY public-domain work printed in just this type of small, durable binding, on India/bible paper, for a reasonable price. It annoys me to
  • I have the material for a POD book, I think I have the marketing, I even have a proofreader who knows the subject.

    However, most of the comments I have found on publishers are very much from a US viewpoint. My target market is mostly UK. How good are the publisher's UK distribution. lulu.com looks good and they distribute globally - does anyone have experience of them?
  • Print on Demand (POD) is simply the latest incarnation of vanity publishing. They will sell any rubbish because they DON'T CARE what they print. All they care is that you, the author pay up front for one of their price plans, and get suckered by the selling up. There is no quality threshold - you pay and you're in. They won't even spell check, typeset, edit, or market your book unless you pay them and for that you probably get some drone scanning your guff. That is the definition of vanity publishing. It wo
  • This could be great for pirated books - download a book in PDF, send it to Lulu and get it printed. This would be definetly cheaper than buying those $50 computer-related books (although probably lower quality).

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