What is print-on-demand (POD)?

Print-on-demand (POD) is a printing technology and business process in which new copies of a book (or other document) are not printed until an order has been received, and only the number of copies required by that order, are printed. So if an order for one book is received, only one book is printed. However, the term is frequently used by printers offering very small print runs.

It is not economical to print single copies using traditional printing methods such as litho printing due to the high setup costs, but thanks to digital technology, this is now not only possible, but reasonably economical. Digital printing enables one to print for a fixed cost per copy, irrespective of the size of the order. While the unit price of each physical copy printed is higher than with litho printing, the cost per unit is lower for very small print runs because of the lower setup costs. This makes digital printing ideally suited to small print runs. It should be borne in mind however that printing 50 or 100 books at a time will always yield a lower cost per book than printing just one book.

Large publishers sometimes use print-on-demand to reprint older titles that are out of print, or for creating promotional copies that they can use for marketing to drum up orders before they place a final order for the litho press. Many universities and academic publishers use print-on-demand to maintain a large backlist. Most recently, print-on-demand has become very popular among smaller independent publishers who do not have the budgets for large-volume printing and its associated costs such as warehousing, insurance, stock management and handling. In this regard, print-on-demand is also particularly suited to self-publishing authors who are bypassing bookstore distribution and marketing directly to their target market and who need to keep their capital outlay to a minimum.

The benefits of print-on-demand

  • Huge capital outlays for printing are no longer required
  • There is little or no waste from unsold products
  • Because books are printed only as they are needed and there is minimal waste, we are saving our trees
  • Products do not need to be kept in stock so there are no warehousing, handling or inventory accounting costs
  • Books can be printed within a matter of hours on placement of order
  • Response to a book can be tested before huge investments are made in litho printing
  • Revised versions of the book can be made very easily and as needed
  • There is increased choice in books for consumers due to the low-cost entry levels for the publisher and self-publishing author
  • Authors can now see their work in print by self-publishing – and thanks to print-on-demand services, they have a means of distributing their books through online stores

Are there any limitations with print-on-demand?

Because print-on-demand is done on digital presses, there are certain limitations to the type of paper that can be used, as well as the finishing options. But it really does not affect standard paperbacks and other text-based books that much.

What kinds of books can one print?

Print-on-demand is best used for any book that requires only black printing inside and a full colour cover with standard finishing. This generally includes novels, self-help books, motivational books, business books, and so on.

Due to the high cost of colour printing, it is not always financially viable for full colour books unless you are happy to charge a hefty retail price to cover your printing costs and still make a profit. It is also not suitable for books requiring non-standard paper and finishing options. Print-on-demand books are perfect bound – thread-sewing is not offered.

Finally, if you are requiring a very high quality product, print-on-demand may fall short of this. Nothing can beat litho printing in terms of quality and flexibility of finishing and binding.

A digital press

A digital press looks like a large, fancy photocopy machine. It uses four toners – Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and black – with special finishes being limited to matt and gloss.

Does Quickfox Publishing offer print-on-demand?

In the strict sense of printing one to a few books as and when books are ordered, the answer is No. The minimum quantity that we accept for printing is 100 books. However, once we have completed production and printing, we DO offer the service of loading our clients’ books up onto international distribution platforms for print-on-demand printing and selling.

To find out more about the printing method best suited to your book and your options in terms of binding and finishing, book a publishing consultation with one of our consultants. We will look at your project holistically and guide you in the right direction.