The Internet and other new technologies have made possible an ever-growing availability of distribution channels. New paths are being blazed for independent book authors to reach readers and business models have been notably altered for traditional book publishers. Content creators of the past faced many obstacles in publishing hard copy books including lack of manufacturing knowledge, high production costs, and warehouse overheads. Only large publishers with demonstrated business plans could survive the marketplace to produce works at the quantities required to maintain viability. This is rapidly changing. Many companies are surfacing that offer Print-On-Demand (POD), a technology that allows a book to be produced in quantities as low as one book, and distributed only after the demand for that book has been proven (the book has already been sold). Because most content is already in digital form, it can be uploaded to vendors’ Web sites, stored, and produced at will on digital printing devices (upgraded copiers). The companies then can bind and professionally finish the work before shipment to the buyer. Books can be listed on numerous Web sites and found by related topic area Web searches. Links to Amazon or a POD vendor’s Web site can complete the transaction. The author simply takes his cut once demand has been shown. Not much knowledge is required of the mechanical process of producing the book, production costs are covered by the unit’s sale, and there is no warehouse to stock. Independent authors, university presses, and commercial publishing houses all have new options and these options are proving valuable.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Self Publishing: Self publishing is when the creator of the content also publishes the content in book format. This includes designing the book, printing it, and marketing it.
University Press: A publisher owned and controlled by a university. Works produced are more likely to be scholarly in content. University presses are often used as vehicles for publishing research, and are more important for author recognition than mass sales. University print runs are much lower than consumer titles.
Vanity Press: A publisher that manufactures books only at the authors’ expense. A vanity press’ intended market is not a general audience but rather the author himself or his friends, thus, appealing to the author’s vanity.
Retailer: Sells books directly to end users. Often offers much in the way of utilities to the consumer, including online views of books, perusal in book stores, and easy return policies.
Virtual Front-End: The processes by which content is prepared for physical manufacture as well as the surrounding marketing activities that make it available and attractive to consumers.
Backlist Titles: List of books that are still available from a publisher. Usually publishers do not hold many backlist titles in stock because they take up warehouse space and there is little demand for them. With print-on-demand, many titles can be held available without storing physical copies in a warehouse.
Print-On-Demand: Referred to in the trade as POD, print-on-demand is the ability to short-run manufacture books or magazines in relatively low numbers, from one copy to many, to meet already proven demand.
Disintermediated: A buzzword used to describe Internet-based businesses that use the Internet to sell products directly to customers instead of going through traditional retail channels. This eliminates the middleman and allows companies to sell their products cheaper and faster. Many people believe disintermediation is a driving force behind a revolution in how products are sold.
Digital Back-End: The physical process of creating an image on paper and the associated manufacturing required to turn it into book format.
Distribution Channel: The route a product moves through to get from original creator to final consumer. The channel includes all of the intermediaries: distributor, wholesaler, and retailer, that move the product along through the process.
Short Run Printing: Printing using offset printing or digital printing to produce quantities of books from very few to over 1,000. Content is usually the focus rather than form. Books produced in this fashion are much more expensive per unit and extremely complicated charts, graphs, screens, and colors raise the print costs exponentially.
Digital Printing: Process for printing that does not use a plate for printing but rather uses digital data to put an image on paper. Faster and less expensive, this process is almost always used in POD. Relatively new, the process is not as quality controlled as offset printing.
Offset Printing: The most common commercial printing technology in use today. The process utilizes a lithographic plate to place ink on paper. A large part of production cost is in the time it takes to set up the press for work, making higher quantity production runs more cost efficient per unit.
Publishing House: Any of the large commercial publishers that purchase manuscripts through agents or from authors and then make all editorial decisions regarding content and style, pay all production and distribution costs to make it into a hard copy book, and own the copyright. Proceeds from sales of books go to the publisher, who then pays royalties to its authors if a contract warrants it.
Author: Someone who originates content and records it for use by others. Typically done for pay but also done for recognition. An author usually does not understand how to publish.
Academic Publisher: A publisher created to produce academic works. Traditional methods of printing made low quantities unattractive so academic publishers formed as a means to concentrate content and back the costs for printing,which were often high.
Format Agnosticism: Content that is free of format discrimination. It can be used in print, online, or other formats without requiring manual manipulation. Print is considered just another vehicle for transmission. Publishing in the 21 st Century is fragmenting, and content needs to be easily channeled into many formats. POD can be one such format.