A meaningless word that is used very often, not just by newbies, but also by several industry insiders is on-demand publishing. On-demand publishing really does not mean anything. It is the printing that is done on demand. Self publishing is not the same thing as print on demand. This excerpt from our self publishing guide explains the same. It also talks about the two printing options available to publishers in the form of Print on Demand (POD) and Offset Printing.
If you have not already done so, you may want to read the following articles from this series before reading this one.
Self Publishing and Print on Demand (POD)
There is a difference between self publishing and Print on Demand. The two terms are often used interchangeably by most of us since POD is the most prevalent technology used by self publishers. But the two are not the same.
Publishing is the entire process of preparing the manuscript, editing, designing the cover, printing, distribution and marketing. Printing is only one step in the process of publishing. At the printing stage, the publisher has to choose between two technologies – offset printing and POD. If the publisher is confident of selling a large number of copies (500+), then he may opt for offset printing. If the sale is not expected to be in large numbers, then even a normal publisher may prefer POD. In short, publishing is the entire process whereas POD is a technology which can be used by a full-fledged publisher as well as a self publisher.
POD versus Offset Printing
POD is a relatively new printing technology where the cost of printing does not depend on the number of copies being printed. This is essentially digital printing, where each copy is printed independent of the other.
POD has its advantages and disadvantages.
Advantages of POD
- Flexibility to print even a single copy at a time. The unit cost of printing one copy and 1,000 copies does not vary much.
- Each copy can be personalised. You can even dedicate different copies to your different bosses or friends and earn brownie points, for instance.
- The content can be updated over time at no cost since the printing is done directly from a soft copy.
- Since one can print exactly the number of copies ordered for, with no significant addition to costs, there is no need to maintain dead inventory (unsold copies).
- The entire process is faster.
Disadvantages of POD
- The cost per copy is slightly higher as compared to bulk printing done by offset.
- Although black and white/grayscale printing quality is now at par with offset, accurate colour reproduction may be an issue in some cases.
Offset printing is a more prevalent and older technology. This involves setting the book in certain specialised software and cutting a plate of the image. The inked image is transferred (or ‘offset’) from a plate to a rubber blanket, then to the printing surface. The plate making process is costly and once made, the plates cannot be corrected or changed. Revision in the book requires cutting new plates. But once you create a plate, you can use it to generate a large number of copies. Therefore, one needs to print a large number of copies (typically 1,000+, minimum 500+) to distribute the cost of plates over all those copies. As a result, printing just a few copies is not cost-effective with offset printing; the cost per copy decreases with increase in the number of copies printed.
Offset printing too has its advantages and disadvantages.
Advantages of Offset Printing
- Per copy cost is low if number of copies is high. Works well with the current distribution setup in the industry.
- Quality may be better, especially for coloured printing/photo books.
- Wider choice of printing paper and other production options are available.
Disadvantages of Offset Printing
- Large upfront investment in bulk printing. Because of high setup costs, short print runs are not feasible
- Need to maintain the inventory and logistics