Technical Books, Self Publishing and Print-on-Demand

TechnologyJuly 2012 is the Tech Publishing Festival at You might be wondering why this special attention to tech publishing? There is a reason – actually multiple reasons. One of them we will explore in this blog post.

Increasing pace of technology change

As technologists, we live in an exciting world. The rate of evolution of software technologies is breathtaking. There was a time when it would take a new technology, a new programming language years to mature and become usable. Today that time period has come down to months. Consider how long it took Python and Ruby before they became mainstream and came into large-scale usage. Then consider CoffeeScript and Node.js that are already becoming part of many job descriptions. iPhone and Android appeared on the scene 3-4 years ago and the demand for expertise in those platforms is exploding through the roof.

Another aspect of the current technological scenario is the increasingly shortening iteration periods. Most modern browsers are now on monthly release cycles. Ubuntu, a popular Linux variant is on a six month release cycle. What this means is that a significant chunk of technical knowledge and information gets stale very fast. Even blog posts have a hard time keeping up with this. Traditionally published paper books with a publishing cycle of a year or longer don’t stand a chance here.

These two trends are fundamentally changing the tech publishing as well. It is no longer feasible to produce large tomes containing thousands of pages, covering something comprehensively, and expect it to be useful for several years to come. The short cycle of technology change is forcing a short cycle on the publishing as well. This means a move towards eBooks and print-on-demand which reduce the risk of stale inventory and offer much faster time to market.

That’s where the’s model comes into picture. Pick up on a technology on which information and education is needed today and now. Write a book and let us help you bring it to market quickly and professionally. If you haven’t already done so, you should check out the details of the Tech Publishing Festival now.

Happy Writing!


[Self Publishing Guide] Self Publishing your Book – Step 3: Printing

This post is an excerpt from our Self Publishing Guide for Indian Market. If you have not, you may want to read the following post in this series before starting on this one

In an earlier post on this series we had discussed the printing process and the two options available – bulk printing with offset or one-off/short run printing with Print on Demand.

Your decision needs to be based on three main factors –

  • Estimate of the market size. If you are confident that the demand for your book is more than 500 copies, go for offset printing. In the event of a smaller demand, POD is a better option. To put things in perspective, a book selling more than 5000 copies in India is considered a success by traditional publishing houses. Remember to factor in your actual marketing abilities when you are estimating the demand. Most well-known authors have a large specialised promotion and marketing team working behind the scenes. As a self publisher, you will mostly be your own promoter and marketer. Self promotion is something which many of us Indians are not very good at given our upbringing where humility is highly valued. Marketing your book successfully will require a lot of aggressive self promotion,without which book will be read only by your close friends and family. So shake off the humility and get going.
  • Genre of the book. In case the book is essentially a photo book or what is called a ‘coffee-table book’, you should go in for offset printing to ensure print clarity of the photographs. For a normal book, POD may be a better option.
  • Distribution options. If you see a possibility of getting a distributor, then, to get the prices right bulk printing is more suitable. If you are selling directly, through your own website or through the website of self publishing companies (like then you are better off with Print on Demand and short run printing. Read more about distribution options in the next post of this series.

One good thing to try could be to print a short run by POD, test market it, probably scout for publishers/distributors by showing it to them and depending on the response, go for bulk printing.

[Self Publishing Guide] Self Publishing and Print on Demand (are not the same)

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