Same-day shipping. Cars and bikes and scooters to rent by the hour. Dog walkers ready and waiting to take Fido for a stroll. (Wait, does anyone still name their dog Fido?)

The on-demand economy touches our lives in so many ways now that sometimes we don’t even realize the technology behind everyday products and services. Consider books, for example. A brick-and-mortar store obviously maintains inventory, which means books are printed in volume and travel through a distribution chain destined for the store’s shelves.

But the advent of digital printing laid the foundation for print-on-demand, or POD, which utterly transformed the publishing world.  With POD, books are printed as they are ordered, one at a time.

The advantages of print-on-demand for books are significant:

  • No need to maintain inventory
  • No upfront printing expense
  • No need to manage individual orders or payments
  • Content can be easily updated without rendering inventory obsolete
  • Print quality is very good, thanks to technological advancements
  • Eco-friendly to print only what’s ordered and avoid impact of transporting inventory from printer to storage facility
  • Cost-effective to print customized versions

Of course, POD has a couple of drawbacks:

  • Unit cost is higher than printing in volume
  • Not cost-effective for hard cover books and non-standard effects such as fold-out pages and special binding treatments

Given that the vast majority of consumer and business books today are paperbacks in a handful of standard sizes, POD is a dream come true for authors who want to self-publish. This printing method is also ideal for publishers who want to keep books with low but steady interest in print or need to manage spikes in demand.

A common misconception about POD books is that the quality is not good. This is simply not true. Today’s digital print technology makes a POD book indistinguishable from a traditionally printed book. That’s why publishers of all sizes rely on POD for at least some portion of their catalog.

Remember that printing is only one component of a professional-grade book. The starting point is quality content, in the form of well-written narrative that may be enhanced with photos, graphs and other supporting elements. Thoughtful editing for structure, flow, consistency and grammar is essential. And an intriguing cover design and carefully crafted interior layout help sell the book and create an excellent reading experience.

If you are writing a book and need assistance with any of these services, Clarity Designworks can provide customized support and resources to make your POD book the best it can be.