You may already know that print-on-demand (POD) technology is the engine driving the machine of self-publishing. Practically overnight, the development of POD for books leveled the publishing playing field and gave writers new control over their destiny as authors. If you are not familiar with POD, this article will get you up to speed.
POD created a seismic shift in the publishing industry, one that continues to evolve as new technologies emerge. Given the game-changing nature of POD, the tendency to view it as an author’s dream come true is not unreasonable. But before expectations get carried away, let’s take a closer look at some of the realities of POD.
For purposes of this article, our discussion will focus on the two primary avenues for self-publishing — KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) and IngramSpark. Both operate with POD as the foundation of their business model.
- A substantial range of book sizes, from the most common choices to more specialized sizes including square and almost square. Custom sizes with minimum and maximum limits are possible but not available in every market, so distribution options will be impacted with a custom size.
Choice of glossy or matte finish on the cover
Choice of white or cream paper for the interior
Black and white or color printing
Paperback or hardcover format; IngramSpark offers a dust jacket option, KDP does not
- KDP does not offer any landscape format sizes; IngramSpark offers one (11×8.5)
- No special cover options, such as metallic ink, embossing and spot varnish
- Minimal or no paper weight choices
- No coated paper for the interior
- Standard or premium digital printing for color interior
- Standard digital printing for black-and-white interior
- Some variation in quality should be expected, because POD is essentially a print run of one in a highly automated process. Errors can and do happen in printing, trimming, and binding, so authors should inspect every order and request replacements if needed.
- With KDP, the unit cost remains the same no matter what quantity is ordered.
- IngramSpark offers slightly discounted prices for large-volume orders.
- Unit cost is relatively low for small-quantity orders, compared to commercial printing.
- No significant price break for very large orders with POD. For orders of more than 500 books, consider using a commercial book printer.
All things considered, POD offers an outstanding bang for the buck. While the end result may not rival old-world craftsmanship, the cost-effective price point balances out any shortcomings of the technology. Also note that with POD, there is no upfront printing expense or inventory to manage, which are key benefits for self-publishing authors.